If you’ll be spending any time outside, you know you should be wearing sunscreen on exposed skin and dutifully reapplying it after swimming, excessive sweating, and/or every two hours you spend outside. Mineral sunscreens in particular offer reliable protection against UV rays without relying on chemicals that may have health or environmental concerns—but they can also be pasty and leave an unappealing white cast on your skin. To find an option that feels comfortable—and doesn’t scream, “I wore my sunblock!”—we sorted through dozens of mineral sunscreens and narrowed it down to 15 that are suitable for all skin types.
During our extensive testing process, we found one clear winner, representing an all-around great value: the Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50 (available at Amazon) , which earned our Best Overall spot for having an easier-to-blend consistency that leaves no white cast and has one of the lower costs-per-ounce of all the products we tested.
Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Skin Nourishing Milk SPF 50 Sunscreen
The Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50 earned perfect scores in almost every category we considered—usability, smell, reapplication, and performance. It was love at first pump, and luckily, that sentiment extended throughout my entire experience.
Unlike many of the sunscreens that grace this list, this sunscreen has a lightweight texture that is similar to a serum. Thanks to its thinner consistency, rubbing the sunscreen into my skin proved to be a breeze and did not require any intense effort like some others did. No one wants to walk around looking like Casper the Ghost when wearing sunscreen, a concern especially with mineral-based products. This one proved that you can protect your skin without the infamous white cast. It also continued to blend into the skin through the second and third rounds of application—others pilled or smeared but wouldn’t absorb. I’d go as far to say that I barely noticed its presence on my skin, thanks to the lightweight texture.
If you’re like me and find a sunscreen’s scent to be a make-or-break situation, you may be happy to hear that this sunscreen smells like a delightful combination of coconut and vanilla that errs on the subtle side and is only detectable if you crane your nose by the areas of application. Nothing chemically or overbearing here!
Then there’s arguably the most important element of any sunscreen: protection. While we didn’t corroborate the SPF protection factor (as this is regulated by the FDA), I felt confident that the sunscreen remained on my skin, even after being exposed to water. At the end of the day, I poured a bottle of water over my arm to see if the three layers of sunscreen would peel, pill, or rinse off, and to my eye, the formula didn’t budge. (Though if you’ll be swimming outdoors, it’s always best practice to reapply once you get out.) On the other hand, undoing a day’s wear of this sunscreen doesn’t require scrubbing away at your skin. A shower and sudsing with one application of my go-to Degree Maximum Recovery Tart Cherry Body Wash was enough to whisk away all the sunscreen.
The Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50 is my idea of a perfect body sunscreen. It changed my perception of mineral sunscreens, due to its lightweight texture, refreshing smell, and lack of a white cast. I also put its SPF 30 counterpart to the test, and it performed exactly the same.
I'm Sara Miranda, Reviewed’s beauty writer who has had a lifelong love for testing all kinds of personal care products. I have a medium, olive-toned complexion that I try to be vigilant about protecting from sunburns. But I’ve also dropped the ball and suffered the painful, lobster-red consequences. My resistance toward putting on sunscreen may stem from too many unpleasant experiences with products that have a strange smell, feel heavy on the skin, and/or leave a ghost-like white cast—sound familiar? So when presented with the opportunity to test some of the best-selling mineral body sunscreens, I was determined to find at least one that felt comfortable to wear all day long and that could make my inconsistent sunscreen application habits a thing of the past.
I sifted through retailer best-seller lists and other editorial best-of lists to find the most promising mineral-based body sunscreens. Then, I tested each one on my skin to find the best of the best.
The testing process was straightforward: I rubbed each sunscreen into my arms before going about my normal daily activities to see how they wore. I reapplied each product twice throughout the day and spent one hour in the sun to see if I could detect any traces of a white cast. At the end of the day, I poured a bottle of water over my arms to anecdotally gauge the sunscreens’ water resistance—though this, like the claimed SPF of a sunscreen, is regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Once my testing was complete, I teamed up with Reviewed’s in-house experts to score and weigh the results on a scientifically calibrated rubric, focusing on the look and feel of each formula.
