At the start of this summer I decided to end a month-long sunscreen hiatus. Oh don’t look at me that way, I had my reasons. Months of testing every beauty product that passed through the ITG beauty closet had finally taken its toll. My skin had turned into a bratty toddler: sensitive, prone to irrational flare-ups, and in desperate need of halp from mum! So I went on a skincare elimination diet to course correct. I stopped using acids, antioxidant-rich serums, fancy face oils, and yes, sunscreens. And finally, when the dermatitis dissipated, I gradually reintroduced products into my routine that wouldn’t make my skin freak out.
I knew I needed a good sunscreen—I work at a beauty company for goodness sake! But to steer clear of any irritation this time around, I followed the advice of my dermatologist, and tried out mineral sunscreens instead. Like chemical sunscreens, the blendable, often translucent favorite of the sunscreen game, mineral (sometimes called “physical”) sunscreens protect skin from UVA and UVB rays. The difference is that mineral sunscreens create a physical shield, deflecting UV light, while chemical sunscreens absorb UV light, so your skin doesn’t have to. Where minerals sunscreens work instantly, chemical sunscreens take about 20 minutes to kick in. And, generally speaking, mineral sunscreens are more amenable to sensitive skin because of their leading ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
But it’s the zinc that’s the real star (and for reference, zinc oxide is just what we call zinc in topical form). Anti-inflammatory and calming, it takes on eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, melasma, acne… a sensitive person’s fever dream (my former roommate used to wear zinc sunblock at night, so she could reap those soothing benefits 24/7). Anyway, those are the bonus points. Minus point: mineral sunscreens usually leave a white cast, making it impossible for a lot of people to use them without looking like a friendly ghost. An obstacle, sure, but in this robust moment in the sunscreen industry, I knew there would be at least a few mineral sunscreens that could give me that protection and calming that I needed.
Most Satisfying To Mineral SPF Newbies: Coola Matte Mineral Sunscreen
Even though my combination skin and place of work has reinforced my identity as a dewy queen, using this product made me understand the allure of mattifying products in general. This sunscreen left my skin feeling like a smooth, spackled canvas, but also...cooled? I’ve been telling everyone that this is mineral sunscreen to switch to if you’re just getting started.
Most Fun to Share: Dr. Dennis Gross’ Sheer Mineral Sun Spray
My months-long mineral sunscreen trials coincided with Camp Glossier, which is arguably the best time to test a new SPF. At any given time, there are a bunch of people to “review” the finish of your sunscreen—people who also double as mineral sunscreen guinea pigs if you decide to share. While watching my colleagues get launched off The Blob, I sprayed this guy all over my face, neck, and legs, then passed it over to Emily Ferber and Ashley Weatherford to try. “This is fancy!” Emily said. “I don’t know anyone who is as obsessed with sunscreen as you are Utibe.” Ashley said. “But this is nice!” Mission accomplished.
Most Portable: Supergoop Mineral Stick
An itty bitty sunscreen stick is hard to resist. This one smells great, goes on balmy, and can go anywhere with me since it literally fits in the palm of my hand.
Most Reliable: Cyberderm Simply Zinc
I love a brand that simply gives the people what they want. A high concentration of zinc (25-percent—woot) and blends out without a problem. Out of all the tinted sunscreens in the mix, this tint actually helped make the application more seamless and natural. Did I mention Michelle Obama likes to use sunscreens from this brand? Yeah, there’s also that.
Most-est Proximity to Frank Ocean: Unsun Sunscreen
In this house, we love Christopher Breaux, and his mother Katonya. Buy this sunscreen because you—and any Frank Ocean lover who knows what’s good for them—realize that this sunscreen is most likely a key component of Frank Ocean’s Top Shelf (!) Keep it because it’s a mineral sunscreen available in a range of flexible tints for all skin shades, is supremely moisturizing, and cancels out any visible inflammation you may have.
Most Favored by the Editors: Josh Rosebrook Day Cream
After Ali and Ashley Weatherford raved about this on several separate occasions, I too must now vouch for this mineral sunscreen in a pump. Its lightweight cream format means it melts into (and not sits on top of) skin, with zero residue in sight, and its inclusion of fatty acids and antioxidants only aid in helping reduce redness over time.
Photographed by Tom Newton