The 8 Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin Tones
The most important thing to know about sunscreen is that if you have skin, you need to wear it. While darker skin tones are less likely to develop skin cancer, when people of color do get diagnosed with skin cancer, it's more likely to be at a later stage when it's harder to treat, according the American Academy of Dermatology.
That being said, even though sunscreen comes in all sorts of forms — spray, solid stick, powder, even serums — in addition to the thick, goopy lotions from your childhood, many formulas don't work with dark skin tones.
"One of the biggest complaints is that sunscreens can look white or ashy on the skin when applied on darker skin tones and this can lead to fewer options," says William Kwan, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Kwan Dermatology in San Francisco. "This is usually the case with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide-based sunscreens."
You can avoid chalky residue with a chemical sunscreen. Dr. Kwan says that these formulas tend to be lighter and sheerer than others. "Physical sunscreens tend to be a bit heavier, which can be a problem for darker skin tones since they tend to have a slightly oilier complexion," he explains. "If you want to use a physical sunscreen, you would want to find one with micronized zinc or titanium."
Luckily, there's a handful of exceptions — whether you prefer physical or chemical sunscreens. Here, we've rounded up eight sunscreens that don't leave a white cast on dark skin tones.
- Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+ Sunscreen
- EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Unsun Mineral Tinted Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen SPF 30
- Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen+
- Paula's Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+
- Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
- Urban Skin RX Complexion Protection Moisturizer SPF 30
- Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+ Sunscreen
While many sunscreens need to applied when skin gets wet or sweaty, Shiseido's cult-favorite SPF actually works better when there's moisture on the skin. This product is formulated with a heat-sensing essence that builds a stronger barrier when it makes contact with heat and also features technology that creates an extra layer of sun protection when it's exposed to water or sweat. Although the transparent lotion is a chemical SPF, it's reef-safe and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate.
To Buy: $49; sephora.com.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
EltaMD's award-winning, dermatologist-approved physical sunscreen not only goes on clear, the oil-free formula offers additional skincare benefits. Lactic acid gently exfoliates to keep pores clear, niacinamide balances tone, and hyaluronic acid hydrates.
To buy: $36; dermstore.com.
Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
This tinted mineral sunscreen that blends effortlessly into skin comes courtesy of Frank Ocean's mom. Fed up with not being able to find an all-natural mineral sunscreen that doesn't leave chalky residue on people of color, the brand's founder Katonya Breaux created a formula that doesn't require you to layer foundation over it. The two available shades blend into a wide range of skin tones without a trace.
To buy: $29; credobeauty.com.
Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen+
We can confirm that Glossier's sunscreen absorbs faster than most facial serums without leaving any sticky residue. The clear formula also works to shield skin from free radicals and pollutants.
To buy: $25; glossier.com.
Paula's Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+
Thick sunscreens and acne-prone skin don't jive. Paula Choice's lightweight SPF smooths and mattifies oily skin just enough so it doesn't get dry and flaky.
To buy: $33; paulaschoice.com.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
An invisible sunscreen seems like the obvious solution for avoiding that dreaded white cast, but until recently, these formulas didn't exist. Packed with red algae extract, Supergoop!'s game-changing sunscreen also shields skin from infrared rays and blue light, plus acts as a pore-refining primer.
To buy: $34; dermstore.com.
Urban Skin RX Complexion Protection Moisturizer SPF30
Like to keep your morning skincare routine as simple as possible? Same. Cut down on products with a sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. In addition to SPF coverage, Urban Skin RX's sheer formula contains hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and squalane, three powerhouse hydrating ingredients.
To buy: $16; ulta.com.
Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
This Black-owned sunscreen brand was created with melanin-rich skin in mind. The cast-free formula is free of controversial chemical sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, it's infused with a mix of nourishing ingredients like avocado, jojoba, and sunflower seed oil, plus, carrot juice, a source of vitamin C which can help brighten and fade hyperpigmentation, a common skin concern for people of color.
To buy: $30; blackgirlsunscreen.com.