Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Products

dermatologist's every day sunscreen adviceChances are your skin needs sun protection to stay healthy and attractive.

I can promise you that unless you have really dark skin and live at the North or South Pole, you’re going to get enough sun during the course of your life to age and damage your skin – and you’re not going to like how that looks! 

You have the power to prevent this. It’s never too late. Even if you have some sun damage, it can always be worse.

Enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle without the damaging consequences for your skin. The trick is to make applying zinc oxide sunscreen a part of your daily skin care routine.

Why do zinc oxide sunscreens give your skin the best sun protection?

It’s my opinion that zinc oxide is the best sunscreen ingredient for broad spectrum UVA and UVB sun protection.

Zinc oxide and its cousin, titanium dioxide, are considered mineral sunscreens (and are also called physical sunscreens). When applied to your skin these mineral/physical sunscreens sit on top of your skin, bouncing off the UV rays just like bouncing a ball off of a wall. They provide non-irritating, hypoallergenic broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection that you can trust. Nanotechnology has made it possible for mineral sunscreen to be applied invisibly to your skin. New zinc oxide technology has made it possible for even non-nano zinc oxide products to rub almost invisibly onto your skin too.

Mineral sunscreens are the only sunscreens that I trust and recommend. That’s because the other type of sunscreens, called chemical sunscreens (and also confusingly called “organic” sunscreens!), actually absorb into the top of your skin and block the sun rays with a chemical reaction that occurs within your skin itself. The reaction creates a little heat, which makes you feel even hotter in the sun. More importantly, it breaks down the chemical sunscreen ingredients so that they aren’t there to protect you anymore. Therefore, your skin steadily runs out of the chemical sunscreens when you’re in the sun.

The mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, last longer on your skin because the UV rays don’t break them down like the chemical sunscreens. They’re also more stable in the sunscreen bottle than chemical sunscreens, which break down while they sit on the bottle waiting for you to buy them and to use them.

Of the mineral sunscreen ingredients, I recommend only zinc oxide – and not titanium dioxide – because zinc oxide rubs onto your skin better and gives better broad spectrum protection.

Remember, harmful and aging UV sun rays come through most windows. You need to apply sunscreen to the all exposed areas of your skin every day – even if you don’t plan to spend time outdoors. Applying a mineral zinc oxide sunscreen should be part of your daily skin care routine!

I’m always looking for perfect zinc oxide sunscreens to fit every skin type, budget, and product preference for my patients. I’ve got a great collection of products for your protection too.

Click here to see my Sun Protection Kits.

SunSavvy ultimate sun protection kit

Click here to see my individual sunscreen products.

Creating perfect sun protection requires picking the right products for your skin type and activities. It also means:

  • wearing a good broad brimmed hat;
  • wearing sun-protective clothing;
  • seeking shade whenever possible;
  • limiting sun exposure during peak sun intensity hours during the mid-day.

To learn more, you can read some of the other sun protection articles that I’ve written, which are listed below.

Photo: Thanks and gratitude to Tommerton2010

If you found this helpful, subscribe to my blog -- it's free. I write two articles per week on skin care and skin health and you can have them delivered to your email inbox. Get your skin care information straight from the dermatologist. Join my intelligent skin care revolution. Just enter your email address:


12 Responses to “Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Products”

  1. Ariana Davidson April 26, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Hi Dr. Bailey,

    Thanks for this informative post. I’ve always wondered, how much UVA actually comes through a window with a honeycomb shade on it. Can you guesstimate?

  2. Heidi April 28, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Hello Dr Bailey!

    I was wondering if you have tried the new Replenix UV physical SS and what your thoughts were on it? I quite like it so far, it goes on very wet feeling but it dries down nicely. It has a nice amount of zinc. I did have a question on one of the ingredients, resveratrol, is it true that it should not be used in combination with niacinamide?

    Hope you are having a great time traveling!

  3. Liz April 28, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    Great post Dr Bailey! I actually as wondering though if Zinc Oxide sunscreens have the best level of UVA protection). I always read that European, chemical sunscreens such as Anthelios are the best sunscreens because they have a PPD of 30+ . When I look for PPD of zinc oxide-based American sunscreens , it seems like the PPD is never over 10. Does it really make that much of a difference in the long-run? Should I just stick to the readily available zinc oxide products? Thank you!

  4. Cynthia Bailey MD April 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    It’s a good sunscreen and the protection is trustworthy. You’ve got a question about resveratrol and niacinamide that I haven’t heard. Hmm, can you send references?

  5. Cynthia Bailey MD April 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    I much prefer the mechanism of action of zinc oxide over the chemical sunscreens. Plus there’s the stability issue. I know the European products claim stability but I still prefer the elegant simplicity of of bouncing rays off the skin with a physical block. My OPINION (please note this is my opinion) is that zinc’s coverage is just fine relative to the the stabilized avo products and that no sunscreen is perfect yet. The old data suggests that when zo is combined with octinoxate you get even a little more coverage across the UV spectrum. The bottom line is that you need a hat, clothing, sun avoidance AND sunscreen. Sunscreen alone is not sufficient, but of the type of blocks, I prefer and trust the zinc oxide physical blocks the most. I do see good daily performance from the stabilized European avo products on my patients though, so they are OK if a person prefers them. I see product under-performance on the skin of my patients when they rely on the US avo products though.

  6. Liz April 30, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks Dr. Bailey! Your posts continue to be informative as ever:-)

  7. Heidi May 1, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    Thank you for your response! It was a post on futurederm suggesting that the two may not be beneficial together, and she referenced this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15780941

  8. Yannis May 1, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    Another great option for 100% Zinc Oxide sunscreen products are the products offered under the Australian brand Invisible Zinc (http://www.invisiblezinc.com).

    Another option for indoor protection are UVA-protecting window films.

  9. Cynthia Bailey MD May 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Thanks Heidi, I see it and reviewed more studies and sources and, well, there’s no telling if there is a clinically significant interaction. In fact, this is one of those cosmeceutical conclusions versus bench research questions. Skin care products often claim scientific mechanism of actions because they contain something that did something to cells in a test tube in the lab. Living skin is so much more complex and extrapolating from the test tube to our skin care results isn’t really possible. I’m not even 100% certain that resveratrol does all that much. I use the 3 Replenix products for the high concentration green tea polyphenols combined with caffeine and hyaluronic acid – the resveratrol is lagniappe as they say in New Orleans, meaning ‘a little something extra’.

  10. Cynthia Bailey MD May 11, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Hello Ariana,
    No actually I can’t. You could look at the percent of openings relative to the material, but still, it’s just a thought. Wish I could give you more info.

  11. Devra May 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Thanks Dr. Bailey this post really help clear things up for us at the office! Now I really understand the benefits of mineral over chemical totally makes sense. This whole organic thing had always confused us.Just because it says organic doesn’t mean it is better! We had also been curious about the rating system such as on Sheisdo products that have a European rating
    PA+++. Is there a specific % of zinc that we should look for? 6-8% or higher for UVA protection?
    Much Aloha,

  12. Cynthia Bailey MD May 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Hi Devra,
    5% or more zinc oxide but the more the better. Also, zinc oxide plus octinoxate is also a sort of ‘magic’ combo for really great broad spectrum coverage. It’s the one ‘chemical’ I like when it’s combined with the zinc. Take a look at my new comparison chart for products.