Your Health Questions Answered

Does Powder Sunscreen Actually Work?

Mineral powder sunscreen is all the rage in the skincare world, but does it actually work? A local dermatologist weighs in.

By Allison Forsyth March 23, 2022


Image: Kari Perrin

In Florida, a good sunscreen is the key to healthy skin—especially in the face of our region's abundant sunshine. Most of us are familiar with cream, gel and spray-on sunscreens—but what about powder sunscreen?

Powder sunscreen is mineral-based, easy to apply and keeps skin from getting greasy like traditional sunscreens can. It is great for touch-ups and won't ruin a gorgeous makeup look. While some of them are tinted to help give skin an overall glow, others are translucent powders that settle into skin.

So does this product, while convenient and fun to apply, actually work at protecting your skin from UV rays? Sarasota dermatologist Dr. Olga Ulitsky from WassermanUlitsky Dermatology weighs in.

What is powder sunscreen made of?

Powder sunscreen is typically made with formulas containing titanium and zinc, ceramide 3 (a widely used moisturizer), and iron oxide—all used to protect skin from the sun's rays. Powder sunscreens may also include olive glycerides for hydration and other vitamins, like E and C, for anti-aging benefits.

Ulitsky recommends finding a broad-spectrum powder sunscreen that protects skin against UV-A and UV-B rays that is at least SPF 30+.

What are the benefits of powder sunscreen?

Benefits include its portable and convenient application process and its ability to work well on sensitive skin. It can also lay evenly over a layer of makeup without messing up your look, and you don't have to worry about your face looking greasy or oily.

"I tell patients the best sunscreen is the one they are going to use," Ulitsky says. "SPF in any form is beneficial for your skin if you are reapplying the proper amount and using it consistently."

How should you use powder sunscreen?

Beginning by applying a layer of cream-based sunscreen, as this is the best form of protection against the sun's rays. Then apply your makeup. Powder sunscreen can then be used throughout the day for touch-ups.

"Reapply every two hours evenly over your entire face and neck," says Ulitsky. "Find an SPF of 30 or 45; you want at least 30 in order to get the right protection."

Ulitsky also says SPF is only effective if you use the proper amount of the product—a teaspoon amount for the face every two hours, or a shot glass-worth of cream or or lotion on the body. This can be difficult to track when using powder sunscreen, so be deliberate when applying.

What are the best brands?

Here are some top recommended brands that vary in cost, ingredient and tinted versus translucent powders.


Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, $69

This broad-spectrum sunscreen is an Allure Magazine Best of Beauty 2021 winner. It comes in four different shades and can be purchased online at or in-person at downtown Sarasota's L. Spa.


(Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 35, $30

This is a 100 percent mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. It also protects the skin from getting too dry by sealing in moisture. It is SPF 35 and comes in four different shades. You can purchase it online or in-person at Ulta or Sephora.

Hawaiian Tropic

Mineral Skin Nourishing Sunscreen Powder Brush SPF 30, $16.99

An inexpensive option that is just as effective as its pricier counterparts. This translucent formula blends into most skin tones and helps absorb excess oil on the skin with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. Pick up this one at Target or online.


SEA Set & Protect Mineral Sunscreen Powder Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $29

This vegan, cruelty-free option contains a mixture of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and vanilla natural fragrance. The translucent powder also blends well with most skin tones and helps keep skin matte without a chalky finish. Purchase at Sephora.

"Ultimately, the difference between lotion and powder sunscreen comes down to the user's preference," says Ulitsky. "People like powders because they are quick and easy, don't irritate your eyes and blend well with many skin tones."

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