No matter the time of year, you always need to keep on top of your suncare game! The winter sun can be just as damaging, if not more so, than in the summer as we tend to let our guard down around the cooler months. So whether you’re off on your jollies, spending time in your garden or just commuting to work, you’re going to need a good broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays.
Felipe Partarrieu is a dermatologist, who is GMC registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skin care, and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.
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Felipe Partarrieu is a final-year dermatology resident who is GMC-registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skincare and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.
Chemical sunscreens work by way of absorption into the skin (which soak up UVA and UVB rays), whereas mineral sunscreen remains on top of the skin to prevent the rays from reaching you in the first place. They are sometimes called 'physical' sunscreens due to this preventative barrier.
Additionally, there has been some research to suggest that some chemical sunscreens aren’t actually as high an SPF as they claim, and contain too few active ingredients to block the full spectrum of UV rays. With a mineral sunscreen, the ingredients reflect the sun’s rays, preventing them from reaching your skin at all.
Looking for '100% mineral' sunscreens or those with only titanium and zinc oxide as the 'active ingredients' will ensure that you are buying a completely mineral sunscreen, as some products may market themselves as 'mineral-based' but actually include other chemical ingredients alongside a small number of minerals.
Some of the chemical filters common in traditional sunscreen – and therefore the ones to watch out for – are Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Octinoxate and Avobenzone. There are guides available online with full lists of these ingredients if you want to do some extra research to avoid them completely.
Zinc oxide offers a broader spectrum of UV protection than titanium dioxide as the latter does not offer much protection against UVA radiation, the ones responsible for photo-ageing; so it's always better to go for products that include both ingredients in its formulation.
Although mineral sunscreens have benefits compared to chemical ones, formulations that combine chemical and mineral actives can achieve a higher SPF with a more cosmetically elegant look and feel than either of them.
Zinc 'nano' particles are the smallest type, as the name implies, and are used in modern mineral sun protection to decrease the chalky qualities and provide a more natural appearance. Their small size does mean that they are more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which may be of concern to some people, but these nano particle formulas are great for everyday application and those who wear makeup.
'Non-nano' on the other hand, have larger particles of the active minerals, so will not potentially enter the bloodstream. Current research shows there is no harm in these minerals doing so, but it’s up to you to decide if you don’t favour this. Non-nano formulas are great for day trips to the beach or other times where you are exposed to the sun for a long period of time.
Titanium dioxide is typically scaled down to a much smaller size than zinc oxide (10-100 nanometers vs 200 nm) making it invisible to the naked eye, hence a cosmetically appealing option.
More research is needed to fully understand fully how these nanoparticles may interact with cells and organs, but a large number of studies have failed to prove that zinc oxide or titanium dioxide nanoparticles can cross the skin in significant amounts.
UVA protection does not have a rating system, but we use SPF to determine UVB protection. Therefore, it is best to ensure your mineral sunscreen is 'broad spectrum', which means it shields you from both types of UV light.
Go for the highest protection you can for large amounts of sun exposure, especially if you're buying for babies and kids, and try to choose water-resistant sunscreens. Even if you aren’t swimming, they will ensure sweat-proof SPF protection. Most will state the minutes they are resistant for, so choose a high number for safer care.
Most dermatology societies around the world recommend using a sunscreen that’s 30 SPF or higher, no matter the skin tone, time of the year or latitude. By definition, all sunscreens with a sufficient amount of zinc oxide offer broad-spectrum UV protection.
It's important to remark that 'water-resistant' does not mean 'water-proof'. Therefore, no matter what the bottle says, you should always reapply sunscreen after profuse sweating and bathing.
Although oils can be nourishing, you may want to choose oil-free if you suffer from prickly heat, as they can heat up the skin and leave those with sensitivities feeling uncomfortable.
Some sunscreens add silicones, a type of plastic, to make the skin feel smooth and resist water. They do this by forming a barrier on the skin, but this can block pores by trapping dirt, bacteria and sweat. Opt for silicone-free sunscreens if you’re spot-prone or simply prefer a plastic-free product.
The right amount of oil protects our skin from external toxic elements, but oil excess can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. Therefore, people with acne-prone skin should use products labelled as 'oil-free'.
However, given the unregulated nature of this term within the skincare industry, read the ingredient list and look for glyceryl tribehenate, lanolin, waxes, petrolatum and squalene, which are substances that have an oil-like effect on the skin.
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Clear Zinc Sunscreen ｜89ml
An Excellent-Value Natural Sunscreen for Children and Adults Alike
Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen｜118ml
Naturally Soothing and Protective With Great Eco Credentials
Unscented Mineral Sunscreen｜87ml
A Family-Friendly Choice Made With Only 4 Natural Ingredients
Natural Mineral Sunscreen｜118ml
A Quick-Absorbing, Vitamin-Enriched Sunscreen Designed for Mature Skin
Tinted Mineral Fluid ｜40ml
Tinted Option for the Face With 50+ SPF and a Non-Comodegenic Formula
Mineral Fluid for Sensitive and Intolerant Skin｜50ml
Vegan-Friendly and Ideal for Easily Irritated Skin
Mineral Sunscreen ｜89ml
Perfect for Active Types Wanting High Protection
Mineral Sunscreen for Face ｜30ml
A Luxurious, Easy-to-Apply Facial Sunscreen From Clinique
Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen ｜148ml
Effective Sensitive Protection That's Kind to Marine Life
Sheer Zinc Sunscreen for Face ｜59ml
A High-Protection Facial Sunscreen for Oily or Sensitive Skin
It is fairly rich so would suit drier skin types, but sensitive skins will find it non-irritating and calming. It scores top marks for a non-nano sunscreen in terms of application and white residue too, as it becomes transparent soon after application.
Firstly, bear in mind that you will need a lot less mineral sunscreen than you may be used to. Either dot on small blobs or take a pea-sized amount and rub it between the hands, then blot it over before rubbing in well. Work bit by bit on each area of your body to further reduce any whiteness from over-application.
You should also apply your mineral sunscreen around 15 minutes before you head outside due to the fact it may take a little longer to put on the skin. And of course, remember to re-apply after swimming and every couple of hours, just as you would a traditional sunscreen.
'Reef-safe' is currently not a regulated term, so you must make sure to look at the 'active ingredients' used in the sunscreen. Generally, it is advised that you look for sunscreens with 'non-nano' zinc oxide or titanium oxide. It is also helpful to avoid single-use plastic packaging and opt for biodegradable alternatives.
You shouldn’t be mixing your mineral sunscreens with your moisturisers as this will essentially be watering down their efficacy and potentially rendering the ingredients completely inactive. However, you can layer them by allowing your moisturiser to absorb into the skin first and then going on to apply your physical sunscreen.
Why not take a look at the best facial sunscreens too?
On the whole, it is generally not advised that you mix and match your sunscreens as there is potential for ingredients to clash with one another. Nevertheless, if you have two products from the same brand with similar ingredients, then it may be okay to layer them throughout the day.
Written and researched by Natasha Dziubajlo
No. 1: Babo Botanicals ｜Clear Zinc Sunscreen ｜89ml
No. 2: Alba Botanica｜Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen｜118ml
No. 3: Badger ｜Unscented Mineral Sunscreen｜87ml
No. 4: Derma E｜Natural Mineral Sunscreen｜118ml
No. 5: Avène ｜Tinted Mineral Fluid ｜40ml
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