Zinc Oxide vs Mexoryl Sunscreen Ingredients

Categories: Sunscreen
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mexorylIf you’re diligent enough to wear sunscreen, you probably want to make sure your sunscreen contains the most effective ingredients, don’t you? I wrote about my experiences to find the best sunscreen and sunblock – one that works best to not only protect against burning, but wrinkles and cancer as well. From my testing, I concluded that Zinc Oxide-based sunscreens work best for me, but Mexoryl-based sunscreens are extremely promising.

To get a bit technical, you want your sunscreen to protect you against UVA and UVB rays. UVA is what is responsible for aging your skin, giving you wrinkles, and skin cancer. UVB is what causes your skin to darken and burn. While all the information I read is a bit conflicting, here is a general idea of how the wavelengths of UVA and UVB breakdown:

UVB (burning) has a wavelength range (in nanometers) of:    

UVA (aging) has a wavelength range (in nanometers) of:       

To get the best sun protection, you want your sunscreen to contain ingredients that cover as wide a range as possible in the 280-400 spectrum. Here’s how a few of the best and most common sunscreen ingredients breakdown:

Zinc Oxide 290-380
Mexoryl 290-400
Avobenzene 340-375
Titanium Dioxide 290-340
Octinoxate and Octisalate 280-320
Oxybenzone 320-240

Now many sunscreens combine ingredients to cover a wider range of the spectrum. However, you can see that Zinc Oxide and Mexoryl cover the widest spectrum all by themselves, and they are photo-stable ingredients. This is extremely important, because it means your sunscreen won’t lose effectiveness an hour after you apply it like Avobenzene, for example, which is not photo-stable. I briefly mentioned in the best sunscreen post that Neutrogena and some other companies use Helioplex, or other ingredients to make their Avobenzene more photostable. I haven’t experimented with these ingredients, but I doubt they are as photo-stable as Zinc Oxide or Mexoryl.

I am still a huge fan of Zinc Oxide, and have not tested Mexoryl sunscreens much yet. I tried La Roche Posay’s Anthelios, which is great in theory, but it caused me to break out like crazy and get a face-full of zits after every use! I was not able to determine if it caused my face to feel like it was on fire, which is how I feel when I use a sunscreen with Avobenzene.

Because Mexoryl covers a slightly better UVA range than Zinc Oxide, I will be on the lookout for more new sunscreens to test. However, I like sunscreens that have an SPF of at least 30, and I don’t want to try the Anthelios line again, so my choices are limited. Also, aside from the Mexoryl, I don’t want a product that contains any pore clogging ingredients. I need to find out once and for all if it’s the Mexoryl that is clogging my pores. If I find another high SPF sunscreen with Mexoryl, and it doesn’t clog my pores, the next step will be to test it outside in the hot sun for an hour or so. I should have started this testing this summer:( I’ll keep you posted with my results.

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12 Responses to “Zinc Oxide vs Mexoryl Sunscreen Ingredients”

  1. Maren Says:

    You might want to try BioDerma; I am fair-skinned myself, and very concerned with sun damage. I have found BioDerma SPF 50+ Lait PhotoDerm Max to be the best overall sunscreen. I also broke out from the Anthelios brand, and BioDerma was originally designed for those exposed to extreme sun conditions- so it really will protect you. It is difficult to find in the states, but I purchased my current stock from Best wishes!

  2. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    Okay thanks, I want to try that sunscreen! I see it contains Tinosorb instead of Mexoryl. I will probably have to wait til next summer to try out all these new sunscreens, since the sun isn’t bright enough now! There are a bunch of reviews about BioDerma on, as well as a bunch of other European sunscreens that sound interesting!

  3. DR Says:

    Hi Jeni, I used the Anthelios sunscreen on holiday and it turned my face into an oil slick :( . Now I’m using the Shiseido one and love it.

  4. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    I’m glad you like the Shiseido! Yeah the Anthelios did seem sort of oily. I only tried one (I know they have like 10 different formulas) but the one I tried also make me break out like crazy.

  5. Hailey Cross Says:

    Hi there. I would recommend you do some real research on sunscreens. You have been influenced by mass media that says that a high SPF product is a better sun screen. Do you know how much more uvb absorption is achieved by an SPF 30 vs. an SPF 15? about 2% more uvb…that basically means you can stay in the sun minutes longer. The key is to reaplpy your sunscreen often, in other words do your skin a favor and fight against skin cancer by using a sunsccreen that focuses on the best protection against UVA. You are correct on one thing, Mexoryl is the best UVA protection. Do you know why? Because it protects you from both UVA long ray and UVA short ray…no other sunscreen in the market protects from UVA short ray. You should also know that the Anthelios products have been clinically tested on patients with highly sensitive skin (Dermatosis), and proved to be extremely safe. Anthelios SX is acnegenic, and the texture is amazing!! I recommend you try it again…perhaps you were hormonal when you used it and are blaming the sunscreen for your breakouts.

