A reader recently asked me "does mineral makeup really protect your skin from the sun?" Mineral particles can block UV rays. Some mineral makeup powders actually are labeled with an SPF and call themselves mineral makeup SPF sunscreens. How does this work and is it good enough?
The question of mineral powder sun protection is a really important question and I wanted to share my answer with you.
There is no true definition for the term 'mineral makeup.
Products can claim to be 'mineral makeup' and contain a broad range of ingredients. That is because the term 'mineral makeup' is not strictly - or legally - defined as discussed in this article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Products labeled as 'mineral makeup' can be found as loose powders, pressed and baked powders and liquid foundations. They may contain varying amounts of inert mineral particles, meaning particles derived from the earth's minerals. They may also contain other ingredients such as liquids, fillers and fragrances.
Mineral makeup powders made from mineral particles will scatter some UV rays
All makeup with mineral particles provides some sun protection because mineral particles will scatter UV rays. Mineral particles are also the active ingredients in mineral sunscreens. I think mineral sunscreens such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are the best sunscreens for sun protection because of this scattering mechanism of protection. When you layer your skin with mineral particles, they act like little barriers to prevent UV rays from passing into your skin; the UV ray hits a mineral particle and bounces off the particle and back into space - sparing your skin. The simplicity of the mechanism is brilliant!
About Mineral Makeup
What is mineral makeup?
The particles in mineral makeup often include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (our mineral sunscreen minerals) as well as others like iron oxide and even clay. You can see how this layer of minerals on your skin can provide a nice barrier to block UV rays.
Why isn't mineral makeup powder sunscreen good enough alone to sun protect your skin?
The BIG problem with mineral makeup sunscreen powder is that you want to be free to apply your makeup solely for the look you want to achieve. You don't want to have to cake on your makeup for sun protection - and that's what you would need to do! For this reason, as of my update of this post in 2023, the FDA says that more data on mineral makeup powder sunscreen is needed before they will determine if they are safe and effective to protect skin and claim a specific SPF value. I agree.
With any sunscreen, you are only protected if you apply the correct and sufficient amount of sunscreen.
We don't know what that is for mineral powder but it would need to be a lot!
- The official recommendation for cream and lotion sunscreen is that you need 1 tsp of sunscreen for the "head and neck" in order to get the full SPF of protection from the product. This includes skin surface of the ears, behind the ears, and the back of the neck. It also allows for scalp coverage in someone with hair loss.
- For the average person applying facial sunscreen, I have found that a 1/3 teaspoon amount of mineral SPF 30 sunscreen gives reliable protection for the face. I add another 1/3 tsp for the neck and ears. This of course depends on the size of your face, hairstyle, shirt collar and other factors that impact your exposed skin surface area.
As always, however, you need to be paying attention to how well your sun protection strategy is working; if you notice your skin tanning, then you know that you need to be applying more product. This is why I recommend that you apply mineral zinc oxide sunscreen first and dusting mineral makeup on top.
Related helpful advice: read Dr. Bailey's trusted tips for makeup and healthy skin care.
Mineral makeup applied over sunscreen gives you the best protection.
The IDEAL solution for facial sun protection is to apply a beautiful, mineral-rich makeup over a broad spectrum SPF 30+ mineral zinc oxide sunscreen - you will have 2 layers of protective mineral particles on your skin AND you can create the makeup look that you want to achieve. It's what I do for my fair 64-ish year old complexion! - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
I use a tinted mineral zinc oxide sunscreen and my mineral makeup powders. Specifically I wear my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50+ Sunscreen on my face and apply makeup over it.
Pro-tip: Layer a mineral makeup powder over a tinted zinc oxide sunscreen for the best protection and makeup coverage
I personally layer my mineral makeup powder on top of my tinted sunscreen. I get great coverage. The Matte texture of my sunscreen is a great makeup primer for the powder. It is also formulated with over 3.2% iron oxide to block visible and digital light known to contribute to skin damage and pigment problems. I start my day knowing that my skin is really well protected.
I use my Baked Mineral Makeup Foundation when I wear foundation. Every day I use my Loose Blush and Eye Trio. These products are gentle for the most sensitive skin.
See all of my mineral makeup powders. They give you a naturally flawless appearing complexion, and provide an almost impenetrable fortress of mineral particles to fend off UV rays.
Mineral powder dusted over mineral sunscreen is the naturally elegant solution to living on a sunny planet and taking good care of our skin. - Dr. Bailey
Overview of my mineral powder foundation makeup:
Loose Mineral Makeup Powder made with kaolin clay to absorb excess oil throughout the day.
Pressed Mineral Makeup is applied with a sponge.
Mineral Baked Foundation to apply with a brush.