The Best Sunscreens for Women with Darker Skin Tones
You have likely heard this common egregious misconception before: Melanated skin does not require sunscreen. According to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama, this couldn't be further from the truth. Melanin-rich skin can absolutely be harmed by excess and unprotected sun exposure, ultimately leading to accelerated signs of aging like hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles, and an increased risk of cancer. Although those with darker skin tones do have higher levels of melanin (which acts as a shield against UV rays), the highest level of protection skin can offer is SPF 13, he notes. Adds board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, Dr. Hope Mitchell, this is why "everyone needs to use sunscreen, since all skin tones are susceptible to sunburn and photo damage."
Unfortunately, most sunscreens aren't made with darker skin tones in mind. While mineral sunscreens are a timely favorite—they are physical blockers that are more environmentally friendly and gentler on sensitive complexions—Dr. Hartman explains that they often do not blend elegantly onto Black and Brown skin, since they can leave a white or iridescent cast. "Traditionally, people with darker skin tones have gravitated to chemical sunscreens because of their nice absorption into the skin, leaving it without a chalky appearance or heavy feeling," says Dr. Mitchell.
With that said, it's imperative to find a formula that works for you to prevent burns and the accumulated effects of too much sun, which often present differently in melanin-rich skin. While you may not see the traditional redness affiliated with a burn, other signs or symptoms may be present, including sensitivity to touch, pain, or itchy skin, notes Dr. Mitchell. These symptoms can occur year-round, too: "Nearly 80 percent of the sun's rays can penetrate through clouds or even be reflected from snow, so yes—sunscreen should be worn on cloudy days and during the winter months," Dr. Hartman states; he suggests getting into the habit of applying a formula with (at least) SPF 30 each and every day, whether or not you leave the house ("Windows on buildings and in cars do not filter all of the UV light," he adds). To help you integrate this necessary product into your routine, we went ahead and rounded up several expert-approved sunscreen formulas for Black and Brown skin. These tried-and-true options—a mix of physical and chemical—won't leave a white cast and melt seamlessly into melanated skin, guaranteed.