BEST & WORST ~ Testing All-Mineral Sunscreen for Face

I’ve been busy testing sun protection products over the last few months to find the best all-mineral sunscreen for the face. I tried 12 products to find one that could be worn on its own but would also work well under either powder or liquid foundation (and that’s not easy to find, especially in an all-mineral sunscreen).

All-Mineral Sunscreens

All-Mineral Sunscreens

I believe that protecting skin from the sun’s aging and damaging rays is the most important thing we can do for younger-looking, healthier skin so I wear a high spf sunscreen every day (more info.). I used to use “chemical” based sunscreen (Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid) and was very happy with it until my skin became more sensitive due to my use of Retin-A. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin to work so they’re more prone to causing irritation. I switched to a mineral sunscreen because they form a barrier on top of the skin so they’re less likely to cause irritation. The ingredients to look for in a mineral sunscreen are a combination of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. They’re great for people with sensitive skin, rosacea, or acne.

I tested each sunscreen on its own, under a powder foundation (IT Cosmetics Celebration Foundation), and under a liquid foundation (Estee Lauder Invisible Fluid) checking each for ease of application, how it looked after dry down, how shiny or white it looked, how each reacted to the foundations and how the foundations wore over the sunscreens.

I was trying for spf 50 in all of them, but some only come in spf 30 (I didn’t test anything less than spf 30). So let’s start with the spf 30s and work from worst to best in those,

Worst to Best ~ SPF 30

MD SolarMD Solar Sciences Mineral Tinted Cream ~ SPF 30 ~ $32 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 2%, Zinc Oxide 17%

Notable ingredients: Green tea extract, cranberry fruit extract, pomegranate extract, Vitamin c. No parabens, sulfates, phthalates. Not tested on animals. Water resistant 80 minutes

Feel/Scent: Tinted gel/cream hybrid with lots of silicone, very slippery/silky feel. Feels like a lightweight oil going on. Need to shake.

Application: Slips on invisibly, no effort to spread and blend. No white cast!

20 Min Later: Stays slippery but has a nice soft satin finish, does not feel “set”. Can be worn alone from a look standpoint, it slides around too much for me to feel protected.

MD Solar Side by Side

Powder Foundation: Causes balling & pilling on application. Makeup migrates around and is visibly pooled by end of day. Shine comes through powder.

MD Solar Pills

MD Solar with Powder

Liquid Foundation: The sunscreen feels wet and makes foundation just smear over the top with lots of globs and streaks. Must be checked in magnifying mirror or foundation will look awful. Made liquid wear off quickly and settle into lines and wrinkles. Made skin dry and flaky by midday. Shine could be seen through makeup.

MD Solar with Liquid

Take Away: Not Good. Can be worn alone, bad under powder, bad under liquid.


Paulas Choice HydraLightPaula’s Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Daily Mineral Complex ~ SPF 30 ~ $26 for 2 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 2.32%, Zinc Oxide 6%

Notable ingredients: Green tea, licorice, chamomile, aloe, algae. Not water resistant.

Feel/Scent: Feels like a lightweight lotion, no silky dimethicone feel. Not sticky or overly thick. No scent.

Application: Glides on skin really smoothly, a little goes a long way. Disappears right into skin with no clumping at edges and no white cast. Shiny. Made my skin red & irritated?

20 Min Later: Definitely NOT shine free, it’s pretty shiny. Feels set. Slightly white.

Paula's Choice Side by Side.Still003

Powder Foundation: Some minor “micro-pilling” of the powder foundation, but can’t be seen without magnifying mirror. Otherwise applied really nicely, skin looks smoother.

Paula's Choice with Powder

Liquid Foundation: Really bad with liquid foundation. Streaky, clumpy, makes foundation settle into wrinkles. Also seems to make foundation go on much more sheer than normal. Takes twice as much foundation to get normal amount of coverage.

Paula's Choice wiith Liquid

Take Away: Not shine free so can’t be worn alone. Powder looks good. Liquid is awful.


CoolaCoola Face Mineral Sunscreen Cucumber Matte Finish ~ SPF 30 ~ $36 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 3.2%, Zinc Oxide 1.8%

Notable ingredients: Rose Hip Oil, evening primrose, flax seed oil, vitamin c, shea butter. Cruelty free, preservative free.

Feel/Scent: Was separated on 1st use… need to shake. Greasy feeling (not silky or dry like dimethicone).

Application: Slippery feel make it really easy to spread over the face. A little goes a long way. Feels wet, leaves a white cast.

20 Min. Later: Matte finish, not shiny at all. Still slightly whitish. Once set the greasy feel is gone and it feels like skin. The matte finish creates a soft focus look that diminishes wrinkles, but it also fills in pores with white dots.

Coola B&A

Powder Foundation: Application caused a few little flakes, but no major sloughing. The makeup seems to go on really sheer and took a lot to get any coverage. It seems to float over the surface of the sunscreen weirdly.