During the process, I considered a few attributes:
Look: Does the sunscreen leave a white cast, and might it leave one on skin tones darker than me? Does the sunscreen have a bluish tint? Does it blend well into the skin?
Wear: Does it feel comfortable on the skin? How easy is it to layer sunscreen on top for reapplication? Does it pill up or rinse off in the presence of water?
Scent: Does it have a pleasant aroma, or is it overwhelmingly fragranced or chemical-smelling?
What You Should Know About Buying Mineral Sunscreens
When it comes to sunscreens, these attributes may influence your purchasing decision:
SPF, broad spectrum, and water resistance: The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has a number of regulations that sunscreen makers must follow with regard to their products and labeling. Namely, sunscreens must pass tests for their claimed sun protection factor (SPF), whether they can claim “broad-spectrum” protection, and their water resistance. Per the FDA: “All sunscreens are tested to measure the amount of UV radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when using a sunscreen compared to how much UV exposure it takes to cause a sunburn when not using a sunscreen.” A higher value indicates more protection, with 15 being the lowest recommendation for sun safety, per the FDA.
However, “SPF values are determined from a test that measures protection against sunburn caused by UVB radiation, [so] SPF values only indicate a sunscreen's UVB protection.” The sun also emits skin-damaging UVA rays, responsible for premature aging and some forms of skin cancer. Therefore, the FDA also regulates the term “broad spectrum” to indicate protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. Although the FDA recommends a minimum SPF of 15, it’s wisest to look for sunscreen “that is labeled broad-spectrum with an SPF of at least 30,” says Dr. Anna L. Chien, a member of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee and a dermatologist practicing in Baltimore, Maryland.
Finally, the FDA regulates tests for water-resistance label claims, noting that no sunscreen can be called “waterproof” because there is no such thing. For the best protection, choose water resistance of up to 80 minutes, the max approved by the FDA.
Ingredients: The active ingredients in sunscreens are chemical- or mineral-based. Chemical-based sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays before they can reach and damage the skin, while mineral-based ones, also called physical sunscreens, use tiny particles of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to deflect the damaging rays away. Because those mineral ingredients are physically present in the formula, such sunscreens carry a reputation for being heavy and leaving a noticeable ashy or whitish appearance on the skin.
However, chemical sunscreens have gotten a lot of heat in recent years because research indicates “that certain sunscreen ingredients [including avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octocrylene] are absorbed into the body and exceed the minimal threshold for absorption,” says Chien. What’s more, chemical sunscreen ingredients may be partially responsible for the bleaching of coral reefs, a phenomenon that the National Ocean Service says is when coral reefs release the algae from their tissues, leading them to turn white. Out of an abundance of caution to protect the oceans’ coral, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida’s Key West “have proposed or enacted bans on sunscreen products containing octocrylene, octinoxate, and oxybenzone,” says Chien.
Therefore, we chose to test mineral-based sunscreens so that you won’t have to factor in potential health and environmental concerns while choosing the best option for you from our list.
Cost: Like any personal care product, sunscreen comes in an extensive price range, and we tested products that reflect that variety. For the very occasional sun worshiper, cost may not be much of a factor, as you won’t go through your sunscreen that quickly. But if you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, applying the recommended one ounce every two hours will drain your bottle quickly, so your budget will thank you for choosing a product that costs less. That said, our tests showed that pricier doesn’t necessarily mean better anyway: Many of the formulas that fared best fell on the more affordable side, while the two most expensive sunscreens were among the worst we tested.
Other Mineral Sunscreens We Tested
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion
I fell almost as hard for Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion as I did for Hawaiian Tropic, for its lightweight texture and ease of application—attributes it shares with the best overall sunscreen. Sun Bum’s scent is also pleasant, a very coconut-forward aroma. In the end, what made this option fall short is the fact that it left a slight white cast on my skin. It wasn’t as noticeable as many products, and I could only spot the traces of white upon close inspection in a mirror, but it was more evident than the top pick.
