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Mineral sunscreens definitely aren't the norm here in the UK, but I've been on a bit of a personal mission to find the best ones on the market and today I'm returning my favourites to you...
The main issue with mineral sunscreens, however, is the white cast and that's why most of my top picks are tinted. I'll go through by product what shades they're available in, but I can only apologise that some of them aren't more inclusive. It's a bit of a lose-lose in some respects, but ultimately: I haven't come across many non-tinted formulas that works for me, so these recommendations are quite personal and I'll let you know what your options are in each product. I'll also link the demos of each that I've done on Instagram, so you can see how they performed on me and also have a visual on how much coverage the tinted options give (as some of them verge on being makeup). The reason I have so many here is that, honestly, none of these are going to be perfect for everyone: I can't sit here and say 'zero white cast on all skin tones with super-high protection'. The idea is that one of these products could be right for you and I'm trying to help you figure out which one that could be.
I am only considering broad spectrum formulas that protect against UVA and UVB rays. Tinted sunscreens and formulas with iron oxides will protect against visible light too; whilst much is made of blue light coming from devices, that really is minimal, what I'm more concerned about is visible light from the sun! This can also sometimes be achieved with other ingredients, so even if you don't see iron oxides on the INCI list, do have a proper read of the product page before dismissing a formula as not protecting against this. Where the UVA rating is available, I'll give that information but otherwise 'broad spectrum' means a minimum of 1/3 of the UVB protection. With mineral formulas, you're really looking for zinc oxide or a mixture of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to get that broad-spectrum protection.
The first product I'll talk about (we're going in ascending order) is the Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30 in Light / Medium | £25. This is specifically designed for deeper skin tones (by Frank Ocean's mum, no less!) so I would say if you're a Fitzpatrick 1 or 2: this probably isn't for you right off the bat. It also has a slightly grey-brown tone that's going to be more suitable on deeper skin tones than the usual pinks so many mineral formulas opt for. This contains your titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and iron oxides, and it's not higher up on my list because it's SPF 30 and it's still not my top sunscreen texture. It's thick but moisturising with 80 minutes water resistance. It doesn't irritate my eyes, it stays in place when I go for a run and it doubles as a moisturiser. It has very little cast on my skin, though if I was being pinky, there's a slight grey tinge. There are also some fruit extracts in here that could be irritating for some people.
See the demo here.
Next, I have the Dr V InZincable Invisible Broad Spectrum SPF 50* | £24.99. This is a sunscreen that was specifically designed for skin of colour, so my hopes were high in terms of white cast, plus it contains MelaShield, a patented blend aimed at helping with pigmentation, alongside the added benefits of Vitamin E and niacinamide. This is obviously zinc oxide based, it contains visible light protection and it's not water resistant. It has a moisturising texture but it does set down without any potentially-drying denatured alcohol. This is fragrance-free too, so is a pretty universal formula in terms of the ingredients, making it great for sensitive skin. This isn't a tinted formula, so my only misgiving is that in the marketing, you really don't see people applying it and how much they've used to create the end result, so whilst it sinks into my skin and I got my friend who has a South Asian skin tone (so a little bit deeper than me) to try it and it did for her, I'm just slightly reserved on how it looks on the deepest skin tones. I'll definitely keep an eye out for reviews from people with deeper skin tones and share on Stories as and when I come across them. I would love a tinted version of this, though.
See the demo here.
Next we have the Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 PA ++++ | £29.99. Imagine going on a mineral sunscreen quest only to find out you had a good one all along... Let me explain! I tried this a few years back and really liked it, way before I understood the difference between a mineral and chemical sunscreen. When I was researching mineral formulas from professional brands: this one popped up so I decided to buy it and give it another go to see if it still hit the spot for me. I don't think I was that hot on ensuring I applied the correct amount back when I originally tried this so now I am, I'd say there's a mild cast to this. Unfortunately it only comes in one tint, which I'm not totally sure will suit the fairest skin tones and is likely to be ashy on deeper skin tones; it is what it is, but hopefully seeing the formula and watching me apply it can help you make a judgement against your own skin tone. The reason why it's still high-ranking for me is the texture: it's water-light (you need to give it a good shake before use) and melts onto the skin without any greasiness whilst providing the maximum UVA and UVB protection. Whilst 'sheer' is debatable on different skin tones; I see what they're getting at: this has almost no coverage (vs. other tinted mineral formulas that verge into being makeup products), and doesn't have that thick, difficult-to spread formula. This one unfortunately isn't water-resistant.
See the demo here.
