Sunscreen is by far the best anti-aging product available on the market. This is due to the fact that the majority of premature aging is due to overexposure of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The addition of iron oxide to sunscreens can broaden this protection. So what are the best mineral sunscreens with iron oxide?
UV radiation leads to the production of DNA-damaging free radicals in the skin, decreases collagen and elastin levels within the skin, and causes changes to skin pigmentation.
Daily application of broad-spectrum sunscreens can significantly reduce this damage by reflecting or absorbing damaging UV rays. In one study, participants who applied sunscreen daily over a four-year period had no detectable signs of skin aging .
While UV radiation is the most damaging form of solar radiation for the skin, it only accounts for a small percentage of total solar radiation.
Solar radiation that reaches the surface of the earth is composed mainly of infrared radiation (780-5000nm), visible light (400-780nm), and UV radiation (290-400nm). In fact, infrared radiation accounts for about 53% of solar radiation, visible light accounts for about 39-44%, and UV radiation accounts for about 3-7%.
Visible light has demonstrated similar effects to UV radiation in the production of DNA-damaging free radicals and can cause abnormalities in skin cells as well as cell death .
So why are we not protecting our skin against visible light? And, more to the point, how can we protect our skin against visible light?
How To Protect Skin Against Visible Light?
There are two main ways that research suggests we can protect our skin from visible light – iron oxide and antioxidants.
Iron oxide is not included as an approved sunscreen by the FDA but is often added to mineral sunscreens in order to improve ‘white cast’. In addition, it can broaden the protection offered by mineral sunscreens into the UVA and visible light spectrums.
Some research suggests that the addition of iron oxide to mineral sunscreens can reduce the amount of UVA and visible light transmitted to the skin to 20%. In particular, when iron oxide is combined with zinc oxide, it can reduce the amount of UVA radiation transmitted to the skin to 1.5% .
In general, mineral sunscreen ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are better at protecting the skin from visible light than chemical sunscreens due to the fact that they reflect and scatter light .
However, they still do not offer sufficient visible light protection without the addition of iron oxide.
While iron oxide is effective at absorbing all wavelengths of visible light , it is particularly effective at absorbing longer UVA radiation and blue light but its effects are less optimal as wavelengths increase . UVA and Blue light (high energy visible – HEV – light) are particularly damaging for skin and adequate protection is not offered from conventional sunscreens .
Antioxidants protect against visible light in the same way they help protect against UV radiation – by preventing or reducing the production of DNA-damaging free radicals in the skin.
In one study, the addition of antioxidants to a sunscreen led to a 78% reduction in the number of free radicals produced after irradiation with visible light. Even more impressive, antioxidants alone reduced the amount of free radical damage in a similar way .
The Best Mineral Sunscreens With Iron Oxide
Before we go through the best mineral sunscreens with iron oxide, its worth mentioning that whatever sunscreen you decide to use, be it with iron oxide or without, there are some key things to remember:
- Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum – meaning that it protects against both UVA & UVB rays.
- Sunscreen should be at least SPF30 – while there isn’t a huge amount of additional UVB protection offered by SPF50+ sunscreens (SPF30 protects against 97% of UVB rays, while SPF50 protects against 98% of UVB rays), there may be better UVA protection in higher SPFs. This is due to the PPD method that recommends a UVA:UVB ratio of 1:3.
Note: Due to iron oxides natural reddish hue, the majority (if not all) of sunscreens containing iron oxide will be tinted.
With that out of the way, here are the best mineral sunscreens with iron oxide…
Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV defense SPF 50
A radiance-boosting mineral sunscreen with iron oxide that is paraben free and non-comedogenic. It is a weightless fluid with translucent colour spheres that adapt to every skin tone for an even and radiant finish. Formulated with a plankton extract that increases skins tolerance to UV radiation and heat-induced stress. It blends well and provides enough coverage to smooth imperfections whilst looking natural. May not provide enough coverage for some people.
Neostrata Sheer physical protection SPF 50
Jam-packed full of antioxidants, this mineral sunscreen with iron oxide is suitable for all skin types. Its light-weight, lightly tinted, and leaves the skin looking airbrushed. However, the universal tint may be a bit too dark for fairer skin tones. Formulated with vitamin E, lactobionic acid, and EGCG (the potent antioxidant in green tea) it can neutralize free radicals and help preserve healthy DNA.
