complimentary shipping on all u.s. orders

Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which is Better?

We’re all for heading outside and basking in the sun. Is there any better feeling than those warm rays on your upturned face? But, to soak up the sun with a clear conscience, daily sunscreen use is essential. We think you’ll agree, sunscreen is the MVP of any morning skincare routine. 

In the all-important world of sunscreen, there are two key players: mineral and chemical. Over the past several years, clinical research has birthed some unsettling discoveries about the ingredients in chemical sunscreen. But, how exactly does it differ from mineral sunscreen, and which one is the best choice for your health, from the inside out?

Here, we’ll answer all of these crucial questions so that you can confidently slather on SPF and revel in the sunshine. 

How Do Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens Work Differently?

While mineral and chemical sunscreens both prevent skin damage from the sun’s UV rays, they do so differently.

Mineral sunscreen consists of tiny zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide particles that form a physical barrier against UV rays on the skin’s surface. Broad-spectrum mineral sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. We opt for non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens, which include particles that are too large to penetrate your skin, making them the safest choice for your skin and our beautiful planet. 

Chemical sunscreen allows the skin to absorb the sun’s UV rays. However, the chemicals then trigger a reaction that turns UV light into heat, which then exits the skin. The usual active ingredients in chemical sunscreen include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, and/or homosalate. 

Chemical Sunscreen: Health and Environmental Risks

So, where exactly does the issue lie with chemical sunscreen? It comes down to a few factors: 

Chemical absorption

Your body may absorb the active ingredients in chemical sunscreen at a troubling rate. One 2019 JAMA study found that avobenzone, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and ecamsule can all be absorbed into the bloodstream at a greater level than 0.5 nanograms per milliliter. That’s significantly higher than the FDA’s baseline requirement to conduct studies on the potential toxic effects of a topical product. 

Hormone disruption and cancer risk

The octocrylene in many chemical sunscreens can gradually break down into benzophenone, a potential carcinogen that can disrupt crucial hormones and reproductive organs. An EWG report has also shown that oxybenzone can disrupt endocrine function, potentially causing an increased risk of breast cancer and endometriosis. 

Skin allergies

The EWG notes that oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreen ingredients may trigger allergic skin reactions, like contact dermatitis. These ingredients can also worsen existing skin conditions, like rosacea and melasma. 

Environmental damage

Cosmetic choices can have a lasting ripple effect on the environment. In 2021, Hawaii banned chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which were found to harm marine life

While these claims are alarming, by consciously choosing mineral sunscreen, you can opt out of these possible risks and adverse effects.

Do All Mineral Sunscreens Have a White Film?

In eras past, the only available mineral sunscreens created a white film on the surface of the skin. We’re pleased to say that we’ve evolved past those snow-white sunscreens with mineral formulations of all shades and textures. From tinted formulas to lightweight serums, you can now get your hands on a mineral sunscreen that complements your skin tone (and the other products in your skincare routine). 

Mineral Sunscreens We’re Loving Right Now

Today, we’re grateful to have the choice between several exceptional mineral sunscreens. Below, we’ve shared a few stand-outs, each with its own special qualities and benefits. Enjoy!

Kinship Mineral Sunscreen

Kinship’s Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide SPF 32 features a sheer, lightweight formula that’s safe for all skin types, including acne-prone skin. We love that it’s vegan, reef-safe, benzene-free, and cruelty-free. Plus, with turmeric and Kinbiome, a plant-based probiotic, it soothes and strengthens skin while preventing sun damage. 

We’re not the only ones to sing this sunscreen’s praises: it was awarded the Best SPF in the 2021 Allure Best of Beauty Awards, the Cosmopolitan Holy Grail Beauty Awards, and the Bydie Eco Beauty Award. 

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica

This daily mineral broad-spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen has a special ingredient: ​​Patented DNA Repairsomes® that are clinically proven to repair sun damage from days past. After all, while we can’t change the past, we can all look forward to greater wellness! This sunscreen is also available in both tinted and non-tinted varieties to suit different preferences. 

PurePressed® Base Mineral Foundation REFILL SPF 20/15

If you prefer some light coverage with your morning SPF, this pressed powder is an option to consider. Available in 26 shades, it works as a foundation, concealer, and sunscreen all in one, streamlining your morning routine. This sunscreen is also vegan, reef-safe, cruelty-free, and rich in antioxidants to prevent free radical damage. 

ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

For those seeking an ultra-lightweight, tinted option, this non-nano zinc oxide SPF 40 serum from ILIA is a fitting choice. With niacinamide, squalene, and hyaluronic acid, it nourishes while it protects against UV damage. Plus it’s vegan, non-comedogenic, and made without fragrance, gluten, or silicone. 

Suntegrity Unscented Mineral Body Sunscreen

This USDA-certified biobased product provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection with non-nano zinc oxide. It’s unscented, earned a 100% score in the SkinSafe database, and was included in the EWG’s 2022 Best Recreational Sunscreen list. Clean, vegan, safe – a sunscreen that you don’t have to think twice about. 

Thinkbaby Suncare

This sunscreen may be branded for babies, but it’s ideal for sensitive skin at any age. Thinkbaby Suncare is non-toxic, free of biologically harmful chemicals, and rated 1 by the EWG, making it a safe, simple option for the health-conscious among us. 

Mineral Sunscreen for Your Wellbeing

To shrink your risk of skin cancer and preserve your skin’s long-term health, sunscreen is a must. But, for optimal wellbeing, not just any sunscreen will do. Like many of the cosmetics that line drugstore shelves, chemical sunscreens pose notable health risks, including the possibility of hormone disruption and skin allergies. 

Thankfully, we can all count on mineral sunscreen for safe, worry-free sun protection. Whether you pick one of our favorites or have a mineral SPF of your own, this wellness staple deserves a prime spot in your medicine cabinet.