Zinc Oxide: A Guardian Against Sun Damage

April 05, 2024

Walk into any dermatologist's office and one of the first things they'll ask is, "Are you wearing an SPF every day?" Not only does sun protection ward off signs of premature ageing, including wrinkles, collagen depletion and sunspots, but it's your skin's #1 defense against skin cancer. Interestingly, SPF is a relatively modern invention; it wasn't until the 1950s that we really saw usable products. It's come a long way since then, and today we have access to many sophisticated formulations. So, what's zinc oxide's place in the world of SPF and what is zinc oxide used for in makeup? Let's discuss.

Zinc Oxide & Sun Protection

Though sunscreen itself isn't that old, zinc oxide a primary component in mineral (or 'physical') sunscreens actually dates way back. This white and powdery inorganic compound comes from the mineral zincite, and there are historical reports from as far back as 500 BC tying it to medicinal use. For example, these ancient documents indicate it was used as a salve for eyes and to treat open wounds. Greek doctors may have created ointments out of zinc oxide to help treat skin cancers.

Today zinc oxide isn't used for those purposes, but it is utilized in sunscreen AKA the most important skincare product you'll ever buy and use.

Benefits of Zinc Oxide in Sunblock

Zinc oxide blocks both UVA and UVB rays (responsible for causing burns, skin damage, and skin cancer) is photostable and is resistant to water. Meaning it will hold up through sweat and won't break down when exposed to the sun.

UVA rays are lurking even on cloudy days. So, it is important to wear sunscreen no matter the weather.

Who Benefits Most from Zinc Oxide Sunscreens?

While many skin types benefit from using a sunscreen containing zinc oxide, it's particularly useful for babies and young children whose skin may not be as mature and developed as adult skin. It's also ideal for those with very sensitive skin, becaiuse unlike chemical sunscreens which are absorbed by the skin, mineral sunscreens sit on the skin like a barrier of protection.

Basically, younger skin and sensitive skin (including skin afflicted by eczema or psoriasis) have a weaker barrier, which allows for deeper penetration of products. The ingredients found in chemical sunscreens aren't bad, but they might cause a reaction in these skin types.

Zinc oxide and the other most common physical sunscreen ingredient, titanium dioxide are considered nonirritating, nonallergenic, and less likely to cause acne breakouts.

One drawback of zinc oxide is that in its raw form it's stark white and has a very thick consistency. That means that those with darker complexions might experience a cast when applying a sunscreen containing it, which can turn their skin a temporary greyish hue. That said, formulas are being continually refined and there are now sunscreens and makeup with zinc oxide that won't leave an unwanted cast.

Try Zinc Oxide Yourself

The majority of our foundations contain zinc oxide for added sun protection. One of the easiest on-the-go options is our COMPLEXION RESCUE Tinted Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid and Mineral SPF 30, a multi-tasking tinted moisturizer that provides buildable coverage for a wide variety of skin tones, all while protecting your skin from the sun without the white cast sometimes associated with zinc oxide. For touch-ups throughout the day that'll further protect you from the sun's rays, keep some MINERAL VEIL Finishing Powder SPF 25 nearby as well.