Unlike many mineral sunscreens, Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Mineral Lotion has a light-as-air texture, which translates to a seamless application and reapplication experience—no elbow grease necessary. The hassle-free application process is enhanced by the subtle scent of lavender. It also left no noticeable white cast—I was sure we had a winner here!
But they say that all good things must come to an end, and my 10/10 experience with this sunscreen was downgraded a bit as soon as I poured water over it at the end of the day. It pilled up in small little balls, suggesting that it might not be most aesthetically pleasing to wear while taking a swim in the pool (though it has an FDA-approved water-resistance claim of up to 80 minutes).
The Alba Botanica Sunscreen Lotion also earned a spot towards the top of our list, thanks to its lack of a white cast and subtle, oatmeal-like scent. It won me over when I poured water over it once the day was over and I saw no change from the water, yet it washed off my body in the shower without a fuss.
Though the wear experience was anything but uncomfortable, it fell short when it came to reapplying it for a second and third time. The Alba Botanica’s thick formula was hard to rub in, and it felt as if I was furiously rubbing hard toothpaste into my skin. Still, despite this tedious task, the sunscreen did not leave a trace of a white cast once you put in the elbow grease to get it to absorb.
Blue Lizard may be a popular drugstore sunscreen brand, but its Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide barely made our top 5. Starting with the plus sides of this formula, it has a lightweight texture that feels relatively comfortable on, as compared to the later sunscreens on this list. It also gets the greenlight for resisting water after withstanding a dousing from a bottle of water post-three layers of wear.
As for its pitfalls, I found it difficult to rub into the skin when it came time to reapply for a second and third time. This was another instance in which I had to use some hardy elbow grease to get it to absorb. It also possesses a chlorine-like smell. The aroma isn’t strong enough to take over a whole room, but I noticed its presence linger throughout the entire day. The final disappointment with this formula is its noticeable white cast, which in my case lightened my olive-toned complexion one or two shades. What’s more, sloughing off three layers of this sunscreen turned out to be a trip, but not in a good way. In addition to body wash, I also employed my go-to body exfoliator—the Dove Exfoliating Body Polish Scrub—to reclaim my skin from this sunscreen. Unfortunately, I could still feel a film the next day, and it took a second shower with some persistent scrubbing to fully remove it.
Another drugstore stable, the Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion offers a comfortable wear experience, thanks to its lightweight, veil-like finish. I also appreciated that it didn’t take an intense amount of rubbing in the shower to get it off my skin.
However, it may be difficult to get past its pungent chemical smell. If I had to choose one thing that its smell comes close to, it would be Elmer’s Glue. If you like to be reminded of the pasty stuff that you used during arts and crafts in kindergarten, more power to you. But if not, then this may not be the sunscreen for you, given that its scent has the capability of filling up a room. The formula also got a demerit in the white-cast department, as it made my skin look one to two shades lighter.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios SPF 50 Sunscreen Gentle Lotion
The La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen Gentle Lotion suffers from many of the things that deter one from reaching for a mineral sunscreen in the first place. The only real plus I found was its middle-of-the-road texture, which was neither too heavy nor too lightweight. It also left relatively little white cast, being only noticeable around the hair follicles on my forearms.
Unfortunately, there was a lot I despised about this formula. Its unpleasant smell—which I thought resembles the aroma of rotten eggs—was a ghastly first impression that never vaporized, instead following me wherever I went. Its application process required a lot of hard-core rubbing both the first time around and during subsequent coats.
The Thinksport Mineral Sunscreen is one of the handful of sunscreens on this list that doesn’t have a strong scent, which most would consider a pro. But it sits in the middle of the list because it embodies many of the classically terrible mineral-sunscreen characteristics.
The application process was frustrating from the start: A full five minutes of intense rubbing was needed to work it into the skin, leaving a visible white cast nonetheless. This arduous affair continued when applying both the second and third layers. Its reaction in the presence of water also proved concerning, as it pilled up dramatically during my dousing test (though it meets the FDA rules for water resistance).