  6. ruza Says:

    (oops… had to edit previous post, please accept this one instead and delete this line if possible)

    thanks for the info. some other considerations with the sunscreen research and controversy (research ongoing, keep googling):
    – some sunscreen agents have little UVA protection, most products have UVB only protection, with limited UVA (short-wave) protection. (Wish me luck on returning a bunch of products that I’ve learned aren’t really that “broad spectrum”)
    – those agents that provide UVA protection can have estrogenic effects and cause photo sensitivities (i.e. Avobenzone degrades upon UV exposure and over time decreases protection, increases photosensitivity). There are studies in Australia saying there are increased incidences of skin cancer with some UVA sunscreen products (especially with people staying out in sun too long thinking they are protected).
    – newer media info: overuse of “high SPF” sunscreens has been linked to Vitamin D deficiencies in some people (still following this one, mostly Australian studies). Tthere appears to be minimal difference in protection between SPF 15 and 30 with regards to sun exposure (96% v. 98%), and looking at previous human generations, some sun is necessary for health (albeit today’s climate seems more severe that in the past). Maybe you only need SPF 15 to 30, but reapplied more frequently during peak sun hours (10 to 3 daily). SPF 40, 50 or higher is controversial.
    – don’t know much about Meroxyl except that L’oreal owns the patent (parent company of La Roche Posay). Was going to try their sunscreen but I have problems with sunscreens and breakouts. Thanks for the advice.
    – so far, I’m hoping 2 newer products I got with mineral sunscreens will work out better (especially since I have oily-combo skin that’s sensitive, light olive complexion so I don’t really burn that much, UVA more of a concern). One is zinc-oxide based, the other titanium based (but microparticle so less “white”), both are “organic/natural” (we’ll see, I like to research). Zinc is supposed to offer better protection, also zinc is commonly used for medicinal purposes (diaper rash, wounds, zits, etc.) so I prefer this so far. Let you know how I fare before I dare promote anything.

  7. Tracy Says:

    That’s odd that most of you broke out from Anthelios.I have extremly sensitive skin with eczema and the Anthelios is the only sunscreen that doesn’t break me out. In fact, creams containing zinc oxide produced red bumps every where- I always thought that since zinc oxide is a physical barrier, it could clog pores. I have mature skin which is dry most of the time, probably the reason Anthelios works for me. I could see someone with oily skin having a problem with Anthelios because it is rich. Neutrgena and Olay just makes me super shiny.

  8. Lavinia Says:

    I’m wondering where you got the wavelength information from?
    From what I understand Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide protects along the whole spectrum from 230-700.

    Can you please correct me if I’m wrong?

  9. Redhead Says:

    I have extremely fair skin – burn in no time and do not, under any circumstances, tan. Zinc Oxide works better than anything I’d found, though I still burned with it if not careful (reapplying spf 55 every 30 minutes). I live in the US, but went to Paris for a summer recently, and found Vichy sunscreens, which use mexoryl as the main ingredient. They worked amazingly – better than the zinc oxide, for me. However, I believe very few sunscreens in the US have that ingredient – I know you can’t buy the Vichy brand here, and you can’t order it and have it shipped on their website. I haven’t tried the
    Anthelios, but for what it’s worth, the mexoryl worked great – and I have been known to burn in sun less than an hour wearing higher than a 55 spf.

  10. Aaryn Says:

    Mexoryl is patented and owned by L’Oreal so almost all of their sunscreen products have this active ingredient. They also own most of the major cosmetics companies in the world. (L’oreal, Biotherm, Lancome, Shu Uemura, Garnier, Kiehl’s, Vichy, Skinceuticals, La Roche Porsay, etc.) There is bound to be one brand owned by L’oreal that produces a sunscreen that isn’t as greasy as the one you tried/won’t break you out. I personally use L’Oreal Ombrelle Sunscreen for Face with SPF 60 and it’s non-comedogenic. It is a little bit greasy for my oily/combination skin but it hasn’t broken me out yet and with a bit of powder, I can still have a matte finish when I go out for the day. I wear sunscreen RELIGIOUSLY so I know how hard yet important it is to find the right one. Good luck with the search! :)

  11. Aaryn Says:

    Also, the higher the SPF the more greasy it tends to be. An SPF 30 usually gives a good amount of protection so that’s probably the best option for you if you’re worried about breaking out.

  12. Bq Says:

    Hi. I also had a break out experience however after a short break I gave it another try and am very diligent to clean my face with a good cleaner that removes “makeup”. I use skincueticals. I don’t have problems any more. Plus I tone my skin too. It might be the cleaning or lack thereof that caused the breakout. I have typically sensitive skin and it will breakout at the slightest blocking of my pores.

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