Natural sunscreens with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide have long been the choice of dermatologists (and environmentalists) for their immediate efficacy and safety.
Currently Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the only two ingredients that the FDA is considering “safe” in their proposed updates to the sunscreen regulatory standards. The FDA needs to update how they evaluate SPF ratings for the safest coverage from both UVA and UVB rays that damage the skin. For now, the testing in the U.S. is subpar compared to the EU because it only factors UVB protection.
The New Guard
Consumers have rebuked the white cast, greasy, and pore-clogging ways of old-style formulas.
Below is a round up of modern formulations, which are my favorite, natural sunscreens with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (safe for your face) that have a forever home in my beauty cabinet. I even threw in a tinted moisturizer recommendation!
And I turned to their creators for insight on why they chose Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide, which turned out to be a fascinating look inside the minds of how conscious formulators are addressing the issue.
Controversy and Confusion: Chemicals in Sunblock
When certain chemical sunscreens were banned in Hawaii (to save sea life), it caused many people to finally wonder what the health implications of these chemical sunscreens were for themselves too.
One of my most popular articles, Is your Sunblock Preventing or Causing Cancer, touched on the chemicals to avoid in sunscreen and why. So I highly suggest reading that.
With all controversy comes confusion, as I saw in my Healthy Beauty Over 40 Facebook group, where face sunscreen has become a very hot topic, so let’s dive in a little further.
Blissoma: Photonic SPF 25
Launched in late 2018 this newcomer is one of the most impressive natural sunblocks for the face I’ve come across. I find it’s not too greasy in the summer or too drying during the winter. There’s even a little tint to it that helps eradicate any white cast.Founder and Formulator, Julie Longyear, offered some personal insight:
“Most sunscreens I used on a routine basis had a tendency to feel greasy and heavy, smother the skin, and cause breakouts.
Most sunscreens also totally lack in nutrition for skin because the issue of getting chemical sunscreens to work well is so complex already that adding more actives becomes problematic.
Photonic solves all these problems with a featherweight, hardworking formula that has the dual function of nourishment and protection – and won’t clog the skin or cause breakouts!
We chose a transparent zinc oxide because zinc is the most capable broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen. It’s actually healthy for skin and includes anti-irritant properties. Zinc Oxide also does the best job at bouncing UVB as well as UVA rays.
UVA are the type of rays that actually age the skin most and can stimulate cell mutations and cancer growth as they penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, so it’s really important to have UVA protection.”
Hynt Beauty: SUN PREP Broad Spectrum SPF25
I love having SUN PREP on hand because it looks and feels totally invisible on the skin. On the flip side of formulation, Hynt specifically chose to only use Titanium Dioxide as its active ingredient. A little goes a long way with this. Because it’s invisible, don’t treat this like an old-school sunblock by rubbing and working it into the skin a lot, or it will ball up.
“SUN PREP is a unique 3-in-1 formula: makeup primer, moisturizer and sun protection.
The concerns with Titanium Dioxide is for loose powder inhalation, which can be an irritant to the lungs and possibly carcinogenic in large doses. Read Hynt’s article on it.
However, the micronized, rutile form of Titanium Dioxide that we use in our formula is non-nano and therefore, safe to be used in a lotion.
SUN PREP’s Titanium Dioxide gets an additional protective boost from botanical ingredients such as Sesame Seed Oil, Algae Extract and Rhatany Root Extract, that help enhance its UV absorption properties.”
Brush On Block SPF 30
A blend of both worlds, Brush On Block is a powder sunscreen which uses both Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. It took me a few tries to figure out how to use it and if I was using enough since it goes on transparently.
The uniquely fabulous thing about Brush On Block is you can apply it to your face for extra protection throughout the day without messing up your makeup like trying to apply a cream over it would. Hooray! I’ve been keeping this in my purse now on the reg.
Terresa Clark, Operations Manager for Brush On Block, is as passionate as she is knowledgable about safety and formulation. She said:
“Titanium Dioxide is the more effective UVB protection (less opaque white residue) and Zinc Oxide (more opaque white residue) is the more effective UVA protection. So by using both, there are no gaps in the protection.
Using a combination of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide allowed Brush On Block to create a sunscreen powder that is both translucent enough to be worn by men, women and children, and give full broad-spectrum coverage.”
Speaking of titanium dioxide inhalation risks
I pressed Terresa to talk about inhalation risks because while scary headlines are good for gaining attention, they aren’t always factual.
Hopefully what she said eases your mind…
“Inhalation concerns deal with particles that are too small to be filtered out by the body before they reach the blood or lungs. These standards have been determined by OSHA and are currently used by the EU.
The particle sizes that are small enough to be an inhalation concern are not useful in powder sunscreen or mineral foundation.
To be functional as a powder sunscreen, and to provide coverage in foundation, the particles must be larger.
Additionally, any mineral powder or powder sunscreen approved for sale in the EU has undergone particle testing to be sure that the particles are not of ‘respirable’ size.”
Josh Rosebrook: Nutrient Day Cream Tinted SPF 30
There’s a reason the Nutrient Day Cream Tinted SPF 30 comes up again and again on my favorites list (as well as many others in the green beauty world). The ingredients are stellar, and it’s a matte, light-weight formula that leaves no greasy feel. I really prefer the tinted version so there’s no white cast left behind either.
It’s ideal for oily skin, and humid summer days. So if I’m dealing with dryness (depending on the season), I add more moisturizer as a first step.
A dedicated natural, organic beauty formulator, Josh Rosebrook is also a prolific educator. He’s echoed much of what the other brands shared above and added even more information on his blog post dedicated to this very topic.
A bit of coverage with your coverage
I couldn’t let this article go without sharing one of my most favorite hybrid makeup products that will help protect your face from the sun: a natural, tinted moisturizer with sunscreen!
W3LL PEOPLE: Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer SPF 30
One of the dreamiest, creamiest, natural, tinted moisturizers with sunscreen you’ll ever experience. This staple in my beauty bag gives beautiful coverage and luminosity that just makes your own skin look better, while protecting it from the sun. A huge win-win.
W3LL PEOPLE Co-Founder, Shirley Pinkson Manas reiterates my adoration of this tinted moisturizer with SPF by saying:
“The Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer truly proves itself as a hybrid makeup/ skincare product.”
They chose to use only non-micronized zinc oxide at a 20% level for full spectrum protection at an SPF of 30, rather than Titanium Dioxide, reminding us that, “Titanium Dioxide is less effective at blocking the UVA rays.”
“This protection is coupled with some seriously skin loving ingredients such as peptides, algae, pumpkin seed oil, aloe, green tea and broccoli seed oil making it a luxe, multi-tasking wonder.”
Now let’s hear from you
Which natural sunscreen or sunblock has earned a place in your beauty bag? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Feature photo by Kristen Arnett. Product photos courtesy of brands.