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Taking a stand against UV sun damage: Introducing mineral sunscreen

It’s a great tool for fighting against UV damage from the sun.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
Physical Sunscreens Contain Safe Ingredients
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

There’s a reason we’re always reminding you to slather on the SPF! Wearing sunscreen can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, and may also help prevent signs of aging, such as wrinkles and pigmentary changes in the skin.¹ Many of us want to enjoy summer days in the sun without sacrificing skin health, and mineral sunscreen offers the best of both worlds. But what makes mineral sunscreen stand out?

Mineral sunscreens protect your skin from broad-spectrum UVA/UVB rays. Since they work like a shield sitting on the surface of your skin, they may leave a visible white cast when applied. But don’t let the white cast steer you away—there are many benefits to this type of sunscreen! 

What is mineral sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreen, or physical sunscreen, is a type of sunblock designed to offer protection from the sun's harmful UV rays. It tends to be better tolerated than chemical sunscreen by those with sensitive skin types. Here are three ways that mineral sunscreens differ from chemical sunscreens:

  • Mineral sunscreen contains ingredients that reflect more of the sun's rays by creating a physical barrier. This barrier may create a white cast on the skin, but the protection it provides can help decrease the likelihood of premature aging and other sun-induced skin damage!

  • Mineral sunscreen has a lower potential for allergic reactions. Formulated with mineral oxides, mineral sunscreen is less likely to cause allergic reactions.²

  • Mineral sunscreen has higher levels of UVA/UVB protection.³ Because of its UV blocking capability, mineral sunscreen may help block out these damaging rays before they reach your skin.

How does mineral sunscreen work?

By forming a barrier on the skin, mineral sunscreen blocks the sun's ultraviolet radiation, whereas chemical sunscreen products are designed to absorb these rays. Unlike most chemical-based formulas, mineral sunscreen doesn't absorb into the skin—it simply sits on top of the skin and safeguards against harmful UV rays.⁴

Physical sunscreen's active ingredients and their properties 

One of the primary benefits of physical sunscreens is that they are composed of natural ingredients that are not absorbed by the skin, unlike chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens' main ingredients are: 

  • Zinc oxide.

  • Titanium dioxide.

Zinc oxide

This ingredient works by forming a physical barrier on the skin that reflects and scatters the sun’s harmful UV rays away from your skin. 

Additional properties of zinc oxide: 

  • Anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc oxide is known for its anti-inflammatory properties,⁵ which may help soothe irritated or inflamed skin after extended periods spent in direct sunlight. 

  • Antioxidant properties. Zinc oxide may help protect against free radical damage caused by environmental pollutants, offering additional benefits beyond just protection against ultraviolet radiation.⁶

  • Soothing and protective properties. Studies have shown that zinc oxide can soothe skin and has been shown to be effective in treating hand eczema and diaper dermatitis!⁷ 

Titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is a versatile and safe material, often used in sunscreen due to its unique optical properties and ability to provide high UVA/UVB protection.

Properties of titanium dioxide: 

  • Excellent optical properties. Titanium dioxide has a high refractive index, so it effectively protects against multiple wavelengths of energy, including UV radiation, visible light, and infrared radiation.⁸

  • Non-toxic properties. It has been found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles do not penetrate through the skin surface and therefore is regarded as safe for use up to concentrations of 25%.⁹

Risks of specific ingredients

Although reactions to sunscreen are rare, they can be caused by sensitivities or allergies to any of the numerous ingredients

If your sunscreen causes any of the following symptoms, wash it off and stop using it:

  • Redness. 

  • Itching. 

  • Swelling. 

  • Burning sensation.

Additionally, read labels carefully before purchasing any sunscreen product. If you have any concerns about a potential allergy or irritant, please discuss this with your allergist or medical provider before using. 

How to minimize the white cast left by mineral formulas?

One potential downside of mineral sunscreen is that it can leave a white cast on the skin, which can be unappealing and difficult to blend in. This is due to the white colored minerals used in the sunscreens - since they’re designed to sit on the surface of your skin, your sunscreen may be more noticeable. 

Luckily, there are several ways to reduce this effect while still getting adequate sun protection:

Choose the right shade of sunscreen 

You may want to try a mineral sunscreen with a slight tint. Matching the tint to your skin tone may help reduce the white cast seen after application. To find the best match for your skin, consider testing different shades on a small patch before committing to one product. 

Try different formulations

Sunscreens are available in various formulations, and each can affect how the product appears on the skin after application. Certain ingredients, such as zinc oxide, tend to leave less of a white cast than titanium dioxide, so choose wisely for your skin tone.

Apply your sunscreen in layers

According to the FDA, an average-sized adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen to evenly cover the body from head to toe.¹⁰ Start by using enough sunscreen to cover exposed areas evenly, then add additional layers to ensure adequate coverage is obtained. This will help you avoid using too much product at once.

