Sun 101 |

The Mineral Sunscreen Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Mineral SPF

mineral sunscreen

Mineral sunscreen is having a big moment right now. And among all the buzz, you may be asking yourself questions like, what exactly does non-nano mean? Or how does mineral sunscreen actually work?

While mineral sunscreen is definitely a great option, there are a lot of facts about mineral SPF that have gotten lost in the noise. We’re here to break it all down and to lay out the truth about mineral sunscreens — from how they really work to how there really isn’t such a thing as an “invisible” one. 

We’ll also introduce our newest 100% mineral does-it-all complete care cream: CC Screen SPF 50, as well as our other beloved 100% mineral offerings. And don’t forget about our clean chemical options (we’ll go over those, too!), which are just as great. 

Let’s dive in!

What is mineral sunscreen?

A completely mineral sunscreen means that it only uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as its sunscreen actives. It’s important to note that in order for a sunscreen to be 100% mineral, it must only use these sunscreen actives (or just zinc oxide), and nothing else. A lot of sunscreens on the market claim they are mineral, but if you look closely, there are some chemical actives sprinkled in the ingredient list. Rest assured, you won’t find any of that tricky business in our SPFs – when we say 100% mineral, we mean it.

So how does a mineral sunscreen work to protect you from UV rays? Surprisingly, not so differently than a chemical sunscreen. Both mineral and chemical sunscreens primarily protect skin by absorbing UV rays into the skin and then turning them into heat; the only difference is that chemical SPF absorbs 100% of UV rays, while mineral sunscreen absorbs ~95% of rays and reflects back ~5% of UV rays.

It’s also a common misconception that mineral sunscreens are made “naturally.” When it comes to sunscreen, here’s the truth: all SPF – including 100% mineral SPF – is produced synthetically in a lab. This is to ensure that the materials don’t contain any impurities or traces of hazardous materials…and that the formulation lives up to its protection claims.

You may have heard rumblings about something called “non-nano zinc oxide” in a mineral formula…this means that the zinc oxide particles in a formula are larger than 100 nanometers – so they will safely sit on top of your skin without seeping in. While there is no research stating that nano zinc oxide particles get absorbed into your bloodstream, we always, always, always err on the side of caution and have included non-nano zinc oxide in our mineral products that have been designed for the most sensitive of skin (like your eyes, or babies’ and kiddos’ skin).

How do I know if my sunscreen is 100% mineral?

Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug, so sunscreen actives are always listed on a sunscreen package under the “Drug Facts.” To find them, look for what’s listed under “Active Ingredients.” To ensure that your sunscreen is 100% mineral, it should list either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or a combo of both… nothing else!

You can always turn your box or tube over to see the active ingredients that are providing UV protection. On all our products, you’ll always see “100% mineral” written clearly on the front of our mineral options.

Why would I want mineral sunscreen?

There’s no hard and fast rules for using mineral sunscreens. It really just depends on your preference and whether or not you have skin that reacts better to mineral sunscreen. If you have super sensitive skin or acne-prone skin, mineral formulas will probably be the way to go. This is because zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have a lower risk for causing irritation or any sort of reaction. Also, zinc oxide has some anti-inflammatory properties (which is why zinc is used in diaper rash creams) that help provide a soothing effect for acne or blemishes.

Mostly though, it just depends on what you like to wear. You may like wearing mineral sunscreen because it just feels better and works better with your other products. Or you may like wearing one layer of chemical sunscreen and then another layer of mineral (more on that later!). The point is, one type of sunscreen isn’t considered “better than” another. The best type of sunscreen is the one you like to put on every single day.

BTW, there’s no such thing as an invisible mineral sunscreen…

By nature, mineral actives — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — are white powders, making them impossible to go on clear. This is why you often see white casts or ghostly hues left behind from mineral sunscreens, especially on darker skin tones. The truth of the matter is that if a sunscreen is really and truly 100% mineral, it will never be invisible on your skin, no matter what color it is.

Another thing to know: If you’re using a mineral product that is labeled “invisible zinc,” then chances are strong it’s actually a hybrid formula that uses both chemical and mineral actives, or it’s just misleading marketing speak for something along the lines of “lightweight.”

Important side note: If your mineral product is coming out clear, then that means that the actives have separated and you should shake it well and try again. Or, quite frankly, you should probably just throw the entire thing away since this is often a sign that the SPF hasn’t been formulated properly or that you got a bad batch.

Our Mineral Blend Technology

There are (quite magical) ways to help mask the white powders of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, allowing 100% mineral formulas to work on a wider variety of skin tones. In our mineral sunscreens designed for daily use, we’ve incorporated a Mineral Blend Technology that helps the mineral particles blend more easily onto your skin, minimizing that pesky white cast. The Mineral Blend Technology allows those little white zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particles to smooth out and blend in much better–and it also provides skin-benefitting effects (more on that below).

In Zincscreen and Bright-Eyed, the Mineral Blend Technology works to help brighten skin, while the Mineral Blend Technology in Mattescreen helps mattify skin. In our newest daily face SPF, CC Screen SPF 50, the Mineral Blend Technology works to color correct and blend into your natural skin tone.

CC Screen SPF 50

Our newest 100% mineral formula is a revamp of our fan favorite CC Cream. CC Screen SPF 50 is a groundbreaking formula for complete care for your skin: it protects from UV rays, evens out skin and conceals imperfections. It comes in 15 shades and is packed with skin-nourishing and protecting ingredients.