Exuviance sheer daily protection SPF 50 PA++++
Another antioxidant jam-packed mineral sunscreen with iron oxide, this formulation from Exuviance is fairly similar to Neostratas. In fact, the ingredients are nearly identical; vitamin E, lactobionic acid, EGCG. The only discernable difference seems to be the price, with Exuviance coming in slightly cheaper than Neostrata.
Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream SPF35
This mineral sunscreen with iron oxides is one for those who like a bit more coverage as it is a foundation, concealer, and sunscreen all in one! Available in multiple shades it can offer a flawless finish suitable for all skin tones. Coverage is buildable, won’t settle in fine lines or pores, or cause break-outs! It also has great reviews form individuals with rosacea.
SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield SPF 32
A light-weight mineral sunscreen with iron oxide that offers high UVA protection, is paraben free, oil free, and fragrance-free. This sunscreen is hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin. Formulated with vitamin E and antioxidants to help protect skin against free radical damage and infrared rays. It’s similar to the SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV defense but less greasy. It blends perfectly with all skin tones without leaving a chalky residue.
Dermalogica Light Sheer Tint Moisture SPF 20 Face Moisturiser
A moisturizer, sunscreen, and foundation in one? This light-weight mineral sunscreen with iron oxide has the benefit of added antioxidants to protect against free radical damage, hyaluronic acid to improve skin hydration, and is available in three different shades. It’s suitable for all skin types and tones. However, it loses a few points for only offering SPF 20 protection.
Tizo 3 Tinted Face Mineral SPF 40 Sunscreen
Chemical free, oil free, paraben free, and fragrance-free, this mineral sunscreen with iron oxide is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. This sunscreen is excellent for skin that suffers from rosacea or melasma. It’s non-greasy formula also makes it a great option for oily skin types as well as dry and sensitive skin types. The tinted colour may be too dark for fairer skin types.
Cotz Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40.
This mineral sunscreen with iron oxide from Cotz is light-weight, silky, blends well, and leaves a sheer matte finish. It provides a subtle tint that blends in with all skin tones and is water resistant for up to an hour! It’s non-greasy and suitable for both oily skin types as well as sensitive skin. The coverage may not be enough to replace your foundation, but it would make an excellent primer. In addition, the tinted colour is light enough for fair skin.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen
This hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic mineral sunscreen with iron oxide and antioxidants is tint-free, which is unusual for a sunscreen with iron oxide. This makes it perfect for those of you who prefer to go make-up free! It’s light-weight, silky-smooth, and blends in a way that can help blur fine lines and wrinkles. This sunscreen is water resistant up to 80 minutes and contains vitamin C, green tea, and fruit extracts.
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- Hughes, M., Williams, G., Baker, P., Green, A. (2013). ‘Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging: A Randomized Trial’, Annals of Internal Medicine, 158 (11), 781-790.
- Bennet, D., Viswanath, B., Kim, S. & An, J. (2017). ‘An ultra-sensitive biophysical risk assessment on light effect on skin cells’, Oncotarget, 8(29), pp. 47861-4785.
- Lowe, N. (2006). ‘An overview of ultraviolet radiation, sunscreens, and photo-induced dermatoses’, Dermatol Clin., 24, pp. 9 –17.
- Kaye, E., Levin, J., Blank, I. et al. (1991). ‘Efficiency of opaque photoprotective agents in the visible light range’, Ach Dermatol, 127(3), pp. 351-355.
- Castanedo-Cazares, J., Hernandez-Blanco, D., Carlos-Ortega, B., Fuentes-Ahumada, C. & Torres-Alvarez, B. (2013). ‘Near visible light and UV photoprotection in the treatment of melasma: a double-blind randomized trial’, Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 30(1), 35-42.
- Liebel, F., Kaur, S., Ruvolo, E., Kollias, N. & Southall, M. (2012). ‘Irradiation of skin with visible light induced reactive oxygen species and matrix-degrading enzymes’, J Invest Dermatol., 132(7), 1901-1907.
Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.