Zinc Oxide


UV filter

Zinc Oxide at a glance

  • Mineral ingredient that’s one of the best-known broad spectrum UV filters
  • Proven gentle enough for sensitive skin (even infant skin and skin prone to rosacea)
  • Serves multiple functions in cosmetics, including as a skin protectant and thickener
  • Is the broadest spectrum UVA and UVB reflector approved as a sunscreen by the FDA

Zinc Oxide description

Zinc oxide is an inert earth mineral used as a thickening, lubricating, and sunscreen active ingredient in cosmetics. Along with titanium dioxide (another mineral sunscreen active ingredient), zinc oxide is considered to have no risk of skin sensitisation. Zinc oxide is so gentle and non-irritating that it’s used as a skin protectant, particularly in diaper rash creams for infants. As a sunscreen ingredient, it is effective in providing protection against sun’s UVA rays in addition to UVB rays. In fact, zinc oxide is the broadest spectrum UVA and UVB reflectors approved for use as a sunscreen by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is allowed in sunscreens in concentrations up to 25%. As a skin protectant, its maximum usage level is also 25%. Zinc oxide is also sometimes used in makeup to impart opacity to products like foundations, particularly powder-based makeup. In recent years, there have been concerns about the use of nano-sized zinc oxide in sunscreen formulations. Nanotechnology is about taking a material and making it much smaller than its original size. In the case of zinc oxide, nanotechnology is used to make it more aesthetically pleasing, as well as enhance its SPF. Nano-sized zinc oxide is not believed to be a safety concern for skin; a study published in Investigative Dermatology found that zinc oxide nanoparticles don’t penetrate the skin or damage it on a cellular level - even with repeated applications. Additional studies have found that nanosized zinc oxide is non-irritating in a manner similar to non-nano zinc oxide.

Zinc Oxide references

  • Journal of Investigative Dermatology, February 2019, pages 277-278
  • Nanomaterials, March 2017, pages 27-31
  • Particle and Fibre Toxicology, August 2016, page 44
  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2014, pages 273-283
  • Indian Journal of Dermatology, September-October 2012, pages 335-342
  • Archives of Toxicology, July 2012, pages 1063-1075
  • Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, & Photomedicine, April 2011, pages 58-67
  • American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, December 2010, pages 413-421
  • https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/zinc-oxide-0?gclid=CjwKCAjw3_KIBhA2EiwAaAAlipF1YpJBfZrmUbDnK6jm68_2f-GfsdZ770fVI15BFzZJtiFcCJjAWxoC3SkQAvD_BwE

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated