Best mineral sunscreens | Why zinc oxide is my filter of choice

We have by now all heard about the importance of sunscreen for protecting your skin from sun damage. But it also has proven skin rejuvenation benefits too which are less well known. 

Daily use of sunscreen has been shown in studies to reverse some of the signs of aging on our skin.  

And scientists have offered the theory that by protecting the skin from photodamage we give our skin cells the chance to focus on the day job and get on with the business of repair and renewal. 

So that’s why when anyone asks me what I think the most powerful anti-aging skincare product is, I say sunscreen – by a mile.  

Chemical v mineral

Now there are two types of sunscreen. You have mineral, also called physical sunscreens, which typically include zinc oxide and or titanium dioxide. They sit on the surface of the skin to act as a shield.  

And there are chemical ones, designed to sink into your skin and have more of a sponge-like effect by absorbing UV rays.  

These days I tend to only use mineral sunscreens, with zinc oxide my filter of choice.

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Why I prefer zinc oxide sunscreens

Some of you may be aware there is a little bit of debate around the safety of chemical sunscreens. It has been found that some of the chemicals used can make it into the blood stream.  

A lot of experts explain that at the low quantities involved these chemicals should not be harmful to humans. They add the risk from skin cancer is greater which is why we want to use sunscreen. 

But while that debate goes on I have decided to go with a mineral sunscreen, largely for the following reasons.

All of my favorite sunscreen products discussed here feature zinc oxide, and some also contain titanium oxide. 

And they are both naturally occurring minerals which have been found to have sun blocking properties. 

League of its own

Zinc oxide is really in its own league because it’s effective against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Another benefit of zinc oxide is that in general it’s a non irritating ingredient. I have slightly sensitive skin, but can happily include it in my daily routine.  

With mineral sunscreens you can apply moisturizers and oils underneath and they will just sit on top. For chemical sunscreens some skincare specialists suggest you apply before your moisturizer so it can be more readily absorbed.  

As with most things in skincare, advice around that does vary. Other skin experts say you can apply chemical sunscreens on top of moisturizer but just let it fully absorb into the skin first.

But the fact there is conflicting advice around that also pushes me towards the physical sunscreens. 

As for the downside of physical sunscreens, the fact that they sit on top of the skin does mean they can leave a white cast.

Nano v non-nano zinc oxide

Makers are now talking about the minerals being either non-nano or nano. So you might see zinc oxide listed on the ingredients of your sunscreen as being in nano or non-nano form. 

Non-nano refers to particles that are larger in size, typically greater than 100 nanometers.  

Whereas nano-sized particles are smaller than 100 nanometers, and are used in some sunscreens for their more transparent appearance.  

Some experts argue non-nano zinc oxide particles have the edge in sun protection because their larger size is better for blocking UVA and UVB rays. And it’s also been claimed that non-nano particles might be safer for marine life. 

But, not all products even tell you whether they’re using nano or non-nano zinc oxide particles so it’s not even always possible to tell. That means at this point, I’m really just going on performance for my mineral sunscreen of choice. 

My favorite zinc oxide sunscreens

So let’s take a look at some of my favorite options across the price ranges. You’ll find all the products I’m about to run through linked below. 

Bluelene Bluevado Sunfix

I’m going to start with the one I use day-to-day which is Bluelene’s Bluevado Sunfix sunscreen. It uses zinc oxide primarily with a little titanimum dioxide but also contains the chemical antioxidant methylene blue which has been shown to both slow cell aging and has sun protective properties.  

So we could classify this as a ‘smart sunscreen’ where you’re not just getting protection, but there’s additional anti-aging ingredients included in the mix.  

Methylene blue is not recognised as a sunscreen by the FDA so that ingredient cannot be included in the SPF rating which is 21. However, Bluelene say their own in-house testing puts the SPF at at least factor 30. 

I use it because I was very taken with the science behind methylene blue when I interviewed Bluelene founder Dr Kan Cao and I wanted to include it in my routine in some form. More importantly it is the sunscreen that feels most hydrating on my skin.  

My skin can be dry and so I like to use a lot of oil-based products these days. This sunscreen includes a few essential oils, including lavender and grapefruit peel, which might rule it out for some viewers who can be sensitive to those ingredients.

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The essential oils give it a light fragrance but even though I have quite sensitive skin, I don’t find it irritating. 

It does leave a bit of a cast as most zinc oxide sunscreens do but I find I don’t need to do much to cover it on my skin tone.

