As human beings who happen to live right here on the planet Earth, it probably comes as no surprise to you that the sun is a recurring feature for most of us. Even in the darkest regions of the world, just about every human is susceptible to sun exposure… and we are all vulnerable to damage caused by overexposure to the sun’s rays.
On that note, that brings us to the heart of our subject here today: protecting our skin from the beautiful but dangerous ball of ultraviolet radiation in the sky. In many cases, one of the biggest signs of sun damage is sunburn but oftentimes the damage is both fairly subtle and quite cumulative. (1)
Fortunately, there are many choices available when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, and sunscreen is hands-down a fantastic, time-tested solution to keeping it safe. As it stands, there are two main types of sunscreen out there, which are chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen.
Both kinds come with their pros and cons, with each type imparting its own benefits for your overall skin health. However, from these two options, mineral sunscreen is definitely going to be the clear winner when it comes to not only effectiveness, but also safety.
After weighing your options on mineral vs chemical sunscreen and carefully analyzing the benefits of mineral sunscreen, you’ve likely made your decision to start incorporating mineral sunscreen into your daily skincare routine. (Awesome decision, by the way!)
This means that knowing how to apply mineral sunscreen is going to be your next step. Since we know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by trying to figure it out, we wanted to hold your hand and guide you through how to slather on enough of the good stuff to protect you from the sun.
With that in mind, here is everything you need to know to help keep your skin super shielded from cancer – and to help you look your very best as an added bonus! (2)
Why Do Most Mineral Sunscreens Look So White?
Mineral sunscreens are easily identified by their iconic white cast upon the skin. Most of us can picture those white triangles on beach-goers' noses from the days of yore, and that distinct appearance can be credited to the mineral sunscreen that was applied to their faces (usually zinc).
But why does mineral sunscreen look so dang white on your skin, though? Well, the reason it leaves a white cast on the skin is due to the minerals within the sunscreen, which also happen to be white. (And no, before you ask, it’s not like that to annoy you or make you look silly when you’re outside enjoying the sunshine.)
To help you better understand its mechanism of action, though, it’s important to better understand exactly how mineral sunscreens protect your skin. You see, your skin can easily be damaged by ultraviolet rays, commonly referred to as UV rays.
The sun, being a nuclear-powered powerlifter, produces very strong rays that – in addition to providing us with essential daylight to help keep the planet chugging along – also work to damage our skin cells and their DNA. Photons travel all the way down from the sun, right to your skin, and they can literally break apart cells and their DNA. (3)
The resilience of the body allows our skin to tan and repair cells, but on occasion, damaged cells will manifest as painful sunburns. The source of the damage, as we already know, is the UV rays directly colliding with our skin (and therefore, our cells).
Providing a layer that stops these UV rays from ramming against our skin and cells is how we protect our skin. The minerals most commonly present in mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide, two compounds that both lead to a white shimmer.
These minerals work to partially absorb, but primarily instantly refract, any UV rays away from your skin once applied. Think of it like a full-body shield, but rather than protecting you from charging bad guys with spears, it’s instead protecting you from the potentially lethal rays of the sun. (4)
How to Rub in Mineral Sunscreen:
As we just pointed out a moment ago, the point of sunscreen is to protect your skin by creating a layer over the skin that will absorb or deflect the harmful rays emitted by the sun. The minerals in sunscreen are white by nature, and as such, also have a white sheen.
Typically, mineral sunscreens also run very thick and rich, which means that you do need to be somewhat careful when applying them. What often happens is that you’ll apply the mineral sunscreen very generously all over your face and body, leading to a fairly opaque white layer of film all over yourself.
In and of itself, doing the whole “add a generous dollop of sunblock to your skin” thing is totally fine to do, but that’s where the hiccups can start to arise. Many of us will try to pool it in one spot or pour a generous glob of it into our hands, while also simultaneously attempting to spread it along the length of our body.
