With the summer just around the corner, I wanted to try some mineral facial sunscreens from the drugstore, since it seems there are more on the market now than ever. So this past month I went ahead and ordered several drugstore mineral sunscreens and tested them with makeup to see how they wear.
I was so excited to see so many drugstore mineral sunscreen options, and so many more than last year when I wrote my first ever post on this blog about mineral sunscreens. (Boy, has this blog come a long way… but that’s another post entirely!) Unfortunately, most of the sunscreens that I tried didn’t wear so well with makeup, but I found a few goodies which I discuss below. But first, let’s talk about labels, SPF, and how both chemical and physical sunscreens protect you from the harmful rays of the sun.
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE: Olay has just introduced its first mineral sunscreen! Scroll down to the bottom of the post for my experience with this product.
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SPF and Sun Protection
Sunscreen labels can get very confusing, so I wanted to provide a few clarifications on the different kinds of ultraviolet radiation and the levels of sun protection found in sunscreens.
The sun produces ultraviolet rays in UVA, UVB, and UVC wavelengths. You don’t hear too much about UVC rays because the earth’s atmosphere blocks these rays and they don’t reach your skin. That leaves us with UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays reach the deep layers of your skin which trigger the signs of aging such as wrinkles. While UVB rays don’t reach as deep into the layers of your skin as UVA rays, UVB rays cause sunburns which can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
In the US, you’ll see sunscreens denoted with an SPF number. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures UVB ray protection of a product. The number will tell you how long it will take the average person’s skin to burn when exposed to sunlight over a certain period of time. You may be surprised to learn that you’ll need an entire ounce of sunscreen to cover your whole body and you should be sure you reapply every two hours when in the sun. I look for broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher.
Asian brands measure how well the sunscreen protects from UVA rays, so their system starts with PA+ and goes up to PA++++. The PA rating system originated in Japan and uses the Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) method to research how skin is tanned from UVA rays.
You want to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen since it will protect against both UVA rays that cause photoaging and UVB rays that cause sunburns, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
Chemical vs Mineral Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens block UVA and UVB rays by turning them into heat, which is released by the body. You’ll see many different combinations of chemicals used in this type of sunscreen such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule.
In 2019, concerns were raised when it was reported that these chemical UV filters that are absorbed by the skin can linger in the body for days. The FDA has stated that the chemicals noted above plus another eight need to be studied for safety.
A follow-up on the FDA’s 2019 findings was provided in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in January of 2020. The new information builds on last year’s study and shows that in studying 6 active ingredients in sunscreen (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate), once absorbed into the body, they can linger for up to three weeks. Where it stands now is where it stood last year: the FDA is requesting additional safety data from the industry.
Oxybenzone and octinoxate have also been found to contribute to harming the coral reef. As a result, beginning in 2021, Hawaii will ban the sale of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Testing Mineral Sunscreen
The two types of sunscreen protection that you will find in mineral sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They reflect UV sunlight and form a layer on the surface of your skin that blocks UV radiation. While zinc oxide does a great job of protecting your skin from both UVA and UVB radiation, titanium dioxide protects well against UVB and short-wave UVA radiation. You’ll often see a combination of both in mineral sunscreens.
Traditionally the big drawback of mineral sunscreens is that they leave a white cast on your skin, but as you’ll see in some of my picks below, mineral sunscreens are improving due to effective formulations and tinting.
The Best Drugstore Mineral Sunscreens
Please note that I look for mineral sunscreens that work well with my combination skin. I prefer a natural or matte finish, and like everyone else, I don’t want to be left with a white cast. I always look for mineral sunscreens that work well with makeup. Unfortunately, many of the drugstore mineral sunscreens that I tried were either too thick, too sticky, had unpleasant “sunscreen” scents, left my skin looking extremely white, or didn’t play well with makeup.
The following sunscreens are very impressive. They contain skincare actives in their formulas, and all have elegant textures and wear well with makeup. Scroll down to the bottom for swatches!
Australian Gold Botanical Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Tinted Face Sunscreen Lotion (Fair to Light) has been one of my favorite mineral sunscreens for face for over a year. What makes it even better this year is that there are new tinted formulas available for different skin tones.
In the past, this tinted mineral sunscreen only came in one tint, which worked well for my skin since the tint was rather light. This year, the original shade has been rebranded as Fair to Light, and now there are two more shades: Medium to Tan and Rich to Deep. The minimal tint minimizes uneven color, fine lines, and wrinkles.
This sunscreen contains titanium dioxide 4% and zinc oxide 4%. Australian Gold formulates this sunscreen to not only provide broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection that is water-resistant up to 80 minutes, but it also treats sensitive skin. It’s a BB cream that is made with Australian antioxidant botanical ingredients such as Kakadu Plum, Eucalyptus and Red Algae, and soothing ingredients such as shea butter and squalane.
