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.
Black Girl Sunscreen
Looking for a lightweight SPF that doesn't leave a ghostly cast? This brand has caught the attention of Black women worldwide thanks to its incredible absorption and moisturizing qualities. The broad-spectrum SPF is fragrance and paraben free—what's not to love?
Shop Now: Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, $15.99, target.com.
Without a trace, this mineral tinted sunscreen blends perfectly into medium and dark skin tones.
Shop Now: Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen Lotion, $29, dermstore.com.
Urban Skin Rx
If you're on the hunt for an option that absorbs excess oil and controls shine with a sheer finish, then you're in luck: This mattifying moisturizer provides 100-percent mineral sun protection for oily, blemish-prone skin.
Shop Now: Urban Skin Rx "ShineBlock" Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30, $22, urbanskinrx.com.
This sunscreen has a great price point, and Dr. Mitchell says it blends nicely into darker skin tones. "It's a two-in-one, all-time favorite option for daily, non-recreational use," she notes.
Shop Now: Aveeno "Positively Radiant" Daily Moisturizer with Soy, $16.89, target.com.
This lightweight formulation also has a slight tint—and while it is not considered a tinted sunscreen, its pigmentation does eliminate the white cast that other zinc- and titanium-only mineral SPFs often leave behind. Dr. Hartman notes that it has a pleasant aroma that dissipates quickly and an invisible finish that complements darker skin tones naturally.
Shop Now: Bliss "Block Star" Invisible Daily Sunscreen SPF 30, $24.49, target.com.