Go green with your sunscreen by opting for one of our favourite mineral formulas (2022)

By now we all know the importance of wearing SPF daily to protect our skin from the sun’s ageing and harmful UV rays. But what you may not know is that there are two different types of sunscreens: mineral and chemical. And the latter, used widely across beauty brands, has just been banned by major retailer Holland & Barrett – a UK first.

To understand the move, you have to know the difference between the two types of sunscreens – including how they work and their ingredients. Typically, chemical formulas (also known as synthetic) use filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate to absorb UV rays like a sponge so your skin doesn’t. They’re popular for their lightweight feel and being easy to apply.

However, more and more environmental studies reveal that these two chemical filters, among others, are toxic to coral reefs and marine life. And when, according to National Geographic, 14,000 tonnes of sun cream washes up into the oceans each year from bathing and swimming, that’s a lot of damage done.

This pollution to the world’s oceans is why the wellness retailer is following in the footsteps of places like Thailand and Hawaii, and banning chemical sunscreens containing these damaging ingredients. Instead, they’re favouring mineral formulas that don’t threaten reefs and wildlife.

In contrast, mineral formulas (also known as physical) use what’s being termed “reef-friendly” zinc oxide and titanium oxide filters to sit on the skin’s surface and block the rays getting to the skin – reflecting them rather than absorbing them.

Read more:

  • What does SPF mean and which sunscreen is right for you?
  • 9 best eco-friendly sunscreens that help protect our oceans
  • 11 best sunscreens for your face for non-greasy coverage
  • 10 best face tanners for an effortless sun-kissed glow

There are not just environmental benefits to choosing a mineral sunscreen over a chemical formulation. There are skin-benefits too. “Unlike chemical sunscreens, there is little chance of mineral products causing skin irritation – especially if you suffer from acne, eczema or sensitive skin,” explains Dr Adil Sheraz, consultant dermatologist.

It all sounds like a no-brainer, and that mineral formulas are the way to go, but unfortunately, they’ve fallen out of favour with consumers. Beauty brands have found easy-to-apply mineral formulations in the past hard to formulate and have often often been associated with leaving a thick white cast or a chalky finish, especially on darker skin tones.

Luckily, advances in cosmetic science mean the latest offerings have moved on from traditional formulations and are much easier to blend, xoffering a more invisible defence. So, to find the best mineral sunscreens we put the latest to the test…

How we tested

The latest mineral sunscreens were trialled for a minimum of three days under the same skincare routine for the best results. We marked them on how easy they were to apply to the skin, how they felt on the skin and whether they left any grease or white cast. These are the ones worth spending your money on…

The best mineral sunscreens for 2022 are:

  • Best mineral sunscreen overall – Drunk Elephant umbra tinte physical daily defense SPF30: £24, Boots.com
  • Best body formula for high protection – Ultrasun mineral body SPF30: £22.40, Facethefuture.co.uk
  • Best face SPF for very sensitive skin – Avene mineral fluid SPF50: £13.87, Boots.com
  • Best face SPF for combination skin – REN clean screen mineral SPF30: £33, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best face SPF for oily skin – Ultra Violette lean screen mineral mattifying skinscreen SPF50: £34, Spacenk.com
  • Best mineral sunscreen for families – Green People scent free sun cream SPF30: £25.50, Greenpeople.co.uk
  • Best face SPF for acne and sensitive skin – Hello Sunday the mineral one SPF50: £20, Beautybay.com
  • Best face SPF for normal to dry skin – Grown Alchemist natural hydrating sunscreen: £23.10, Feelunique.com
  • Best budget formula mineral sunscreen – Holland & Barrett 100 per cent mineral sunscreen: £9.99, Hollandandbarrett.com
  • Best mineral sunscreen for a make-up base – Murad city skin age defence board spectrum SPF50: £60, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best budget face SPF – Hawaiian Tropic mineral skin nourishing facial milk SPF30: £8.33, Boots.com

Drunk Elephant umbra tinte physical daily defense SPF30, 60ml

Best: Mineral sunscreen overall

Rating: 9/10

This brand needs no introduction to the beauty-savvy. But if it’s yet to cross your path, then you should know the brand’s philosophy is that its skincare contains no nasties and what it claims to be the suspicious six: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones fragrances/dyes, SLS and chemical sunscreens.

It’s, therefore, a given then that its SPF offering is a mineral formula and a cracking one at that – leaving skin glowing thanks to the added anti-oxidants and virgin marula oil for nourishment. It comes in this tinted and a non-tinted formula. Our tester prefers the former and if you’re light-medium skin-toned you will too, as it allows you to skip coverage on top. The very fair might just find it too dark, so should stick to the non-tinted – as should darker skin tones.

