Editor’s Picks: 18 of the Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens for Your Face

Because all SPFs are not created equal.
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Zinc oxide sunscreen for face

It's no secret that I'm an advocate of mineral sunscreens—especially when it comes to your face.

For one thing, they're better for your health. While many chemical sunscreen filters are associated with hormonal disruption, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have no such side effects. They work by safely sitting on the skin's surface to reflect away the light, instead of penetrating into the bloodstream.

Unlike avobenzone and octinoxate, they're also very photostable, and won't break down in the presence of UV. And they're less likely to trigger skin reactions like rashes and itching.

But the best reason of all to use a mineral sunscreen on your face? 

Zinc oxide is the ONLY sunscreen filter available in North America that offers complete broad-spectrum protection against both UVA (the "aging" rays) and UVB (the "burning" rays).

Keep reading for what I look for in a zinc oxide sunscreen, plus the best formulas I've found for the face!

How to Choose a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Your Face

Zinc oxide sunscreen for face

Photo: @lilyaldridge

Here's my criteria when choosing a zinc oxide sunscreen:

  • High-zinc: Sunscreens should contain at least 20 percent zinc oxide as the active ingredient, or 15 to 20 percent zinc oxide with 7.5 percent titanium dioxide or encapsulated octinoxate.
  • PUFA-free or low-PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acids, a.k.a. PUFAs, oxidize with heat and light, generating harmful free radicals and even cellular damage. Ideally, sunscreens should be PUFA-free, but I've included a few low-PUFA options which should be fairly low-risk. (I've defined "low-PUFA" as products without PUFAs in the first five to 10 ingredients—that far down the list, there'd only be traces of them.)
  • Silicone-free or low-silicone: There's no safety reason to avoid silicones, but I think it's a good idea to limit them if possible. Their film-forming action can be comedogenic and dehydrating, and interferes with the skin's natural regulatory processes. 
  • Fragrance-free: Since fragrance is the number one culprit behind skin reactions, it's good to avoid or limit it wherever possible—even in your sunscreen.
  • Non-whitening: For the least amount of white cast, choose a tinted formula. Otherwise, go for micronized forms of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which have smaller particle sizes. But what about nanoparticles, you ask? According to EWG, nearly ALL sunscreens would be considered nanomaterials despite their "non-nano" claims—but there is no evidence that they penetrate the skin or cause any significant harm. For that reason, I don't worry about whether a sunscreen claims to be "non-nano."
  • Water-resistant: If you'll be doing outdoor sports or swimming, you may want a water-resistant formula for your face. 
  • Cruelty-free: The only company that is NOT cruelty-free in this guide is Avène.
  • Reef-safe: Minerals won't do harm to coral reefs. So, all the products in this guide are reef-safe except for CyberDerm's Every Morning Sun Whip, which contains encapsulated octinoxate (not technically a mineral even though it acts like one!).

Ready to see which sunscreens measure up? Here we go!

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

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

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

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

The Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face is a reformulation of the brand's original sunscreen, and now it's even better! They bumped up the zinc content to 20 percent, but it still has the same lightweight, oil-free lotion texture. That's why I think it's one of the better options for acne-prone skin. 

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

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

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

The Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer is not only chock-full of zinc (20 percent), but also has tons of antioxidant-rich botanical extracts and hyaluronic acid. The texture is light and the white hue disappears really fast. It's a great choice for anyone after lightweight, oil-free hydration.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

If you want to avoid any potential whitening effects, check out Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30. It's a silicone-free CC cream that comes in five tints to suit all skin tones. The coverage is very sheer and dewy (so pair this with a powder if you prefer a matte look). It's protecting you with 20 percent zinc oxide.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

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

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 has 20 percent zinc oxide and a lovely light texture; it's also free of silicones, fragrance and essential oils. Some people say they can detect shimmer in this formula, but I really haven't seen that on my skin at all! This is one of my go-tos for lightweight sun protection.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Another option to avoid a white cast is Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30. It's a tinted version of the brand's original sunscreen, and comes in one universal sheer tint. (It also has 20 percent zinc oxide.) I would go for this one if you have a medium-to-dark skin tone; I find it's a little too deep for my fair skin.