Although it's not my personal #1 pick, the most universal option here is the Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50 PA +++ (Glow) | £24.50. This comes in three shades and I have the medium one, which still isn't ideal but I did see their Flex formula in the US has a few deeper shades so hopefully it makes its way over here soon! In terms of coverage; this definitely has significantly more than the Neostrata but it's still less than something like a tinted moisturiser, and this shade has a luminous finish to it (which I love) it also evens out my complexion so I look a little fresher on no makeup days. And this looks good; the tint offsets any potential white cast and they aren't touting it as 'universal'. You have the iron oxides in here for visible light protection and also this is water resistant for 40 minutes. There is niacinamide in here and some antioxidants too as an added bonus. Honestly, my only negatives are that it doesn't come in, like, 10+ shades, that not everyone will want this amount of coverage from a sunscreen every day and I wish it had 4 PA pluses.
See the demo here.
We're getting towards the top of the leaderboard and next up we have the Murad City Skin SPF 50+ PA++++* | £60. I feel like I owe this sunscreen an apology because I tried it maybe a year or two ago and don't remember being so fond of it, though I've heard whispers it was reformulated, so maybe that's why. However, in its current incarnation: I'm a fan of this! It's a zinc oxide formula with maximum UVA and UVB protection, which we love to see. This contains a Vitamin C derivative, amino acids and retinyl palmitate as its added extras. It's formulated with iron oxides for that visible light protection and has a slight peachy hue. This has a moisturising lotion texture that doesn't look shiny and isn't difficult to spread. It goes onto my skin with no white cast and I've seen enough people of deeper skin tones than mine enjoy this to be able to recommend it quite widely. It doesn't claim any water resistance.
See the demo here.
An amazing formula that actually almost didn't arrive in time for me to test it before I started creating this post is the EltaMd Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 | $36.50. Sadly this isn't very accessible in the UK, which kills me because I have no idea how I'm going to get my hands on it again and I really do love using it! This is billed as moisturising for dry skin so I did try using it without moisturiser and that was not enough for my skin. It isn't drying so works well on top of my moisturising routine, but I'm not sure why it's marketed in this way, especially given it's also oil-free... However, this is a great formula with zinc oxides and titanium dioxide, I just wish we had the specific UVA rating. It's water-resistant for 40 minutes, which is great, and is tinted, however there's only one tint, which is not so great! For me: this tint is perfect, however I'm very aware that for the deeper end of the scale, this could still be ashy and for fair skin it's going to be orange. It is what it is; though it's my personal favourite (giving a coverage somewhere in-between the Neostrata and Colorescience), it's not for everyone, which sucks. It's hard to be honest with what I enjoy whilst respecting the limits of that. This really would be perfect if they released a minimum of 5-8 colour options.
See the demo here.
And, my top pick is the Skingredients Skin Shield SPF 50 PA+++* | £41. If you're sensing a theme here, it's because there is one: honestly, none of these are 100% perfect for everyone, I'm just listing my personal favourites in the hopes you might read about one of them that could work for you. This is #1 for me, and I'll tell you why, so you can make informed choices! What I love about this is the super-light lotion texture. It's not adding nothing like the Neostrata or the Elta MD, it's actually moisturising and hydrating in itself with added ingredients like niacinamide, Vitamin E and allantoin. This is a zinc oxide formula with iron oxides and it has a slightly peachy tint. Honestly, I think this will work for fair, light and medium skin tones but deep and dark skin might struggle. I've not seen many Fitzpatrick 5s or 6s try this product, but I do believe the brand are working on releasing another option. For me, this doesn't look, feel or apply like a mineral sunscreen and that's why I love it.
See the demo here.
I also kept a league table of mineral sunscreens I've tried this year which you can find here:
I can update this each year along with this post.
Just as a bottom line: if you have a deeper skin tone, please don't buy into the scaremongering around chemical filters. 100% mineral formulas aren't for everyone. Whilst some people find them irritating, the next-generation filters used in most new European, Asian and Australian sunscreens are less so. If you're in the US, a hybrid formula (mineral + chemical) can help with this. Ultimately, the best sunscreen is the one you'll wear every day and wear enough of, so if you're under-applying a mineral formula to avoid white cast thinking these filters are 'better' for you: I really would just go with chemical! I really feel some people on the internet - who, don't get me wrong, are very well-meaning - push mineral formulas to the detriment of those who just can't get them to work for them. I don't think that's right: mineral is not the be-all and end-all so if you have a chemical formula you enjoy and wear enough of every day: stick with it!
What's your favourite mineral sunscreen?