- How Does Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Work?
- Pros and Cons of Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Faces
- Find a Safe Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Your Face That Really Works
- 1. Look for Zinc Oxide Only in the Active Ingredients
- 2. Ignore Salesy Bullet Points That Don't Mean Anything on Your Sunscreen
- 3. Look at Other Ingredients and Preservatives in Your Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- 4. Decide If You Need Tinted Mineral Sunscreen or Foundation With SPF
- 5. Ignore Big Magazine Reviews of Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- 6. Don't Worry about Reapplying Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- 7. Skip the Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Powders and Sprays
- FAQs About Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- Bottom Line: Follow These Steps to Find the Best Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Your Face
I’ll never forget the first time my husband attempted to use tinted mineral sunscreen for his face.
We were in Costa Rica, and he walked out of the bathroom – where perhaps the fluorescent lights made everything look a little paler – and I couldn’t stop laughing at his brown face floating ethereally above his ghostly white chest.
He really had everything working against him. His skin tone is extremely light, a cross between Irish and French Canadian. We live in Michigan and had just endured six months of gray, cloudy winter, so we were all as pale as pale could be.
Besides all that working against him, he had applied the Raw Elements tinted zinc oxide sunscreen quite thick because he was afraid of getting burned by the tropical sun.
Getting a tinted mineral sunscreen right has to take into account so many factors. Ideally, there are skin tone variations and ingredients that work for sensitive skin. Many people may want their facial sunscreen to be water-resistant, either for swimming or sweat; and from a health point of view, you want to make sure antioxidants are included, and of course that the sun protection is broad spectrum.
That’s a tall order!
Luckily, our family has personally tested over 120 mineral sunscreens, including quite a few that are tinted. We know what works, and we can give you the best recommendations.
However, I haven’t dug into the expensive, high-end tinted mineral foundations. So I thought it would be most helpful for me to walk you through how you can make a good decision for yourself, even outside of those that I will recommend at the end of the post.
How Does Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Work?
As I’ve shared in other posts about how zinc oxide mineral sunscreen works, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the two active ingredients approved by the FDA that fall under the category of “mineral sunscreen.”
Both of them work very differently than the petrochemical sunscreen active ingredients, which all protect from the burning and cancer-causing rays of the sun via a chemical reaction (with all the negative health effects that then occur).
Minerals are different because rather than being absorbed into the skin, they sit on the surface. Some describe it as a mirror or scatter effect, in some ways physically blocking the sun from getting onto or into your skin.
I won’t go too deeply into the mechanisms here because you can read all about that science geek information in other posts. However, what’s important to understand is that zinc oxide – a white powder – is fully UVA and UVB broad-spectrum protective all by itself. It doesn’t need any help from other ingredients.
Because it’s a white powder, though, it does need some help for the “tinted” part of tinted mineral sunscreen.
Titanium dioxide is also a white powder, although in general titanium dioxide-based mineral sunscreens go on with less of a whitish-purple cast to the skin. It is not as effective as a UVA and UVB broad-spectrum filter as zinc oxide is.
Most tinted mineral sunscreens tend to use iron oxides or even mica to help cover up the white cast that zinc oxide generally causes.
If you are a woman who already uses a foundation with spf as part of your daily or occasional makeup routine, you may see some similar ingredients creating the tint in that product as well.
Pros and Cons of Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Faces
In my opinion, for an adult – especially an adult female – a tinted mineral sunscreen for the face is a must.
Out of all 120+ sunscreens we’ve tested, there are very few that go on perfectly clear. I don’t really mind that on my shoulders or legs, but when it comes to the face, I don’t really want to look like Casper the Friendly Ghost or an alabaster statue.
Therefore I definitely tend toward the tinted sunscreens, especially if I’m going to be out with people rather than just at the beach with the fam.
So that’s really the one big advantage: your face will look more like your normal self.
