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Zinc Oxide

goodie
What-it-does: sunscreen
Irritancy: 0
Comedogenicity: 1

Details

When it comes to sunscreen agents, Zinc Oxide is pretty much in a league of its own. It's a physical (or inorganic) sunscreen that has a lot in common with fellow inorganic sunscreen Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) but a couple of things make it superior even to TiO2.

If physical sunscreens don't tell you anything, go ahead and read about the basics here. Most of what we wrote about Titanium Dioxide is also true for Zinc Oxide so we will focus here on the differences. 

The first main difference is that while TiO2 gives a nice broad spectrum protection, Zinc Oxide has an even nicer and even broader spectrum protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II, and UVA I almost uniformly, and is considered to be the broadest range sunscreen available today

It's also highly stable and non-irritating. So much so that Zinc Oxide also counts as a skin protectant and anti-irritant. It's also often used to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash.

As for the disadvantages, Zinc Oxide is also not cosmetically elegant. It leaves a disturbing whitish tint on the skin, although, according to a 2000 research paper by Dr. Pinnell, it's slightly less white than TiO2. Still, it's white and disturbing enough to use Zinc Oxide nanoparticles more and more often. 

We wrote more about nanoparticles and the concerns around them here, but the gist is that if nanoparticles were absorbed into the skin that would be a reason for legitimate health concerns. But luckily, so far research shows that sunscreen nanoparticles are not absorbed but remain on the surface of the skin or in the uppermost (dead) layer of the skin. This seems to be true even if the skin is damaged, for example, sunburnt. 

All in all, if you've found a Zinc Oxide sunscreen that you are happy to use every single day, that's fantastic and we suggest you stick with it. It's definitely one of the best, or probably even the best option out there for sun protection available worldwide. 

Show me some proof

  • Pinnell, Sheldon R., et al. "Microfine zinc oxide is a superior sunscreen ingredient to microfine titanium dioxide." Dermatologic surgery 26.4 (2000): 309-314.
  • Newman, Marissa D., Mira Stotland, and Jeffrey I. Ellis. "The safety of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide–and zinc oxide–based sunscreens." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 61.4 (2009): 685-692.
  • Monteiro-Riviere, N. A., et al. "Safety evaluation of sunscreen formulations containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in UVB sunburned skin: an in vitro and in vivo study." Toxicological Sciences (2011): kfr148.
  • Cole, Curtis, Thomas Shyr, and Hao Ou‐Yang. "Metal oxide sunscreens protect skin by absorption, not by reflection or scattering." Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine 32.1 (2016): 5-10.
  • Smijs, Threes G., and Stanislav Pavel. "Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens: focus on their safety and effectiveness." Nanotechnol Sci Appl 4.1 (2011): 95-112.

Products with Zinc Oxide

Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Amavara Spf 30 Lotion With Earthwell Zinc Technology Attitude Baby Sunscreen Spf 30 - 100% Mineral - Fragrance Free Attitude Mineral Sunscreen Spf 30 Tropical Aveeno ® Baby Sunscreen Lotion With Zinc Oxide, Spf 50 Avene Mineral Fluid Spf 50 BIOSSANCE Squalane + Mineral Spf 45 Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen - Spf 50 Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion Spf 30 - Fragrance Free Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion Spf 30 - Summer Scent Badger Naturally Unscented Sunscreen With Zinc Oxide Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream Spf 35 Badger Tinted Sunscreen - Spf30 Unscented Cream Badger Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lotion, Unscented, Spf 25 Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Spray Vanilla-Coco Beauty Counter Protect All Over Sunscreen Spf 30 Beekman 1802 Triple Milk Primer Spf 35 Bioderma Photoderm Nude Touch Spf50+ Light Tint Blue Lizard Sensitive Spf 30+ Burt's Bees All-Weather Spf15 Moisturizing Lip Balm Calpharma Spf Rx Ultra-Clear Daily Skin Hydrator Spf 50 Cyberderm Every Morning Sun Whip Spf 25 Cyberderm Simply Zinc Ultra Sun Whip Spf 50 DCL Antioxidant Mineral Sunscreen Spf 30 DCL Super Sheer Sunscreen Spf 50 Derma E Natural Mineral Sunscreen Spf 30 Derma Revive Sunscreen Moisturiser Dr Dennis Gross Sheer Mineral Sun Spray Broad Spectrum Spf 50+ Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defence Spf 30 Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Spf 30 EltaMD Uv Clear Broad-Spectrum Spf 46 EltaMD Uv Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum Spf 46 EltaMD Uv Daily Broad-Spectrum Spf 40 EltaMD Uv Elements Broad-Spectrum Spf 44 EltaMD Uv Physical Spf 41 EltaMD Uv Pure Broad-Sprectrum Sunscreen Spf 47 Equate Baby Zinc Sunscreen Mineral Lotion, Broad Spectrum, Spf 50 HAMPTON SUN Age-Defying SPF 50 Mineral Crème Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen Spf 50+ Insta Natural Vitamin C Moisturizer Spf 30 Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Spf 47 Juice Beauty Spf 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturiser Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Cc Cream Kanebo Allie Extra Uv Gel Spf50+ LASPA Naturals Daily Sun Protection Mineral Sunscreen Spf 20 LASPA Naturals Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen Spf 30 Mad Hippie Facial Spf MyChelle Sun Shield Clear Spray Spf 30 MyChelle Sun Shield Liquid Tint Spf 50 - Nude