The 3 Best Zinc-based Sunscreens, as voted by the Crazy Arms team
The Crazy Arms team often get asked what sunscreens we recommend for those parts of the body that can’t be protected by clothing.
With so many to choose from on the supermarket shelves, it can be a daunting task to pick one. The reality is that using any of the available sunscreens is better than no sun screen on high UV days.
But if you want to be a bit fussier, below are the top 3 choices we use on ourselves and our family.
Our criteria - which type of sunscreen / UV-blocker is best?
Both chemical and mineral blockers do the job. Chemical sunscreens work through chemicals which absorb the UVB and UVA.
A variety of chemicals are used, with maximum concentrations specified to minimise the absorption into your system. The list gets updated as more research takes place. Government testing has declared the levels safe. We go along with that, although we still reckon absorbing fewer chemicals is better.
Indeed, a recent study in the USA suggested that if you apply enough sunscreens to be effective, you will actually be absorbing more than the specified 'safe' amount. That’s why we still believe that ‘clothing is king’. Arm protection, like Crazy Arms, can reduce overall sunscreen use by 30%, as well as providing consistent protection.
As you may have read, Hawaii banned sunscreens containing two chemical blockers - oxybenzone and octinoxate - in Jan 2021. This is because of the potential impact on the reef systems.
Now there is new research casting a shadow over one of the most common ingredients in sunscreens - octocrylene - which is used in over 2,400 brands. According to research, as octocrylene degrades over time, it forms benzophenone, a suspected carcinogen that also can interfere with key hormones and reproductive organs. Scary stuff. How scared we should be is a matter for the scientists to investigate further. You can read a good summary article here.
That’s why we choose Zinc
Mineral blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work differently, by sitting on top of the skin and deflecting UV rays. The Crazy Arms team tend to use these products when we are out and about with our families. These mineral blockers are famous for the 'white' look.
Zinc Oxide is a naturally derived product, that reflects both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays penetrate the epidermis (top layer of the skin) causing damage to the cells. UVA rays can affect cells deeper in the skin. These are the rays that cause premature skin aging and the more aggressive and harmful forms of skin cancer.
Our Top 3 recommended Zinc-based Sun Screens
Ok, we’re not chemists or dermatologists. However, we do read what is written on the packs and their corporate websites with a critical eye. We have spent a bit of time analysing the ingredient lists, as well as trying and testing on ourselves and our kids under the Australian sun.
Note also, that all three brands we recommend are offered in a various formats. We suspect the sub-brands are more about marketing thn tailored formulations. The underlying chemistry is consistent, whether it is for kids or sport or whatever.
3rd Place – Invisible Zinc
It’s been around for quite a while now, and has been our long-term favourite. Originally developed in Australia and still made here, the brand is now owned by a pan-Asian pharmaceutical company, iNova Pharmaceuticals.
“Rubs in easily and dries clear” is the claim. It is quite a thick formulation, that requires a good amount of application to become “invisible”.
Our kids find it a bit tiresome to apply on a morning before school. How invisible is it? Not very, in our experience. The good news is that it is obvious if the kids have put it on. Not just by checking their faces, but also through the tell-tale white smears their hands leave on car doors and seat upholstery.
The secret to its claimed “invisibility” is the micronized zinc oxide. As we understand it, these are zinc oxide particles that are small, but not as small as the nano-particles that feature in other sun screens.
Are miconized or nano-particles safe? According to the latest Australian TGA review: "to date, the current weight of evidence suggests that TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells, rather, they remain on the surface of the skin."
Some comfort, if not totally reassuring.
Invisible Zinc’s pump and clip on bottle are both really handy dispensers. Unfortunately, they are not very environmentally friendly for recycling purposes.
Invisible Zinc Sport 100ml – from $14.49 to $29.95 – Yes a wide range of pricing across its many stockists *
*Where to buy
Invisible Zinc is available pretty much everywhere. Coles, Woolworths, Chemist Warehouse, Priceline Pharmacies among many.
2nd Place – Thinkbaby / Thinksport
We found this US-based brand during our research, and bought in samples that we have been using over the summer. Gothink was founded by Texas-based entrepreneur, Kevin Brodwick
Zinc-based, ThinkSport go out of their way to state that the 20% Zinc Oxide active ingredient is non-nano. They also confirm that the base formulations of their sunscreens are identical.
The sunscreen is easy to apply – it is not as thick as Invisible Zinc – and has a slight floral fragrance; some liked, some were less keen, amongst the family testers. Like the zinc sunscreens of old, it does leave a distinctive white look; if you are out on the water, the golf course, the cricket oval or cycling, we don’t see this as much of an issue. It’s just part of the sporting equipment.
We have also found the face and body sticks very handy to top up those vulnerable areas of nose, cheeks and ears over the course of sporting activities, even though they are only rated SPF30+.
The packaging does make positive claims about its recycling heritage – it does not contain BPA, vinyl, or phthalates and claims to be “environmentally safe”. However, we are concerned that not much recycling of the packs actually happens.
ThinkSport 177ml - $33.51 for (including $5 shipping cost)
Where to buy
Thinkbaby and Thinksport are not stocked in Australia. However, they can be easily purchased through online store iherb.com . (Don't buy on your first visit and wait for the 20% discount code in their follow-up email!) Delivery was a little delayed for us (maybe a pandemic issue) but worth the wait when we got the product to try.
1st Place – Sunbutter Sunscreen
A recent discovery for us, Sunbutter Sunscreen has been around for five years, created by Australian marine biologist and conservation ecologist team, Sacha and Tom.
SunButter sunscreen is made with certified sustainable ingredients and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB mineral blocker zinc oxide, which lends superior restorative and nurturing qualities for all skin types, even sensitive and/or weathered skin. This moisturising sunscreen will leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and protected from the elements.
Most importantly, our 11-year-old really likes the feel and enjoys using it on her face before school. It rubs on smoothly and easily.
Made in a solar powered factory in Australia, it comes in a tin, that is food grade safe, made from REUSABLE and recyclable material and BPA free.
You can see more of their story here.
Sunbutter Sunscreen 100g $29.95 + shipping
Where to buy
Available online and through surf shops around Australia, you can now also buy from the Crazy Arms website, on its own (Shipping $7.50) or as an addition to your Crazy Arms order.
Find out more about our top 3 recommendations:
1st place: Sunbutter Sunscreen
2nd place: Gothink
3rd place: Invisible Zinc
Check out some of the other sunscreen reviews:
Choice Magazine (2018) – SPF 50+ sunscreens put to the test
14 of the Best Sunscreens with Zinc Oxide
#crazyarmsdesign #sunsmart #sunprotection #sunscreen #playcrazygood #clothingisking #improveyourlonggame #slipslapswing #matesagainstmelanoma #sunbutterskincare #gothinkco #invisiblezincau
Our blog articles are based on our own experience and research. For expert advice, please contact a medical professional.
Read more of our blogs
Shop Crazy Arms UPF 50+ Sun Sleeves