This is one of the thicker mineral sunscreen formulas I tried, and it leaves a matte almost powder-like finish that works exceptionally well under makeup. The shade blends easily into my skin but doesn’t really provide much coverage so I usually apply foundation after. It’s not sticky or greasy and really plays well with all of my skincare products too. Australian Gold does mineral sunscreen really well: from the finish to the formula, this is easily one of my favorite mineral sunscreens.
I had high hopes for CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Face Sheer Tint as I really enjoy CeraVe’s other skincare products, and I am happy to say that this SPF30 tinted mineral sunscreen did not disappoint. This broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen contains titanium dioxide 5.5% and zinc oxide 10%.
Like CeraVe’s other skincare products, this sunscreen contains three essential ceramides (Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, and Ceramide EOP) to support the skin’s natural barrier, helping it to retain moisture while protecting it from environmental irritants such as pollution. It also contains one of my favorite skin ingredients, niacinamide, to calm and soothe the skin while addressing the signs of aging, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump the skin.
I love that the ingredients read like an anti-aging moisturizing treatment, but this sunscreen also protects your skin from UV rays. This sunscreen really delivers on hydration, as this sunscreen stands out from all of my other favorites in that it really delivers moisture. If you have dry skin, this sunscreen is made for you.
This tint only comes in one shade, which is light-medium in shade, a bit darker than Australian Gold. It blends well into the light-medium skin tone on my face (which I achieve with self-tanning). It leaves my skin soft and supple but also does not cause any pilling of my skincare underneath it or makeup over it. I am very impressed with the moisture this provides and will reach for this on days when my skin is feeling dry.
Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA+++ comes from Korean brand Etude House and can be purchased on Amazon. While it contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, percentages are not disclosed since that information is not required in Korea. The bottle states that this provides SPF 50 protection (UVB) with a PA+++ rating (for UVA).
Described as a sun milk, it is extremely thin consistency for a sunscreen. It is formulated with a slew of skin-loving antioxidant plant extracts, hyaluronic acid, soothing aloe vera and soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients.
You definitely need to shake the bottle before application as it is the thinnest sunscreen that I’ve ever used. It’s a thin white liquid that once absorbed does not leave a white cast (yes!). It sinks in incredibly quickly and dries to a matte finish. It really is light and airy as denoted in the title. No greasiness or stickiness. This sunscreen works best with makeup out of all the sunscreens that I tried due to it’s super light consistency and quick absorption.
The one drawback to this sunscreen is the fact that it contains alcohol as the fourth ingredient. As a result, I don’t use this sunscreen every day, as I think it would be too drying over time. So those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer another formula. But if I want my makeup to look spot on, this is the sunscreen to reach for.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is another sunscreen fluid that is very thin in consistency. It contains broad-spectrum coverage of titanium dioxide 6% and zinc oxide 5%. It is formulated with La Roche-Posay’s Cell-Ox Shield technology which combines antioxidants with UVA/UVB sun protection using titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. This sunscreen also contains La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water that is infused with minerals and has antioxidant properties.
Prior to application, you need to shake the bottle well. At first, it leaves a minimal white cast and after absorption, it is barely noticeable. It dries to a natural/matte finish. It is very lightweight and like my other favorites works well with both skincare underneath and makeup on top. It’s formulated to be used on sensitive skin and is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
While this is technically a drugstore sunscreen, since you can purchase it at Target or CVS (and Amazon) here in the US, this is definitely the priciest of all the sunscreens that I tried. Do I think it’s worth the price? I would say yes due to it’s antioxidant and mineral protection, lack of white cast, featherweight feel on my skin, and natural-looking finish.
Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30+ UVA/UVB Protection is a lightweight cream that is formulated with titanium dioxide 1.0% and zinc oxide 7.8% plus antioxidant goodies like green tea and caffeine. Hyaluronic acid is also added to the formula for hydrating and plumping. It contains no parabens, fragrances, or dyes and it’s made for sensitive skin.
Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen is another sunscreen that comes from Australia. The texture is in between the thickest mineral sunscreen in this group (Australian Gold) and the thinnest in this group (Sunprise). Again, since my skin is fairly light even with a self tan, the white tint from this liquid dissipated after absorption. I’m not sure how well it would perform on darker skin tones since it does not have a tint.
This sunscreen took a little effort to blended into my skin. At first, I thought it was a total fail, but eventually, it absorbed and pretty much disappeared into my skin. It’s one of the thicker consistencies that I tried, but it feels surprisingly light on my skin. It leaves a matte/natural finish and works well with skincare while wearing well under makeup. That’s saying a lot considering I tried so many drugstore mineral sunscreens that did not perform well. This one is a keeper.
Drugstore Mineral Sunscreen Swatches
NEW IN OCTOBER 2020:
Olay Regenerist Mineral Sunscreen – Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30 provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection against UVA/UVB rays. It contains 17.5% zinc oxide to protect against sun damage plus niacinamide (vitamin B3) and palmitoyl pentapeptide-4. So while this is a broad-spectrum sunscreen you are also getting the benefits of a hydrating and protective face moisturizer.
