Zinc Oxide Sunscreens: Should You Buy or Skip It?


We have already spoken a zillion times about the importance of sunscreens in our blogs, and you may have heard it from people around you as well. Sunscreens are crucial in making your skin healthy and clear. Therefore, apply it everyday without fail. An ingredient that is recently creating waves in the sunscreen universe is none other than zinc oxide. A wide array of products in the market mention zinc oxide on the label. In this blog, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about zinc oxide sunscreens to help you decide if you should get them or not.

What Are Zinc Oxide Sunscreens?

It is a mineral sunscreen that offers protection against UVA as well as UVB rays. Sunscreens with zinc oxide are referred to as physical sunscreens as they stay on top of the skin like a filter, instead of seeping in.

How Does it Work?

Zinc oxide sunscreens work by reflecting and scattering the UV rays to protect skin against sun damage, almost similar to a mirror. It is considered safer in comparison to chemical sunscreens. According to the FDA (1), it is one of the only two effective and safe ingredients for sunscreen use. 


Things to Keep in Mind While Choosing Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

  • To make it simpler for consumers, sunscreen brands mention the word mineral on the sunscreen’s title (label). Most mineral sunscreens will consist of zinc oxide.
  • A high-quality zinc oxide sunscreen doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive to be good. One that’s low priced is equally effective. Don’t be fooled by a list of additional ingredients in sunscreen, as these ingredients may not lead to some extra protection.
  • Several products contain oils or fragrances to enhance their value but could cause skin irritation. Always go through labels to check if you are allergic to any of those ingredients to ensure safety.
  • If you notice a seal or certification on a sunscreen, most probably, it has been reviewed by a panel of medical experts. It further affirms that the particular sunscreen is better as compared to other brands.
  • Sunscreens comprising ingredients that can expire should mention the expiry date. Never use expired sunscreen. If your sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date, it most probably doesn’t contain ingredients that expire.

Benefits of Using Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

  • It rarely causes any skin irritation making it an excellent choice for all skin types. Being non-comedogenic, it’s unlikely that it may lead to acne or breakouts too.
  • Not every sunscreen that you see in the market can protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. However, zinc oxide sunscreens can offer protection from both these rays. Thus, decreasing the risk of signs of ageing and sunburn.
  • Unlike chemical sunscreens, you can apply zinc oxide sunscreens and head out immediately. Since it’s a physical sunscreen, there’s no need to apply it 15-20 minutes before going out.

Disadvantage of Using Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

  • One of the drawbacks of using zinc oxide sunscreens is the white cast or layer on your skin that forms on your skin. Due to this coating, it is sometimes visible even after applying it.

Risks of Using Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

  • The new catchword that has become the talk of the town are nanoparticles in sunscreens. You may find them in spray sunscreens too. 
  • According to the Environmental Working Group (2), inhaling these particles may harm your gastrointestinal tract and lungs. Hence, it is best not to use spray particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • If you see a spray of zinc oxide sunscreen, read thoroughly to check that it doesn’t have nanoparticles. If you already have a spray sunscreen, ensure that you don’t inhale it or spray it on your face.
  • As per a 2018 study (3), these nanoparticles are also harmful to the ecosystem. There’s also a 2016 study that talks about an ingredient, oxybenzone, in mineral sunscreens being harmful to the coral reefs. Hence, causing several beaches across the world to ban the use of sunscreens containing this ingredient. 
  • Presently, there’s still insufficient evidence to prove anything. However, various sunscreen brands still mention ‘reef safe’ on their labels. 

Summing Up

There are numerous benefits of using a zinc oxide sunscreen and some cons too. Whatever you choose, remember to apply the sunscreen generously on your skin and reapply every two hours. Use a hat, cap, umbrella or scarf for extra protection. If there’s any confusion or query regarding sunscreens, speak to a dermatologist who can suggest the ideal one for you.


  1. Are zinc oxide sunscreens better?

Zinc oxide sunscreens have their share of benefits, such as protection from UVA and UVB rays, are non-comedogenic and great for almost all skin types. However, choosing the right sunscreen depends on the skin type, condition, preference and other factors. For better clarity, it is best to talk to a dermatologist. 

2. Does zinc oxide make skin darker?

No, it will not make your skin darker.

3. How much SPF is suitable for daily use?

For everyday use, choose sunscreen with an SPF 30 at least. If your schedule requires you to stay outdoors for an extended period, choose sunscreen with higher SPF. No matter the SPF, keep in mind to reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours.



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Chaitali Nayak

A writer and a skincare fanatic, Chaitali believes that words and kindness can transform the world. She has a master’s degree in Advertising & Public Relations and has worked for various advertising agencies and digital marketing firms. With the help of expert dermatologists at CureSkin, she works towards creating content that helps eliminate misinformation related to skincare. The aim is to educate yet bring something exciting and new every time for the readers. When not busy writing, you can find her talking to her plants, eating, drawing or watching movies.