The 16 Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens of 2020 - The Skincare Edit

Editor’s Picks: 16 of the Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens to Protect Your Skin

The most high-performing, non-whitening SPFs.
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Best zinc oxide sunscreen

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

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 explains 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 sunscreen, plus the most elegant, non-whitening formulas I've found!

What to Look for in a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen 

Best zinc oxide sunscreen

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

When choosing zinc-based sunscreens, here's what I'm looking for on labels. (See my sunscreen ingredients tutorial for more details!) 

  • High in zinc oxide: For adequate (SPF 30 or higher) protection, the concentration of zinc oxide should be at least 20 percent. 
  • Low in 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. 
  • Low in 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).
  • Low in fragrance: Since fragrance is the number one trigger for skin reactions, it's good to avoid or limit it wherever possible.
  • Low in 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. Bonus: Zinc oxide is also reef-safe. Now, on to the products!

The Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

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

EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 is from an innovative collaboration between tennis superstar Venus Williams, clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty, and the sunscreen experts at The Sunscreen Company. It boasts 25 percent zinc oxide in a lightweight, non-greasy lotion, with a semi-matte finish. Although it does take a little time to blend out, it is totally invisible on all skin tones—even dark skin. 

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

EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 is a groundbreaking serum sunscreen that's perfect for anyone who hates the heavy feel and white cast of most SPFs. It has a fast-absorbing, lightweight texture, and a high 25 percent concentration of zinc oxide. Plus, it is completely transparent on all skin tones—so it doesn't look or feel like you're wearing sunscreen!

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

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.

Ghost Democracy Invisible Lightweight Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 33

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

Ghost Democracy Invisible Lightweight Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 33

Ghost Democracy Invisible Lightweight Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 33

Ghost Democracy Invisible Lightweight Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 33 not only protects your skin with 20 percent zinc oxide, it also treats your skin with three other active ingredients. They include four percent niacinamide, which has multiple benefits including soothing redness, minimizing pores and strengthening the skin barrier. There's also artichoke leaf and turmeric extracts, which fight free radicals and boost radiance.

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

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

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.

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

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. For a tinted option, try the brand's Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 (reviewed here), which offers the same level of protection and comes in an impressive seven different shades.

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

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. For medium-to-deep skin tones, there's also a tinted version, Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 (reviewed here).

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+

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.

NUORI Mineral Defence Sunscreen SPF 30

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

NUORI Mineral Defence Sunscreen SPF 30

NUORI Mineral Defence Sunscreen SPF 30

NUORI Mineral Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 is all-natural and fragrance-free, with a matte finish. The 23 percent zinc oxide gives you a high level of protection, while French pine extract ups the antioxidant protection and lends a hint of tint (which disappears on your skin). Bonus: It also makes a great makeup primer, and has a subtle blurring effect on fine lines.

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

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. 

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

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. If you prefer a tint, check out the brand's 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30 (reviewed here), which comes in four shades.

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 Creme SPF 30

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.

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-e-Serum Drops SPF 35

Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35

Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35 is—along with the EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35—the first sunscreen of its kind. This is 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, with the antioxidant Micah to quench free radicals and reduce the damaging effects of blue light. 

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

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. It does take more time to rub in, but the results are totally worth it! (FYI, this is the same formula as EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30, just different branding.)

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

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

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is an ultra-protective sunscreen with a unique fluid texture. It's made with 25 percent zinc oxide, along with a dose of Norwegian spruce extract to give you extra antioxidant protection. Although it goes on white, this disappears quickly as you blend it out. However, the brand also has also a tinted version, Simply Zinc Ultra Tinted Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 (reviewed here).

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