For many people, making the switch to safer sunscreens is motivated almost entirely by health concerns.
You want to use better products for yourself or your loved ones, and ensure that whatever you choose to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays isn’t going to cause you other problems down the road.
If you suffer from issues with sensitive skin, this process may end up being more difficult than it is for most people. This is because, in addition to the chemical sunscreens you just learned were bad for you, you may find yourself reacting to ingredients in the more wholesome formulas as well.
An easy solution is to choose the best zinc sunscreen you can find, as formulas that exclusively use zinc oxide as the active ingredient are typically more calming to the skin.
This way, you can get optimal protection without having to worry about rashes or other undesirable reactions.
Now the question becomes: where do I find these sunscreens?
Don’t worry, that’s where I come in!
This guide is for anyone who’s at a loss when it comes to finding high quality zinc-only sunscreens.
After thorough research to into requirements for zinc oxide sunscreens to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Badger SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen Cream as the best zinc oxide sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 zinc oxide sunscreens.
To ensure your next zinc oxide sunscreen offers premium sun protection and there are a few must-have features you should look for:
Broad spectrum protection
Regardless of how beneficial a sunscreen’s ingredients are for your skin, there is no point in buying it unless you ensure you’re getting a product that provides broad spectrum protection.
Broad spectrum protection shields you from both types of harmful solar radiation. These are referred to as UVA radiation and UVB radiation.
- UVB radiation is the type of solar radiation that results in visible damage. Think of sunburns: reddened, tender skin that sometimes also occurs with blisters and takes a few days to heal.
- UVA radiation is the sneaky ninja of solar radiation. It causes invisible cellular damage to the DNA of your skin cells. Over time, this will result in premature skin aging and may result in genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer.
While it may feel glorious to stand on the beach or at the end of your hiking trail, feeling the sun on your face, it really is not all that good for you.
Some sunscreens will only protect from the less dangerous UVB radiation, so make sure you choose a product that says ‘UVA/UVB’ or ‘Broad Spectrum protection’ on the labelling.
Best zinc oxide sunscreen SPF
It’s also important to choose a product with a good SPF rating.
Notice I said good, not simply the highest rating you can find. This is because, contrary to how manufacturers prefer you to think, once you pass a certain threshold, higher SPF really isn’t all that much better for you.
For starters, because of the way SPF ratings are calculated, any rating beyond SPF 30 is going to provide only incrementally better protection.
According to concerns raised by the EWG for the FDA to review, the addition of certain anti-inflammatory ingredients in sunscreen formulas may allow them to artificially claim a higher SPF rating.
This is because, from a legal perspective, SPF ratings are only a measure of UVB radiation protection and how long you can stay outside before a sunburn appears.
Take a look at the table below – it may help clear up some misconceptions about how SPF ratings work:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Once you get beyond SPF 30, you’re paying premium price for almost exactly the same protection.
In fact, SPF 30 is considered sufficient protection for almost everyone. The only time you will benefit from seeking more protection and paying a higher price is if you are very sensitive to sunlight.
Physical is better than chemical
Since you’re searching for the best sunscreen with zinc oxide, this feature is a bit of a given, but I think it is still important to understand why and how physical sunscreens are better than chemical options.
Based on their active ingredients, sunscreens are separated into two categories:
- Physical sunscreens are going to be made with either zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two. These sunscreens work by providing a physical barrier between your skin and the sunlight: the lotion sits atop your skin and deflects the sun’s rays away from the skin’s surface so that you are not affected by the solar radiation.
- Chemical sunscreens work slightly differently. These soak into your skin, and the active ingredients are intended to absorb the solar radiation before it affects your skin cells, proving protection in this way. Ingredients commonly seen used in chemical sunscreens are homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, avobenzone, and oxybenzone.
Physical sunscreens stand out from chemical sunscreens in a few ways.
They do not require the 15-20 minute wait time that chemical sunscreens do, and are typically less irritating to skin as well – this is particularly true when considering oxybenzone, an ingredient the FDA warns against using.
Most importantly, physical sunscreens stop more light across a broader UV spectrum. Put simply, they are just better sunscreens!
Chemical ingredients also have the potential to be absorbed into your bloodstream and disrupt your endocrine system, a concern not raised by physical ingredients.
All things considered, choosing a physical sunscreen is definitely going to be the safer bet.
Zinc oxide is better than titanium dioxide
Since the early 2000s studies conducted into the effectiveness of sunscreens have shown zinc oxide to be more effective than its physical sunscreen counterpart titanium dioxide.
Although both provide decent protection, zinc oxide offers better protection against longer wavelength UVA radiation. From 350-400 nanometers, titanium dioxide does little to protect you while zinc oxide has you covered.
This is a great reason to stick with physical sunscreens that use zinc oxide. A hybrid of the two is suitable, but physical sunscreens that rely purely on titanium dioxide should be used sparingly.
If you are looking for a sunscreen that will be kind to sensitive skin, as is often the case when searching out zinc-only formula, then you ought to also be concerned with the inactive ingredients.
You see, just because they are listed as ‘inactive’ and therefore not part of what protects your skin from the sun, doesn’t mean that they do not have an effect on your skin.
Many ingredients used in skin care products can cause reactions such as allergic or contact dermatitis – meaning you get a rather unpleasant rash when your skin is exposed to them.
Even without such an extreme reaction though, some ingredients cause sensitivities that can lead to skin breakouts, increased oil production, dry/flaky skin, and other imbalances that let you know your skin just plain isn’t happy with what you’re doing to it.
Soy is a great example of this. Even if you tolerate soy well in foods, it can be an allergen when used in skincare products.
