Is it just me, or do you also think of surfers when you hear zinc oxide and titanium dioxide? You know, those cool kids at the beach in the 80s and 90s with various colored stripes down their noses? Apparently they weren’t just trying to look rad, they may have known more about skin protection than they let on.
As a former surfer, I spent A LOT of time at the beach, so of course I wanted to protect my skin. I didn’t do much research on the topic: I just picked a high SPF and hoped for the best. I didn’t look at ingredients, I didn’t really know what SPF was or meant, I didn’t know the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens, and I most certainly didn’t know what made the colorful sunscreens on people’s faces so special… except of course that they looked totally awesome bro.
Those awesome, colorful sunscreens had main ingredients of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
What is that?!
Well, without an in depth chemistry lesson – because don’t we just want to find out what’s best and hit the waves? – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are chalky white powders derived from the minerals zinc and titanium, respectively.
In sunscreen they help create a thick UVA/UVB protective layer between your skin and the sun, physically reflecting the harmful rays from the sun. But don’t you fret, modern sunscreens do a pretty good job of minimizing the white film that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens used to leave behind.
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
To ensure you choose the best sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for the largest (and very vulnerable) organ in your body, you should look for a number of must-have features in your sunscreen:
Broad Spectrum Protection
Broad spectrum protection sunscreens are designed to protect your skin from the harmful and invisible UVA and UVB rays emitted by the sun.
UVA radiation damages your skin at its deepest level, leaving you more susceptible to skin cancer and aging (think wrinkling and sagging). I’m sure you’ve seen someone who looks old and weathered because they neglected to protect their skin. UVA causes Aging!
UVB radiation is what causes redness, tenderness, and sunburn with too much exposure. UVB causes Burning!
It isn’t uncommon to find products on the market that do not offer this protection, so pay close attention and look for products that state they provide broad spectrum or UVA and UVB protection.
Sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provides this vital protection that your skin needs.
Best SPF for sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
As I mentioned earlier, when I used to shop for sunscreens before heading to the beach, I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew that SPF was good and I assumed the higher the number, the better the protection.
Understanding SPF helps you choose the best value sunscreen, ensuring you don’t overpay unnecessarily. So, what exactly is SPF?
Put simply, SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the amount of time the product will protect your skin.
WHAT?!?!?! SPF measures TIME?! (Mind blown!)
So let me explain: in order to know which SPF is best for YOUR skin, you must first know about how long it takes you to burn without any protection, as you want to multiply how long it takes you to burn by the SPF of the product.
This will tell you about how long the product will protect your skin (now I have to do MATH?! Ugh.)
Time to burn without protection X SPF = How many minutes you are protected
If it takes you, say… 5 minutes to burn, SPF 15 will protect you for 75 minutes. With that same SPF, if you take 10 minutes to burn you are protected for 150 minutes. So what I’m saying is, the higher the SPF the longer it protects you and the less you have to apply it, right?
Unfortunately – wrong! Most sunscreens last 2 hours and should be reapplied at least that often, even more often if water or sweat is involved.
So because time isn’t a good way to think about SPF, here’s another. It’s the percentage of UVB rays your skin is protected from based on SPF:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Did you think that SPF 30 was twice as good as SPF 15? So did I before I did my research.
SPF 30 protects your skin from 97% of the sun’s UVB rays and SPF 50 only protects you 1% more.
Makes you think… This is why the FDA has capped sunscreens at SPF 50+, otherwise people less knowledgeable about SPF would be led to believe that the really high SPFs are a lot better (and probably more expensive). Now you can count yourself among the SPF savvy population and wow all your friends with your sunscreen knowledge!
Remember though that SPF only protects your skin from UVB (the sunburn rays) and not UVA. So you will need to pay close attention to the active ingredients of the sunscreen to make sure it protects against the broad spectrum. Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide UVA and UVB protection.
And as always, a combination of an appropriate SPF for your skin, reapplication, protective clothing, and shade should be a regular part of your sun safety.
Physical is better than chemical
There are two types of sunscreen ingredients: physical and chemical.
Of these two, the first is FAR better. Why, you ask? Let’s discuss.
I’ll start with chemical sunscreens. They’re not good… common, but not good.
