Best Mineral Sunscreens that Actually Work in 2021

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Find the best zinc oxide and mineral sunscreens for your family that actually work.

Sunscreen is one of those products that lots of people hesitate to try the natural version of. And I get it. I mean, nobody wants to chance a lobster red sunburn on day 1 of vacation. As a person with pale, sensitive skin, believe me, I understand.

And then there’s the whole sun damage causing skin cancer thing. Sun damaged skin is not something to mess around with. We all know how important it is to apply sunscreen when outside for extended periods of time.

But there’s a dirty not-so-secret about traditional sunscreens: the chemicals they contain are bad for our bodies and the environment.

Check out all the details about the trouble with chemicals in sunscreen.

Recent research shows that sunscreen chemicals are highly absorbed into the body. Some scientists are cautioning that certain chemicals used in sunscreen should be re-evaluated.

And it’s not looking much better for the oceans either. Many tropical locations around the world have banned certain sunscreen chemicals because they cause damage to reefs and ocean animals.

I learned this first hand on a recent trip to the US Virgin Islands, where they only sell sunscreen with reef safe ingredients.

I met a couple who did not bring their own sunscreen with them, and they were lobster red from the lack of protection their island-purchased sunscreen provided! Don’t be like them – bring a mineral sunscreen on vacation that works!

Luckily, there are lots of choices today for mineral based sunscreens that actually protect you.

What is the Difference between Mineral Sunscreen and Conventional?

my top 5 mineral sunscreens

A couple of things to note about the difference between mineral based and chemical sunscreens (because they DO feel different on your skin, there’s just no way around it):

Mineral based sunscreens get their sun defense from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They prevent sun damage by creating a barrier on your skin. This means it has to sit ON TOP of your skin in order for it to work. It will NOT rub in, or absorb, completely.

They all have a white tint. I have not found a natural sunscreen that works with no white tint to it. Some have less than others and some rub in better than others, which I’ll go into under each recommendation.

All of the brands I recommend are reef safe, and will not damage ocean life.

I’ve made a few compromises with ingredients in a couple of these and included options with ingredients I would normally not use in personal care products. I’ve chosen to do this because mineral sunscreens are SO different from their traditional counterparts, and many of the most natural options are going to feel so vastly different than what you’re used to.

I encourage you to read the full ingredient list and decide for yourself what is best for you and your family!

how to read a sunscreen label for natural mineral ingredients

Best Mineral Sunscreens

Best Overall Mineral Sunscreen – Think Sport

Think Sport is my top pick because it works so well. I slather my kids in this for pool days, and it stays put for more than an hour in the water. They also have a baby version, called Think Baby, which I have found so similar to the sport version that I can’t tell a difference. I recommend, and use, both.

The primary sunscreen ingredient is zinc oxide, which is my preferred mineral for sunscreen.

The only drawback of the Think Sport is it requires some significant rubbing to not look pasty. It’s not crazy thick though, so it does go on smoothly and, most importantly, protects skin from sun damage.

Mineral type and content20% non-nano zinc oxide
Water Resistantup to 80 minutes
Reef SafeYes
Prosworks well, high SPF, water resistant
Conscan be tough to rub in completely

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Best Mineral Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Babo Botanicals

Babo Botanicals makes some of my favorite natural sunscreens! I keep their small sport stick on hand for quickly applying to noses, cheeks and ears. It applies easily without too much rubbing, and it works really well.

Babo Botanicals is a great, healthy brand that uses clean ingredients in all of their products. They are a brand I know I can trust with non-toxic ingredients, which just makes shopping so much simpler!

I also love their baby mineral sunscreen, which is unscented and goes on smoothly, and their facial sunscreen works great for my sensitive skin too.

Babo Botanicals Mineral Sunscreens
Mineral type and content15% non-nano zinc oxide
SPFSPF 30 (in the sport stick, they also have SPF 50 available)
Water Resistantup to 80 minutes
Reef SafeYes
Proseasy to apply, a clearer look than others
ConsLower zinc content than others, may need to reapply more often

Best Mineral Sunscreen Stick: All Good Sunscreen Butter Stick

This is my favorite sport stick for applying on the go or reapplying when already outside. All Good is another brand with a high percentage of zinc oxide as their primary sunscreen ingredient, and they have SPF up to 50.

I’ve seen many a beauty blogger praise this brand, and for good reason. All Good is packed with non-toxic ingredients, provides a reef safe sunscreen and is one of the most ‘natural’ sunscreens I’ve found. The sport stick is basically a lotion bar with zinc oxide in it – it doesn’t get more natural than that!

