There are two kinds of sunscreens in the world: chemical sunscreens and mineral (often referred to as “natural”) sunscreens. Which is better is the subject of debate. Chemical sunscreens — sunscreens formulated with ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octisalate — absorb sun rays so your skin doesn’t have to. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, reflect sun rays like a lotion-y shield.
Chemical sunscreens are slowly beginning to get a bad rap for their ingredients. A few small studies make the case that oxybenzone, for example, is an endocrine disruptor. Additionally, chemical sunscreen ingredients are damaging to marine life (Hawaii just passed legislation to ban them for this very reason). But mineral sunscreens often leave a thick, white cast on skin, and this has alienated many people, particularly people of color, from giving them a try.
However, a new crop of mineral sunscreens is changing the mold. Now there are tinted versions, and ones engineered with micronized particles that blend much more easily onto skin. The Cut tested dozens upon dozens of mineral sunscreens. Below, the ten very best.
The French One
Avène Mineral Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+
Although this French sunscreen is white, it doesn’t dry chalky. When you shake the bottle, you can hear the mixing beads rattling around, so you know it’s a pretty thin formula. And with an SPF of 50, it offers the highest value of sun protection in the bunch.
The Light-As-Air One
BareMinerals Prep Step Mineral Shield SPF 50
at Look Fantastic
Most sunscreens are relatively thick — like a paste or a lotion — but this one is as thin as a glass of milk. It’s white like milk, too, but it blends in very easily. I like to wear it under makeup, so even after I pile on some foundation, my face doesn’t feel heavy with product.
If You Have Sensitive Skin
Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Fragrance-Free Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin with SPF 30
Oil-free and fragrance-free, Aveeno’s Ultra-Calming sunscreen was built for fussy skin. In terms of formula consistency, it falls somewhere in between BareMinerals and Avène, although it is more moisturizing than both. Just make sure to shake the bottle well before each use; the formula tends to separate quite easily.
If You’re a Frank Ocean Fan
UnSun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
Frank Ocean’s mom, Katonya Breaux, set out to create a mineral sunscreen that didn’t make dark skin look ashy. UnSun is the result, and the tinted formula is a brown girl’s dream. It’s thick like a moisturizer, but even my incredibly shiny skin could tolerate the creamy formula.
The All-in-One Option
DCL Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories Antioxidant Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Here’s something that works well for both face and body. The thick, white cream is infused with buzzworthy good-for-you ingredients, like squalane and vitamin E. It’s really effective at moisturizing dry skin, but if your face is already oily, you might want to look elsewhere.
The Makeup One
Bodyography Sun Defense Tinted Moisturizer
Some of the sunscreens on this list are tinted a little bit, like UnSun’s and SkinMedica’s, but Bodyography’s is so pigmented that it can double as foundation. There are four shades total, and the third shade, “Dark,” matches me best. I like that it’s outfitted with a brush on one end, so when I need to use it, adequate sun protection is only a few swipes away.
The One That’s Doctor-Approved
SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 32
SkinMedica is one of those dermatologist-approved brands that’s sold in doctor’s offices and on skin-nerd sites like Dermstore. The tinted mineral formula is fragrance and oil-free, and it feels like a light lotion on my skin. There’s a non-tinted version that carries a slightly higher SPF dosage (SPF 35), but the tinted one does a much better job of blending into skin.
Use This One on Your Body
Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
This lemon-y sunscreen smells like a burst of energy. You know how a lot of body sunscreens are thick, but terrible at moisturizing? Well Beautycounter’s is actually good at hydrating skin. That’s a big deal for me; there’s nothing worse than an ashy elbow at the beach.
If You Have Super Oily Skin
MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB Sunscreen
This is the perfect solution if you’re concerned that sunscreen will make your face look shiny. Tinted and fast-absorbing, this lightweight tinted sunscreen dries to a matte finish. You can trust me — and my typically shiny forehead — on this.
If You Have Super Dry Skin
Nia 24 Sun Prevention 100 Percent Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
If your face is really, really dry, then here is the sunscreen for you. Admittedly, NIA’s SPF 30 lotion isn’t the most blendable – you’ll need a bit of patience and some elbow grease to ensure a smooth application — but it is without a doubt the most hydrating option in this group.
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