Zinc Oxide vs Titanium Dioxide {Sunscreen}

So, we talked about physical and chemical sunscreens in this post. I explained that I do not prefer chemical sunscreens because they produce free radicals in the body. So, now, we come down to physical sunscreens. Now, there are only two ingredients which has the properties of being physical sunscreens – Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.

Now, do you remember my post on the sunscreen breakout problem?? It was posted quite long back. In that post, I had simply stated that a sunscreen with Zinc Oxide will solve the breakout problems. Why did I not state anything regarding Titanium Dioxide? Let’s see if I can explain it.
Zinc Oxide
It is the best broad-spectrum UV filter known till now. And, it doesn’t cause any allergic reactions on the skin too. In fact, Zinc Oxide is pretty good for acne skin because of its anti-bacterial property. It just sits and disperses the light falling on the skin without allowing it to get to the skin surface. It doesn’t get absorbed by the skin. But, there are certain downsides to this ingredient.
Zinc Oxide is notorious for leaving a white cast on the skin. The Zinc Oxide sunscreens are thick and a little powdery in texture which might leave a powdery cast on the skin. These sunscreens do not blend on the skin very easily too. It takes a little getting used to the texture of the product.
Titanium Dioxide
So, you might have heard the debate whether Titanium Dioxide is poisonous or harmful to the skin or not. Ok, so let me first say, this is the second best ingredients for sunscreen but it doesn’t give a broad-spectrum protection. It lacks UVA spectrum protection. And, it is also known to be allergic to the sensitive skin. Well, Titanium Dioxide is one of regularly used ingredients in mineral makeup and if mineral makeup breaks you out, Titanium Dioxide allergy might be one of the factors. Even Titanium Dioxide leaves a white cast like Zinc Oxide.
So, let us first say how this ingredient protects from sun’s rays. It uses both absorption and dispersion methods. So, yup, you might ask me if it doesn’t produce free radicals? Well, I have been trying to hunt down for that answer and this is what I found: http://personalcaretruth.com/2011/01/does-titanium-dioxide-cause-free-radical-damage. Well, check out the article for detailed explanation.
Does Titanium Dioxide produce free radicals?
Well, there are two types of Titanium Dioxide which can be used in the products – Rutile and Anatase. These are the polymorphs of original Titanium Dioxide and thus, differ in certain properties. So, as it comes out, rutile is less photoreactive than anatase form because it has highest refractive index of all the known minerals and it also has high dispersion properties which means that rutile Titanium Dioxide reflects the UV light more than absorbing it.
Now, you need to be concerned about which form is present in your product. So, the answer given is that generally it is the rutile form which is more commonly used but in case of doubt, the manufacturer of the product should be contacted. Not a very good answer but the summary is that you need not be bothered about the absorption because it is very less likely to damage the skin.
What would I choose?
Well, my answer would be Zinc Oxide as it is broad-spectrum and more effective but I definitely wouldn’t mind Titanium Dioxide in mineral makeup. That would add some sun protection to the makeup you are using.


  1. eve says

    Ur article is very useful. I look at some of the good sunscreen like devita ultra spf 50 and the organic pharmacy cellulsr protection sun scream spf 50 and noted high zinc oxide content. Hodwever titanium dioxide is also added. If zinc oxide is more superior than titanium dioxide, why is it titanium dioxide included?

    I thought it would be more to just increase zinc oxide concentration? M having problems deciding which sunscreen to get.

    • says

      hi Eve…yes, generally, you will find both of them in physical sunscreens but that’s ok!!! actually, in a product more than 25% of zinc oxide can’t be added and that gives around 30 spf protection so may be to make up for the remaining spf, they add titanium dioxide…also, zinc oxide gives a white cast so there are certain reasons for which they add bth the ingredients and we can’t really think why they did that…also, titanium dioxide is included in mineral cosmetics if you have noted…I think its good for skin or something so that is another reason why the ingredients is added….but, don’t worry…that’s all ok!!! you can get any suncreen which goes well with your skin. hope this helps :)

  2. Anonymous says

    hey Swati, too good post, I keep reading all your posts and understand the significance you place on sunscreen. I have been loyally using spf 40 3-in-1 matte sunscreen from lotus, it behaved very well, but for the past week, its giving me probs….

    I have sensitive skin (cant use honey as it causes rashes, its that sensitive), acne-prone, combi skin. I live in Hyd, so my skin drives from dry to oily and vice-versa during season change.

    I use olay as a base moisturiser (not really into make up) or shahnaz hussain’s beauty balm as a moisturiser. I also used Erytop gel and a DIY facepack for multani mitti and raw milk, for pimples, which totally controlled them. But the recent two bumps on face are causing me concern, one of them has reduced in pain but the other has nt.

    Can you please help me with a good physical sunscreen which does not irritate the skin and calms it down, also a nice moisturiser suggestion would really help … me waiting for your response.


    • says

      hey Akhila…I am so sorry for the delayed response. first, i would suggest neutrogena. second, apply a good enough amount of sunscreen for proper protection. next, yes, due to dryness in hyd, skin does keep on fluctuating. a good moisturizer is lotus whitening emulsion. it doesn’t make the skin oily at all. the only physical sunscreen i can suggest is :
      its damn expensive. also, i can suggest rustic art aloevera gel at night. its really awesome. and, use apple cider vinegar over the bumps you have. it really helps and hope these recommendations work for you :)

    • Anonymous says

      Thank you very much for the response. I will start with neutrogena, alovera gel n apple cider … hope this should control the zits… the weather in Hyd is changing like crazy.

      Thanks again

    • says

      yup thats true :) its suddenly becoming too dry…my skin feels really dry!!! in fact it literally soaks up everything i apply!!!
      btw, have you tried suncross sunscreen by ranbaxy??? just asking!!! I have heard many people talk about it so asking if you know anything about it???

  3. says


    Zinc Oxide is a good ingredient to protect you from UVA rays. However new sunblocks have NANOSIZED zinc Oxide in which such particles are smaller. This way I would like to know if it provides you less protection then the “normal sized” zinc oxide.

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