This is due in part to the soy proteins, but also because soy has a very high natural concentration of nickel. If you have sensitive skin, you probably know nickel all too well: it’s the ingredient in cheap earrings that makes your piercings react poorly.
Sunscreens containing soy can have the same effect on sensitive individuals, anywhere the sunscreen is applied.
There are other ingredients in addition to soy that can cause negative reactions. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to search for sunscreens that have simple formulas containing recognizable ingredients.
Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Comparison
|Badger Baby Sunscreen||BurnOut Eco-Sensitive||Juice Beauty Stem Cellular||Goddess Garden Baby||Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)||Zinc Oxide (18.9%)||Zinc Oxide (20.0%)||Zinc Oxide (19.0%)||Zinc Oxide (18.4%)|
|Water resistance||40 minutes||None||None||40 minutes||80 minutes|
|Number of inactive ingredients||6||21||22||11||20|
5 Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens
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 zinc oxide sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and have skin-friendly formulas.
Badger wins the number one spot on this list as my recommendation for the best zinc-based sunscreen. This is due in large part to the formula itself, but also to the company!
Badger cares about its products, and its customers. They are constantly making an effort to improve their formulas, aiming to give their consumers not only a pleasant-to-use formula but one that is safe for the environment.
They even has a whole section on their site where you can read about the effect sunscreens have on our coral reefs!
Badger’s Baby sunscreen formula provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection with just under 19% zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. Sounds great, right? It gets better!
- Has only 6 inactive ingredients (can you say simple?!)
- Is 100% natural
- Is 94% certified organic
The only remotely negative aspect to this sunscreen is its thick texture, which is to be expected with a sunscreen using such a high concentration of zinc to provide you with top-notch protection.
- Great value
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Ultra-simple formula
- Thick texture
BurnOut’s Eco-Sensitive Sunscreen is a tad more expensive than you may be used to paying, but it really is a great value for the money when you consider what you’re getting.
This sunscreen provides broad spectrum, SPF 35 protection using 18.95% zinc oxide.
That concentration of zinc is just a hair more than Badger’s product, but BurnOut finds itself in second place due to a few minor details.
It has a longer lists of inactive ingredients: 21 to be exact.
While this is pretty standard for natural sunscreens that try to provide a smoother texture, one particular ingredients does raise a bit of concern if you’re trying to avoid irritants: lecithin.
Lecithin can be made out of a few different things, but if this product’s lecithin is made from soy then it may not be for you. Read more about soy lecithin here.
Other than the lecithin that may be an issue for some users, this is a fantastic product that goes smoothly, rubs in well, and will surely deliver knockout sun protection.
- Great value
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Contains lecithin that may be made from soy
Hands down, this is one of the best face sunscreens with zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.
This stem cellular CC cream may appear at first glance to have a laundry list of inactive ingredients, but upon closer inspection you realize the formula is simpler than it seems.
The formula is intended to be a reliable moisturizer as well as a sunscreen, and so is packed with antioxidants that all come from various fruits or natural sources – hence the long list of ingredients.
There is no soy, gluten, or other major red-flag allergen, so no worries there.
This tinted sunscreen comes in 5 blendable shades (see below) that provide you with broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection. Get this, using 20% zinc oxide!
That the highest concentration of active ingredients on this list. That is part of what makes this a top contender when searching for the best zinc sunscreen for your face: you get ultra-tough sun protection in a moisturizing, tinted package that leaves you without the classic ‘mime’ face.
Unfortunately, all the benefits to come with a heftier price tag. This is definitely a product that’s great at what it does but is too expensive for all-over use.
- Effective tinting (5 shades)
- High concentration of active ingredients
Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection using 19% zinc oxide.
This concentration of active ingredient is particularly high when you consider how inexpensive this product is – definitely a great product if you don’t want to compromise on the quality of your skincare products to fit a budget.
It only has 11 inactive ingredients, making it the least complicated formula on this list aside from Badger.
However, it does contain soybean oil, which may be a deal-breaker for some more sensitive users.
This sunscreen is also a good choice for vacations: 40 minutes of water resistance mean you’re protected regardless of what activities you get into, and it’s even carry-on sized for those who have to go through airport security on their way to the fun.
- High concentration of active Ingredients
- Simpler formula
- Contains soy
Babo Botanicals’ Clear Zinc Lotion sunscreen finds itself last on SimplySunSafe’s list of recommendation due to its thicker formula and more complicated list of active ingredients.
While it does provide broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection via 18.4% zinc oxide, the lengthy list of inactive ingredients just doesn’t come across as natural as the other formulas on this list.
It is still a fabulous product, but if you are putting a premium on simplified formulas than this probably won’t be the first one you want to try.
Many consumers who are in-the-know automatically think ‘stay away’ when they see terms like clear zinc, as it usually points to nanoparticle-type zinc that poses a greater health risk. With Babo this isn’t so.
Apparently, they found that when you mix zinc oxide and grape juice, the grape juice helps the zinc ‘disappear’ a bit better and results in a less severe white cast without the need for tinting or chemical sunscreen ingredients.
It’s a pretty neat hat trick that most of their users seem to love!
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Thicker texture
- More complicated formula
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, and that you feel more able to find the best zinc sunscreen for you!
While SimplySunSafe does recommend the Badger SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen Cream as the best zinc oxide sunscreen, all five of these are great products.
Everyone is different, so you may end up having to go through a few of the sunscreens on this list before you find the one that is best suited to you and your skin. Happy hunting!
I try to provide great recommendations in every guide I write, but if there is a zinc-based sunscreen that you love and don’t see here, let me know!
I love learning about new products and I continually work to make sure that SimplySunSafe if the place to go if you want top-notch product recommendations.