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Green Glossary

The best mineral sunscreens to protect your skin naturally

Go green with your daily sun protection

Discover our favourite chemical-free, reef-friendly and non-toxic SPFs for the safest ways to stay protected in the sun.

Incorporating an SPF into our daily skincare routine is an essential step in maintaining a youthful, healthy complexion. Broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays helps to prevent damage to our skin from burning and radiation. However, with awareness of the harmful effects that traditional, chemical sunscreens can have on our bodies and the planet, mineral sunscreens that use natural ingredients to shield skin from the sun’s rays provide an eco-friendly alternative. 

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and then releasing them as heat after a chemical reaction, while mineral sunscreens protect the skin by physically blocking and reflecting UV radiation to stop it from reaching the skin’s surface. While chemical sunscreens are formulated with a variety of active ingredients, including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate (many of which are hormone and endocrine disruptors), mineral sunscreens contain at most two ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. 

Both oxybenzone and octinoxate are rated highly for toxicity on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database. A recent study found that avobenzone, oxybenzone and octocrylene are absorbed into the bloodstream when applied to the skin and that further research is required to determine whether they are safe to use on the body. Worryingly, chemical sunscreens often include ingredients that act as penetration enhancers to give the product durability, which results in increased absorption of these chemicals into the body. Meanwhile, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are non-toxic, chemically inert ingredients that don’t penetrate the skin and are not absorbed into our systems.

There are also environmental concerns to consider when choosing an SPF. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are known to cause harm to coral reefs and are best avoided when swimming in the ocean. While some steps have been taken to eliminate these ingredients in sunscreen – Hawaii and the Pacific island nation of Palau have introduced bans on the use of “reef-toxic” sunscreen, including those which contain oxybenzone and octinoxate – they are still prevalent in many mainstream brands. Admittedly, there are questions surrounding the impact of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on coral reefs yet to be answered, but the non-nano versions are deemed to be reef-safe and therefore a much better option for wearing while in the water.

Read on to discover our favourite mineral sunscreens to add to your daily skincare routine.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF30

Drunk Elephant sheer physical daily defense sunscreen SPF30

This skincare-infused sunscreen from cult beauty brand Drunk Elephant protects skin from the sun’s harmful rays with zinc oxide, while antioxidant-rich sunflower shoot extract and grape juice promote a more youthful appearance, and marula and raspberry seed oils deliver a moisture boost. £29, available from spacenk.com

Omorovicza Mineral UV Shield SPF30 

Ormorovicza mineral UV shield SPF30

Omorovicza’s mineral SPF offers broad-spectrum protection with an effective blend of zinc and titanium dioxide, without blocking pores or causing irritation. Light-reflecting minerals blur imperfections and give a matte finish, making this a great option for under make-up. £75, available from net-a-porter.com

Soleil Toujours Mineral Sunscreen Glow SPF30

Soleil Toujours mineral sunscreen glow SPF 30

Boasting superior skin perfecting powers, this zinc oxide sunscreen delivers effective, stable protection against UV rays to guard against skin damage while the antioxidant ubiquinone assists cells in building collagen and elastin which, combined with the brand’s EcoSun Complex, decreases lines and loss of firmness for soft, smooth skin. £36, available from cultbeauty.co.uk

Aveda Daily Light Guard SPF 30

Aveda daily light guard SPF 30

While some mineral sunscreens can leave a white cast on the skin, even particle size and a special coating around the minerals ensure that this offering from Aveda blends seamlessly into the skin with a sheer application. A great choice for city dwellers, this sunscreen is packed with skin-friendly ingredients: organic kukui seed oil strengthens the skin barrier, creating powerful protection from pollutants, while an antioxidant blend of Ayurvedic rice bran, rosemary extract, organic ginger and vitamin E help to neutralise harmful free radicals. £34, available at johnlewis.com

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30

Ren Clean Screen mineral SPF 30

After six years of research, REN have launched a new, mattifying face sunscreen with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, blue light protection and non-nano technology. It’s vegan and made with naturally derived ingredients, promising an SPF that is both good for your skin and for the planet. Zinc oxide provides a barrier against sun damage, and won’t clog pores, cause allergies or irritate sensitive skin. Meanwhile, passion fruit extract protects against pollution and potential irritation flare-ups, and rice extract gives a mattifying finish to combat sun-induced shine and excess oil.  The recycled packaging ticks off another eco-friendly box. £30, available from renskincare.com

Brush on Block SPF 30

Brush on Block mineral powder sunscreen SPF 30

While applying a layer of sunscreen every morning is a great start, we should be topping up our SPF throughout the day to ensure that we maintain optimal protection from the sun’s rays. Of course, that’s easier said than done with cream formulas but this mineral powder sunscreen in a self-dispensing brush offers the solution. The titanium dioxide and zinc oxide blend can be applied over make-up, making it perfect to keep in your bag for on-the-go top-ups. £28, available from brushonblocksunscreen.co.uk

Main image: Fenty Beauty summer 2019 collection.

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