Chemical sunscreens use a combination of chemicals in order to provide a broad spectrum protection, and these chemicals seep into your skin and protects you from UV rays by absorbing them.
Chemical sunscreens go on lighter and tend not to leave the filmy cream look on your skin, but you have to wait 15-20 minutes before sun exposure, and the chemicals in them aren’t always great for you
The worst of these chemicals is called oxybenzone and is blacklisted by the EWG. It acts as a hormone in the body and can affect the endocrine system.
Physical sunscreens, like sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are a far better choice. Unlike chemical sunscreens, these do not seep into your skin. They provide a literal barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful rays, reflecting the UV rays away from you, and provide immediate protection upon application.
These sunscreens tend to be a little thicker and require more effort to blend with the skin, but the use of nanoparticles (the ones I mentioned earlier), these sunscreens are now much better at *not* leaving that filmy cream look on your skin.
Zinc oxide combined with titanium dioxide
You may have read that a sunscreen with zinc oxide is preferable to a titanium dioxide sunscreen, but imagine the two combined!
These minerals are very common in sunscreens today, as they have been micronized into smaller particles, making them less conspicuous and more desirable. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be used individually in sunscreen or can be combined.
When combined they cover a broader spectrum as zinc oxide more broadly protects against UVA and titanium dioxide is more effective in protecting against UVB.
What a dynamic duo!
Rub on lotion, not spray
It is suggested to not use spray sunscreens as inhaling the particles could be very dangerous.
As it’s difficult for your lungs to clear small particles, they could be absorbed into your bloodstream through your lungs causing extensive organ damage.
On top of this spray sunscreens make it hard for you to know that you’ve applied a consistent and thick layer. This has negative effects on sun protection and means with a spray you most likely won’t be getting the labelled SPF (or anything even close).
You can avoid all of this by simply sticking to a lotion which (when physical) won’t absorb into the body so there’s no chance of harm.
But what is this I keep hearing about nanoparticles?
Have you heard about the nanoparticle controversy?
Nanoparticles are particles of matter that are 100 billionths of a meter in size (that’s very small). Basically, the nano-sized particles make physical sunscreens more transparent on the skin.
The issue with nanoparticles comes from the possible health risks if these tiny particles enter the body. What could happen if nanoparticles entered the body you ask?
There is concern that nanoparticles can seep into the bloodstream and cause toxicity in the blood and cause other side effects. However, so far research has shown that cream and lotion based sunscreens made with nano-sized zinc particles are safe and that these sunscreens do not penetrate the skin, unlike chemical sunscreens… which do.
Additionally, based on current research, products that claim to be ‘non-nano’ are generally misleading. Although particle size varies a lot, nearly every zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particle used in a physical sunscreen would be considered nano under a broad definition (including the one used by the FDA).
You can expect more research in the future on nanoparticles in skin care products and the potential effects on consumers, workers, and the environment. However, based on current research they’re safe and fine to use.
Even with the controversy, it is still believed that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based sunscreens (the ones that must have nanoparticles) are among the best choices for sun protection.
Best Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide Comparison
|Vanicream Sunscreen||Blue Lizard Sensitive||EltaMD UV Pure||MyChelle Sun Shield||SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (5%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)||Zinc Oxide (11.6%) & Titanium Dioxide (0.67%)||Zinc Oxide (4%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||None||80 minutes||None||None|
5 Best Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxides
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF greater than 25, do not contain oxybenzone, and are lotions (not sprays).
Vanicream Sunscreen provides a broad spectrum coverage at an SPF of 30 using both zinc oxide (5%) and titanium dioxide (5%). It comes in a lotion, is fragrance free, and provides water resistant coverage (for the maximum 80 minutes!).
It is very reasonably priced and is comparable in price to other products containing active ingredients of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Vanicream Sunscreen has a pleasant finish. It tends to blend in well although, depending on your skin tone, you might notice a very slight white residue. This is common for water resistant physical sunscreens and serves as a healthy reminder when it begins to fade that you should reapply.
Perhaps the most important feature of this sunscreen is that it was formulated for use on sensitive skin. Even people with the skin conditions won’t react to this sunscreen so mild skin sensitivities will have no trouble!
