How do zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect me from the sun?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers of UV sunlight. This means they sit on top of your skin, like little rocks, and do not allow light to pass through to your skin where the radiation can burn your DNA. I like both of these ingredients in your sunblock for several reasons.

  • First, they work! Reapply every hour when in the intense sun or
    when swimming to be sure you have a nice layer of protection.
    Blockers such as these do not degenerate like some other
    sunscreen chemicals. But they do rub off or sweat off your skin
    so don’t forget to reapply.
  • Second, they stay on top of your skin where you want them! Recent
    concerns about systemic absorption of sunscreen chemicals
    have been addressed by the AAD and the chemicals are
    considered to be safe. However, it is nice to know that your
    sunblock is not permeating your skin.
  • Third, both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral based and
    can be used in the newest, most cosmetically elegant
    formulations of mineral sun protection.

My best advice when it comes to selecting sun protection is to make it easy on yourself to remember to use it! Buy an assortment of sunblocks and sunscreens SPF 30-50 in lotions, sprays, and sticks and place them in convenient areas. It’s called product placement. Your purse, beach bag, glove compartment, tennis bag, kids’ backpacks! If it is easy to find, you will be much more likely to use it!

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical sunscreens. This means they create a layer of protection over your skin that reflects UVA and UVB rays.


Continue Learning about Sunburn Prevention

Sunburn Prevention

Sunburn Prevention

Spending time outside can be fun, but painful sunburn isn't. At all times of the year -- even on cloudy days -- sun protection from the sun's harmful UV rays is needed. Step one is sunscreen or sunblock with a high SPF. (And don't ...

forget to reapply!). The sun's UV rays are strongest during the middle of the day so your risk for sunburn is higher, despite using sunscreen and taking other protective measures. Get more information about protecting your skin from sun damage with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.