We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best
products—learn more about
our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
After the FDA released warnings in 2019 saying that chemicals from sunscreen can absorb into your bloodstream, many beachgoers are making the switch to sunscreens made only with natural ingredients, like zinc oxide. While zinc oxide can sometimes leave behind a pesky white cast on your skin, it’s a much better choice than not using sunscreen at all. And hey, don’t knock it ’til you try it—there are now clear and tinted zinc oxide sunscreens available that can reduce the amount of white residue left on your skin and offer all the natural sun protection you need.
“Zinc oxide is a mineral-based compound that’s used both as a skin protectant and as a sunscreen,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Health. Basically, it offers broad spectrum protection against UVB and UVA rays—similar to what you would get in a chemical sunscreen—without the harmful ingredients.
These are the best zinc oxide sunscreens for your face in 2022
- Best Overall: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen
- Best Drugstore Option: CeraVe Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
- Best Tinted Option: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best for Melasma: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44
- Best Sunscreen Spray: Supergoop 100% Mineral Sunscreen Mist with Marigold Extract Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- Best for Under Makeup: Revision Intellishade TruPhysical Anti-Aging Tinted Moisturizer with Sunscreen
- Best for Babies and Kids: Supergoop Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Lotion
- Best for Lips: Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen SPF 30
- Best for Mature Skin: PCA Skin Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
- Best Powder: Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder
- Best for Oily/Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
But, how does it actually work? When zinc oxide is applied to the skin, it creates a protective seal, Dr. Zeichner explains. "Ultraviolet light hits the zinc oxide and reflects away from the skin, preventing it from penetrating."
Because it’s not absorbed into the skin like chemical sunscreens, zinc oxide tends to be less irritating, especially for sensitive skin types and those with acne, rosacea, and eczema, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s also a great option for babies and kids who have weak skin barriers that aren’t as developed—and can even be used safely on children as young as six months—she adds.
If you're using a sunscreen that contains only zinc oxide, you'll want to reapply every two hours because the ingredients can clump together on the skin (making them less effective over time), Dr. Zeichner notes.
On the hunt for the most effective zinc oxide sunscreen out there? We asked dermatologists for their favorite zinc oxide options. From clear and tinted lotions to convenient sprays to the best zinc oxide sunscreen for your face, all of their picks, below, will offer the protection you need for a day in the sun—sans the dreaded chalky white look.
These Are the Best Sunscreens for Your Face, According to Dermatologists
Best Overall: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen
Buy it, $9
Highly recommended by both Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Nazarian, this is a great zinc oxide sunscreen for your face because it won’t feel greasy or heavy on your skin, and has a super high level of SPF for ultimate protection. The best news? It’s not only safe for all skin types (including acne-prone skin), but it’s also ocean-friendly and won’t harm coral reefs.
Promising Review: “I have tried several different sunscreens for the face and a lot of those were oily and left a white cast on my face… I tested it in sunny Cabo San Lucas last month, and it stayed put on my face. Didn’t drip down, didn’t oil up, and really helped to keep sun exposure to a minimum. There was one day I forgot to wear my hat, and only applied this and I did get a nice glow but didn’t get any sunburn.”
Best Drugstore Option: CeraVe Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Buy it, $22
Perfect for everyday use, this ultralight zinc oxide sunscreen goes on clear, meaning there’s no chalky white cast left on your skin, says Dr. Nazarian. Plus, it features ceramides and niacinamide to restore the skin’s barrier, prevent dehydration of skin, and fight signs of aging.
Promising Review: “This is not at all what I’ve found with this sunscreen product. It goes on semi-clear, smooth, non-greasy, and is easy to rub in. I compared it with the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Soft-Touch 50, and the CeraVe works better for me. It’s easier to put on, it’s more hydrating than the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc and doesn’t make me look pasty-white.”
Best Tinted Option: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Buy it, $33
Dr. Zeichner is a fan of this tinted sunscreen with zinc oxide, because the lightweight, non-comedogenic (read: won’t clog pores) formula shields against UVA and UVB rays, has antioxidants to defend against skin-damaging free radicals, and offers extra coverage for your face—either in lieu of makeup or as a primer.
Promising Review: “I never thought I would spend this much on sunscreen, but it is so worth it. The tint offers light coverage and moisturizer similar to a BB or CC cream but with an even higher SPF. So, that’s one less I have to buy now. It layers well under my foundation and primer… Also, my sensitive skin loves that this is a physical sunscreen not chemical one.”
Best for Melasma: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44
Buy it, $36
If you’re looking for a tinted sunscreen with zinc oxide that offers a little bit more coverage and doesn’t leave a white cast on darker skin tones, Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, recommends this option. She likes that the oil-free, chemical-free formula won’t clog pores, is great for sensitive skin, and boasts mega-hydrating hyaluronic acid to plump skin (and keep it from drying out under the sun). It’s also a favorite for board-certified dermatologist Alicia Zalka, MD, who recommends it for those struggling with melasma, which is categorized as facial hyperpigmentation from increased skin exposure and/or changes in hormones. “This product is tinted, which helps mask melasma pigmentation while protecting skin from damage,” she says, noting that it also helps shield the skin from the high-energy visible light (HVL) that can exacerbate the condition.