Use makeup to conceal the white cast

When applying makeup over a mineral-based sunscreen, choose oil-free products to avoid adding extra layers of product that could clog pores and cause breakouts over time. Additionally, consider opting for powder formulas instead of liquid ones; these may provide better coverage and last longer when applied correctly.

Apply sunscreen thoroughly and evenly 

Apply your sunscreen thoroughly and evenly across all exposed surfaces. This will help minimize any chances of getting an uneven or splotchy look caused by the product being applied more heavily to some areas of the body than others.

The Sunscreen recommended by our licensed dermatology providers 

Maximizing sun protection this summer can be easy with the right sunscreen choice. Are you ready to greet the sunny days outside with the confidence that your skin is safe from the sun's damaging UV rays?

Our Everyday Sunscreen protects against UVA/UVB radiation and minimizes white cast. It's SPF 30+ and dermatologist-designed without pore-clogging ingredients. Featuring zinc oxide, which has been shown to not absorb into the skin or cause toxicity,¹¹ this sunscreen is specifically designed to ensure your skin is protected without compromising your safety.

Keep in mind that no sunscreen blocks UV radiation 100%, so it's still important to limit prolonged periods spent outside during peak hours whenever possible and always wear protective clothing like hats and sunglasses when outdoors.¹²

Following the above-mentioned guidelines and applying broad spectrum SPF 30+ products, such as The Sunscreen, can help protect your skin from UV rays and give it a radiant, sheer finish.

Trust Curology’s experts with your skin health

Whether you are a beach goer or a city dweller, it's important to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV radiationOur Everyday Sunscreen not only provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection but blends into every skin tone without leaving a white cast. 

Along with sunscreen, Curology also offers personalized formulas to help treat signs of aging, acne, and rosacea.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Summer is all about having fun without worries, so take the hassle out of finding the perfect sunscreen. Start your 30-day trial* with Curology today to get helpful advice from our licensed dermatology providers on how to properly include sunscreen in your skincare routine and have a worry-free summer!

FAQs

How do I apply physical sunscreen for optimal protection?

When applying mineral sunscreen, it is important first to prepare your skin. This means washing your face with a gentle cleanser and patting it dry before application. Additionally, it may help if you exfoliate once or twice weekly to remove any dead skin cells as this may help your sunscreen absorb more easily. . 

Once your skin is prepped and ready for application, you can begin following these steps:

  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen evenly across all exposed body areas, including ears, hands, and feet.

  • Rub in all areas thoroughly until there is no white cast left on the skin’s surface.

  • Allow at least 15 minutes for absorption prior to sun exposure; this will ensure proper UV protection.

How long does mineral-based sunscreen last?

The longevity of mineral-based sunscreen depends on several factors, such as the amount applied and environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, sweat and water exposure. In general, it’s recommended that you reapply every two hours or after swimming/sweating heavily for optimal protection against UV damage.

What to look for when buying mineral-based sunscreen?

When selecting a mineral sunscreen, it's important to look for one that doesn't contain pore-clogging ingredients. Another important factor to consider is its SPF rating. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher¹³—this will help ensure that your skin remains protected against sunburn, as well as other forms of UV damage for longer periods.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2020, December 14).

  2. Hubaud, J.C., et al. Real Facts about Safety and Efficacy of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide in Solar Products. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications. (2021, September 23).

  3. Movahedi, M. M., et al. Production of a Novel Mineral-based Sun Lotion for Protecting the Skin from Biohazards of Electromagnetic Radiation in the UV Region. Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering. (2014, March 8)

  4. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Ibid.

  5. Abendrot, M. and Kalinowska-Lis, U. Zinc-containing compounds for personal care applicationsInternational Journal of Cosmetic Science. (2018, August 15).

  6. Bernstein, E.F., et al. Beyond sun protection factor: An approach to environmental protection with novel mineral coatings in a vehicle containing a blend of skincare ingredients. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (2019, May 28).

  7. Gupta, M., et al. Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2014, July 10).

  8. Trivedi, M. and Murase, J. Titanium Dioxide in Sunscreen. IntechOpen. (2017, July 26).

  9. Dréno, B., et al. Safety of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in cosmetics. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. (2019, October 7).

  10. Kang, S.Y., et al. Moisturizer in Patients with Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Medicina (Kaunas). (2022, July 1).

  11. Mohammed, Y.H., et al. Support for the Safe Use of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticle Sunscreens: Lack of Skin Penetration or Cellular Toxicity after Repeated Application in Volunteers. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. (February 2019).

  12. Sultana, N. Sun Awareness and Sun Protection. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2020, September 29).

  13. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2020, December 14).

Melissa Hunter is a board certified family nurse practitioner at Curology. She received her MSN from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Melissa Hunter

Melissa Hunter, NP-C

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