Do Powder Sunscreens Actually Work?

Sunscreen lotions — albeit totally necessary — can be a menace. The constant reapplication, that greasy feeling, the subsequent breakouts, and that lingering smell all day are inevitabilities when you're trying to protect your skin when out in the sun.
Thankfully, there is a way to protect your skin that doesn't involve any of the above: powder sunscreens. Made from highly refined minerals, these powders offer a high level of broad-spectrum protection, according to dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD. Most SPF powders are comprised of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide particles — the same ingredients you will find in many traditional SPF lotions. "The iron oxide and titanium dioxide particles are large molecular structures that help block infrared rays and keep skin cool," Dr. Chiu says. The powder creates a physical block over top of your skin, shielding it from UV rays by not allowing them to penetrate through.
In addition, Dr. Chiu says powders have particles that vary in size, which means they can fill in any "gaps" and provide more complete protection. "I often see that around the nose or by the hairline can be missed by creams or lotion SPF coverage, but powders can easily be blended into these areas," she says.
We were skeptical at first — if the powder just sits on top of your skin instead of absorbing into it, how does it not just wipe off the minute you walk outside or touch your face? "A well-made, high-integrity mineral powder sunscreen will stay in place because of the particle size," says Dr. Chiu. She adds that the skin's natural oils also help it adhere to the skin. That said, she recommends that you should still reapply every two to three hours, or after swimming or sweating. She also notes that because the powder sits on top of your skin, it's important to make sure your other skin care products are completely dry and absorbed into the skin before you apply your powder. Otherwise, your protection may not be as effective.
Now, you may have heard some chatter recently about SPF powders posing a health risk due to inhalation. Says Dr. Chiu: "There was some concern in the media that nanoparticles were of such a small size they could be absorbed into the skin or inhaled and cause problems down the line. Most cosmetic companies sheer their sunscreen particles into various sizes that are well above the nanoparticle range, to not penetrate the skin or be dangerous if inhaled."
We're big fans of SPF powders because they make sunscreen protection so damn easy. You don't need to wait around for it to absorb in order to be effective, you can apply it multiple times throughout the day without getting greasy or messing up your makeup, and it is super-portable so you can pop one in your purse and know that you always have sun protection handy.
Since you're now seriously familiar with the beauty of powder sunscreen, we've gone ahead and rounded up 11 of our faves for your browsing pleasure. Stock up now, people — those UV rays mean business.

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