(Video) 6 MUST-TRY Tinted Mineral Sunscreens + 2 To Skip!

Ultrasun mineral body SPF30, 100ml

Best: Body formula for high protection

Rating: 8.5/10

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, we’ve lost count of how many outstanding SPF formulations Ultrasun has come up with over the years – and of course we’re including its mineral sun cream for the body in that. Simply work it into the body then watch it disappear and leave a mattifying effect behind. Available in SPF30 and SPF50, this also has a high UVA filter of 95 per cent to protect against ageing and damaging rays. On top of that, it promises to have Infrared-A and blue light covered too. You can’t say it doesn’t have you well covered.

Avene mineral fluid SPF50, 40ml

Best: Face SPF for very sensitive skin

Rating: 8/10

This French pharmaceutical brand can be trusted by those with sensitive, intolerant and allergic skin types. And within its already impressive line-up, comes this mineral sunscreen. The UVA and UVB mineral filters are joined with anti-oxidant pre-tocopheryl, a derivative of vitamin E, and the brand’s thermal spring water to soothe and comfort for added skincare benefits. We found the lightweight white fluid absorbs into the skin in an instant, provides a smooth semi-matte base for make-up and it’s water-resistant. If that’s not enough it also comes in a tinted formulation.

REN clean screen mineral SPF30, 50ml

Best: Face SPF for combination skin

Rating: 8/10

A REN bestseller, this mineral SPF is another zinc oxide formulation that protects your skin from damaging UVA, UVB and blue light. While the thick, white texture may feel slightly old-fashioned at first, it glides over the skin and disappears once you’ve worked it in – leaving the complexion feeling comfortable and well protected. Anti-oxidants have been added via yellow passion fruit seed extract to shield the skin further from free radicals. Plus, combination and oily skin types will appreciate that rice starch has been added to the formula to control shine and makes pores appear smaller.

Ultra Violette lean screen mineral mattifying skinscreen SPF50, 50ml

Best: Face SPF for oily skin

Rating: 8.5/10

Australian SPF brand Ultra Violette, is a cult favourite. And within its first-rate wardrobe of sunscreens, or “skinscreens” as the brand calls them, is this mineral formulation designed for not only sensitive skin but oilier, reactive skin types too.

It’s a next-generation zinc-only sunscreen that has a subtle tint and mattifying effect. It disappears quickly into the skin to leave zero chalkiness, just a comfortable shine-free finish. Furthermore, it’s infused with Aussie favourite Kakadu plum, rich in antioxidant and skin-protecting vitamin C. Plus, there’s no denying the bright blue and neon packaging adds to its appeal (hence why the brand is often spotted on Instagram too).

Green People scent free sun cream SPF30, 200ml

Best: Mineral sunscreen for families

Rating: 8.5/10

Flying the flag for physical sun creams for many years, Green People has a superb mineral sunscreen offering. Just as the name suggests its natural line-up is fragrance-free, a bonus for those with sensitive skin or those who suffer from inflammatory issues. It’s water-repellent too, making it a great all-rounder if you’re looking for a formula the whole family can use. Plus, we love that the company gives 20p to the Marine Conservation Society for every bottle sold – a nice touch.

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Hello Sunday the mineral one SPF50, 50ml

Best: Face SPF for acne and sensitive skin

Rating: 8/10

Hello Sunday’s collection of broad-spectrum UV defence formulas is where skincare meets SPF. Designed to be suitable for all skin types, including acne and sensitive skin, this 100 per cent mineral filter uses zinc oxide and titanium. The vegan formulation goes a step further with added protection from a bipeptide that shields the skin further from blue light from the sun and all the electronic screens in our lives. It’s slightly tinted to help counteract the slight white cast this has, so it’s only suited to fair-medium skin tones disappointingly. However, it’s lightweight and moisturising enough to use on its own.

Grown Alchemist natural hydrating sunscreen, 50ml

Best: Face SPF for normal to dry skin

Rating: 9/10

The combination of plant-based ingredients, science-led formulations and minimalistic eco-friendly packaging has won this Australian skin and hair care brand A-list fans like Gwyneth Paltrow. The new mineral sunscreen in its collection is a cocktail of UV-filter sheer zinc oxide, as well as vitamin-rich and full of skin-protecting antioxidants rosehip oil and parsley seed extract. To add to the appeal, hyaluronic acid leaves the skin feeling well-hydrated throughout the day. Expect the white broad-spectrum cream to seamlessly blend into your skin leaving it with such a natural glow you’ll want to go bare-skinned.