The only drawback of this sport stick is it is fairly solid at room temperature, and is awkward to apply at first. I really love this once it’s been in my bag outside for several hours and is slightly melted. Then it goes on like butter (which I don’t recommend applying to your skin at all 😉 )

All Good has cream sunscreens as well which lots of people rank as their top pick. I find their formula slightly thicker than Think Safe but still very good.

Their products are high in zinc oxide (the sport stick contains 25% non-nano zinc), and so do leave a white residue on the skin.

All Good Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick
Mineral type and content25% non-nano zinc oxide
Water Resistantup to 80 minutes
Reef SafeYes
Proshigh zinc content = more sun protection, super clean ingredients
Consthe stick is a little awkward (stiff) to apply at room temperature

Best Sheer Mineral Sunscreen: Bare Republic Gel Lotion

I really like the gel-lotion sunscreen from Bare Republic because it goes on so smoothly. It’s so light you almost can’t tell it’s a mineral based sunscreen. I say almost because while you can’t see the mineral pigments when you’re rubbing it on, once the lotion soaks in you can see the mineral pigments left on the skin.

It’s subtle and not pasty looking, but it’s there. It leaves an almost powder-like mineral residue that you sometimes have to look hard to see.

Like I mentioned before, this is just part of the deal with mineral based sunscreen.

I do really like the application of this – it soaks in quickly and doesn’t require tons of rubbing.

The non-sunscreen ingredients in this are slightly questionable for me, and some would not pass my typical ingredient test for a body lotion. However, since this is a sunscreen and not going to be used all day, every day, I let it slide. View the full ingredient list here.

This is not my top pick because I don’t feel it works quite as well as Think Safe or All Good. But I especially like this one for a shady beach afternoon or when you need to apply quickly (hello: kids running by).

bare republic gel-lotion mineral sunscreen
Mineral type and content18.2% zinc oxide
Water Resistantup to 40 minutes
Reef SafeYes
ProsClosest application to traditional sunscreen, rubs in easily
ConsNeed to reapply more often when in the water, ingredients not as natural, lower SPF

Best Spray Mineral Sunscreen: Pacifica Coconut Probiotic Spray Sunscreen

This SPF 30 from Pacifica is the only spray sunscreen that’s made it to my list so far. Spray sunscreens that are made with minerals are hard to get right, and this one from Pacifica is pretty good.

The thing you need to know about a mineral spray sunscreen is that it is NOT a super-fast, spray and go with no rubbing like the conventional spray sunscreens.

This applies with a white tint, and you still need to rub it in. It is very thin and rubs in pretty easily. I think it’s great for when I’ve made my kids get out of the pool to reapply and they can’t wait to get back in. This is the fastest way to get more mineral sunscreen on their bodies.

It smells like coconut too (although it does contain fragrance, which is usually on my naughty ingredient lists).

I let it slide in this product, since a mineral based spray sunscreen is so convenient.

(Stay tuned for more natural spray sunscreen reviews – I’m testing out several others!)

Pacifica spray mineral sunscreen
Mineral type and content14.5% zinc oxide
Water Resistantup to 80 minutes
Reef SafeYes
ProsIt’s a spray!
Conscontains fragrance + other not so fab ingredients, still need to rub it in

Honorable Mentions

I’ve tried several other brands that I feel I should mention here, because they also do the job. These didn’t make my top 5 list mostly because I find them all thick and slightly difficult to rub on. The texture of these is not my favorite, but the brands themselves are top notch and these do what they’re supposed to do: protect skin from sun damage.

Natural Mineral Sunscreens that work

Badger Natural Mineral Sunscreen

Badger has been making natural products for years, and they know what they’re doing. Their sunscreen is super natural, with an impressive ingredient list of plant based, non-toxic ingredients. It’s a little thick, but it does work.

Beauty by Earth

Another super clean ingredient list with a slightly thick formula. I really like this brand as a whole, but I would say their sunscreen is not the easiest to apply. It is reef safe, biodegradable and made with non-nano uncoated zinc oxide.

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Love Sun Body

Love Sun Body sunscreen includes both non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide as their sunscreen ingredients. It’s water resistant up to 80 minutes with an SPF of 50. Again, this one is a little too thick for me, but it does the job and the ingredient list is stellar.

Tell Me: Do you have a favorite mineral sunscreen that should be on this list?

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