We all know that SPF is perhaps the most important step in our daily skincare routines. For most people, that means applying a layer of sunscreen lotion every single day in order to protect from sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging.
Obviously, that habit will stand you in good stead. But what you might be wondering is whether your morning application of sunscreen is still protecting you later on in the day—especially if you’ve been sweating or touching your face.
That’s where powder sunscreen comes in.
Also known as “dry sunscreen,” powder sunscreen is a mineral-based powder that you simply brush on to deposit the active sunscreen ingredients. Unlike lotions, it’s completely dry and sheer, so it won’t disturb your makeup. It’s also portable and perfect for touch-ups, so it’s the easiest way to keep your skin protected throughout the day.
Keep reading to find out what to look for in a powder sunscreen, plus the best formulas for every preference.
Editor’s Picks (At a Glance)
Best Clean Beauty
Best for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
Best for Setting Makeup
What to Look for in a Powder Sunscreen
Powder sunscreen is best used on top of a lotion sunscreen as a second layer of sun protection, rather than as your only sunscreen. (This is because it’s difficult to get complete coverage with a powder.) Here’s what I recommend:
- Zinc oxide: As the only UV filter that provides extensive protection from both UVA and UVB, zinc oxide is essential in a powder sunscreen. While it can be found in concentrations as high as 25% (and I recommend at least 15-20% in a lotion formula), you wouldn’t necessarily need this much in a powder, since it’s being used as a top-up. Avoid any products that only contain titanium dioxide—on its own, it does not provide enough UVA protection.
- Bismuth-free: Bismuth oxychloride is a synthetic pearl powder that is often found in mineral makeup and is the most common culprit for irritation, itching and burning.
- Talc-free: While talc is a natural mineral, there is an ongoing debate regarding its safety. Aesthetically, it tends to be drying on the skin and can look chalky.
- Low in fragrance: Just like in lotion sunscreens, it’s best to limit or avoid fragrance and essential oils if possible. They can make your skin irritated as well as increase photosensitivity.
- Low in silicones (optional): Silicones aren’t as problematic in powder sunscreens, since they’re less likely to form an occlusive seal that traps acne-causing debris. However, there are low-silicone and silicone-free powder sunscreens that you can opt for if you’d rather avoid them.
The Best Powder Sunscreens of 2022
Best Protection: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
- What it is: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 is an all-mineral skin shield that provides complete protection in one convenient, on-the-go application.
- Active ingredients: 22.5% zinc oxide, 22.5% titanium dioxide.
- Other ingredients: Mica, dimethicone, hyaluronic acid, glycerin.
- Editor’s notes: This is an ultra-protective powder sunscreen that gives you high concentrations of both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, along with 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance. No wonder it is the only power sunscreen recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for active use. It comes in four matte shades (Fair, Medium, Tan and Deep) as well as Glow for a luminous look, and Bronze for sun-kissed colour.
Best Lightweight: Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++
- What it is: Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++ is a 100% mineral powder SPF that sets your makeup and mattifies your skin.
- Active ingredients: 24.7% zinc oxide.
- Other ingredients: Silica, trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone resin), olive glycerides, vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate), ceramides.
- Editor’s notes: This powder is so lightweight, it doesn’t look or feel like anything is on your skin. Despite its sheer and silky texture, it packs some serious protection with the maximum concentration of zinc oxide. There are three matte tints (Light, Medium and Deep), along with a Translucent version, and they’ll help to reduce shine as well as smooth the look of your skin.