Beyond Protection: Mineral Sunscreens That Are Sensitive on Your Skin and the Environment

A picture of a woman in a swimsuit holding a bag with a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it.

Photo: Genevieve Caron

Mineral sunscreens have shed their reputation as the earnest but uncomfortable choice, with new lightweight formulas that rub in quickly and won’t leave you looking as pale as chalk. Good timing too, as Hawaii and Key West recently banned chemical sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect marine ecosystems and prevent coral reef bleaching (whether these ingredients cause bleaching is still a matter of scientific dispute).

Mineral sunscreens are a smart choice as we age because our skin becomes more sensitive. These physical sunscreens, which use zinc and titanium dioxide to block the sun’s rays, “are typically recommended for people with sensitive skin since they tend to induce less irritation,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Sonya Abdulla.

Beyond Protection Beauty

Swap out your foundation for sunscreen this summer and just add Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat High Cover Radiant Concealer, $52 (14 shades, from Vanilla to Ebony) under eyes, around your nostrils and wherever you need coverage.

A picture of the Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15.
Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15.

Loaded with moisturizers and antioxidant-rich polyphenols to protect delicate lips, Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15, $29, in “Punch” is the perfect shade for summer.

A picture of the Guerlain Terracotta bronzer.
Guerlain Terracotta bronzer.

Guerlain Terracotta bronzer, $64, is shimmer-free, so you’ll look naturally bronzed and not glittery, when in full sunlight. Apply with a large, fluffy brush along the perimeter of your face tracing the number “3” from the temples to under the cheekbones and along your jawline.

Sensitive Skin Saviour

For anyone irritated by chemical screens, Aveeno Sensitive Skin Face SPF 50, $16, with naturally sourced zinc oxide for broad spectrum and sweat-resistant UVA/UVB protection also contains soothing colloidal oatmeal (the same thing you bathed in if you had chicken pox as a child) to calm and protect easily irritated skin.

A picture of the Aveeno Sensitive Skin Face SPF 50.
Aveeno Sensitive Skin Face SPF 50

Immediate Sun Protection

“Mineral sunscreens tend to work on contact compared to their [chemical] counterparts, which require time to absorb,” says Abdulla.

Tinted Love

In addition to being more lightweight, “Mineral sunscreen formulas have evolved and [some] include tinting to more closely resemble one’s natural skin colour,” says Abdulla. New Vichy Idéal Soleil Ultra Fluid Tinted lotion SPF 60, $30, provides non-sticky and non-shiny broad spectrum protection with just enough transparent, universally wearable colour.

A picture of the Vichy Idéal Soleil Ultra Fluid Tinted Lotion SPF 60.
Vichy Idéal Soleil Ultra Fluid Tinted Lotion SPF 60

Hair Force

Containing nourishing coconut and babassu oil, bi-phase Kérastase Huile Sirène, $24, is a twofer that both protects hair from sun, wind and water and creates smooth, frizz-free beach waves.

A picture of the Kérastase Huile Sirène.
Kérastase Huile Sirène

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2019 issue with the headline, “…And Please Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen” p. 22-23.