People with darker skin enjoy some natural sun protection from the melanin in their skin, but it's still important to wear sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer and prevent hyperpigmentation and signs of aging. Not all sunscreens work well for dark skin, however. Many leave behind the dreaded "white cast," which means that people of color can't just use any old sunscreen off the shelf. A worthy sunscreen should disappear seamlessly into dark skin -- no ashiness to speak of.
We've gathered the top nine sunscreens that people of color use and love, along with some professional expertise on why melanated people need to wear sunscreen to begin with. The easier your sunscreen is to use, the more likely you'll wear it every day -- and thankfully, these days, you have plenty of options to choose from.
SuperGoop's Unseen Sunscreen is one of the most widely loved sunscreens out there for dark skin, thanks to its "barely there" feel. The clear, gel-like texture absorbs rapidly into the skin with a truly invisible finish, which means it leaves no white cast and is easy to layer under makeup -- you can even use it as a primer.
This chemical sunscreen offers broad spectrum SPF 40 protection, and it's water- and sweat-resistant.
Even if you're wary of most sunscreen brands, you can trust Black Girl Sunscreen, which is Black-owned and formulated specifically for melanin-rich skin. It's infused with oils like jojoba and avocado, so it leaves your skin super-soft and moisturized enough that you can likely skip a separate moisturizer, unless you have ultradry skin.
Black Girl Sunscreen is SPF 30 and it's vegan, cruelty-free and fragrance-free, in case you have sensitive skin.
Dermatologists typically recommend reapplying sunscreen every two hours, but if you're wet, sweaty or wearing makeup, your usual lotion or gel formulas may not be the most convenient. Spray sunscreens can make the reapplication process much easier. We recommend Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Face Mist, which is broad spectrum SPF 55. It's easy to apply and goes on truly sheer, with a weightless feel. Plus, it's oil-free and water-resistant.
An affordable, easy-to-find mineral sunscreen that doesn't create a white cast? Yes, it's possible. CeraVe's Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen fits the bill, and it's another favorite among people of color -- just make sure you get the sheer tinted version.
This SPF 30 mineral formula uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to create a physical barrier from the sun, which is ideal for those who are sensitive to chemical sunscreens. Like all of CeraVe's products, this sunscreen also contains ceramides and niacinamide to restore hydration to your skin.
Tinted sunscreens have a dual purpose: smoothing your complexion and protecting you from UV rays. The tint makes it less likely that white cast will be an issue, which is another plus if you prefer mineral sunscreen.
Black-owned brand Unsun's most popular offering is this mineral tinted sunscreen, which contains moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and shea butter and is cast-free for all skin tones. It offers broad spectrum SPF 30, and its color-correcting tint is versatile enough to work for a variety of brown skin tones.
Nowadays, a wide variety of skin products come with SPF included, which means that you can venture beyond the sunscreen aisle to find the ideal sun protection for your skin type. Fenty Skin's moisturizer-sunscreen combo, Hydra Vizor, can save you some time in your skincare routine by combining two steps into one. This SPF 30 chemical sunscreen goes on clear, and all it leaves behind is a fruity scent -- no white cast or pilling.
If you want to cut out yet another step in your routine, try Ilia's Super Serum skin tint -- it's a foundation, skin serum and sunscreen all in one, and it doesn't slack on any of its duties. It features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and squalane to hydrate the skin and improve texture. The smell is admittedly not the most pleasant to sensitive noses (it smells more like a sunscreen than makeup or skincare), but its other pros are worth it, as there are few products out there like this for dark skin.
Ilia's skin tint comes in 30 lightweight, blendable shades. It's an SPF 40 mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide, and it's not ashy in the slightest.
For those that will be outside for a long time or simply like to go above and beyond, "higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's UVB rays," according to the AAD. La Roche-Posay's Anthelios sunscreen features broad spectrum SPF 100 and is completely cast-free, so you're free to reapply as often as you need to be fully protected -- without worrying about looking like a ghost. It absorbs quickly and has a lightweight yet moisturizing feel, with a smooth, oil-free finish.
We'd be remiss not to include Glossier's Invisible Shield, another favorite chemical sunscreen for dark skin. Glossier's skin products are known for being hit or miss, but this sunscreen really lives up to its name, with a transparent finish that is about as far away from a white cast as you can get. The gel formula disappears into the skin quickly and leaves behind no residue, so you can layer it under makeup or wear it by itself. In addition to SPF 35, it features antioxidants for some extra protection against skin-damaging free radicals.
Why sunscreen is important for dark skin
If melanin protects you from the sun, then why do people with dark skin need sunscreen at all? Dr. Ife Rodney, board-certified dermatologist and owner of Eternal Dermatology in Maryland, broke down the science of melanin to explain why people of color aren't immune to sun-related skin issues.
Melanin is "the skin's defense mechanism against the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays," Rodney says. "When the skin is exposed to prolonged sunlight, melanocytes located in the epidermis increase melanin production. However, melanin production can take some time. If you're in the sun for too long, you can get sunburns and sun damage before the melanin can fully protect your skin."
She added, "We actually all have the same amount of melanocytes, but melanin production is faster in darker skin tones. That however, does not absolve us completely. POC can still develop sun burns, hyperpigmentation and even skin cancers."
In fact, people with dark skin can even face higher rates of death from skin cancer, since "detection may be too late," according to Rodney. "These reasons are enough to ensure that all skin colors and types use sunscreen as often as possible."
What type of sunscreen is best for dark skin?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum of SPF 30, and Rodney recommends applying 1 to 2 ounces daily, starting 15 minutes before you go outside and reapplying every two hours as needed. If you're going to be outside for hours at a time, Rodney recommends SPF 50 instead of 30.
There are two basic types of sunscreen:. Chemical sunscreens tend to be ideal for avoiding a white cast, but there are some great mineral sunscreen options for dark skin, too. Lastly, Rodney says it can be a good idea to look for a moisturizing sunscreen to keep your skin "hydrated and protected."
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.