Editor’s Picks: The 20+ Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens for Your Face

The most protective and non-whitening SPFs.
By Michelle Villett , |

If you're concerned about skin cancer, sunburn and the signs of aging (and who isn't?!), then a zinc oxide sunscreen is ideal for your face.

Why? Because here in North America, it is the ONLY sunscreen filter available that offers extensive protection against both UVA and UVB rays. (Elsewhere in the world, Tinosorb filters are equally effective.)

As Dr. Sharyn Laughlin explained in my UVA vs UVB tutorial, UVB causes sunburn, while UVA is the main driver of skin cancer and skin aging. Most sunscreens are UVB-biased, even if they claim to be broad-spectrum, since they contain actives with little to no UVA-filtering activity. 

Zinc oxide, on the other hand, not only gives you superior protection, it's also safer (as it doesn't absorb into blood and tissue) and won't harm coral reefs.

Here's what I look for in a zinc oxide facial sunscreen, plus the most elegant, non-whitening formulas I've found!

What to Look for in a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Your Face

Two of the best zinc oxide sunscreens for your face, from EleVen by Venus.

When choosing zinc-based sunscreens, these are the key ingredients I look out for:

  • Zinc oxide: For adequate (SPF 30 or higher) protection, the concentration of zinc oxide should be at least 20 percent. (The exception is Ava Isa, which has a lower amount but is boosted by patent-pending Bio UVA Ultra.)
  • Titanium dioxide: While it does offer good sun protection, titanium dioxide is usually the culprit when sunscreens leave a grey or white cast, says Dr. Laughlin. For this reason, the formulas I've selected for this guide contain only one active ingredient, zinc oxide. Mineral sunscreens with trace amounts of titanium dioxide should be transparent on most skin tones, but if you're a V or VI on the Fitzpatrick scale, you may prefer to avoid the ingredient completely. 
  • PUFAs: Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, a.k.a. PUFAs, oxidize with heat and light, generating free radicals and even cellular damage. That's why I avoid sunscreens that have PUFAs in the first five ingredients (which typically represent about 80 percent of the product).
  • Fragrance: Since fragrance is the number one trigger for skin reactions, it's good to avoid or limit it wherever possible.
  • Silicones: There's no safety concern with silicones, but their film-forming action can be comedogenic and interfere with cellular renewal. On my face, I avoid sunscreens with silicones in the first five ingredients.

For quick reference, I've listed the key ingredients in each sunscreen below, along with its cruelty-free status. Now, on to the products!

The Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens for Your Face 

Akt Therapy D-Luxe Daily Bronzer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Akt Therapy D-Luxe Daily Bronzer SPF 30

Akt Therapy D-Luxe Daily Bronzer SPF 30 has the most minimalistic formula on this list, so it could be a good choice if you've got sensitive skin. The 25 percent zinc oxide gives you the maximum level of protection, while vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, and olive oil and beeswax soften and hydrate your skin. It's even fortified with vitamin D3 (since sunscreens block its absorption), and has a natural-looking bronzey tint 

Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35

Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35 is the first sunscreen of its kind—a silky, lightweight serum that disappears on your skin. So not only is it weightless, it's also transparent on all skin tones. It contains the highest possible concentration of zinc oxide, 25 percent, and has the antioxidant Micah to quench free radicals and reduce the damaging effects of blue light. 

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen is a lightweight lotion sunscreen with a matte, pore-blurring finish (achieved with zero silicones). While I normally recommend at least 20 percent zinc oxide, this sunscreen only has 15 percent—but it's still highly protective, thanks to a patent-pending material called Bio UVA Ultra. The latter boosts the SPF number and increases the UVA protection by up to 60 percent, making this one of the most effective sunscreens around. 

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen features the same light, matte texture and high protection as its Pure Untinted counterpart (thanks to 15 percent zinc oxide and Bio UVA Ultra). But this version has a sheer nude-rose tint with some extra-fine shimmer for subtle luminosity. Don't worry, it's not glittery at all—I can't even detect it on my skin!

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30 just got upgraded with a new formula, new packaging and higher SPF number. Now it contains 25 percent zinc oxide in a non-greasy, silicone-free lotion with a semi-matte finish. Best of all, it is 100 percent transparent on all skin tones.

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is an ultra-protective sunscreen with a sheer tint to suit most skin tones. It's made with 25 percent zinc oxide, and has a unique fluid texture that reminds me of dry oil foundations. There's also a dose of Norwegian spruce extract to give you extra antioxidant protection.