Coola with Powder

Liquid Foundation: Foundation doesn’t completely cover the white cast. Played nicely with liquid foundation. No balling or pilling, streaking or caking. Very Good.

Coola with Liquid

Take Away: So close! Could be worn alone if it weren’t for the white cast because of the soft matte finish & nice dry down. Not good with powder. Very good with liquid.


HydroPeptideHydroPeptide Solar Defense ~ SPF 30 ~ $44 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 2.5%, Zinc Oxide 6%

Notable ingredients: Green tea, acai, aloe, hyaluronic acid, galanga. Gluten, paraben, phthalate free. Not tested on animals.

Feel/Scent: Bluish/purple tint. Fruity/flowery scent. Very different from most sunscreens. Thick lotion texture not as thick as a cream, not siliconey.

Application: Not slippery, feels like a thick lotion. Doesn’t spread super far, need more than 1 pump to cover face. Disappears into skin, no problems rubbing in with streaking or gathering at hairline. Blends beautifully. Could apply on the go without a mirror. No white mask. Slightly shiny.

20 min Later: Feels set after 20 minutes, can feel there’s a coating there, but not silicone like that it’s sliding around. A little shinier than I like but it’s a soft shine, not a hard shine. It’s diffused and soft focus. Quite wearable on it’s own.

Hydropeptide B&A

Powder Foundation: No pilling no sloughing. Powder applied very much as normal with normal opacity and normal amount used. The sunscreen finish or shine doesn’t show through the powder, so powder makeup applies “true”!

Hydropeptide with Powder

Liquid Foundation: No pilling, no sloughing. Worked really well with liquid foundation too! No smearing, not settling into pores or wrinkles. Coverage and finish was normal for the foundation. YAY

Hydropeptide with Liquid

Take Away: Finally one that’s good in all 3 areas!! YES!!


Worst to Best ~ SPF 50

La Roche Posay SunscreenLa Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted ~ SPF 50 ~ $33.50 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 11% only

I tested this sunscreen because I was using it and really liked it, but while doing research for this post, I found out that Titanium Dioxide used alone doesn’t protect against UVA 1. So I’m including it here only to say that I can’t recommend a sunscreen that doesn’t protect against the full range of ultraviolet rays (UVB, UVA1, & UVA2).

Cotz FlCompCotz Flawless Complexion Soothing Mineral Complex SPF 50 ~ $19.99 ~ for 2.5 oz.

Sunscreens: Zinc Oxide 20%

Notable ingredients: 100% free of preservatives, and oils, non-comedogenic, not tested on animals. Contains vitamins c & e.

Feel: Whipped up gel, but stiffer and thicker in texture. Lots of silicones. No scent.

Application: Glides on nicely, goes on transparent but shiny, the tint disappears completely, no blending problems around hairline, perfect application, so very easy, no blending problems & no balling or pilling, too bad it’s so shiny. Feels oily.

20 or 40 min later: VERY very shiny, feels heavy and greasy. I felt like I had been coated with oil… accentuates every pore and wrinkle, doesn’t feel dry after 20 or 40 min., continues to feel damp and tacky.

Cotz B&A

Powder Foundation: No balling or pilling, Powder tones down the shine a bit, but it’s still shining through… pores and wrinkles are still VERY visible. It’s too thick, pores look particularly awful.

Cotz w Powder

Liquid Foundation: A healthy layer of matte foundation can’t keep the shine down! Need to powder. Makeup applied nicely over the sunscreen, no smearing or rolling, no clumping or smearing. The makeup applied as beautifully as the sunscreen did. No spotted pores, looks smooth on the surface. Still doesn’t feel “set” though so may move around during the day. Once powder is added to tone down the shine, it looks quite nice. Still has a “dewey” look, but very smoothing.

Cotz w Liquid

Take Away: Very good with LOTS of makeup, no good on its own, no good with powder makeup.


CeraVe Inv ZincCeraVe Face Lotion Invisible Zinc ~ SPF 50 ~ $11.99 for 2 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 4.9%, Zinc Oxide 4.7%

Notable ingredients: Ceramides, Niacinamide

Feel: Quite a bit thicker than the others, not full of silicones, so not as easy to spread on the skin. Feels like a heavy lotion… makes me feel better protected that I can see where I’m putting it & it’s not sliding around.

Application: Goes on white (invisible zinc?), Doesn’t absorb right into skin, clumps up in places, so have to be careful to check in magnifying mirror to blend well.

20 min later: Not too shiny, not overly white (white faded a bit but not completely). Feels set (not tacky) like it won’t be sliding around all day.

CeraVe B&A

Powder Foundation: Takes more powder to cover the white cast of the sunscreen, it doesn’t act like a primer so no smoothing effect. Needed extra buffing around edges.

CeraVe w Powder

Liquid Foundation: No balling or sloughing but made makeup go on smeary and made makeup settle in lines and wrinkles.