The peptide in this sunscreen is made up of five amino acids: lysine, threonine, threonine, lysine, and serine and is often called the collagen pentapeptide since it is a subfragment of type I collagen. This peptide helps smooth and balance your complexion. The sunscreen is made without fragrance, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, or synthetic dyes. The sunscreen also comes in an SPF 15 version, but I say go with the SPF 30. The higher the better.
I have been waiting for a mineral sunscreen from Olay! I purchased this online as soon as I heard about it, and I am glad that I did. Mineral sunscreens, especially those with high levels of zinc oxide, often leave a white cast. I couldn’t wait to test this sunscreen to see the results.
But first, the texture. It is surprisingly light, which makes absorption easy and fast without any greasy residue. It produced the tell-tale mineral white cast upon application, but it quickly dissipated. The result was a lovely natural invisible finish on my skin. (For reference, I have a light skin tone. Those with darker complexions may or may not have an issue with a white cast.) Even better, my skin felt hydrated all day.
But it’s more than a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It contains anti-aging and skin balancing ingredients in the form of niacinamide and a peptide. While I still apply a moisturizer under this sunscreen, I love getting the added skincare benefits of these active ingredients. I absolutely LOVE this sunscreen, and it is my new go-to daily sunscreen. Way to go Olay!
SPRING 2021 UPDATE:
Versed Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 is a lightweight tinted broad-spectrum sunscreen providing three-way protection against the following:
- Environmental pollution
- Electronic pollution (from screen-time)
This oil-free mineral sunscreen leaves a natural matte finish, without leaving a white cast, the usual drawback of physical sunscreens. This sunscreen is formulated with non-nano zinc oxide at 15.2% that protects against UVA and UVB rays from penetrating the skin.
It also contains antioxidants to protect against environmental and blue light (also known as HEV: high energy visible). Moringa seed extract is antioxidant and vitamin-rich, and it helps to protect against moisture loss. Sea fennel extract is a plant extract that is an astringent and emollient, helping skin retain moisture.
The sunscreen is lightly tinted to offset any white cast. It absorbs very quickly without leaving any white cast. It is made with 79% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic and is non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free, pregnancy-safe, paraben-free, silicone-free, sulfate-free, and free of 1,300+ other toxins.
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50 is a 100% mineral liquid sunscreen in the form of 12% zinc oxide. It’s extremely lightweight and sinks into the skin quickly without any greasiness. It leaves a matte finish and works well under makeup, thanks to the thin liquid formula.
Water-resistant up to 80 minutes, this zinc oxide sunscreen also contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to protect skin from free radical damage. This sunscreen is hypoallergenic, paraben-free and fragrance-free, making it perfect for those with sensitive skin.
From the baby skincare brand Pipette comes Pipette Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50. This baby-friendly sunscreen uses 20% non-nano zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 50 protection.
This broad-spectrum sunscreen contains good for your skin ingredients like 100% sugarcane-derived squalane and glycerin for moisture and wild gooseberry extract to calm the effects of infrared light, the type of light that causes the skin to heat up. Plant-derived bisabolol is an antioxidant that soothes irritation while moisturizing delicate skin.
Perfect for babies and adults alike, this lightweight sunscreen leaves my skin feeling very moisturized but not too dewy. This lightweight mineral sunscreen is formulated for even the most sensitive skin.
Please consult a doctor before applying this on children under the age of 6 months. This formula is hypoallergenic, free of synthetic fragrances, cruelty-free, and vegan.
Developed for sensitive skin, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Sunscreen For Face SPF 50 is a 100% mineral-tinted facial sunscreen formulated with 11% titanium dioxide to provide broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
This tinted sunscreen uses La Roche-Posay’s Cell-Ox Shield Technology that uses a 100% mineral UV filter (in the form of titanium dioxide) along with antioxidant protection. Senna Alata is a tropical leaf extract and antioxidant that helps to protect skin cells from free radical damage caused by sun exposure. The sunscreen also contains mineral-rich La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water.
Since I loved, the non-tinted version so much, I had to try this tinted mineral sunscreen from La Roche-Posay. This sunscreen has an ultra-lightweight texture, absorbs quickly, and is non-greasy, leaving a matte finish. The tint is a little dark for my light skin tone, so I think it would work better for medium/darker complexions. It is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and is suitable even for sensitive skin types.
NOTE: This formula contains 11% titanium dioxide, while the non-tinted version contains 6% titanium dioxide and 5% zinc oxide.
Final Thoughts on Drugstore Mineral Sunscreens
While there many mineral sunscreens available today at the drugstore, not all wear well. In fact, a lot don’t wear well. For my skin concerns (anti-aging, combo-oily, somewhat sensitive), these sunscreens hands down performed much better than other drugstore mineral sunscreens that I tried and most are available at an affordable price.
Remember that it is important to wear sunscreen every day regardless of whether the sun is out or not. What is your favorite drugstore mineral sunscreen? Drop me a line in the comments… I’d love to know!
Thanks for reading, and until next time…