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face just got updated with brighter packaging, but inside it's the same great formula with 20 percent zinc oxide and mostly natural ingredients. It has a lightweight feel and non-greasy finish, and is especially suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 is a lightweight creamy sunscreen formulated with 20 percent zinc oxide. Algae and sunflower sprout extracts work as antioxidants, while coconut fatty acids, glycerin and propanediol deliver moisture without greasiness. Some people say they can detect shimmer in this formula, but I haven't seen that on my skin at all! 

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 is a tinted version of the brand's Umbra Sheer sunscreen, offering the same spreadable texture, lightweight hydration and 20 percent zinc oxide protection. I would go for this one if you have a medium-to-dark skin tone. (Even though the coverage is sheer, I find the tint a little too deep for my fair skin to pull off.)

EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 is from an innovative collaboration between tennis superstar Venus Williams, clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty, and the sunscreen experts at The Sunscreen Company. Just like the Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35, it has a fast-absorbing serum texture and a high 25 percent concentration of zinc oxide. Plus, it is completely transparent on all skin tones.

EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30

EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 boasts 25 percent zinc oxide, but unlike the Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35, it is in a lightweight lotion format. Just like CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30 (which was formulated by the same company), it is fast-absorbing, has a semi-matte finish, and is totally invisible all skin tones. 

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer has the creamy texture of a medium-weight moisturizer, with the addition of 20 percent zinc oxide to protect your skin. Aloe vera, pomegranate, algae and hyaluronic acid help to hydrate and fight free radicals. Being oil-free and silicone-free, it is especially suitable for acne-prone skin.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 is a silicone-free CC cream that comes in an impressive seven different shades to suit all skin tones. The coverage is sheer and quite dewy, so layer a translucent powder on top if you prefer a matte look. You're being protected with 20 percent zinc oxide in a base of aloe vera and coconut oil.

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer is a silicone-free BB cream, available in three shades as well as sheer. Compared to the Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30, it offers slightly more coverage, although the shade range is not nearly as extensive. The active ingredient is 20 percent zinc oxide.

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30 is a creamy daytime moisturizer with 20 percent zinc oxide and spiked with an array of anti-aging ingredients. Think: vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate), vitamin B5 (panthenol) and vitamin E (tocopherol), plus botanicals like cucumber and raspberry leaf extracts.

Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32

Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32 was made with acne-prone skin in mind, so it's lightweight and non-greasy—despite packing 22.4 percent zinc oxide. It has a slight beige tint that disappears on your skin, and it dries down with a glowy yet pore-blurring finish. The brand's signature probiotic helps to support a healthy skin barrier.

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 is a sunscreen, moisturizer and makeup primer in one. It comes in pot, not a tube, and protects with 20 percent zinc oxide. The other ingredients include coconut fatty acids, lethicin, glycerin and silica—and no silicones, essential oils or fragrance. 

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen is one of the most lightweight options, with a matte, non-greasy finish. It contains a generous 22 percent zinc oxide, blended with coconut fatty acids, aloe vera and glycerin. Rather than silicones, the formula uses rice starch to absorb excess oil and minimize pores.

Solara Suncare Time Traveler Ageless Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Solara Suncare Time Traveler Ageless Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Solara Suncare Time Traveler Ageless Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 30 delivers anti-aging ingredients like copper peptides, ceramides and antioxidants while it protects your skin with 20 percent zinc oxide. The fragrance-free and silicone-free formula is also 99 percent plant-derived.

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30 hydrates and protects your skin while priming it for makeup. So this would be an ideal formula to layer underneath your favourite foundation. There's 20 percent zinc oxide in here, no tint, and it delivers a glowy, dewy finish.

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30 is a tinted BB cream that is available in four shades—although unfortunately, it only goes as dark as Medium. There's a good 20 percent zinc oxide in here, and it can easily replace a lightweight foundation as it does give some light coverage. 

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+ may not have the prettiest packaging, but you're getting a great sunscreen for the price. This formula is comprised of 20 percent zinc oxide, and comes in one sheer universal tint. (I'm fair, and can't detect it on my skin.) It's fast-absorbing and semi-matte, and unlike the other sunscreens on this list, water-resistant for 80 minutes.

W3ll People Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Titanium dioxide-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Reef-safe ✓Cruelty-free

W3ll People Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer SPF 30

W3ll People Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer SPF 30 is a tinted moisturizer with broad-spectrum protection from 20 percent zinc oxide. The four colours range from Fair to Medium-Dark, and although the formula packs a lot of pigment, it becomes sheer and dewy as you blend it out. I personally find that this brand's shades tend to run darker and warmer than expected.

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Do you have a favourite zinc oxide sunscreen?
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