Holland & Barrett 100 per cent mineral sunscreen, 150ml

Best: Budget formula mineral sunscreen

Rating: 8/10

(Video) It's good, but... MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme SPF 50

Coinciding with the wellness retailer’s ban on chemical sunscreens, Holland & Barret has launched its own 100 per cent mineral sunscreen range. It uses both zinc oxide and titanium oxide to provide a physical skin barrier, as well as a combination of skin-protecting antioxidants and skin-loving oils – think coconut, jojoba, argan and sweet almond – in the SPF15 and SPF30 formulas. The SPF50 differs slightly with a coupling of soothing and hydrating ingredients like coconut, camellia and chlorella extracts. Effective and affordable, and reef-friendly this is perfect for holiday packing.

Murad city skin age defence board spectrum SPF50, 50ml

Best: Mineral sunscreen for a make-up base

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for an everyday mineral sunscreen to add to your skincare routine that truly looks invisible and won’t interfere with your make-up, turn to this bestselling formulation. Dr Murad is a man you can trust when it comes to skincare, and this second-skin formula is one of his best products that our tester has turned back to time and time again. Promising to protect your skin from blue light emitted from screens too, it’s a worthy pick for those working in offices and outdoors alike. It’s our most expensive pick, but you can’t put a price on looking after your complexion.

Hawaiian Tropic mineral skin nourishing facial milk SPF30, 50ml

Best: Budget face SPF

Rating: 8.5/10

One pump of this, like all Hawaiian Tropic products, transports you to a tropical paradise – so if you’re a fan of coconut-fragranced products this one is for you. The ultra-light, and yes you guessed it “milky” texture disappears in an instant on the skin leaving a mineral shield of zinc oxide to protect you from the sun. We were super impressed with this accessible, affordable and effective offering from the brand, and all without any harmful ingredients to the ocean and sea life. So if you pair it with the body formulation, you have the perfect holiday-packing duo.

The verdict: Mineral sunscreens

All these next-generation mineral formulas are outstanding, but for a face formula that’s going to suit all skin types, Drunk Elephant’s umbra tinte physical daily defense SPF30 is the on you should turn to. And don’t forget it also comes in a non-tinted formula. If it’s a body formula you’re after turn to Green People who have great all-around formulas that every member of the family can use.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on skincare and other beauty buys, try the links below:

(Video) TRYING NEW *MOSTLY* MINERAL SUNSCREENS feat. Some of the BEST and WORST I’ve ever tried!

  • Lookfantastic discount codes
  • Elemis discount codes
  • Feelunique discount codes

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FAQs

What does mineral sunscreen mean? ›

Whereas chemical sunscreens use chemicals to filter out the sun's damaging UV rays, mineral sunscreens physically block ultraviolet radiation with ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. As such, mineral sunscreen is sometimes called physical sunscreen or sunblock.

Which is best mineral sunscreen for face? ›

Top 10 mineral-based sunscreens on Purplle
  • Aroma Magic SunBlock Lotion: BUY NOW - INR 375/- ...
  • Wow Skin Science AM2PM Sunscreen: ...
  • Good Vibes Sunscreen: ...
  • Volamena Mineral Based Sunscreen: ...
  • Brillare Natural Mineral Sunscreen: ...
  • ENN UV Shield: ...
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen: ...
  • Lakme Sun Expert Ultra Matte Lotion:

What's better mineral or chemical sunscreen? ›

For someone with sensitive skin or skin that's easily irritated, Christenson definitely recommends choosing mineral-based sunscreens over chemical ones. "The heat that's generated as a chemical sunscreen deactivates UV rays can trigger irritation for people with sensitive skin," explains Christenson.

What is the healthiest sunscreen to use? ›

For now, if you are concerned about health effects, the safest choice is a so-called “mineral” or “physical” sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, dermatologists say. Those are only sunscreen ingredients that the FDA says are “generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Does mineral sunscreen dry out your skin? ›

Unfortunately, mineral sunscreen is not the answer; it's more likely to cause dry skin. One of the critical ingredients in mineral sunscreen is zinc oxide, a known astringent and a significant cause of dry skin in the summer.

Is mineral sunscreen bad? ›

The FDA noted that only two of the 16 active ingredients commonly used in commercial sunscreens — the mineral sunblocks, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — are "generally recognized as safe and effective." That's a designation the FDA gives a substance when qualified experts consider it generally safe for its intended ...

Is mineral sunscreen better for you? ›

The experts we spoke with unanimously agreed that mineral sunscreens are the better option for those with sensitive skin types. A small percentage of people are going to be allergic to chemical sunscreens, and, adds board-certified dermatologist Corey L.

Is mineral sunscreen good for your skin? ›

It's safer on sensitive skin

Mineral sunscreens don't contain harsh synthetic chemicals, and because they aren't absorbed into your skin, they're safer for sensitive skin. They're less likely to cause skin irritation, unlike their chemical counterparts.

