8 Clean Sunscreens That Won't Leave a White Cast Behind

Ghostly sunscreen sheens are a thing of the past — these formulas keep skin looking radiant and healthy.

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Two top clean sunscreens
Sephora/ InStyle

Let's get one thing straight: Protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays is essential — no matter your skin tone, the season, or your location in the world. There’s plenty of new research that supports the idea that we should be wearing sunscreen everyday, even when we have no plans to head outdoors. So, finding a product that isn’t a hassle to apply, feels refreshing, and doesn’t leave a white cast behind is key. 

Thankfully, SPF has come a long way in recent years, and now there’s a wide range of zinc-based formulas and “clean chemical” options that offer sheer coverage and a load of other skincare benefits. To help you find the best option for your lifestyle, our editors researched and tested the best clean sunscreens on the market that don’t leave a white cast. Throughout our testing process we evaluated each formula’s consistency, absorption, SPF protection, water-resistance, white cast (or lack thereof), and more to determine the best clean sunscreens.

Best Overall: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

What We Love: It's undetectable on all skin tones, from fair to deep.

What We Don't Love: The formula’s gel-like consistency can look shiny on oily areas of skin.

Supergoop!'s sunscreens have gained a cult-following over the last few years simply because they deliver when it comes to sun protection and, unlike most formulas, they don’t feel icky to apply. As the name suggests, this goes on completely clear (no matter your skin tone) and its silky smooth finish feels more like a makeup primer than sunscreen. Yet, the invisible veil of coverage protects skin from the sun's harmful rays with broad-spectrum SPF 40 and even serves as a shield against blue light emitted by electronic devices.

As soon as we applied the sunscreen, it absorbed instantaneously, leaving a soft, velvety finish. Throughout the day, we noticed that the formula never got heavier or felt cakey — it remained lightweight and undetectable until it was time for our nighttime skincare routine. At the end of the day, it required no extra scrubbing to dissolve and came off with just a gentle cleanser.  

Keep in mind that because of the product's gel-like consistency, it can make those with oily-prone skin look shiny. We noticed a slight sheen on our t-zone due to existing oily skin concerns, but truthfully, we didn’t mind. Depending on your preference, the shine can be easily covered with powder or concealer.

Price at time of publish: $38

SPF Protection: SPF 40 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 1.7 oz

Best for Sensitive Skin: Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

What We Love: Thanks to squalane and water lily, this sunscreen has a moisturizing and calming effect.

What We Don't Love: It’s better-suited for skin that leans dry — the hydrating ingredients can make oily skin look extra shiny. 

Formulated with gentle and nourishing ingredients, this Biossance pick is a rare sunscreen that's safe for extremely sensitive skin. If you've ever gotten red and splotchy after just a few minutes in the sun or have experienced SPF-related breakouts, this product could be the solution. 

We loved how lightweight, cooling, and surprisingly pleasant this was to apply during our lab test. Unlike the Supergoop! sunscreen, this one is a mineral-based SPF — mineral sunscreens provide a physical layer of protection between your skin and UV rays, but they are notoriously difficult to blend and often leave behind a white cast. That wasn’t the case for this one. It smoothly absorbed and left us with zero white cast. Instead, we had a glowy finish. Plus, while many sunscreens cause irritation around the delicate eye area, this did not, thanks to the calming plant-derived water lily.  

We could still feel the product atop our skin 15 minutes after application, but it wasn’t sticky or greasy, it just felt like a lingering super-packed moisture boost. If you’re prone to dry skin, it’ll become a much-needed hero in your daily skincare routine. Though, if you lean more oily, you may find the hydration-rich formula a bit too dewy. A quick pat of pressed powder can zap away that shine for a more natural finish.

Price at time of publish: $46

SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 1.7 oz

Best for Deep Skin Tones: Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30

What We Love: It was designed to prevent white cast on Black and brown skin.

What We Don't Love: We wish the name was more gender inclusive.

