Are zinc oxide sunscreens better than those with chemical UV filter ingredients or even titanium dioxide? In my opinion as a dermatologist who has specialized in skin cancer and sun damaged skin for over 30 years, I think that they are. I’ve seen the results of sun protection choices on my patients as I’ve done well over 200,000 full skin exams. The skin tells the stories of successes and disappointments. I’ve kept notes! Over this experience, zinc oxide has come out the clear winner as the best sunscreen UV filter.
Seeing patient after patient in my dermatology practice, I’ve seen this proven to me over the years.
Why do zinc oxide sunscreens work the best for sun protection?
Zinc oxide particles in sunscreen sit invisibly on the surface of your skin bouncing the UV rays off like balls bouncing off of a hard surface. There is no chemical reaction at your skin level as there is with chemical sunscreens.
- Zinc oxide is one of the two UV-A1 sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA. The other one, avobenzone, is too fragile to depend, on in my opinion.
- Zinc oxide gives you broad spectrum protection from UVB all the way through to UV-A1, meaning your skin is getting the best sun protection possible.
- Zinc oxide is a stable sunscreen ingredient that is much less likely than chemical ingredients to break down in the bottle or on your skin.
- Zinc oxide gives broader UV protection than titanium dioxide and is cosmetically more elegant to use (aka invisible on your skin)
- Zinc oxide does not irritate sensitive skin.
- Zinc oxide is not absorbed into your body; it stays on your skin where you put it and where it can protect you from the sun.
One of my long-term patients came into my office right after returning from a sunny cruise vacation. She loves the sun and puts sunscreens to the ultimate test. As I was examining her skin, which looked like it had been well sun protected, she said,
“Those zinc oxide sunscreens are the best!”
“(During my) long vacation and cruise in the sun … I used a zinc oxide SPF 30 sunscreen every day and look how well it worked! Other people were using SPF 50s and burning. Because mine had zinc it worked – my skin didn’t burn like theirs did. ” Brenda W Sebastopol, CA
Science says a lot of things about sunscreen, but the proof of what really works is visible in my dermatology office every day. Zinc oxide gave Brenda better protection than her fellow cruisers because it works better. I recommend you trust your own and your family’s skin only to zinc oxide sunscreens.
Zinc Oxide Sunscreens I Recommend
Click here to see the zinc oxide sunscreen products I recommend to my dermatology patients and that I use for myself and my family. We have put all of these products to the test. You’ll not find a single product here that does not meet my approval. We’ve tried others and the losers are NOT here.
You’ll also find sun protection tools like real UPF 50 sun hats and umbrellas because you want to create shade to deflect direct UV ray hits to your skin. I’ve got a sweet little inexpensive UV testing device too. I’m passionate about keeping your skin protected.
It’s very important that your sunscreen match your skin type and activities.
Find the right zinc oxide sunscreen for your skin. You need to love your sunscreen so that you will wear it every day and it needs to hold up to your activities so that you can trust your protection.
Dermatologist Dr. Bailey’s tips for how to pick the right sunscreen.
- a water-resistant and rub-resistant sunscreen product that stays put:
- when you are wet or sweaty
- on skin rubbed by clothing
- on skin that you wash repeatedly (like the back of your hands)
a sunscreen product that enhances the look and feel of your complexion and that you love to use every day.
- oily complexions prefer oil-free and even matte sunscreen bases
- dry complexions prefer a more hydrating base
- hairy skin does best with a thin product capable of rubbing in easily around the hairs.
Tips to pick the correct sunscreen for your skin type and activities.
Best Facial Sunscreens:
Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50+ sunscreens work great for all complexion types. They are oil free, non-drying, non-irritating and rub in well to hairy skin. Sheer Strength Sunscreens are state-of-the-art in transparent non-nano size zinc oxide sunscreen. You can’t compare these to any other sunscreen in terms of the great protection you get with a look and feel that’s light and non-greasy on your skin.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted Creme SPF 30+ Sunscreen is my personal daily wear sunscreen. The tinting comes from mineral iron oxide which also helps to block visible light and blue screen light known to play a role in some pigment problems such as melasma. The tinting technology blends in well with all skin tones – fair to darker pigmented complexions love this sunscreen!
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50+ is ideal for applying to hairy skin and larger expanses of skin as well as the face. I use it daily for my arms, neck, chest, ears and back of my hands. I wear it when I hike too because it is moderately water resistant. This is a favorite for men with beards and hairy arms and it is easy to use on thinning scalps and part lines too.
Sheer Strength SPF 50 Refresh Powder Sunscreen gives you a convenient way to reapply sunscreen protection during the day; apply powder over makeup or anywhere without needing to wash cream off your hands. Powder sunscreens fit easily into your purse and backpack. This tinted powdered sunscreen also contains over 3.2% iron oxide to block visible red and blue light (think computer screens) that can darken skin pigment problems.
Best Very Water-Resistant Sunscreens:
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Water Resistant SPF 50 Sunscreen. This sunscreen provides pure mineral protection that holds up to lots of water fun and sweat. It is non-greasy and great for the entire family. Convenient non-aerosol is popular for a quick and easy application.
Best Lip Sunscreen
Vanicream Lip Protectant Cosmetically elegant, hypoallergenic and moisturizing sun protection for delicate lip skin.
To see my full range of smart sun protection tools and zinc oxide sunscreens click here.
I’m picky and I love the outdoors. I have the best sun protection products and tips to keep your skin healthy and UV protected while you fully enjoying the beautiful outdoors!
Author: Dr. Cynthia Bailey MD is a Board Certified dermatologist practicing dermatology since 1987. She has done well over 200,000 skin exams during her career and authors the longest running physician written skin health blog in the world.
Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Andrew Plewes/ImageZoo/Corbis