Is mineral sunscreen better for sensitive skin? ›

Mineral sunscreens are the best bet for sensitive skin

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with sensitive skin should use mineral sunscreen. Byrdie adds that acne-prone skin may benefit from avoiding chemical sunscreens and using mineral-based ones as well.

Does mineral sunscreen clog pores? ›

Unlike chemical sunscreens that can take several minutes before they work, mineral sunscreens offer protection as soon as they're applied and typically won't clog pores, making them ideal for skin that becomes overly reactive in the sun (via Glamour).

Do dermatologists recommend mineral or chemical sunscreen? ›

As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelmansees it, neither mineral nor chemical sunscreen is perfect. That's why she recommends both types to her patients.

What kind of sunscreen is best? ›

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. This protects against approximately 97% of the sun's UV rays.

Why is mineral sunscreen so expensive? ›

Why are mineral sunscreens more expensive? It's all about the ingredients. Minerals are more expensive than synthetic chemicals, and zinc oxide is the most expensive. However, zinc oxide provides the best protection, which is why Badger uses it.

What is the safest sunscreen 2022? ›

  • Best Natural Sunscreens of 2022.
  • Banana Boat Sport Mineral Lotion SPF 50+
  • Banana Boat Sensitive 100% Mineral Lotion SPF 50+
  • Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50.
  • Banana Boat Kids Mineral Lotion SPF 50+
  • Blue Lizard Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+
Jun 13, 2022

What is the best sunscreen for seniors? ›

Top 10 Sun Screens Brands For Older Adults
  • Trader Joe's Nourish Spray.
  • Banana Boat.
  • Neutrogena.
  • Coppertone.
  • Hawaiian Tropic.
  • EltaMD.
  • SkinMedica.
  • Aveeno.
May 7, 2018

What are the worst sunscreens? ›

Most Toxic Sunscreens to Avoid
  • Walgreens Dry Touch Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100.
  • Panama Jack Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 100.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85+
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100+
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+
Jan 11, 2022

Which mineral sunscreen is best for dry skin? ›

Best for Dry Skin: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral SPF 30 Moisturizer + Hyaluronic Acid.

Is chemical or mineral sunscreen better for dry skin? ›

Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, opt for a sunscreen that not only offers protection from UV rays but also has some moisturizing elements in it. Mineral sunscreen is the best option for you.

Does sunscreen age your skin? ›

Evidence shows that using sunscreen every day helps slow down the skin's aging process. According to one groundbreaking study, people who use broad-spectrum sunscreen on a daily basis experience 24 percent less skin aging than those who use sunscreen only intermittently.

Is mineral sunscreen the safest? ›

The two most common ingredients in mineral sunscreens, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are the only sunscreen ingredients generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA. “[Mineral sunscreens] are much safer for people who are concerned about long-term exposure to chemical ingredients,” Ploch says.

What is the bad ingredient in sunscreen? ›

The most worrisome sunscreen active ingredient is oxybenzone, according to publicly available scientific research.

Is zinc better than sunscreen? ›

While both offer broad spectrum protection, zinc oxide offers better UVA protection (UVA1 and 2) than titanium dioxide (UVA2). Generally considered safer and better than chemical sunscreens, they're particularly recommended for sensitive skins.

Does mineral sunscreen last all day? ›

According to the FDA, mineral sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. While this is the recommended timeline, we suggest you be mindful of your body and the activities that you are doing.

Why does mineral sunscreen leave a white cast? ›

Because titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are white in colour and work to prevent sun damage by staying on the skin's surface rather than being absorbed, they might leave a white cast from sunscreen.

Is mineral sunscreen good for acne? ›

SPF mineral powder is a helpful option for those with oily and acne-prone skin, said Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist. "It absorbs excess oil so it can serve a dual purpose as a finishing powder, actually extending the life of your makeup and providing sun protection,” she said.

Are mineral sunscreens effective? ›

The two most common ingredients in mineral sunscreens, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are the only sunscreen ingredients generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA. “[Mineral sunscreens] are much safer for people who are concerned about long-term exposure to chemical ingredients,” Ploch says.

What is the highest SPF for mineral sunscreen? ›

What should you look for when shopping for mineral sunscreens? In general, both derms say to look for a sunscreen that's broad-spectrum, meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays. You should pick something with SPF 30 or above.

Is mineral sunscreen good for your skin? ›

It's safer on sensitive skin

Mineral sunscreens don't contain harsh synthetic chemicals, and because they aren't absorbed into your skin, they're safer for sensitive skin. They're less likely to cause skin irritation, unlike their chemical counterparts.

Which mineral sunscreen doesn't leave a white cast? ›

Best Overall: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30. This sunblock from Drunk Elephant checks all the boxes: It's lightweight, it doesn't leave a cast, and it moisturizes without feeling greasy.

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