There are some unfortunate disadvantages that we should talk about:
- mess on the clothes
- not appropriate for kids
- often don’t come in shades for a variety of skin tones
- very shiny, still need powder
Let’s unpack that. First, from one parent to another, I would recommend never allowing your kids to use your tinted mineral sunscreen.
Zinc oxide sunscreens can already cause some laundry problems when it comes to dark or bright colors. Tinted mineral sunscreen makes a mess on everything in the rainbow. You can get some pretty serious stains on white shirts or bathing suits.
So when it comes to kids, for me it’s just not worth it. They don’t need to look like they’re wearing stage makeup as my husband did.
Even for adults, I would only recommend using a tinted mineral sunscreen on your face. Simply because anything you rub against may transfer the color and cause a stain. It’s a lot easier to apply regular zinc oxide based sunscreens to the rest of your body and just use your tinted stuff on your face.
It’s unfortunate that most of the standard sunscreens don’t come in various shades for different skin tones. That’s where you may want to spend a little more on a special foundation with SPF or a daily moisturizer. You can see all of my recommendations for the best natural facial moisturizing sunscreens here. Note that they aren’t all tinted, however.
One thing I’ve always loved about the Kabana brand is that they offer quite a nice variety of shades including bronze, peach, nude, and neutral. So chances are you can find one that fits your own skin tone.
Finally, be warned that I’ve never met a tinted mineral sunscreen or foundation with SPF that doesn’t make your face incredibly shiny. Just like using foundation as part of your makeup routine, you’re going to need to plan to put a powder over top of the sunscreen if you don’t want to be too shiny.
That’s no big deal if you’re wearing the tinted sunscreen as part of your makeup routine anyway and just going out and about, but it may be something that you wouldn’t normally think of when going to the pool or the beach.
Now that you are hopefully convinced that you need both a mineral sunscreen and a tinted version for your face, see my list of recommendations below.
Or keep reading to learn about how you can evaluate what’s on the market as you shop on your own.
Find a Safe Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Your Face That Really Works
Here’s a list of some of my favorite tinted mineral sunscreens.
- Earth Mama Lady Face Sunscreen Stick – This great stick glides on nicely and rubs in very well. It comes in two colors – light/medium and medium/dark.
- Raw Elements Tinted Face Moisturizer – To get your SPF and moisturizing qualities evenly applied, this cream is second to none. The shade of the tint may be a bit dark for fair-skinned people, but it does a decent job on many skin tone.
- Kabana Green Screen Tinted Sunscreen – Comes in neutral, bronze, nude, and peach tones – the highest number of tones I’ve seen. Plus the ingredients are so safe you could eat them!
- Juice Beauty Tinted Mineral Moisturizer – This BB cream is one that falls one the more makeup than sunscreen end. The ingredients are fantastic, it smells crisp and clean, goes on smoothly, and it lasts a long time in the tube.
- Avasol Surfer’s Barrier Stick – Comes in two SPFs and four shades, plus great cardboard packaging. Avasol tinted sticks rub in very nicely, although keep in mind that because it is a stick it starts out much thicker than what you’re used to in a cream.
- Beauty by Earth Tinted Facial Sunscreen – I haven’t tried the tinted versions of this sunscreen, but I do love their regular sunscreen so I trust this one is great as well. It comes in several shades.
If you’re still looking for more options, here are 7 things to consider as you look for a tinted mineral sunscreen for your face.
1. Look for Zinc Oxide Only in the Active Ingredients
Whether you’re choosing mineral sunscreen because you have sensitive skin and have possibly reacted to the petrochemical active ingredients in conventional sunscreen, or if you know you want to put natural substances on your body because your skin is your largest organ, there are still some questions to answer about which mineral active ingredient is the best.
For years, I’ve been convinced that zinc oxide is the only ingredient you need to bother with. I have yet to find any information that convinces me titanium dioxide needs to be involved.
As a reminder, zinc oxide is fully broad spectrum all by itself, with balanced protection against both UVA and UVB rays. That means you’ll stave off wrinkles (aging from the UVA rays) as well as avoid those sunburns that don’t look so awesome on your face from the UVB rays.