It costs £47 or $58 for 90ml, so it’s in the pricey range, and I pay export charges for delivery to the UK.  But I like the thick yet easily spreadable formula and find you don’t actually need to apply lots for good day-to-day coverage.


If I’m going to be outdoors for longer periods of time on a sunny day I don’t really mess around and I switch up to something I know is going to give me big protection.

Cue the spf 50 Babyganics Face & Body Mineral Sunscreen priced around £27 for 177 ml, way cheaper in the US where it’s about $16 for the same amount.

It’s unscented and contains mainly zinc oxide with a little titanium dioxide again. It’s also waterproof, non-sticky, non-greasy, non-irritating but it’s not as moisturizing as the Bluelene and is thicker so leaves more cast.  

So this one is definitely more about advanced protection rather than being a part of my daily skincare routine. 

When I was looking up prices in the US I see there’s a Sheer Blend product available there with just zinc oxide so that sounds like one worth trying.

A tip for covering cast

When it comes to covering the cast from mineral sunscreens, I find using a mineral powder foundation helpful. I use one from SWEED in the medium light color.  

It’s light as a feather and sits delicately on top of the sunscreen, taking any shine or cast away. The price is £38 or $45 so I’ve linked to a lower cost option in the collection above.


Another ‘smart sunscreen’ is a newer product from OneSkin available in separate formulas for the face and body. It uses non-nano zinc oxide, so those larger molecules. 

The face product is SPF 30, and you can buy it in either tinted or untinted.

It’s a smart sunscreen because it contains OneSkin’s proprietary peptide which is really the cornerstone of the brand. OneSkin is founded by female scientists who have been able to show impressive anti-aging benefits of this peptide in their clinical trials.

The sunscreens are very nicely formulated, not drying though I didn’t find them particularly moisturizing either. They’re unscented, very lightweight and more liquid in consistency so the sunscreen spreads easily and evenly with a low cast.

The tint is fairly dark so if you have very light skin tone you might be better with the untinted. Conversely if you have a darker skin tone that would be the one to try. 

The downside is price. It’s £45/$56 for just 40ml so that does put it at the upper end of the market. 

As this is a physical sunscreen the absorption of the peptide is going to be reduced compared with the original moisturizer (Topical Supplement as they call it). So if you’re choosing between one or the other, you’d likely be better going for the moisturizer and using a lower-cost sunscreen on top. 

Aveeno Calm & Restore

Now one that behaves quite similarly to OneSkin in terms of its consistency and how it feels on the skin and how it applies is Aveeno’s Calm & Restore Nourishing Daily Moisturiser SPF30 – and it also has a bit of a superingredient in it.  

It’s typically around £15 or $15 for 50ml making it much more affordable, and it’s lightly tinted and relatively low on cast. The formula doesn’t rub in quite as seemlessly as the OneSkin formula but it’s pretty close. 

It’s unfragranced, uses nano zinc oxide, those smaller particles, and also includes titanium dioxide. I found it to be lightweight but also moisturizing, non-greasy but maybe slightly sticky.  The tint is very light so I’m not sure how much of a difference it would make on darker skin tones.

Still, at that price and considering the formula it’s definitely worth a try. 

The formula includes feverfew as an antioxidant and of course the oatmeal extract for which Aveeno is known. And I think colloidal oatmeal is really one of the most underrated skin ingredients and I’m not just saying that because I’m Scottish and we like our porridge oats!

Oatmeal acts as a prebiotic for the bacteria on your skin with studies showing it helps support the skin microbiome. 

So I would class this not just as a cheaper sunscreen but as a smart one because of that super-ingredient. For affordability paired with performance this would be my no 1 recommendation. 

Special mentions

Last couple of quick mentions starting with one that is great for darker skin tones.

Versed’s Guard’s Up daily mineral sunscreen broad spectrum SPF35 is around £20 or $25. It’s non-nano, and oil-free so feels a little drier, but I found it to be a good all-rounder. 

Lastly, as a good all-over sunscreen that you can also use on your face, SunBum is a great option. Its Mineral Sunscreen lotion is around $17 for 88ml, but £33 for the same amount on Amazon UK. It feels a little heavier and stickier to begin with but dries and settles on the skin.

There is a bit of a cast but not as much as the Babyganics. I find it slightly irritating on the face though whereas Babyganics can be slathered all over.

SunBum do a slightly different tinted formula for the face and I see this brand as another nicely formulated, high performing product.  

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