Are Zinc Oxide Sunscreens Better?

Zinc Oxide Sunscreens: are they Better?


In my opinion, they are.

Seeing patient after patient in my dermatology practice, I’ve seen this proven to me over the years.

Why do zinc oxide sunscreens work so well?

  • Zinc oxide particles in sunscreen sit invisibly on the surface of your skin bouncing the UV rays off like balls bouncing off of a hard surface. There is no chemical reaction at your skin level as there is with chemical sunscreens.
  • Zinc oxide is one of the two UV-A1 sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA. The other one, avobenzone, is too fragile to depend, on in my opinion.
  • Zinc oxide gives you broad spectrum protection from UVB all the way through to UV-A1, meaning your skin is getting the best sun protection possible.
  • Zinc oxide is a stable sunscreen ingredient that is much less likely than chemical ingredients to break down in the bottle or on your skin.
  • Zinc oxide gives broader protection than titanium dioxide and is cosmetically more elegant to use (aka invisible on your skin)
  • Zinc oxide does not irritate sensitive skin.
  • Zinc oxide is not absorbed into your body; it stays on your skin where you put it and where it can protect you from the sun.

One of my long-term patients came into my office right after returning from a sunny cruise vacation. She loves the sun and puts sunscreens to the ultimate test. As I was examining her skin, which looked like it had been well sun protected, she said,

Those zinc oxide sunscreens are the best!

“(During my) long vacation and cruise in the sun… I used a zinc oxide SPF 30 sunscreen every day and look how well it worked! Other people were using SPF 50s and burning. Because mine had zinc it worked – my skin didn’t burn like theirs did.”  Brenda W Sebastopol, CA

Science says a lot of things about sunscreen, but the proof of what really works is visible in my dermatology office every day. Zinc oxide gave Brenda better protection than her fellow cruisers because it works better.  I recommend you trust your own and your family’s skin only to zinc oxide sunscreens.

Zinc Oxide Sunscreens I Recommend

Here are the zinc oxide sunscreen products I recommend to my dermatology patients and that I use for myself and my family.

best sunscreens

Dr. Bailey’s “Quick Pick” Sunscreen Favorites Product Guide






It’s very important that your sunscreen match your skin type and activities. Find the right zinc oxide sunscreen for your skin. You need to love your sunscreen so that you will wear it every day and it needs to hold up to your activities so that you can trust your protection. This means that you need:

  •  a water-resistant and rub-resistant sunscreen product that stays put:
    • when you are wet or sweaty
    • on skin rubbed by clothing
    • on skin that you wash repeatedly (like the back of your hands)
  • a sunscreen product that enhances your complexion and that you look great in for your daily facial sunscreen.

Match your products to your skin type and activities.

Facial Sunscreens:

Dry skin best sunscreen Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face SunscreenSuntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream SPF 30 Sunscreen. Tinted, moisturizing, and natural facial sunscreen for dry to normal skin





oily skin best sunscreen mdsolarsciences

MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Sunscreen. Popular mattifying formula for oily skin






best sunscreen for normal to oily skin Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Sunscreen. Light weight, untinted facial sunscreen for oily to normal skin





Face and all-over sunscreens:

best sunscreen dermatologist recommended for all overCitrix Sunscreen SPF 40. Great for neck, chest, ears, hands, arms, and legs. Trusted non-greasy water-resistant protection that’s invisible and easy to use. My husband’s favorite sunscreen and a sunscreen I’ve used every day for years.
best sunscreen for families Solbar ZincSolbar Zinc Sunscreen SPF 38. Trusted mineral protection that’s economical and easy to apply to squirming children and hairy skin





Lip Sunscreen
best Elta Lip Balm SPF 31 sunscreenEltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 31. Cosmetically elegant and pleasant-tasting sun protection for delicate lip skin





A sun-savvy “must have” to learn when your UV exposed!

uv sensing beads to test sun exposureUV Detecto Ring. Economical and educational UV-sensing beads that color up when exposed to UV rays




If you have found these zinc oxide sunscreen tips helpful, please show your thanks by commenting on, sharing, “liking,” Google+, tweeting, and “pinning,” using the social sharing buttons above and below this blog post with friends and family.

Sincerely, Dr. Bailey Skin Care Team

Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Andrew Plewes/ImageZoo/Corbis


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9 Responses to “Are Zinc Oxide Sunscreens Better?”

  1. Lillie June 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Dr. Bailey, I agree that zinc sunscreens are superior, and because I’m allergic to chemical sunscreens, they are all I use. HOWEVER, I have 2 children who often need to put on sunscreen without the help of an adult (or not wear it at all, heaven forbid – one is red headed). Besides being able to manage the spray sunscreens better they prefer them for their quickness and ease. So, what’s a mom to do? I hate fighting over sunscreen, and when I’m not around I know that they will use the sprays. I would love your advice!

  2. Ivaylo June 18, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Dear Dr. Bailey, I live in Europe and study medicine. I love zinc oxide sunscreens, but do you really think they are superior to Tinosorb and Mexoryl when it comes to UVA protection? Zinc oxide products rarely achieve UVA-PF higher than 11, whereas Tinosorb and Mexoryl sunscreens have much higher ratings, usually above 25! (I know there is no UVA protection measurement system in the USA.) I would love to hear your opinion. Thank you very much! :-)

  3. Justine June 19, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    @Lillie: Would your children use sunscreen wipes? There are sunscreen towelettes intended for squirming babies so I imagine they would be quick and easy to use. I’ve seen ones formulated with only physical blockers (e.g. 5% ZnO, 8% TiO2).

  4. Lillie June 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    @Justine. Thanks. Good idea.

  5. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. June 19, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    Justine that is a great idea and much safer than spray products which can send droplets of ingredients into little lungs.

  6. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. June 19, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Lillie, Justine’s recommendation is so much better than a spray since sprays can send droplets of ingredients into little lungs and we just don’t know the down-the-line impact of that on lung health. It’s best to avoid spray and powder sunscreens in my opinion.

  7. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. June 20, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    As you so correctly point out, Tinosorb and Mexoryl provide excellent blockage of UV-A1 rays, going well into the end of this wave spectrum. That said, I prefer the mechanism of action of the physical blockers compared with the chemical blockers. Only time will tell if science finds this difference important, but to my logical assessment it may well be. Of the physical blockers, I of course also prefer zinc oxide over titanium dioxide for similar reasons as well as for the difference in the UV wave range of protection.

  8. Ivaylo June 20, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Dr. Bailey, thank you very much for your reply! I always layer two sunscreens, usually 17 % (untinted) + 13 % zinc oxide (tinted). And under them I wear a topical antioxidant (vit. C + vit. E + ferulic acid) serum. :) By the way, I have been using tretinoin for its anti aging properties for 6 months now, AND OH MY GOD is it amazing!

  9. Lillie June 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I just saw the Consumer Reports about sprays! That sealed it. I didn’t really think about towelettes, but that would be a convenient product to send them off with when they are without me!