Zinc oxide is a much better protector against skin cancer than the conventional petrochemical sunscreen actives, since some of those may actually cause cancer. When it comes to adding in titanium dioxide – or even some tinted mineral sunscreens that include only titanium dioxide – I just don’t see the point.
Zinc oxide is proven time and time again to be incredibly safe, and it doesn’t even absorb into your skin. In fact, it’s one of those few ingredients that the FDA has approved for infants under the age of six months. Yes, that’s right. It’s the same thing that’s in the diaper cream you may have used when your babies were little.
Titanium dioxide is a mineral, but there’s some question about whether it can cause heavy metal toxicity. Plus, it’s just not even as effective, so why bother?
When I look at some of the most popular tinted mineral sunscreens I just have to roll my eyes. For example, La Roche-Posay Antheloios tinted mineral sunscreen rings in at just 11% titanium dioxide and no zinc oxide at all. In my experience, I can’t imagine that provides much protection.
Ulta Beauty is even worse, at an absolutely abysmal 3% zinc oxide and 3% titanium dioxide. This is a very low SPF, and I wouldn’t trust it for a day at an amusement park or out swimming. One of the reasons to choose a tinted mineral sunscreen is to cover up the white cast from the zinc, and at those percentages, you wouldn’t even have a problem without the tinted part.
2. Ignore Salesy Bullet Points That Don’t Mean Anything on Your Sunscreen
When I look at big brands of tinted mineral sunscreen, my eye-rolling muscles are getting a workout once again. Here are some of the phrases plastered all over the front of bottles and tubes and boxes that basically mean nothing:
- dermatologist tested
Why do I think those mean nothing?
First, avoiding oxybenzone is awesome and really important, because it’s the most evidence-based culprit among all the petrochemical active ingredients in sunscreen. However, it’s too easy for a brand to simply omit the oxybenzone and leave in all the rest of the junk. Unless it says “mineral only,” don’t bother.
“Dermatologist tested” doesn’t mean much to me, because when I choose a sunscreen, it’s generally made up of ingredients I could literally eat. My dermatologist doesn’t need to tell me it’s safe for my skin.
If “oil-free” is important to you, then by all means look for something without oils. For me, I love getting some natural moisturizing qualities if I’m going to put something on my face, so why not use a non-comedogenic oil that can moisturize as well as protect me from the sun? That’s why I have another entire post on daily facial moisturizers with SPF.
And finally, I hope you know by now that the word “natural” has been stripped of all meaning by marketing companies and brands. Just flip over the bottle and look at the active ingredients for zinc oxide and call it a day.
If you want to truly find something natural, train yourself to avoid things like parabens, fragrance, and some other key ingredients. But don’t let the greenwashed marketing convince you.
3. Look at Other Ingredients and Preservatives in Your Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
If you’re going to be putting something on your face every day, that’s a pretty high exposure point. Your skin absorbs everything you put on it, and most particles that are small enough (zinc oxide excluded) will get into your bloodstream. This is a health risk.
It’s important to study not only the active ingredients (remember just look for zinc oxide, easy peasy!) but to take a quick look at the other ingredients. Here are some that always jump out at me:
- the word “fragrance”
- anything ending with -paraben (e.g. methylparaben, propylparaben, etc.)
- preservatives like methylisothiazolinone and phenoxyethanol
The short explanation of those is that parabens are endocrine disruptors, and definitely on my top list of ingredients to avoid. You can read more about the dangers of parabens here.
The word “fragrance” is a sneaky label behind which over 2000 different chemicals can hide. Some of them are benign, but some are not. Any company that really cares about either being “natural” or “safe” should know better and disclose what they are using as a fragrance instead of choosing that sneaky greenwashed term.
And finally, if your sunscreen needs a preservative that means already that it has a pretty high water content. So you’re probably paying more than you should. Plus a lot of preservatives have their own health risks. Since there are so many better options out there, I just don’t bother.