CeraVe w Liquid

Take Away: Could almost be worn alone (for pale people), Powder was OK, Liquid no good… Just OK


Neutrogena Healthy DefenseNeutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen (PureScreen) ~ SPF 50 ~ $13.99 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 5%, Zinc Oxide 3%

Notable ingredients:

Feel/Scent: Moisturizer lotion feel, not overly creamy, thick or siliconey. Strong scent of titanium dioxide & zinc oxide.

Application: No problem rubbing it in, no white globs, disappeared into skin, except a little white around hairline.

20 Min Later: Not completely matte but quite wearable on it’s own. Feels set and not moving around. So far the best on it’s own.

Neutrogena B&A

Powder Foundation: No sloughing or pilling caused by brush application. Powder makeup tones down the slight shine and looks good. Makeup applied as normal and pores and wrinkles looked good.

Neutrogena w Powder

Liquid Foundation: The sunscreen creates a slick surface that the foundation goes on very smeary and streaky over. Did not look good up close, had to check carefully and re-blend the foundation by pressing. Polka dots in pores, makes foundation go on very sheer, needed lots of concealer. No balling or pilling though.

Neutrogena w Liquid

Take Away: Love the finish and ease of application, quite wearable alone. Powder looks good, Liquid looks bad.

SkinceuticalsSkinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense ~ SPF 50 ~ $30 for 1.7 oz.

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 6%, Zinc Oxide 4.9%

Notable ingredients: Paraben Free, Contains vitamin e and artemia salina plankton. Sweat/wate resistant.

Feel/Scent: Runny tinted liquid, strong titanium dioxide scent. Feels like a serum.

Application: Fairly easy to apply but the tint can streak and clump or stick to dry skin flakes, need to check in magnifying mirror. Doesn’t spread very far. No white cast. Nice low luster, semi-matte finish.

20 Min. Later: Doesn’t change much as it dries. Dries down nicely, feels set. Wearable on it’s own. Almost matte finish. Has a perfect skin-like feel.

Skinceuticals B&A

Powder Foundation: Looks fine from a distance, but up close the powder stays on the surface and looks a little cakey. It causes powder to cling to fine hairs and looks like it’s floating on the surface instead of bonded with skin. Needs more care when applying or a spritz of setting spray.

Skinceuticals w Powder

Liquid Foundation: No balling or pilling. Just awful. Makeup goes on smeary in the same places the sunscreen went on smeary. Bunches up in places. Causes foundation to immediately settle into lines & wrinkles.

Skinceuticals w Liauid

Take Away: Why can’t one be good on its own and with makeup?? Very wearable on it’s own, okay with powder, really bad with liquid.


ExuvianceExuviance Sheer Daily Protector ~ SPF 50 PA+++ ~ $ 42.00 for 1.7 oz

Sunscreens: Titanium Dioxide 7%, Zinc Oxide 6%
Note: This is the only sunscreen that carries a UVA protection label (PA+++) along with the UVB protection rating (SPF 50)

Notable ingredients: Vitamin E, lactobionic acid, and green tea antioxidants. Fragrance free, paraben and oil free. Non comedogenic. Not water/sweat resistant.

Feel: Tinted runny liquidy formula. Has TD smell. Need to shake.

Application: Thicker than it looks, so it doesn’t spread super easy (not full of silicone) or go very far.

20 min later: Dries down to a ski-like finish, skin-like amount of soft gloss, slightly shinier than I’d like but not bad. Could easily be worn on it’s own but better with setting powder. Feels like I have on moisturizer not sunscreen.

Exuviance B&A

Powder Foundation: Goes over the sunscreen very nicely, very little pilling but there were 2. The powder acted “normal” like it does on naked skin. The foundation gave it’s normal amount of coverage and smoothing!

Exuviance w Powder

Liquid Foundation: No reacting with sunscreen, went on very much like normal but was slightly smeary in 2 small places (chin & forehead). Made pores on cheeks a little white & spotty, can still see the slight shine through the foundation. A little setting powder would make this work really well

Exuviance w Liquid

Take Away: The best of the spf 50s on its own, the best of the spf 50s under powder. Not 100% under liquid, but not awful either. Expensive.

Best by Category:

Best/Most Wearable on It’s Own: 


Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense ~ SPF 50 ~ $30 for 1.7 oz. 


Best Under Powder Foundation: 

Neutrogena Healthy DefenseNeutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen (PureScreen) ~ SPF 50 ~ $13.99 for 1.7 oz.


Best Under Liquid Foundation: 

HydroPeptideHydroPeptide Solar Defense ~ SPF 30 ~ $44 for 1.7 oz.


Best Drugstore: 

Neutrogena Healthy DefenseNeutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen (PureScreen) ~ SPF 50 ~ $13.99 for 1.7 oz.


Best SPF 30 Overall: 

HydroPeptideHydroPeptide Solar Defense ~ SPF 30 ~ $44 for 1.7 oz.


Best SPF 50 Overall: 

ExuvianceExuviance Sheer Daily Protector ~ SPF 50 PA+++ ~ $ 42.00 for 1.7 oz




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