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This $9 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Is Your Best Bet for Sun Protection


An important note on sunscreen safety: The FDA is proposing changes to sunscreen regulations, as some active ingredients can enter the bloodstream. Until it can reach a more robust conclusion on safety, the FDA — and the Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab — urges Americans to continue using mineral and chemical sunscreen to protect against UV damage.

You’ve probably heard the term “zinc oxide” thrown around a lot recently, and it’s for a good reason. Currently, the FDA says that only two sunscreen actives are considered safe and effective: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are considered mineral (or physical) sunscreens. Unlike their chemical counterparts that work by absorbing the sun’s harmful rays, these mineral sunscreens protect you from the sun by sitting on top of skin and physically blocking or reflecting harmful rays. Just like chemical sunscreens, you should be wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day and reapplying often (every two hours and especially after swimming and sweating) when using a mineral formula.

At the Good Housekeeping Institute, our Beauty Lab scientists regularly test and evaluate all kinds of sunscreens, including sunscreens for kids and babies, natural and mineral sunscreens, sunscreen for sensitive skin, and more. Our pros know about the best formulas and latest ingredients, and stay on top of the current regulations. When testing sunscreens, we send them out to real consumers to test — over 1,300 people in our most recent test — and after testers fill out an extensive questionnaire, our pros sort through the data to find the best ones to recommend. Each sunscreen is scored, of course, on sun protection ability, but also on criteria like ease of application, its look and feel on skin, any residue left behind, fragrance, and overall satisfaction. After testers fill out an extensive questionnaire, our pros sort through the data to find the best formulas. Before we get into our recommendations, here are some basics on zinc oxide:

Is zinc oxide sunscreen safe, and are there any side effects?

There are many benefits to using a zinc oxide sunscreen, including that zinc oxide is considered a safe ingredient for sunscreens and skincare by both the FDA and dermatologists. In fact, experts often recommend zinc oxide as an active ingredient for those with specific health concerns or skin issues.

  • It’s safe for kids. “For consumers who are concerned about hormonal disruption, specifically for children, I recommend sunscreens with mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” says Steven Q. Wang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
  • It may be a better choice for people with sensitive skin or eczema. “Mineral sunscreens generally don’t sting and can actually help soothe skin inflammation,” says board-certified dermatologist Noelle Sherber, M.D., co-founder of SHERBER+RAD in Washington, DC.
  • It’s pretty rare that zinc oxide would cause side effects or reactions. If you notice a skin reaction while using zinc oxide, be sure to tell your doctor.
  • There is one potential downside: Zinc oxide sunscreens usually aren’t invisible — they may leave a white cast behind on skin, but formulas are getting better each year with new technology.
  • Be aware: Not all sunscreens that contain zinc oxide are completely mineral-based. While some can be a blend of mineral actives (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), others are actually a mixture of minerals and synthetic chemical actives. Since sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs in the U.S., the actives in a formula can be found on the product’s packaging — look for the “drug facts” heading. All of our recommended products below are only formulated with mineral actives, but be sure to check the drug facts before purchasing other products claiming to be “natural” or “mineral-based” if you’re trying to avoid synthetic chemicals.

Based on the GH Beauty Lab’s extensive testing, these are the best zinc oxide sunscreens for face and body to buy in 2021:

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Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Body

Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield SPF 50



This gentle formula from Colorescience was the best pure zinc oxide option in the GH Beauty Lab’s latest test on body sunscreens. A tester (who swears by zinc oxide sunscreen!) said this one “spread on a lot easier and did not have the thickness” of the traditional zinc oxide formulas. Others who tried the product praised its texture, saying it “melted into their skin” and that it had a “silky, powdery finish.”

  • SPF 50
  • Mineral zinc oxide cream
  • Water resistance: 80 minutes
  • Mild on skin

Best Value Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Body

Pure & Simple SPF 50 Sunscreen

At less than $10 a bottle, this affordable, fragrance-free sunscreen from Coppertone uses pure zinc oxide as its active ingredient. 94% of GH Beauty Lab testers reported it didnt sting or irritate, and also found it moisturizing and easy to apply. “I liked that it left my skin feeling matte,” said one tester. “It wasn’t greasy, it wasn’t oily, and it wasn’t sticky or tacky — just like my regular skin but with a protective coating.”

