Historically, opting for mineral sunscreen meant you were stuck with a white, opaque formula that looked more like face paint than skincare. But today, thanks to new technologies, elevated ingredients, and more inclusive thinking, mineral SPFs are shiny, absorbable, and even downright flattering.
A mineral sunscreen relies on your skin to reflect UV rays, physically preventing them from damaging your skin. Unlike chemical SPF, which contains small molecules that easily penetrate the skin and absorb UV rays, mineral SPF has larger molecules that make it thicker, harder to spread, and potentially drying.
Krupa Koestline, a clean cosmetic chemist, explains that in the past, mineral sunscreens were difficult to formulate because the only two mineral UV filters are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which are white, opaque powders underneath. raw form. And since they’re not oil or water soluble, it can be tricky to mix them together to achieve a creamy texture.
“Imagine trying to mix sand in a bucket of water – it’s very difficult to get a homogeneous mixture because sand will never dissolve in water like salt,” she says. “However, if you finely grind this sand, while it still does not dissolve, you can get a more homogeneous mixture.”
In terms of formulation challenges, Koestline notes that it’s difficult to balance an even particle distribution to achieve an appealing texture that doesn’t leave a white plaster on the skin. “Titanium dioxide reflects light, so on darker skin tones like mine, it can make skin look even duller, more ashy and unnatural,” she says.
These days, it’s easier to find finer zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, including nano and micronized particles, so brands have been able to use these ingredients to create more elegant formulas. Below you can see our new favorite mineral sunscreens with formulas that are both and user-friendly, with no white iron to be found.
Round 28 — $30.00
Tower 28 founder Amy Liu suffered from sensitive, eczema-prone skin and knew how difficult it could be to find a mineral SPF that would provide protection and coverage without being irritating.
“People with compromised skin need even more SPF protection because UV damage can lead to hyperpigmentation and scarring. So we decided to create SunnyDays Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30 like the first and only tinted foundation to receive the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance— something our community was asking for that didn’t already exist on the market,” says Liu.
Taos Aer — $38.00
Sarah McNamar and Rochelle Jacobs, co-founders of Taos Aer, have developed a clean SPF containing a patented anti-pollution blend of six antioxidants to ward off environmental aggressors while imparting a radiant finish to all skin tones. “The challenge with many mineral SPFs is any potential white plaster,” says McNamar. “We use a universal shade that blends easily with most skin tones.
Summer Fridays — $36.00
When formulating the new Summer Friday lightweight Shade Drops, Product Development Manager Jessica Abrams said it was essential to use raw materials in a new way. To achieve a uniquely transparent texture, formulators took oil-soluble ingredients, like squalane and shea butter, and engineered them to become water-soluble.
“It allowed us to leave out those thickeners and emulsifiers that tend to make SPF gooey,” she says. “In addition, the zinc oxide particles are coated with a powerful antioxidant called ethyl ferulate which not only boosts the ability to spread on the skin, but adds protection against harmful free radicals.” Brand Marketing Director Blair Badge adds that the serum-like texture was tested on multiple skin tones until they found the perfect texture, blendability and finish.
Nichole Powell, founder of Kinfield, admits that SPF is probably the most difficult category to formulate due to the range of quality ingredients. So when it came to developing the brand’s Cloud Cover, intensive testing was key.
“We went through multiple R&D teams to find our current partners and tested countless versions of zinc and other ingredients to find the exact non-nano zinc and moisturizing ingredients that would feel light on skin while delivering the performance and the broad-spectrum protection we need,” she says. “We’ve also added super-hydrating skincare ingredients not often found in suncare, like aloe, glycerin and sea kelp to make it suitable for a wider range of skin tones.”
Zitsticka — $40.00
ZitSticka co-founder Daniel Kaplan says sunscreens have a reputation for blocking pores and causing breakouts, and the brand wanted to develop a product that supports acne-prone skin.
“While most sunscreens have a single purpose – protection from the sun’s harmful rays – MEGASHADE is also a non-comedogenic serum that fights active acne with tea tree, soothes stressed skin with niacinamide and colloidal oatmeal, brightens with vitamin C, and plumps and hydrates with hyaluronic acid,” he says. “It’s a versatile item that could replace a few steps in your daily routine.”
Sainte-Jeanne — $38.00
From the start, Casey Georgeson, founder of Saint Jane, wanted to create something more than just sunscreen – she wanted to give people the ultimate last step in their skincare routines.
“It was to be a supercharged, multi-tasking SPF inspired by powerful, beautiful flowers with the results-driven skincare benefits that Saint Jane has become famous for,” she says. His non-negotiable requirements were meticulously clean ingredients that blurred pores to create an inclusive product that didn’t leave a white cast. “The formula should work in concert with your makeup routine — making it effortless and enhancing your skin’s natural glow,” she says. “Luxury Sun Ritual is makeup’s new BFF providing the perfect canvas for makeup application.”
Curology sunscreen — $40.00
As a company founded by dermatologists, patients have been the driving force behind Curology’s sunscreen development. Unsurprisingly, the brand’s research revealed that customers had a negative opinion of Mineral SPF due to the long absorption times and chalky texture. Through countless rounds of in-house testing on people with varying skin tones, sensitivity levels, and concerns, they were able to develop a formula that would completely change those opinions.
“The result is our silky, white cast-free mineral sunscreen that’s gentle on all skin types and specially designed for acne-prone skin,” says David Lortscher, MD, board-certified dermatologist and brand founder. “It leaves a light, fresh finish so you can confidently tackle your day, whether it’s just the last step in your skincare routine or if you decide to layer makeup.”
The Plum Tree — $78.00
Plum is the star ingredient in all Le Prunier products, and the brand’s sunscreen uniquely harnesses the fruit’s all-natural sun protection power.
“Most mineral SPFs of 30 and above contain an active ingredient [like zinc or titanium dioxide] between 10-20%, which can create a heavier white cast on the skin and feel chalky,” says co-founder Allison Taylor. “With our potent Plum Superfruit Complex ingredient, we were able to reduce the active ingredient, non-nano zinc oxide, to just 4.7% to achieve a formula that works perfectly on the skin.”
She adds that it is clinically proven to reduce hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. “It’s everything we’ve ever wanted in an SPF and more.”
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