We all know that wearing SPF is important, but chemical sunscreens ― the kind you’ve probably been wearing for years ― can be irritating for some people with sensitive skin. That’s where mineral sunscreen comes in.
Mineral sunscreens help prevent sun damage, just like traditional sunscreens, but they do so using physical blockers like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These ingredients work by reflecting the sun off your skin, as opposed to absorbing and transforming harmful rays on the skin as chemical sunscreens containing the likes of oxybenzone, avobenzone and homosalate do.
With so many mineral sunscreens on the market now, it can be difficult to know which might be best for you. So we called up a couple of experts: Dr. Janellen Smith, a dermatologist at UC Irvine Health, and Dr. Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology faculty practice, director of dermatology at the Institute of Family Health and an assistant dermatology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Smith told HuffPost what matters most of all is picking a product you’re actually going to use.
“Mineral sunscreens are thicker and may leave a whitish color on your skin, so if this keeps you from wearing it, that is not good, and ‘medically’ means you are higher risk for skin cancer,” she said. “On the other hand, chemical sunscreens tend to have more ingredients and may be more irritating for sensitive skin. So both the irritation and your tendency to avoid them could leave you with a medical problem.”
Keep in mind as you shop around that although it most often refers to mineral sunscreens, “natural” is “not a term that dermatologists use” when referring to sunscreen, as Smith previously told HuffPost, nor is the term legally regulated in personal care products. Remember that the real danger of sun exposure isn’t the use of chemicals in sunscreen. But no matter which type of sunscreen you choose, make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum” for protection from both types of harmful rays and has an SPF of 30 or greater.
Check out Lamb and Smith’s picks for best mineral sunscreens below.