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Five Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

June 1, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 20 Comments
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.

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.

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.
  • March 24, 2014

    by SummerStorms

    Oops - Did I read an article at TIA once saying that vitamin A/retinols shouldn't be in a sunscreen? I'd like to give the Epicuren a go, but it has both sunscreen and retinol palmitate... Do you think it's safe to try?

    Thanks as always for putting us onto good mineral sunscreens :)

  • January 8, 2013

    by CC

    You do realize that every single ingredient that is a part of matter is a chemical/ right? Oxygen, Water, hydrogen, ZINC OXIDE, they are all chemicals. We are made of chemicals. There is no such thing as "chemical-free". Your website provides misleading information.

  • August 24, 2012

    by Pam

    I just recevied and tried a free sample of the Epicuren Zinc Oxide SPF 20 from my esthetician. Wow - what a great (and elegant ) sunscreen - imagine that. I've never tried one with micronized zinc oxide before. This is a very thin, non-greasy easy applying formula. It didn't leave a white cast on my face - in fact it was more like applying a really good light weight moisturizer and left my skin pretty and dewy. I must say I'm pretty amazed. I really hate the heavy, greasy, white gloppy sunscreens and can't wear the chemical sunscreens either. Prior to trying Epicuren, I was using the Snowberry sunscreen which is also very nice. Comparing the Epicuren and the Snowberry, I really like the Epicuren better. It applied much more smoothly over my serums than does the Snowberry and it is not as heavy as the Snowberry. Makeup looked good as well.

  • June 1, 2011

    by Christine

    Thanks so much. I'll be sure to post a comparison review.

  • May 31, 2011

    by Marta

    Sure - email Preksha at with your address and we'll send a sample of Suntegrity for you to try

  • May 31, 2011

    by Christine

    Hi Marta, I've just purchased DeVita per your recent “Five Best Mineral Sunscreens” –

    but would LOVE to get a sample of Suntegrity to try out. I went with DeVita simply due to cost (it's $16.29 at I couldn't afford to get both products but have read so many great things about Suntegrity, that I'm wondering if I made the right choice... I live in Florida, so a good sunscreen is vital. Can I get a sample of Suntegrity? Maybe I'll purchase it when the DeVita runs out. Thanks!

  • May 31, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Lindsay, All of these Best 5 (and the honorable mentions) are pretty good about not leaving too much of a white caste. And we can send samples of Suntegrity for you to try.

  • May 31, 2011

    by SarahK

    Hi Lindsay,

    Marta just did a post last week on "Five Best Mineral Sunscreens" -

    Personally, my vote goes to Suntegrity. It never leaves a white cast, which is pretty impressive considering I have dark skin and any trace of white would be easy to see.

  • May 31, 2011

    by Lindsay

    I have been using Badger brand SPF 30. It is a little heavy/oily but has provided adequate protection. Spent the last weekend at the beach, however, and the sand stuck to the sunscreen like crazy. I think a good amount of my sun protection came from the fact that I was walking aroung with a thick layer of sand attached. Also, leaves a pretty white reside that comes off esp on dark clothing. Any recommendations of natural sunscreens that don't leave the white cast?

  • July 17, 2010

    by Susan Dent

    Sorry for responding to yet ANOTHER old post :)

    But Dermaquest Zinclear now has teprenone in it too. I'm going to try it.

  • July 17, 2010

    by Pat

    I've been using Elta MD on my face and haven't broken out or had any dermatitis issues. I don't care for a lot of the ingredients in it, but at least it is paraben-free and non-greasy as well as water-resistant. I will definitely be trying out some of the others listed here!

  • June 14, 2010

    by Jennifer White

    I just received the Kid Safe Sunscreen from Marie Veronique Organics and I love it. I believe it rated a 1 or 2 on the EWG list of the safest sunscreens.

  • May 22, 2010

    by Skin Savers

    I've been worring about the titanium dioxide issue recently too, this has been a good read.

  • October 17, 2009

    by marta

    Thank you Kiandra. Knowing how seriously the Australian government takes this issue, this is reassuring.

  • October 16, 2009

    by Kiandra

    According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on the Australian Government wesite "To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells." Thought you guys might find that interesting.
    See here:

  • September 24, 2009

    by 1ofnoother

    I thought I'd go by my username from now on. =P I bought the Pratima Neem Rose sunscreen, and I think it's pretty good for a regular daily sunscreen. It has a nice rose scent, too. However, I realized that it may not be suitable for sports/exercise, or high-intensity outdoor activities because it'll just streak off your face. This was what happened to me while training outside on a soccer field's stadium stairs between 10:30-11:30am under what felt like the scorching sun. -_- My arms are now much darker than my face. It's looks a bit funny because my face has a light/medium skin tone with make-up, but my arms are significantly darker, and getting more and more brown everytime I train outside (which I now have to do about three times a week). I read that the Abella sunscreen won't streak during exercise, but I was looking for something without the tint because I like my face to stay light. Is there also something for body sunscreen that won't streak during heavy training/exercise? Thank you.

  • July 28, 2009

    by Nellika

    Thanks for this extensive research on sunscreens. You also had some great information on self-tanners. There is a heading under the submen "Body", but it no longer comes up. Can you please post that information again? Thanks!

  • June 16, 2009

    by KimbaWLion

    I just started using Neutrogena Pure which has all natural aka mineral materials and is rated at 60 SPF plus so far it seems to be okay and its only like $9.99 a tube. I had been using there Ultra touch SPF 85 but that has all chemical based Blue Lizard has similar ingrediants so I thought I would give this a try an SO far its works okay.

  • June 1, 2009

    by Nimue

    I agree with Pratima and Epicuren, I haven't tried the other 3. Of course, Devita is conspicuously missing from this list. I'm currently using Pratima and Devita.

  • June 1, 2009

    by Erica

    Thanks so much for this list. I have been looking for a good physical sunscreen... I have sensitive skin and any other sunscreens break me out. I have also heard good things about the skinceuticals physical defense. I was wondering if you have tried this one out?

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