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

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

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is the new and improved version of Simply Zinc Sun Whip—one of my all-time favourite beauty products, and the first TRULY effective sunscreen I ever discovered. (Now, there are a lot more high-zinc offerings, but a few years ago, that wasn't the case at all.) It is now tinted, with a light dry oil texture, and has the highest zinc oxide content on the market, 25 percent!

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 is the only sunscreen I've seen that combines 15 percent zinc oxide with 7.5 percent encapsulated octinoxate. Although a chemical filter, the encapsulation makes the octinoxate behave like a mineral, sitting on top of the skin. The texture of this one is lightweight and matte, so it's ideal for oily and acne-prone skin. 

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

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

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen is a new high-zinc sunscreen that helps keep skin fresh and matte. It is silicone-free, and boasts a generous 22 percent zinc oxide along with rice starch to absorb excess oil. Another great choice for oily skin.

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

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

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer SPF 30

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30 is a sunscreen and hydrating primer in one—so it's an ideal product to wear underneath your 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 ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30 is similar to a tinted BB cream, and is available in four shades, from Fair to Medium. (Unfortunately, they don't go any darker.) This one has 20 percent zinc oxide and is perfect if you're looking for a sunscreen that can replace your light-coverage skin makeup.

Attitude Sensitive Skin Care Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

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

Attitude Sensitive Skin Care Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude Sensitive Skin Care Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude Sensitive Skin Care Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is a 20 percent zinc sunscreen made with dry and sensitive skin in mind. Certified by the National Eczema Association, it's enriched with one percent colloidal oatmeal, which reduces itching, redness and inflammation. The texture is creamier and initially, a tad sticky, but it dries down beautifully. If your skin tends to be reactive, this is perfect for you. 

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30 is a new high-protection sunscreen with moisturizing properties. It comes in one sheer tint, is silicone-free, and hydrates with glycerin and squalane. Meanwhile, the 25 percent zinc oxide and four percent titanium dioxide protect skin from harsh UV rays. 

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

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

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen is a new sunscreen from the makers of CyberDerm, and it's their most lightweight and matte sunscreen to date. It's also very protective, as the 15 percent zinc oxide is boosted by a patent-pending material that increases the UVA protection by 60 percent. This is one of my favourites—it doesn't even feel like you're wearing sunscreen!

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

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

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen features the same lightweight matte texture and high protection (with 15 percent zinc oxide and patent-pending Bio UVA). But this one has a sheer nude-rose tint with some extra fine shimmer for subtle luminosity. (Don't worry if you hate glitter; I can't detect it on my skin!)

Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Face & Body Sunscreen SPF 31

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Face and Body Sunscreen SPF 31

Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Face & Body Sunscreen SPF 31

Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Face & Body Sunscreen SPF 31 has 20.1 percent zinc oxide in a formula with natural ingredients. It has a somewhat thick but spreadable texture, and a slight beige tint, so it doesn't go on white. Once massaged into the skin, it gives you a velvety matte finish (despite not having any silicones!).

Mad Hippie Facial SPF 30+

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

Mad Hippie Facial SPF 30

Mad Hippie Facial SPF 30+

Mad Hippie Facial SPF 30+ is a silicone-free sunscreen that gives light protection with a non-greasy feel. It's not one I'd suggest wearing for long periods outdoors, since it only has 16 percent zinc oxide. However, it could be a good solution for low-sun days, as the texture is incredibly lightweight and it's less whitening than most (due to the lower zinc content).

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

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

Avene Mineral Fluid SPF 50

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+ is a new SPF made with sensitive skin in mind. It's fragrance-free, with a fluid texture, and is surprisingly low in silicones. This one is giving you good protection with 14.6 percent zinc oxide and 11.4 percent titanium dioxide. Plus, it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!

Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

Avene Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50

Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

For deeper skin tones, there's Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+. You're getting the same level of protection—with 14.6 percent zinc oxide and 11.4 percent titanium dioxide—in a tinted fluid with a matte finish. Again, it is fragrance-free, silicone-free and water-resistant.

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