Mineral sunscreens have historically had quite a bad reputation for being thick, greasy and leaving a white cast (not exactly selling points when choosing an SPF!). However, thanks to advancements in formulations, there are many more wearable options to choose from now – including ones that work on different skin tones as well as skin types. 

Whilst chemical (aka organic) sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and releasing them as heat, mineral sunscreen (aka physical or inorganic) work by scattering and reflecting the UV light in addition to absorbing it – the active ingredients that do this being zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Increasingly popular amongst those with sensitive skin (as they are generally less likely to cause a reaction than their chemical counterparts) and those seeking cleaner beauty products, mineral sunscreens are also seen as the more environmentally friendly option too. Oxybenzone and octinoxate in some chemical sunscreens have been found to be most problematic for coral bleaching (though many brands have been quietly removing these ingredients from their formulas as a result of these findings). Taking it one step further, some places like Hawaii have completely banned these chemicals in sunscreens altogether in a bid to protect their reefs and retailer Holland & Barrett just this year decided to stop selling chemical sunscreens in favour of mineral ones. Here are our top picks if you are interested in making the switch…

Summer Fridays Shade Drops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen

We love this recent launch from SoCal-based brand, Summer Fridays, which feels more like a serum than SPF thanks to the inclusion of skincare-focused ingredients like squalane. A dream to apply, lightweight and not in the slightest bit sticky or whitening (in fact, this is our top pick for looking natural on the widest range of skin tones). It helps that the packaging is the chicest we’ve found too. £35 for 50ml

PATYKA SPF30 Face Sunscreen

Lightweight and glides on effortlessly, natural French brand PATYKA’s certified organic sunscreen (organic in the sense that it’s made using organic ingredients, not SPF terminology!) is not at all greasy or sticky. The pump makes application super easy and it’s the perfect size to keep in your handbag for easy re-application. The subtle scent also reminds us the most of that nostalgic sunscreen smell. They also offer SPF50 in addition to spray-on body versions too. €32.90 for 40ml 

Pai British Summer Time SPF30

Another certified organic option, it took Pai seven years to release their much-anticipated mineral SPF in 2019 as they wanted the formulation to be perfect – and we think it is! An excellent under-make-up sunscreen which is slightly mattifying but in no way drying. The inclusion of cotton extract provides vitamin E, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to further help protect skin. From £29 for 40ml

Green People Scent Free Facial Sun Cream SPF30

Ahead of the game, Green People have been selling their mineral sunscreen for 20 years this year! Great for those with particularly sensitive skin (including skin conditions like eczema), we also love their easy-to-use packaging – perfect for packing on holiday as no spills! It’s also packed full of antioxidants such as edelweiss, rosemary and green tea. Both face and body versions are available. £24.50 for 50ml

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30

Whilst initially feeling quite thick on application, the REN Clean Screen soon rubs in to form a mattifying layer of sun protection. Yellow passion fruit seed extract provides antioxidants to protect from pollution and free radicals and the addition of rice starch makes it the perfect choice for oilier skin types, helping to control shine and minimise the appearance of pores. £33 for 50ml

Organic Pharmacy Cellular Protection Sunscreen SPF 50

Designed to be used on both face and body, Organic Pharmacy’s sunscreen is perfect for minimal holiday packing. The formula feels completely weightless on the skin after application and provides a great base for make-up. Calming ingredients like aloe vera, rosehip and calendula also offer antioxidant protection. £39.95 for 100ml

Grown Alchemist Natural Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 30

Launched in 2021, Grown Alchemist’s offering feels much more hydrating than most mineral sunscreens thanks to the inclusion of the tri-hyaluron complex (different-sized particles of hyaluronic acid). It took us a few goes to perfect the optimal amount to apply but once we did, we loved the dewy glow it gave without wearing make-up. If you prefer a more matte finish, they recommend adding their Anti-Pollution Primer on top. £33 for 50ml

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Daily Defence SPF30

There’s a reason why Drunk Elephant’s sunscreen is multi-award-winning. Including antioxidants like astaxanthin, grape juice, sunflower shoot extract and moisturising raspberry seed and marula oils, it leaves skin with a subtle glow without being greasy. In addition to Umbra Sheer, they also offer a universal tinted version called Umbra Tinte which is a good option if you struggle with mineral sunscreens being too whitening. £29 for 90ml

Naked Sundays Collagen Glow 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+

Another of the more dewy offerings comes from Australian brand Naked Sundays. It looks tinted but goes on almost completely sheer – we love how glowy we look wearing it. We’re happy applying with our fingers but they recommend using their SPF BFF Brush for the most seamless application. £34 for 50ml

Ultra Violette Lean Screen SPF 50+ Mattifying Zinc SKINSCREEN

In their own words their “most requested skinscreen ever”, cult SPF brand Ultra Violette’s mineral offering also initially looks like it will be tinted but once applied is almost undetectable. The inclusion of vitamin c-rich Kakadu plum provides a dose of hydration and antioxidants too! £34 for 50ml

Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30

A mineral alternative to their bestselling Unseen Sunscreen, Mineral Sheerscreen is lightweight, easy to apply and incredibly sheer once applied. It can also be used alongside their (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF30, a translucent powder that makes reapplying throughout the day easy, even on top of make-up. £34 for 45ml

words by Frances Phillips