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Zinc oxide sunscreens work by scattering the sun’s rays, which prevents potentially damaging ultraviolet radiation from getting to the skin. Doctors call sunscreens with zinc oxide “physical” sunscreens because they sit atop the skin and physically block the rays.

The alternative is a chemical sunscreen, which absorbs into the skin, converts the sun’s rays to heat, and releases them from the body.

The following is a round-up of 15 zinc oxide-containing sunscreens selected using American Academy of Dermatology guidelines and other expert recommendations for most sunscreen products.

These include choosing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and choosing water-resistant sunscreens.

Here’s a guide for sunscreen cost ranges:

  • $: up to $10
  • $$: $10 to $30
  • $$$: $30 or more

1. COOLA Organic Mineral Body Sunscreen SPF 50

  • Details: This sunscreen from COOLA contains 3.2 percent titanium dioxide and 7.0 percent zinc oxide. The sunscreen has a sheer application that makes it feel lightweight to the touch.
  • Considerations: It does contain some natural plant oils, which can be moisturizing to most but allergy-inducing to others.
  • Cost: $$$
  • Shop for it online.

2. Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Details: This sunscreen contains 10 percent zinc and 5 percent titanium dioxide. It’s also designed for sensitive skin as it contains no parabens or fragrances. The addition of titanium dioxide is excellent for those who have sensitive skin, and it doesn’t have the “sting” that some sunscreens can take on if you happen to get sweat in your eyes.
  • Considerations: This sunscreen provides 40 minutes of water protection — you’ll want to reapply more frequently than you would some other sunscreens.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

3. EltaMD UV Daily Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

  • Details: The Skin Cancer Foundation awarded its seal of approval to this facial sunscreen from EltaMD. This sheer sunscreen uses a unique airless pump to maintain the integrity of the ingredients inside. It’s also suitable for oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Considerations: This is a daily sunscreen that’s not water resistant — you’ll need a different sunscreen if you are hitting the beach or pool.
  • Cost: $$$
  • Shop for it online.

4. Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 30

  • Details: This budget-friendly facial sunscreen is approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The product has a light texture that makes it easy to apply for everyday use alone or under makeup.
  • Considerations: It has a tropical coconut and mango scent that may not be suited for everyone. Keep in mind that it isn’t water-resistant, so you’ll need a different sunscreen when you’re going to the beach or pool.
  • Cost: $
  • Shop for it online.

5. Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face Mineral Lotion SPF 50

  • Details: This tinted facial sunscreen contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It’s also a National Eczema Foundation-accepted sunscreen that is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
  • Considerations: It does have a slight tint that may not be suited for all skin tones.
  • Cost: $
  • Shop for it online.

6. Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

  • Details: At 3 ounces, this sunscreen is TSA-friendly and ideal for travel. Its fragrance-free formulation makes it well-suited to those with sensitive skin for whom a lot of other sunscreens have proven irritating.
  • Considerations: Since you should apply about 1 ounce of sunscreen with each application for your body, you may have to replace this option a little more frequently.
  • Cost: $
  • Shop for it online.

7. Coppertone Defend & Care Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50

  • Details: The clear zinc sunscreen formulation won’t leave the typical white cast that many zinc sunscreens do. It’s also water-resistant and offers broad-spectrum coverage.
  • Considerations: It contains octinoxate (another mineral sun block), so it’s not reef-approved for certain places like Hawaii that limit sunscreen types.
  • Cost: $
  • Shop for it online.

8. Waxhead Baby Sunscreen for Kids and Infants SPF 35

  • Details: Along with our other selections for babies and children, this sunscreen topped the Environmental Working Group’s list of safe sunscreens for babies. What we like about this sunscreen is the manufacturer kept it simple: The sunscreen contains six ingredients that are suitable for baby’s sensitive skin.
  • Considerations: One thing to consider is you must knead the tube before using to make the sunscreen more spreadable.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

9. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 50

  • Details: Another Environmental Working Group-vetted sunscreen for babies, Neutrogena’s baby sunscreen is a tear-free formula that the National Eczema Association also awarded its Seal of Acceptance.
  • Considerations: The sunscreen is a slightly thinner formulation than many zinc-based sunscreens, but still leaves a white film on the skin.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

