Mineral sunscreen is one of the two major sunscreen categories, and it has many benefits. Its star ingredient, Zinc Oxide, is both gentle and effective when it comes to protecting you from ultraviolet (UV) rays. But one question might be on your mind: does Zinc Oxide dry out your skin?

It's a fair question. With all of its sun protection power, Zinc Oxide has drying properties. And if you're already dealing with dry skin, chances are you don't want to use anything that could exacerbate the issue. But does this mean you should skip mineral sunscreen entirely, or are there hydrating mineral formulas? Here's what you should know.

How Mineral Sunscreen Works

Mineral sunscreen (also known as physical sunscreen) contains UV filters that sit on top of the skin to protect it from the sun's harmful rays. As the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains, these filters work by blocking UV rays from penetrating the skin and causing damage. Think of mineral sunscreen as your knight in shining armor, creating a physical shield on your skin's surface.

Close up of friend applying sunscreen, two Black women protecting skin in sun

Mineral Sunscreen Benefits

Mineral sunscreens contain active ingredients such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. The AAD recommends this type of sunscreen for sensitive and acne-prone skin since it's less likely to cause irritation or aggravate breakouts. Zinc Oxide also has many skin care benefits, touting wound-healing, calming, and soothing properties. Finally, it helps protect your skin from photoaging effects such as fine lines and wrinkles, sagging, and sunspots.

Mineral Sunscreen Challenges

For all its benefits, mineral sunscreen has two downsides: it can be chalky and drying.

How Does Mineral Sunscreen Cause a Chalky Residue?

Because mineral sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin to form a physical shield, they tend not to blend in as well as their chemical counterparts. This can leave behind an unnatural-looking white cast on your skin, especially if you have a darker complexion.

In contrast, chemical sunscreens prevent sun damage by penetrating your skin to absorb the sun's rays like a sponge. They contain active ingredients like Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate, and Octinoxate. These ingredients are easier to rub into the skin and don't leave behind that trademark white cast.

Why Does Mineral Sunscreen Dry Out Skin?

The other downside to Zinc Oxide is that it can be drying. But how does Zinc Oxide dry out your skin, exactly? This ingredient works like an astringent, reducing your skin's natural sebum production and absorbing excess oils. This can be a plus if you have oily or acne-prone skin. But if you struggle to maintain moisture, mineral sunscreens with Zinc Oxide can dry out your skin even more.

Problem-Solving with Mineral Sunscreen

There are a few ways to tell if your mineral sunscreen is to blame for your dry skin. If your skin feels flaky, red, irritated, or tight after applying sunscreen, these are all signs your formula is drying you out. But this shouldn't dissuade you from using mineral sunscreen altogether.

Plenty of formulas provide a balance between the benefits of Zinc Oxide and hydration by including ingredients that attract and seal moisture into the skin. For example, EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is a 100 percent mineral formula that contains Jojoba Esters to extend skin hydration and improve skin barrier function to lock in moisture.

Hydrated Skin with Mineral Protection

You don't have to write off mineral sunscreens if you have dry skin or want to prevent it. The key is to explore your options so you can pick a formula that suits all your needs, whether that's reducing sensitivity, boosting hydration, or providing lightweight coverage with a subtle tint. The world is your oyster—have fun exploring it!


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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