  • SPF 50
  • Mineral zinc oxide lotion
  • Water resistance: 80 minutes
  • Doesn’t irritate skin

Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Face

Eryfotona Actinica Sunscreen SPF 50+

Made of pure zinc oxide, Isdin’s lightweight, silky formula was one of the winners in the GH Beauty Lab facial sunscreen tests for effectively preventing sunburn and wearing well under makeup. The liquid didn’t feel greasy or sticky on skin, and left it looking shine-free. Testers also found it was mild on skin and eyes. “It absorbed quickly and didn’t leave a white cast or clumps on my face,” one reported.

  • SPF 50
  • Mineral zinc oxide liquid lotion
  • Water resistance: 40 minutes
  • Non-greasy

Best Value Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Face

Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Bare Republic


Even though this affordable Bare Republic formula leaves a shine-free finish, it doesn’t feel tacky or sticky on your skin. GH Beauty Lab testers noted its pleasant scent, and it even earned a perfect score for being gentle. If you’re planning on going swimming, remember that it’s only water resistant for up to 40 minutes before you need to reapply. It’s also important to note that you need to shake the tube before applying, otherwise it comes out as a non-uniform liquid.

  • SPF 30
  • Mineral zinc oxide and titanium dioxide lotion
  • Water Resistance: 40 minutes

Best Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide Sunscreen

Mineral SPF 30 Non-Tinted Sunscreen Face Lotion

Sun Bum


Made with a mix of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen actives, Sun Bum’s formula won’t irritate even reactive skin. It earned a near-perfect score in GH Beauty Lab testing for not causing redness or irritation, plus doesn’t run into eyes or interfere with makeup. “Love how light and silky it is,” a tester noted. “It made my skin look healthy and soft.”

  • SPF 30
  • Mineral zinc oxide and titanium dioxide lotion
  • Water resistance: 40 minutes
  • Non-irritating
  • May leave a white cast on skin

Best Dermatologist-Recommended Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

Mineral Moisture Defense Sunscreen SPF 50



Although this mineral sunscreen from dermatologist-recommended brand MDSolarSciences contains a mixture of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, it’s still a suggested alternative to chemical ingredients. It’s fragrance-free and silicone-based, and the formula goes on smooth, but it tends to separate when left in hot temps, so you’ll need to give it a good shake. 

  • SPF 50
  • Mineral zinc oxide and titanium dioxide cream
  • Water resistance: 80 minutes

Best Zinc Oxide Suncreen for Oily skin

Mineral Gel Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Bare Republic


Bare Republic’s innovative pure zinc oxide face sunscreen comes in a unique gel-lotion texture that doesn’t leave skin oily. It scored high in GH Beauty Lab testing for not making skin greasy or shiny, was easy to apply, and didn’t interfere with makeup or cause irritation. “The texture and application was so smooth…I also could not believe the finish,” a tester raved. “Not greasy at all, almost seemed to blur my pores, and gave a matte finish.”

  • SPF 30
  • Mineral zinc oxide gel-lotion
  • Water resistance: 40 minutes

Best Scented Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

Botanical SPF 50 Mineral Lotion

Australian Gold


This lightweight mineral sunscreen from Australian Gold uses a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients and provided strong UV shielding in GH Beauty Lab testing. It’s a great choice for people who prefer fragranced sunscreen thanks to its clean, sweet scent that 95% testers agreed was pleasant. It won’t feel irritating or greasy on your skin, applies smoothly, and it can even stand up to sweat and saltwater for up to 80 minutes. 

  • SPF 50
  • Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • Water resistance: 80 minutes
  • May leave a white residue behind

Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Kids and Babies

Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen SPF 50



Although this exact SPF formula made for babies and children hasn’t been tested by our Lab experts yet, it’s still recommended because Neutrogena is one of the GH Beauty Lab’s gold standard brands that often performs well in our studies. While it’s generally a safe choice for kids, you should consult with a doctor before using sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old.   

  • SPF 50
  • Mineral zinc oxide cream
  • Water resistance: 80 minutes

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