10. Sunblocz Baby + Kids Mineral Sunscreen

  • Details: This Environmental Working Group-approved sunscreen for babies is also Coral Reef Safe, meaning it’s non-toxic to aquatic plants and animals. It’s water-resistant with a higher SPF of 50, plus it contains skin-softening ingredients like grapeseed oil to keep baby’s skin from drying out.
  • Considerations: Like the Waxhead sunscreen, the product doesn’t contain emulsifiers to mix the ingredients, so you’ll have to knead the tube before using.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

11. Badger Clear Zinc Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Details: This clear zinc formulation from Badger is 98 percent certified organic and free of fragrances, dyes, petrolatum, and synthetic ingredients. Biodegradable and cruelty-free, the sunscreen is also reef-safe.
  • Considerations: The sunscreen is water-resistant for 40 minutes, so you may have to reapply slightly more often than some 80-minute water-resistant options.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

12. Sky Organics Unscented Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 50

  • Details: This water-resistant sunscreen is fragrance-free. It also contains moisturizers like olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.
  • Considerations: The sunscreen is water-resistant for 80 minutes, and its moisturizing ingredients may be a good option for dry skin.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

13. Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50

  • Details: This environmentally and budget-friendly sunscreen stick is suitable for adults and children. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends this water-resistant product that is also reef-friendly.
  • Considerations: Stick sunscreens can take a little getting used to applying — be sure to get plenty on your little one’s (or your) face.
  • Cost: $
  • Shop for it online.

14. Waxhead Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Stick SPF 30

  • Details: This water-resistant sunscreen stick from Waxhead is Environmental Working Group-approved. While it contains only four ingredients, it’s ultra effective and easy to apply with the large stick.
  • Considerations: It does have a light vanilla-coconut scent, so those who prefer fragrance-free may wish to look for other options.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

15. Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Natural Continuous Spray SPF 30

  • Details: This sheer zinc spray is a past Redbook’s Most Valuable Product. It also contains non-nano particles, which means the sunscreen spray won’t enter the bloodstream — a concern for many spray sunscreen products.
  • Considerations: This means sometimes the sunscreen can have a clumpy spray. Always shake well before using.
  • Cost: $$
  • Shop for it online.

Most zinc oxide sunscreens will have the word “mineral” in the sunscreen’s title to help you find the sunscreen more easily. Most mineral sunscreens will contain zinc oxide. They may combine with titanium dioxide, which is another physical sunscreen.

Here are some additional considerations the next time you shop for zinc sunscreens:

  • Price: You can get a high-quality zinc sunscreen at a lower price point (like $7 to $10). Some of the pricier sunscreens may contain additional ingredients to nourish skin, but they don’t necessarily protect against sunburn any more effectively.
  • Allergens: Many skincare manufacturers will add various oils or fragrances to their products to enhance their skin benefits. If you have certain skin sensitivities, be sure to read product labels carefully.
  • Environmentally friendly: A 2016 study published in the journal the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found the mineral sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone was damaging to coral reefs. As a result, many beach areas, including Hawaii’s beaches, outlawed sunscreens containing this ingredient. Currently, there isn’t any research that indicates zinc oxide is harmful to the coral reefs. You’ll likely see many zinc sunscreens labeled “reef safe” as a result.
  • Certifications: There are several organizations that will certify or place a seal of approval on sunscreens. These include the Skin Cancer Foundation, National Eczema Association, and the Environmental Working Group. If you see these symbols on your sunscreen, it’s likely been reviewed by a panel of medical experts to ensure the sunscreen works well.

The last consideration is that sunscreens can expire. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires sunscreens that have ingredients that expire to have an expiration date. If yours doesn’t have one, it likely contains ingredients that don’t expire.

Don’t use sunscreens that have expired. It’s not worth the potential sun damage.

One of the biggest buzzwords in sunscreens is nanoparticles. These are particles that especially may be present in spray sunscreens. When inhaled, they could potentially damage the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

For this reason, the EWG doesn’t recommend using spray particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. That’s why our recommendation for sunscreen sprays does not contain nanoparticles.

If you do purchase a spray zinc oxide sunscreen, look for one that says it doesn’t contain nanoparticles, just to stay on the safe side. If you do use spray sunscreens, avoid spraying them on your face or inhaling the spray whenever possible.

Remember that choosing the right sunscreen is half the battle. You must apply enough of it to cover your skin and reapply if you are staying outdoors for a long time.