Promising Review: “The absolute best facial sunscreen. I have been using EltaMD from a doctor’s recommendation for years. This product goes a long way and is super protective. Not greasy, but very moisturizing. I love the bit of tint, which gives your face an all-over even look with some brightness. I would not use anything else.”
Best Sunscreen Spray: Supergoop 100% Mineral Sunscreen Mist with Marigold Extract Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Buy It, $34
Not all mineral spray sunscreens are created equal, which is why Dr. Zeichner recommends this UV ray-blocking zinc oxide mist from Supergoop. It can easily be applied to large surface areas—like your arms, legs, and back—and sprays on white, but dries quickly into a sheer, dry-to-the-touch finish, so you can use it on your face without worrying about it leaving a white cast. Marigold, safflower, and sunflower antioxidants protect against free radical damage while aloe vera soothes dry, reddened skin.
Promising Review: “It spreads so quickly, sprays really easily and reliably. The formula is great — swim-proof and hike-proof so far. I like that it can spray in any direction. It’s really a must for spraying yourself. It will also get every drop out of the can, which is next to impossible with some other unnamed thick mineral-based sunscreens in squeeze-tubes.”
Best for Under Makeup: Revision Intellishade TruPhysical Anti-Aging Tinted Moisturizer with Sunscreen
Buy it, $80
Another pick from Dr. Nazarian, this multi-tasking zinc oxide sunscreen helps firm, brighten, and even out skin tone with its tinted coverage, which blends effortlessly into your face. Bonus: It’s packed with antioxidants to neutralize environmental stressors, which can help prevent wrinkles and signs of aging.
Promising Review: “Marvelous skincare and light makeup in one… This stuff applies feeling like thicker face sunscreen but rapidly marries with my skin to even out my color/tone and make my skin feel buttery soft, young, and protected. So thrilled with the color. It doesn’t deposit much and doesn’t look cakey or blotchy or weirdly orange and that it doesn’t break me out.”
Best for Babies and Kids: Supergoop Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Lotion
Buy it, $28
Newly launched for babies and kids, this sunscreen protects little ones with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of harsh chemicals, says Dr. Jaliman. Made with a gentle, moisturizing formula, it’s fragrance-free and water-resistant—so it won’t irritate delicate baby skin—and will stay put in the pool or ocean for up to 80 minutes.
Promising Review: “This is the only sunscreen I have found that doesn’t irritate my toddler’s eyes. I’ve tried many varieties of sensitive sunscreen but they all tend to run and get in her eyes and burn except this one! It stays put and is not irritating at all! Long-lasting and very protective.”
Best for Lips: Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen SPF 30
Buy it, $5
Recommended by dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar for its 15% zinc oxide formula, this SPF 30 lip balm protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays while enriching it with lasting moisture. This is also a favorite of Aguilar’s for its fragrance-free formula, which makes it great for all skin types—especially those with sensitive skin.
Promising Review: “This is the best SPF lip product I’ve used. Others have had either an off-flavor or unnecessary fragrance… I find it helps my lips stay moisturized and there’s zero fragrance or flavor.”
Best for Mature Skin: PCA Skin Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
Buy it, $44
Another pick from Aguilar, this zinc oxide sunscreen guarantees powerful protection with its SPF 50+ formula, which is also packed with free radical-fighting antioxidants to combat the common signs of premature aging. “It’s lightweight, non-greasy, and absorbs easily,” she says, adding that this face sunscreen also leaves a sheer finish on the skin and is waterproof and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Promising Review: “I love this sunscreen because it evens out my complexion and makes my skin look smooth and beautiful. I like the SPF 50+ better than other ones… The SPF 50 feels lighter and it spreads better on my skin. I don’t use any other sunscreen on my face anymore.”
Best Powder: Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder
Buy it, $69
For Dr. Zalka and licensed esthetician Karen Fernandez, this mineral sunscreen powder is a must-have. Great for all skin types, it’s fortified with SPF 50 and provides simple application and reapplication with its cosmetics brush-style design. Since it’s a powder, it absorbs excess oil while increasing your skin’s defense against UVA and UVB rays.
Promising Review: “My dermatologist recommended this product because I complained that lotions just sweated off and got into my eyes. At first, I wasn’t going to buy because I don’t wear makeup ever and the price… I used it on a two-week vacation where we did lots of hiking and sweating. Boy did it work well. You really couldn’t tell I had it on.”
Best for Oily/Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Buy it, $37
Those with oily and acne-prone skin no longer need to fear incorporating sunscreen into their routine with this EltaMD pick. Renowned for its versatility and translucent skin-like finish, the best-selling facial sunscreen on Amazon keeps your skin protected from the sun with its non-irritating zinc oxide-enriched formula. It defends your skin from UVA and UVB rays without clogging your pores or leaving a greasy, unflattering white cast behind, which is why Dr. Zalka loves it. Sensitive skin types and those struggling with rosacea and eczema will also benefit from this sunscreen as it’s both calming and hydrating.
Promising Review: “This product is amazing for sensitive and acne-prone skin. I have had issues in the past with sunscreens breaking me out and with Elta MD I have no worries. I have been using it for about a month now per my aesthetician… Now after using it a month, I have noticed my skin is more hydrated (it does give you a glow) honestly some days I will just put this on and go out the door, it gives you a dewy look. Also, it goes on white but turns clear as you rub it in. I have not seen any white cast after using it.”