Instead of pooling it all together (and ending up looking like Frosty the Snowman in the process), it’s much better for you to try to apply it the correct way. The whole deal should include about an ounce or two for the whole body, with about spoonful set aside for the face and neck. (5)
After all, the point of mineral sunscreen is to have a layer of protection over the skin. The best way to do this is by applying bits throughout regions or sections, and rubbing it in evenly from there. Then by gliding it over your body uniformly, all the regions come together to form an even coat of sunscreen on your skin.
You’ll want to add dots or dabs of the mineral sunscreen along a region of your body, such as your arm or your legs. Then gently but firmly rub in the sunscreen, spreading it across your body, until it mostly blends in. Move along down or up the line and trail of dots or dabs until it is all uniformly applied.
You might wonder how to apply mineral sunscreen to your face, or how much mineral sunscreen to apply to a face, as well. You might even wonder when to apply mineral sunscreen in a makeup routine. Worry not, friends, the same conservative principle applies with the face.
Mineral sunscreens are very effective, so like we said, no more than a teaspoon amount is necessary for your face. The more liberally you apply, the thicker the coat, and the more white residue will appear.
Due to the effectiveness of mineral sunscreens, there isn’t much need to apply it too liberally, as a little bit goes a long way. But with that said, it’s always better to apply too much (and just rub it in a bit more) rather than not enough and suffer from the sun’s wrath.
Which Mineral Sunscreens Rub In Best?
When it comes to choosing the best mineral sunscreen for your needs, you totally have every right to be more than a little bit picky. After all, you don’t want to have to deal with a sticky texture or a white cast when trying to figure out how to apply mineral sunscreen.
With that in mind, you’ll want to reach for a mineral sunscreen that is cosmetically elegant. This means that it’ll have less heavy ingredients and will look more natural and attractive when wearing it. You may also want to check to see if it’s a tinted mineral sunscreen, as this can help offset that glow-in-the-dark look.
One of your best options, especially if you have particularly oily skin, is a powder-based mineral sunscreen. You can apply it just like your favorite finishing powder, and a good brush-on mineral sunscreen won’t clog your pores or leave you looking greasy.
(Pro Tip: Our SUNNYSIDE brush-on sunscreen can even be applied over makeup or worn alone, and even better? It won’t smear or make you look like a ghost when wearing it, either!)
How Much Zinc Oxide Should a Mineral Sunscreen Have?
Your mineral sunscreen should have no less than 10 percent, and no more than a 25 percent concentration, of zinc oxide. The higher the percentage, the higher the SPF protection, which is thanks to the higher concentration of minerals sitting on your skin. (6)
And with the more of these minerals on your skin, the more dense that layer of UV repulsion can be. With all those tiny minerals sitting on your skin in high concentration, it becomes so much tougher for the super jacked-up sun’s rays to pass through. Pretty awesome, right?
The chief and primary takeaways here are that mineral sunscreens are incredibly great for your body. Sunscreen is best applied in somewhat conservative portions spread out uniformly and rubbed in to blend naturally with the skin. There are also options to avoid the whiteness of mineral sunscreen, as is the case with tinted sunscreens.
The sun is responsible for the growth of plants, our easiest access to vitamin D, and the catalyst for almost all sunburns we’ve ever experienced. It’s important and worthwhile, therefore, to keep your skin protected – especially if it’s as easy as applying microscopic flakes of minerals that are hardly noticeable when applied right. (7)
The bottom line here, friends? Taking good care of your skin is of the utmost importance, and you don’t want to skimp on it just because you’re worried about looking too pale or adding too much. At the end of the day, this is the only skin you have, so be sure to treat it right!
Source 1: Sun and active patients: preventing acute and cumulative skin damage https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20086652/
Source 2: The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7759112/
Source 3: Molecular Mechanisms of Ultraviolet Radiation-Induced DNA Damage and Repair https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010660/
Source 4: Sunscreen products: Rationale for use, formulation development and regulatory considerations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6978633/
Source 5: Sunscreens https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4577364/
Source 6: Zinc oxide-induced changes to sunscreen ingredient efficacy and toxicity under UV irradiation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8550398/
Source 7: Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/