Given that many of us want to avoid chemical sunscreens and are concerned about the safety aspects of titanium dioxide, we have been asked to round up a few zinc oxide ray protectors. Even zinc oxide has its share of controversy - there are worries about whether micronized versions can be absorbed by the skin. Until I get better intelligence on this, I am going with the Environmental Working Group. in 2006, the EWG reviewed a stack of the available literature and concluded that nano zinc was not absorbed by the skin and is, therefore, safe to use.

Epicuren Zinc Oxide SPF20 ($37.50). Epicuren takes an interesting approach to sun protection. It uses enzymes to protect the skin and bearberry extract to inhibit melanin precursors. It uses organic ingredients where it can and there isn't a nasty chemical in sight (not even as a preservative). Actually, for those that want a moisturizer with sunscreen combo, this is a good option as there are good anti-agers here such as collagen amino acids and niacin. I also like the inclusion of vitamin D, which we get naturally from sun exposure but, due to urban living and copious sunscreen slathering, three in four Americans are deficient in.

Pratima Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF30 ($21). This was recommended by a reader when we announced our sun protection challenge and could become one of my new best friends. Made by an ayurvedic spa, it uses organic ingredients that live up to the Pratima philospophy that whatever we apply to our skin should be good enough to eat. You might get more than you bargained for with the inclusion of shatavari, a Himalyan plant whose name means 'she of 100 husbands'. It is, however, a potent antioxidant (source). Brahmi is a marsh plant that is supposed to stimulate hair and nail growth. Pratimaskincare.com

DermaQuest ZinClear SPF30 ($51.50). This includes some interesting botanicals. Imperata Cylindrica, also known as cogongrass, is an antioxidant and an astringent. Meanwhile, arabidopsis (a delicate flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard) extract may be able to repair DNA (source). Add in a handful of vitamins, and this sunscreen is nourishing as well as protecting. A tad expensive, but better than most of the sunblocks that you are likely to find at your local pharmacy.

Elemental Herbs Sunscreen Sport SPF20 ($8.99). If you want zinc oxide, but want to be sure that none of those pesky particles will sink in, go for Elemental Herbs with non-nanoparticle zinc. Everything else about this sunscreen is nice too. There is antioxidant green tea in a high concentration, not to mention rosehips, the seeds of which are high in (fatty) linoleic and linolenic acids as well as Vitamin C, and olive oil. A no nonsense, all-natural brand for sporty, rock-climbing types. Everything is organic and there are versions for kids and with a tint. Elementalherbs.com.

Abella Colorshade SPF30 ($24). Talking of tints, this is the best yet. I'm not allergic to it and it redefines no melt (I wear it when I go running and it stays put). It is highly pigmented, but there are days to be grateful for that. And everyday one is grateful for the D and E vitamins, plus green tea and aloe vera.

Related posts

What is it: titanium dioxide

Plant extracts that provide UV protection

Epicuren's Skintopia with bearberry for sun protection

Octinoxate and other chemical sunscreens - are they safe?

Ingredients Epicuren Zinc Oxide

Deionized water, micronized zinc oxide, glycerin, collagen amino acids, aloe vera, biotin, niacin, riboflavin, hydrolyzed elastin, panthenol, magnesium aluminum silicate, beeswax, xanthan gum, rose hips, tocopheryl (vitamin E) acetate, aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf, retinol (vitamin A) palmitate, ergocalciferol (vitamin D), cinnamomum cassia (cinnamon) extract, grapefruit seed extract, bearberry leaf extract.

Ingredients in Pratima Neem

Ionized Water, Micronized Zinc Oxide 18.6%, Extract of Neem, Brahmi, Shatavari, Licorice, Vitamin E, Lecithin, Rose Essential Oil, Xanthan Gum.

Ingredients in DermaQuest

Water, Cyclomethicone, Glycerine, Glyceryl Stearate and PEG 100 Stearate, Sorbitol, Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract, Carpylyl Glycol, Sorbitan Stearate, Lecithin, Arabidopsis Extract, Plankton Extract, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA.

Ingredients in Elemental Herbs


Organic Green Tea Leaves and Organic Rose Hips infused in Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Shea Butter, Vegetable Emulsifying Wax, Vitamin E. Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 25% (non-nanoparticle)


Abella Colorshade  Ingredients:

Deionized Water, octyl stearate, isocetyl stearate, sweet almond (prunus Amygdalis Dulcis) oil, dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, green tea extract (camellia olefera, Silica, Aloe barbadensis extract, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), cyclomethicone caramel, hexyl laurate, bentonite, melanin, ergocalciferol, (vitamin D) DMDM Hydan toin, Sodium Chloride, May contain iron oxides & Titanium Dioxide.