I would rather have something made from non-comedogenic moisturizing oils that come from plants and a mineral, like zinc oxide, neither of which would need preservatives at all.
4. Decide If You Need Tinted Mineral Sunscreen or Foundation With SPF
I think this is an important distinction because you want to make your decision on what you put on your face based on your primary intention.
If you are seeking out a sunscreen first, something that you’ll use when you’re in the sun but possibly not every day, then your primary concerns would be correct SPF, how long it will stay on, is it water-resistant – and then move on to whether it will treat your skin well and look just perfect.
If you are looking for a foundation with SPF in it because you want to wear it every day as makeup with a side benefit of sun protection, then you may want to start with some of the higher-end brands that will have a little bit lighter coverage, something with various skin tones so it looks just right, a price that you can afford for daily use – and then consider what kind of SPF you’re looking for.
For example, a popular option by Naturopathica is going to run you close to $70 for a bottle. That stuff better be amazing, practically liquid gold.
Another tinted mineral sun option that many people ask me about is EltaMD. It may be a great company and the product might behave well; but I’m not impressed, because although oxybenzone free, it still includes at least one other chemical active that has been proven to harm coral reefs (octinoxate).
I just don’t see the point in putting that on my skin and taking my own health risks, nor letting it wash off into the water system.
Always remember when checking price points to do the math and figure out the cost per ounce, because there’s a wide variance in how big your bottle or tube will be.
5. Ignore Big Magazine Reviews of Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
My poor eyes, they just keep a-rollin’. Every time I see a big magazine or website “review” a bunch of sunscreens, I just have to laugh. I can tell by reading their review that they’ve never actually touched the product.
Their marketing strategies are to wave around experts who emailed in some quotes and take a quick peek at the ingredients and maybe customer reviews and go from there. By and large, they’re not going to be very helpful.
For example, Healthline.com’s review keeps quoting a dermatologist and every “review” is only about the ingredients. I’ve already taught you how to determine whether those are any good, so you don’t need to read that one.
At Prevention.com, I can tell that they made a request for quotes from dermatologists about sunscreens. This makes their article look like it’s written by experts or at least consulted with experts just because the dermatologists have some letters after their name. However, that doesn’t mean these dermatologists have actually touched the product or know if it goes on well, provides any coverage like a foundation, or works against the sun.
I was intrigued by this InStyle review because at the top they claim the products are “independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team.” However, upon a close reading, I don’t see a single opinion on application, texture, longevity, or anything that indicates actual testing on a human being. Is it possible that the editorial team reviewed other sites that talked about the sunscreens or just read their ingredients and the sunscreen’s own highly marketed sales pages? Yep, it’s possible.
That’s why you come to a real person like me, who has actually tested and is willing to teach you how to evaluate your own.
6. Don’t Worry about Reapplying Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
We all know the recommendations that we’ve heard since childhood: reapply sunscreen every two hours.
That’s what we’ve been taught, and it’s very good advice when it comes to petrochemical sunscreen. That’s because those sunscreen active ingredients seep into the skin and after about two hours in the sun, they are played out when it comes to their chemical reaction.
Not only are they no longer effective to protect you from aging, burning, or cancer from the sun but they will begin releasing free radicals directly into your skin. And yes, those are cancer-causing. So always reapply anything with petrochemical active ingredients like octinoxate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, and more.
However, when it comes to mineral sunscreen, this information is unnecessary. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are minerals, which means they aren’t breaking down in a chemical reaction with the sun.
They will sit on your skin until you rub them off. We’ve even seen zinc oxide based sunscreens continue to be effective at sunburn after an entire day and night of swimming and sleeping.
Now if you towel off and can see that you’ve rubbed your tinted mineral sunscreen off your face, obviously you should reapply. However, if you’re just walking around outside and not swimming, it’s a huge pain to reapply your tinted mineral sunscreen. That’s basically like putting your makeup on all over again every two hours.