In a nutshell, my experience with the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion was a disaster. The only thing worth praising was its lack of a fragrance—it’s hard to object to something that simply isn’t present.
What follows is everything I dread wearing sunscreen. Its runny texture is basically a mess waiting to happen. In turn, the sunscreen left streaks of white on the skin in an instant, quickly showing itself to be another formula that required some serious rubbing skills. Its difficult nature extended to removal as well, when it resisted all my efforts of washing it off with body wash and a body scrub. In fact, the white cast that turned my skin into a light-fair shade stayed intact the next day. Another shower ended up being the solution to getting rid of it.
Banana Boat Sensitive Mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen Lotion
It was love at first touch with the Banana Boat Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, courtesy of its creamy texture and lack of a scent. But things quickly turned sour when I attempted to rub it into my skin—an arduous undertaking not for the faint-hearted. Points also got deducted after noticing that three layers of wear produced a white cast that shrouded my entire arm in a light film. The formula continued on a downward spiral when it pilled up as I poured water over it at the end of the day.
From the start the Badger Sport Mineral Sunscreen Cream was a mixed bag. It lacked any fragrance—a positive—and as I finished applying the first layer, I noticed a dewy finish that I didn’t mind. But the honeymoon period quickly ended as I reapplied for a second (and third) time and it took five-plus minutes of hardy rubbing to blend into my skin. And it really wouldn’t: After three layers, my arm adopted a much lighter skin tone.
Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50
They say looks can be deceiving, and that’s what happened during my first encounter with the Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen Lotion. The thin texture of the lotion that came out of the bottle initially made rubbing it into the skin felt like a dream. Yet that’s where the fairytale ends, as the Aveeno left behind an ashy white film, made worse with subsequent applications and that no amount of water, body wash, and exfoliator seemed to remove.
EltaMD is another brand that’s made a big name for itself in the sunscreen world, but its UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 did not impress me. For starters, it has a dry, matte finish that during application felt not unlike rubbing chalk dust on my skin, paving the way for an uncomfortably heavy wearing experience once on. This unpleasant sunscreen encounter didn’t meet its end in the shower, despite the fact that I reached for both a body wash and body exfoliator to slough it off my skin. One more shower the following day ended up being the remedy to getting rid of it once and for all.
If you know your sunscreens, chances are you’ve heard of Supergoop, a popular sunscreen brand that has been lauded by many for its impressive formulas. The brand’s interpretation of a body mineral sunscreen, the Play 100% Mineral Lotion, however, was a resounding fail for me. You could say my experience with this formula shared some similarities to a messy art project. It didn’t blend easily into the skin like the brand so proudly proclaims. Despite lots of intense rubbing, the sunscreen left remnants of its pasty white texture on my hands after both rounds of reapplication. This sticky saga dragged on to the shower, proving once again that washing off some mineral sunscreens is a whole other burden in itself.
Perhaps Coppertone is trying to pull a fast one in naming this product “Pure and Simple.” In fact, it’s a sunscreen catastrophe. The formula had a runny, water-like consistency that got all over the place as I applied it and stained my hands each time I reapplied it. As a result, it also stained some of my household items, including my couch, desk, and the keys on my computer. (Understandably, these are not normal furnishings to worry about when wearing sunscreen, but I can’t imagine car upholstery, beach chairs, or towels and swimsuits would fare any better.) The icing on the cake of this mess of a sunscreen is that it left a ghost-like white cast on my arm.
Sara Miranda is a staff writer at Reviewed. Her bylines appear in Allure, Bustle, Coveteur, HelloGiggles, and more. She graduated from New York University with a degree in Art History and credits her studies for teaching her how to craft colorful descriptions of the latest and greatest beauty products. Besides writing about all things beauty, she loves going to art galleries, photographing her travels, looking for the best bubble tea, and taking long walks down the aisles of Sephora.
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