Our CC Screens are comprised of 100% mineral SPF actives, but each shade has been carefully tinted with super flexible pigments that allows it to work on a wider range of skin tones, while still helping to instantly improve the appearance of your skin. CC Screen currently comes in 15 flexible shades, and we’re already in the process of adding more.

What is it?
A lightweight “complete care” cream that offers treatment, coverage and protection. One layer provides you with instant luminosity. Add one or two more, and you’ll get beautiful, buildable coverage, too.

How does it protect and treat?

  • 100% mineral, non-nano zinc oxide & titanium dioxide: Protects skin from UVA/UVB rays with broad spectrum SPF 50 
  • Apple extract: Helps skin appear smoother and delivers instant luminosity 
  • Irish Moss Extract: Helps protect against free radicals

How do you wear it?
Apply CC Screen after your moisturizer or primer. You can apply it with your fingers, or with a sponge or brush for more coverage.

What makes it super?
CC Screen is a new and improved formula, with higher 100% mineral SPF 50 UV protection and 15 flexible shades to suit a variety of skin tones.

As the Experts in SPF, we can’t stop and won’t stop innovating until we protect every person on the planet (and we mean it!) even more people. We spent years tweaking and improving our new CC Screen SPF 50 to include 15 flexible shades, without making sacrifices on a super clean, 100% mineral, non-nano zinc oxide formula, and we’d like to give you a little insight on why we couldn’t expand the shade range even further right now.

So without further ado… here’s a chemistry lesson. 

Brands that create tinted 100% mineral CC creams usually don’t have high SPF numbers (another no-no, but more on that later), which means they have more “room” in the formula to add additional pigments. Since we want to provide your skin with adequate protection in the form of a higher SPF number, plus add skin-nourishing ingredients, there isn’t as much wiggle room for us to add the amount of pigmentation needed for deep skin.

We’ll go through that for you again: higher SPF numbers take up more “space” in the formula, leaving very little room for the amount of pigmentation that’s needed for deep tones. And we currently haven’t figured out a workaround. BUT, we know this isn’t the end of the story, and we’re committed to iterating until we find a way to make it happen. And where there’s a will, there’s always a way, so we welcome you on this journey with us!

Other 100% mineral formulas…

So what about chemical sunscreen? When would you use that?

Now that you know all about mineral sunscreens, you may still be drawn to some chemical formulas. And that’s totally awesome! Our clean chemical formulas are really good for certain things that 100% mineral formulas can’t provide. For starters, if you have very deep skin and you’re looking for something that won’t leave a white cast, you’ll probably need a clean chemical formula, like our #1 best-seller, Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, or our hydrating moisturizer, Superscreen SPF 40. The same goes for active moments when you’re sweating… chemical formulas are just more breathable than mineral ones (which can prevent your body from sweating naturally, especially when exercising).

To help you understand the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen, and when to use each, refer to this chart:

What about reef-safe? Are mineral sunscreens the only reef-safe option?

When it comes to being reef-safe, it’s generally understood that mineral formulas are more safe than chemical formulas, but there hasn’t been extensive research done about the effects of mineral formulas on the coral reefs. Since there is currently no industry-wide or global standard for what constitutes as “reef-safe,” we currently follow Hawaii’s regulation as our standard, which states that oxybenzone and octinoxate are potentially harmful. Therefore, none of our clean chemical formulas contain these ingredients.

OK, so can I mix mineral and chemical sunscreen?

When you’re building your SPF wardrobe you may find yourself gravitating towards both Unseen (100% clean chemical) and CC Screen (100% mineral), and wondering if it’s safe to use both of them. Short answer: yes! Long answer: It’s completely fine, but just make sure you follow some protocols when you mix chemical and mineral formulas. First, if you’re layering Supergoop! formulas, you won’t have to worry about diminishing the effectiveness of either formula because we coat our mineral actives with silicones or oils, which reduces their reactivity so the chances of the mineral formula rendering the chemical formula ineffective is very low.

Second, you’re better off applying a chemical formula first and then layering a mineral formula on after, because mineral formulas are technically powders and are more likely to move on the skin, which can then disrupt your first layer of sunscreen. Which brings us to our next point: When you layer your sunscreens, make sure you wait for your first layer to dry (it takes about a minute) before applying your second layer. This will make sure you’re getting full protection!

Some of our favorite Supergoop! SPF wardrobes are:
Unseen + CC Screen + Powder
Unseen + CC Screen + Defense Refresh
Superscreen + CC Screen + Defense Refresh
Zincscreen + CC Screen + Powder
Zincscreen + Mattescreen + CC Screen
Superscreen + Glowscreen + CC Screen

Ready to find your dream sunscreen? Head over to our bestsellers to get started!

Let’s wrap this up…

We hope you found this guide to everything mineral sunscreen super helpful and we hope it cleared up some confusion about what it all means for your skin. Our bottom line as a company is that we are teachers and students — we’re always learning from you and we’re always trying to teach you what you should know about protecting your skin, all while filtering out the fluff.

The truth of the matter is, when it comes to Supergoop!, there is no “right” or “wrong” sunscreen option; the best sunscreen you can wear is the one you love to put on every single day.

+What are your thoughts on mineral sunscreen? Leave them below in the comments!