While there continues to be debate as to whether or not chemical sunscreen filters are dangerous (and apparently harmful to coral reefs), one thing that’s indisputable is that they can be irritating to the skin. That’s just one reason why mineral sunscreens continue to gain traction, with more hitting the market year after year. “It’s a go-to for a lot of people, but there weren’t [always] great options,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Julia Carrol, who has patients asking her daily to suggest ones. Many versions were so thick and white that they were impossible to wear, but now the latest ones have improved textures that blend in better than their predecessors. “I’ve always loved mineral sunscreens,” says Carroll, who uses a tinted powder by Colorescience for SPF touch-ups.
Formulated using physical filters (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) rather than chemical ones (such as avobenzone, octinoxate and practically any chemical ending in -one or -ate), mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin, blocking UV rays rather than absorbing them like chemical sunscreens do. And they’re effective immediately upon application. What’s more, zinc oxide in particular provides full-spectrum protection from UV light, so that ingredient alone has got you covered. Carroll also prefers mineral sunscreen because you’re less likely to miss a spot, as you can see it initially upon application. “When I put on a sunscreen that I can see, there’s some reassurance in that,” she says.