zinc stick
Zinc sticks make application easy and convenient; they are also safe for use by children and people with sensitive skin. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Winter in the desert is by no means a snowy, waterlogged affair. In fact, desert winters usually continue to be sunny and bright, and the pleasant weather lures both the young and old to outdoor destinations, like the beach, camping spots or impromptu road trips.

So, it’s never been more important to apply sunscreen.

Because tubes of sunscreen, some of which leave a white cast, can be annoying to handle, and always require one’s hands to be clean for application, we looked for a more convenient route: sunscreen sticks.

How are zinc sticks different from other sunscreens?

Hala Mahfouz, skin therapist at Paramount Medical Centre, Dubai, shed some light on these travel-friendly sunscreens. She said: “Zinc sticks, commonly known as zinc oxide sunscreen sticks, differ from chemical sunscreens primarily in their active ingredients and mode of action.”

Known as physical or mineral sunscreens, zinc sticks use zinc oxide as their main active ingredient, and it works as a physical barrier on the skin. In contrast, chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds that absorb UV (ultra violet) radiation and convert it into heat.

Mahfouz added: “[Zinc oxide] reflects and scatters both UVA and UVB rays. This physical barrier is why zinc sticks are often referred to as physical or mineral sunscreens. Unlike chemical sunscreens, zinc sticks tend to be less irritating to sensitive skin and are considered broad-spectrum protection against the sun's harmful rays.”

Are zinc sticks safe for people with sensitive skin?

sunscreen stick
Since they are lightweight and pocket-sized, sunscreen sticks are an ideal choice for travel and daily use. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sunscreen sticks are especially convenient when you’re taking your children to the beach or pool – they’re safe to use, and easy to apply. Mahfouz also recommends it for people with sensitive skin, but with a caveat: “The physical barrier provided by zinc oxide is less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions compared to some chemical sunscreen ingredients. However, as with any skincare product, it is advisable to perform a patch test before applying it widely, especially for those with sensitive skin. Additionally, consulting with a healthcare professional or dermatologist can provide personalised advice based on individual skin conditions or concerns.”

The best way to use a sunscreen stick is to apply it generously all over exposed skin areas. Mahfouz shared some advice: “The stick format allows for easy and targeted application, making it convenient for on-the-go use. Reapplication is crucial, especially after swimming, sweating, or spending extended periods in the sun. As a general guideline, reapply zinc sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if engaging in water-related activities.”

Based on our expert’s recommendations, and top-rated sunscreen sticks on Amazon, we curated a list of the best zinc sticks you can pick up for daily use. Don’t forget to become a Prime member for free, fast delivery.

1. Best Overall: EltaMD UV Sunscreen Stick 

With hundreds of rave reviews on Amazon, Swiss brand EltaMD’s zinc stick offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50+ in a mess-free formula that takes just seconds to apply. The sunscreen is water resistant for up to 80 minutes; reviewers say it doesn’t sting the eyes when they perspire, and doesn’t rinse off easily when they take a dip in the pool. The formula includes antioxidants that combat skin-ageing free radicals, along with bisabolol, an essential oil found in German chamomile, which soothes the skin from daily environmental stressors.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

2. Best for Sensitive Skin: Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen Stick (2-Pack) 

The Australian brand Blue Lizard produces a fantastic reef-safe mineral sunscreen that boasts high SPF 50+ UVA/UVB sun protection. Formulated with vegan ingredients, it’s non-comedogenic, along with being fragrance- and dye-free. Mahfouz said: “Blue Lizard is often praised for its high zinc oxide content and suitability for sensitive skin, making it a reliable choice for individuals seeking effective and gentle sun protection.” Reviewers appreciate that it’s both sweat and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, so that they can spend more time in the pool or sea. It’s easy to apply, and dries smooth, not sticky, they add.

3. Best Gentle Zinc Stick: Babo Botanicals Super Shield Stick Sunscreen (2-Pack) 

If your skin is prone to redness and irritability, especially when you’re outdoors, consider Babo Botanicals’ Super Shield. This fast-absorbing, non-greasy formula is made for people with extra sensitive skin, so it’s perfect for children, as well as those with skin conditions. The zinc-based mineral sunscreen offers SPF 50 protection, and features avocado oil, which is known to calm and hydrate itchy skin, along with cocoa butter that works as a moisturiser to alleviate dryness. Other organic, skin-soothing ingredients like jojoba oil, cocoa seed butter and beeswax are on its ingredients list. Reviewers are happy with its 80-minute window for reapplication, and say it glides on easily with no greasy, white residue in sight.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

4. Best for Face: Beauty by Earth Mineral Sunscreen Stick, Crème 

If the ghoulish white cast of sunscreens, or greasy after-effects, are discouraging you from applying it every day, opt for Beauty by Earth’s pigmented zinc stick. Our pick is the Crème tint, suitable for lighter skin tones, but you can also find two other sheer tint options by the brand. This SPF 30 mineral sunscreen is formulated without silicones or fragrance, and is reef-friendly, thanks to holistic ingredients like organic beeswax, sunflower seed oil, cocoa seed butter and aloe vera. Reviewers say it evens out the skin with every application, and goes on smooth, without any lingering oiliness. It’s also sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

5. Best for Water Sports: Suntribe Natural Mineral Zinc Sun Stick 

A 100 per cent natural, reef-safe sunscreen stick that’s formulated as a high-performance sunblock, Suntribe’s zinc stick is ideal for water sports. It contains non-nano zinc oxide, which is considered to be the safest available UV filter for human health, corals and marine life. It’s water-resistant and comes packaged in a plastic-free cardboard container, taking sustainability to the next level. Reviewers caution, however, that this is an extremely visible sunscreen, so you can expect to see a blue stripe when you apply it to the face – however, many water sports enthusiasts in the comments say the thick stripe is fun to sport, out in the ocean, when surfing or competing. It also lets them know when it’s time to reapply.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

6. Best K-Beauty Zinc Stick: make p:rem UV defence Mild Sun Stick 

Suitable for both the face and body, this lightweight sun stick by Korean brand make p:rem packs a powerful sun protection formula, comprising SPF 50+ and the highest protection grade of PA++++. The mineral sunscreen is very easy to apply, and quickly settles on the skin with a matte finish, leaving behind no white cast. Natural ingredients like bamboo water, both moisturise and calm the skin, which is why many reviewers in the comments say they apply it as a primer under their make-up. It’s the perfect size for travel, or to slip into your handbag for daily use.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

7. Best for Children: Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Mineral Stick (2-Pack) 

Little ones can react to even the mildest skincare ingredients, so pick Aveeno Baby’s specially formulated zinc stick for babies and toddlers. Formulated with naturally sourced ingredients, the sun stick offers SPF 50 protection without irritating sensitive skin. Reviewers say it’s easy to apply, although you may have to rub the formula into the skin, otherwise it could leave a white cast. Those with children who have eczema and sensitive skin said they faced no issues with this product. Pick up this two-pack for sunny days ahead, and make sure your little one is well protected.

Bonus: Redeem 10 per cent extra off with Citibank MasterCard by entering the code ‘CB10DEC’ at checkout.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.