You have many options when it comes to sunscreens—which can feel like both a blessing and a curse. After all, it can take time to find the right formula for your unique skin care needs. One of the best ways to narrow down your choices is to understand common sunscreen ingredients. For example, what is Zinc Oxide, and how do you know if it's right for you?

Read on for a deeper dive into this mineral, including what it is, how it works, and whether you might benefit from using Zinc Oxide sunscreen on your face.

What Is Zinc Oxide?

Zinc is a naturally occurring trace mineral that's critical for your skin and overall health. When zinc combines with oxygen, it forms a white power called Zinc Oxide (often abbreviated as ZnO). Zinc Oxide is a common ingredient in many personal care products, including sunscreen and makeup. Sunscreens come in two main varieties—chemical and physical (or mineral)—and they work in different ways to protect your skin against ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the two minerals, often called physical blockers, used in physical sunscreens. These ingredients act like a shield, sitting on top of your skin and blocking and scattering UV rays before they can absorb into your skin and inflict damage.

Zinc Oxide sunscreens do a great job of protecting your skin from sun damage that causes skin cancer and premature aging. In general, the higher the amount of Zinc Oxide, the more sun protection you get. Like with any sunscreen, however, you have to use it correctly to get the full benefits (more on that below).

Woman smile applying sun cream on face. Skincare. Body Sun protection. sunscreen. Female in hat smear moisturizing lotion on skin.

Is Using Zinc Oxide Sunscreen on Your Face a Good Idea?

For many people, Zinc Oxide is an ideal facial sunscreen choice. This mineral-based sunscreen is oil-free and won't clog pores, making it perfect for acne-prone skin. Formulations like EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 are silky, easy to apply over makeup, and won't leave behind any greasy residue.

If you have a darker complexion, using a Zinc Oxide sunscreen may give your skin a chalky or grayish hue. To help prevent unwanted discoloration, opt for a tinted Zinc Oxide formula like EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46. This hydrating, lightweight sunscreen blends in seamlessly while giving your skin the protection it needs to prevent skin concerns like hyperpigmentation.

Does Zinc Oxide Have Other Skin Care Benefits?

Because Zinc Oxide is a physical blocker—meaning it doesn't absorb into your skin—it's unlikely to cause irritation or an allergic reaction. This may be particularly helpful if you have reactive or sensitive skin.

Zinc Oxide can also help calm inflammation and soothe cracked or damaged skin. In fact, it's one of the most common ingredients in diaper cream for these reasons. It also works well for hydrating dry, damaged lips. For example, EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 works double duty by healing your lips and protecting them from the sun at the same time.

Prioritizing Skin Health Every Day

Using sunscreen every day is the best way to lower your risk of skin cancer and UV damage, like wrinkles and dark spots. It's also important to use the right strength and amount. This means an SPF of at least 30 and about a nickel-sized dollop for your entire face. And, like with all sunscreens, remember to reapply every two hours or more often after swimming or sweating.

The benefits of Zinc Oxide sunscreen go beyond blocking UV rays, making it a great face sunscreen option for many people. So go ahead, experiment! Ultimately, the best sunscreen for you is the one you're most likely to use. Once you find your perfect match, you can walk confidently under the sun knowing that your health radiates from the inside out.



    Maria Robinson, MD, MBA is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with over ten years of clinical experience. Dr. Robinson has a passion for nutrition and integrative dermatology, and is the co-founder of, where people can explore holistic dermatology treatments. Through her writing, she strives to empower people with accurate health information so they can make positive decisions that lead to healthy and vibrant skin.

    View all posts