Which sunscreen zinc percentage is best? Does it have to do with SPF?

You list Dermaquest as your favorite sunscreen with an spf of 30 and 18% zinc. You list Elta MD second with an spf of 49, but with 9% zinc. How does that make sense? Thank you.

I can see why I confused you on this. Basically when I look at a sunscreen, I don’t care about or even look at the SPF as long as it’s 30 or more. What I care about is sunscreen zinc percentage. Zinc is currently the only common sunscreen ingredient that blocks the entire UVA and UVB spectrum, fighting the sun’s aging affects on skin. I turn the sunscreen over and look at the zinc percentage. These aren’t directly related. The more zinc the better but the highest I’ve seen (that’s cosmetically tolerable) is 18-20 percent.  These are the best sunscreens for prevention of further damage from UV to your skin. And then I customize the sunscreen to what I’m doing that day since I put it on every morning.

For example, the Image SPF 30 (untinted) has 18% zinc but the Image SPF 50 (untinted) only has 9% zinc. Go figure! This is why you gotta read the active ingredient list on the back.


What sunscreen zinc percentage is best?

I was using  the Image Tinted (9%) or Tinted Elta (9% zinc)…….. if I wasn’t  outdoors at all and was (sadly) indoors all day in the winter here due to our horrible weather.   Lately, I’ve just been using the 18% every morning because we have a lot of windows in our office and UVA goes through window glass. From about April-October or if I’m going to be outside at all, I use the Dermaquest or the Image SPF 30 untinted (both 18%) once or even twice a day. More if swimming etc.

BOTTOM LINE:   Turn sunscreen tubes over and look at the percentage of zinc listed on the back label under Active Ingredients. Higher SPF doesn’t always mean more zinc percentage in ingredients.

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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