Physical sunscreens that feel nice on the skin

Physical SPF: The Good, The Bad, The So-So

SPF: it’s hella controversial, but a skincare necessity.

Whether or not chemical SPF is harmful is an ongoing debate in the skincare realm. I know there is a lot of fear mongering when it comes to ingredients so I always try to do my own research. But, at the end of the day, I’m not a cosmetic chemist. Until I read this post by Kind of Stephen— who actually is a cosmetic chemist!– about physical vs chemical SPF, I was a strictly physical SPF kinda girl. Technically, they shouldn’t even be called chemical or physical, but that’s a whole other story, and one Stephen explains beautifully.

Still, I generally take the Drunk Elephant stance of “if there’s doubt, it’s out,” and have mostly steered clear of chemical sunscreens just to be safe. There are a couple chemical ones I use since I like them, but I’m always trying to find better-for-you physical versions that won’t leave a white cast or feel thick and heavy.

Along my search, I’ve found some good, some meh, and unfortunately, some bad.


FOR A NOURISHING SPF… Kypris Pot of Shade Heliotropic Treatment Primer SPF 30*
This little pot of SPF goodness was love at first use. It has a cream consistency, kind of like moisturizer, and sinks into the skin so nicely without leaving a white cast. It has different oils, extracts, and squalane so it is very nourishing while providing sun protection. For combo/normal/oily skin, you could skip on using another moisturizer since it does the job very nicely. The active ingredient is 20% Zinc Oxide so you’ve got both UVA rays– the ones that prematurely age your skin– and UVB rays — the ones that burn your skin–blocked, boo.

IF YOU WANT SOMETHING IN A SQUEEZY TUBE… Missha All Around Safe Block Mild Sun SPF 30 PA++*
It has a slightly thicker consistency, but it’s still creamy, and blends in nicely. You do have to blend this one in a bit more, but once you do, it doesn’t leave a white cast nor does it feel greasy. It’s recommended to apply 1/4 tsp of spf to get the full coverage and benefits. That can seem like a lot so I like to layer this one on by applying a little, blending it in, and then going in with more. The active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and it even has a little bit of squalane in there, which is an antioxidant that also moisturizes.

This one is newer to my collection, but once again was love at first use. The consistency reminds me of the Kypris one, and, similarly, if you have combo/normal/oily skin you could skip on using another moisturizer because it’s moisturizing on its own. On top of SPF protection, it has Echinacea Purpurea root extract, which is rich in antioxidants so your skin is getting its antioxidant fix too. And, it has 5.82% zinc oxide and 2.40% titanium dioxide for broad spectrum protection (from UVA and UVB rays).

FOR A QUICK SPRAY, BLEND, AND GO… Dr. Dennis Gross Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50
Mornings and I just do not get along. I’ve never been a morning person. So, becoming a skincare person has made my mornings even more rushed since I like to try and do a whole routine. Anything that can speed things along in the morning is a true friend to me. This Dr. Dennis GrossS SPF is a true friend indeed. It’s super easy to spray on, blend and go. You can use this all over your body and your face. I’ve used it for both. On the face, it can get a little greasy so you do need to take a few minutes to let it dry down before going in with any makeup. If you have super oily skin then I would probably steer clear of this one on the face, but still pick it up for the body. The active ingredient is 12% zinc oxide so it is broad spectrum. Bonus: it has antioxidants like green tea extract, resveratrol, and CoQ10.


THE ONE THAT LEFT ME FEELING CONFLICTEDLuzern Urban Protect Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30*
Is this a bad sunscreen? Definitely not. In fact, I love that it comes with a pump, is transparent once blended into the skin, works well under makeup, and has great ingredients including antioxidants. The part that leaves me feeling conflicted is that it stings a little when I apply it, and I’ve never experienced that with a sunscreen before. It can be a little drying on the face, but the part that I don’t get along with the most is that it leaves a weird, grimy feeling residue on my hands that I’m not a fan of. I normally like to rub in the SPF remnants left on my hands, but I can’t do that with this. I’m left conflicted because of that. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite either. It has 15% zinc oxide along with a bunch of other great extracts like green tea. So, antioxidant points for this one too.


THE ONE THAT’S TINTED, BUT STILL MADE ME LOOK GREY… Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector SPF 50 PA++++
Oh how I wish, I wish that I loved this one because it’s tinted and has really good protection. It’s a one size fits all kinda tint that on its own unfortunately left my skin looking salmony grey–a new look for me. The consistency is very liquidy, which I don’t mind, but it made my skin look oily. It left a weird residue, felt greasy, and caused crepey and streaky foundation. The active ingredients in this are 7% titanium dioxide and 6% zinc oxide with ECGC and Vitamin E so it does have antioxidants as well. I hope they reformulate because it could have been amazing.

Do you have any favorite physical SPFs? Let me know in the comments below!

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*press samples



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