Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Brush-On Mineral Sunscreens – Do They Give Enough Protection? January 12, 2010

Since discovering mineral brush-on  sunscreens last year I have become a devoted user of this type of sunscreen.  Not only do I use it, I recommend its use to my clients as well.  You can take these self-contained sunscreen brushes anywhere; they are small enough to fit into almost any purse.  Above all, the ease of applying the sunscreen over the make-up you already have on is wonderful. 

All sunscreens lose their effectiveness after about two hours.  So if you have applied your sunscreen in the morning – either as part of your moisturizer or as a separate step (or both as I do) – you can reapply your sunscreen with ease using one of these brush-on, portable sunscreens.  As a matter of fact using these brush-on sunscreens might be the only way to get most people to reapply their sunscreen through-out the day and on a regular basis (every two hours or so).  As such I see them as an extremely important contribution to the plethora of sunscreen products available. 

Yet lately I have been wondering if these brush on sunscreen powders give enough protection.

The most recent issue of “Smart Shop” magazine has an article entitled “Bad Beauty Deals“: 

The brief mention in “Shop Smart” of “brush-on” sunscreens says that “loose powder could be even trickier” than regular sunscreen to apply and that you won’t get enough sun protection with the powder.  Also brush-on sunscreen could “be brushed off of the skin”.  I don’t understand how application of these products is hard or how it is “trickier” than applying regular sunscreen.  I also wondered how likely it was to be brushed off.  On the other hand, I did think “Shop Smart” brought up a valid point in that perhaps you weren’t getting enough sun protection if this was the only product you were using as a sunscreen . 

In the 7th edition of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me” Paula Begoun reviews the Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30 which is what I use and recommend to my clients.  She writes that “you’d have to apply this liberally to ensure SPF 30 protection, and doing so is difficult due to the application method.”  However she does give the product her smiley face very good (but overpriced) positive recommendation.  Yet once again the issue has been raised about really getting that SPF 30 protection when using these brush-on sunscreens.

I have tried to find what some dermatologists have to say about these products but as of yet cannot find any information or opinions.

It should be noted that these brush-on sunscreens are physical sunblocks that sit on the surface of the skin fending off UVA and UVB rays.  They do not contain chemical sunscreen ingredients.

The other issue I would bring up about these sunscreens is their cost.  The average cost is about $30.  I was hoping by now to see a drugstore company version of these products for half the price but I haven’t seen any yet.  Despite the price tag and the slight misgiving about getting enough protection I still recommend the product.  Because they are made from minerals these products have a long shelf life.  Any time you invest in sun protection you are making a VERY smart investment despite the initial cost.  Spend now and you will definitely see results later.  These sunscreens are also an excellent choice for sunscreen application following chemical peels when sun protection is a must but you also want to be gentle to the skin.

Bottom Line:   I believe that brush-on sunscreens are an excellent way to REAPPLY your sunscreen during the day.  I would not recommend them as your primary sunscreen but as a secondary one.   The ease of application and portability are great.  Let’s hope in the future that prices go down.


I receive no compensation for recommending products.  I only recommend products I truly believe it, have tried, or have had my clients try with positive results.

Peter Thomas Roth     (Please note that Peter Thomas Roth has a few different version of their brush-on sunscreen.)

Bare Escentuals  

Color Science

Most of these products can also be purchased at Sephora and Ulta.  As a matter of fact, now has one version of the Peter Thomas Roth sunscreen on sale.


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