So the adage to reapply your sunscreen every two hours is misapplied when it comes to mineral sunscreen and tinted in particular.
7. Skip the Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Powders and Sprays
There are some really intriguing powders that include tints and zinc oxide. We tested one called Brush On Block, and I have to say it was an absolute disaster. It got powder everywhere, all over my counter, my clothes, and into the air.
That’s where the health hazard is really evident. Zinc oxide is incredibly safe until you breathe in the powder.
No one should be breathing in zinc oxide; so anytime it’s delivered to you in a powder, it’s not something you want to be brushing around, especially on your face. So it’s just not worth it to include the SPF in the powder itself.
I also wouldn’t trust anything that sprays for the exact same reason. Plus spraying something tinted around is going to make an absolute mess of your laundry. Not worth it!
Too much to look through right now?
I organized alllll the sunscreens we reviewed in their recommendation category – one page at-a-glance to find out what is safe to buy AND works! Print it or save to your phone for reference!
The guide also includes answers to questions people ask me all the time:
- Which brand rubs in the clearest?
- What’s the best for all day outdoor sports?
- How do I save money on natural sunscreens?
- What looks good on ladies’ faces?
- Is there an option that is FAST to apply to wiggly kids?
I’ll send a copy to your email so you can see it right away and find it again later!
FAQs About Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
Are there water-resistant tinted mineral sunscreens?
Most of these are generally going to be a little bit thicker and heavier because they’ll include beeswax or a similar ingredient – so they might not be perfect for daily light use but are great if you’re going to be sweating a lot or swimming.
Are tinted mineral sunscreens good for sensitive skin?
You bet! I’ve lost count of people in the KS community who come to me because they’ve had a reaction to some of the petrochemical active ingredients. Hardly anyone reacts to zinc oxide – and if they do, there are some purely titanium dioxide options. Plus, when you find brands that make a good tinted mineral sunscreen, their other ingredients are incredibly safe and gentle as well.
Can I find a fragrance-free tinted mineral sunscreen?
Yes. None of my top contenders, however, claim to be “unscented.” That’s mostly because you can smell the natural products they’re made with – ones like cocoa butter or essential oils. As I mentioned above, you won’t find anything with artificial “fragrance” here.
Are there tinted mineral sunscreens for light and dark skin tones?
This is a harder one. As I said above, you’re probably going to need to spend a little bit more and find a nice makeup-based tinted foundation with SPF. The only three brands I know of that have at least two shades are Kabana, Earth Mama Lady Face, and Avasol. The last two are sticks so they go on very thick, but Kabana would be acceptable for daily use.
Can tinted mineral sunscreens include antioxidants and be broad-spectrum?
Absolutely. I always give +1 to sunscreens that I review if they include antioxidants. If you’re going to be exposed to the sun and get your awesome vitamin D, there will be some oxidation of your cells, and antioxidants in your sunscreen are just a great way to protect against skin damage in general. And of course, zinc oxide by itself is fully broad-spectrum, protecting from the full range of UVA and UVB light in a very balanced way.
Bottom Line: Follow These Steps to Find the Best Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Your Face
Remember, if you are evaluating brands that I haven’t encountered yet or included in this post, follow these simple steps:
- Focus on the active ingredients: zinc oxide only
- Check the other ingredients. Avoid fragrance, preservatives, and parabens
- Ignore any greenwashed marketing on the packaging
- Ignore all the big magazine reviews
- Skip the powders and sprays
And of course watch your budget, particularly depending on whether you are choosing a makeup first with SPF or a sunscreen that can even out your skin tone a little bit.
We love our tinted mineral sunscreen, and I highly recommend that you don’t let your kids get into your stash!
If you have a favorite clean tinted mineral sunscreen share it below!
Learn more about non-toxic sunscreen and sun safety:
Over 100 Mineral Sunscreens Tested by One Family!
(Especially in the Pool)
Best Choices Here!
with a frightening video!
How Much do You Need?
(VIDEO Interview with a lawyer and safe sunscreen advocate)