The all-round benefits of this product make it the best sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
- Formulated for sensitive skin
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Fragrance free
- Slight white residue
Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen provides a broad spectrum coverage at an SPF of 30+ using both zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5%). It comes in a lotion and is fragrance free, which is great for sensitive skin.
It is not water resistant, which means you will have to be careful with reapplying often (at a minimum every 2 hours, or after you have sweat a lot or been in the water).
At first glance, it might seem a bit pricey compared to what you buy at the grocery store, but that’s because most of them are cheap chemical sunscreens. It’s actually comparable, if not less expensive, than other well advised sunscreens in this category.
This product comes highly recommended from dermatologists (so you know it offers great protection). It has a relatively non-greasy finish though it might leave a slight milky residue on your skin, especially if where you’re applying it has quite a bit of hair.
A great (and unexpected) thing about this product is it provides visual aids! When the bottle is exposed to UV rays, it turns blue… a helpful reminder to apply and reapply!
- Good for sensitive skin
- Visual indicators for UV exposure
- Slight white residue
- Not water resistant
EltaMD UV Pure Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, as the name suggests, provides broad spectrum coverage. It uses both zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%) to ensure the best sun protection for its users.
It comes in a lotion, not a spray, that is slightly more cosmetic in its texture than most products on this list. This is because EltaMD works hard to ensure its products are as comfortable and easy to use – ensuring that application is a breeze compared to other physical sunscreens.
The formula is fragrance free and provides 80 minutes of water resistant coverage – so you can use it whether you’re going for a hike or a swim.
The finish of this product is great as the white residue tends to fade after application. Please note though that sweat can interfere with this transparent finish – causing the milky white residue to return.
EltaMD UV is also a little pricey for a sunscreen, though worth the price if you’d prefer a texture and finish similar to that of a chemical sunscreen with all the benefits of a physical sunscreen.
- High SPF
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Fragrance free
- White residue after sweating
MyChelle Sun Shield Unscented sunscreen provides a broad spectrum coverage at an SPF of 28 using both zinc oxide (11.6%) and titanium dioxide (0.67%).
This cosmetic lotion is fantastically lightweight and feels amazing going on. This silky texture leads to an even smoother finish. This amazing sunscreen simply refuses to leave a white cast. Even on dark skin tones, you won’t find even a hint of white residue. This is, of course, so long as you’ve applied the correct amount and rubbed it in adequately.
MyChelle Sun Shield is not water resistant, though it’s not made to be used during physical activity. It’s more of an everyday sunscreen to be used as an essential part of your daily routine. You should be using a sunscreen everyday and this one is perfect to wear to work under makeup or around the house on the weekend.
You should still be mindful to reapply often (at a minimum every 2 hours, or after you have sweat a lot or been in the water).
The great feel and finish of this sunscreen does come at a cost. It’s more expensive than most, though it provides a lot of features other physical sunscreens don’t.
- Blends to a transparent finish
- Good for sensitive skin
- Not oily
- Lower SPF
- More expensive
Last but certainly not least, SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 has a lot of great features, most of them cosmetic like MyChelle Sun Shield.
It provides broad spectrum protection using an effective combination of zinc oxide (4%) and titanium dioxide (5%). The formula is not water resistant, though it is fragrance free.
That’s the standard stuff. Now… onto the good stuff:
This formula is incredibly light (almost weightless) and it has a beautifully silky texture that goes on smooth without a hint of grease or oil. It comes highly recommended for users with acne-prone skin as it almost never causes a breakout. This alone makes it the the best sunscreen for your face with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
It has a pleasant finish that can leave a slight white cast on darker skin tones, though most people shouldn’t have any trouble.
SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense is the most expensive of all of the recommended products. Because of this you might want to use it exclusively as a face sunscreen and chose one of the more affordable options on this list for the rest of your body.
- Blends well and non-oily
- Great for acne-prone skin
- Good SPF Rating
- Not water resistant
I hope that you found this guide helpful when looking for the best sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
SimplySunSafe recommends Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 30 as the top choice, but these are all good options, with a wide range of costs and features, depending on your budget and needs. Everyone has different needs, skin types, and reactions, so pick one and find out what works best for you!
Have a product that you just LOVE and want to share? Please do! I love hearing about different products!