This sunscreen was made with Black skin in mind — but that doesn't mean it's not a great option for everyone else, too. The clean formula, which is infused with moisturizing jojoba and avocado, leaves skin soft, smooth, and protected. Best of all, it doesn't leave a white film behind or cause purple discoloration on deeper skin tones like most traditional mineral sunscreens do.

The creamy yet lightweight formula melted into our skin almost immediately without any rubbing, just gentle tapping. The recommended nickel-sized dollop more than covered our face and even accounted for our neck and chest, and it absorbed similar to a moisturizer, leaving behind a healthy dewy look, like we just left a rejuvenating facial. We were surprised to find that it actually imparted a cooling sensation, too — making it especially lovely to reapply when we needed a quick reprieve from summer heat. 

The water-resistant claims held up during testing, too: We doused our face in water, mimicking the effect of sweaty summer stroll, and the sunscreen didn’t budge.

We loved everything about this sunscreen, especially the fact that it can (and should) be used by everyone. With that said, we wish the name was a little less gendered so it doesn't deter folks who may think it's only for women.

Price at time of publish: $16

SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 3 oz

Best Multitasking: Honest Beauty Clean Corrective Tinted Moisturizer with Vitamin C

Honest Beauty Clean Corrective Tinted Moisturizer with Vitamin C

What We Love: It addresses four skin concerns at once — sun protection, blue light defense, uneven skin tone, and previous sun damage.

What We Don't Love: We wish the shade range was more inclusive.

This four-in-one tinted moisturizer-meets-sunscreen is a minimalist beauty lover’s dream — it offers SPF 30 protection, blue light defense, and is crafted with  vitamin C to address uneven skin tone and actively repair previous sun damage. 

The creamy texture was easy for us to apply with our fingers. We loved the way it diffused our hyperpigmentation and hid the look of fine lines and blemishes with a soft, natural finish. With our busy schedule and on-the-go lifestyle, we appreciated the way it downsized our typical morning beauty routine. The convenient tube was also small enough to throw in our bag for midday touch-ups (though we never felt the need to refresh our look).

Finding our shade for our deep skin wasn’t a challenge, but the minimal range (there are only nine options) was a bit lackluster. We hope that Honest Beauty expands the offerings to become more inclusive. 

It's worth mentioning that although this CCC cream targets a variety of skincare problems, it's not a classic sunscreen. To get the full sun-protection benefits, you would  need to apply two finger-lengths worth of product on your face. Unless you plan to apply that much tinted moisturizer, it's wise to apply an actual sunscreen first.

Price at time of publish: $24

SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 1 oz

Best Serum: EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

What We Love: This luxurious sunscreen oil protects your skin and keeps it hydrated at the same time.

What We Don't Love: There is a slight citrusy aroma that can be irritating for some.

Venus Williams definitely understood the assignment when she created EleVen sunscreen. The formula contains broad spectrum SPF 35 plus a cocktail of hydrating and calming ingredients like coconut fruit extract, allantoin, and shea butter. Whether you wear it over moisturizer or under makeup, it absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling velvety smooth.

There's certainly a lot to love about this SPF, but if we could change anything, it would be the fragrance. There's nothing more refreshing than a citrus-y scent, but for some, fragrance can irritate the skin. Although it's not too overpowering, you may want to perform a patch test prior to applying if you think you might be reactive to the fragrance. According to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board certified dermatologist based in Birmingham, Alabama, it's best to apply a small amount of sunscreen to the underside of your wrist. "The skin is thin in that area and also sensitive, so it reacts similarly to skin on the face," he says. If you have no reaction, the sunscreen should be fine to use on other parts of the body without issue.

Price at time of publish: $50

SPF Protection: SPF 35 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 1 oz

Best Oil: Mele No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30

Mele No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30

What We Love: It was created by dermatologists of color for people of color.

What We Don't Love: It can be too greasy for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

Do you prefer using an oil over a traditional creamy moisturizer? If so, this Mele sunscreen oil might be perfect for you. Created for people of color by dermatologists of color, it leaves nothing behind — except a dewy finish. To apply, massage the SPF 30-infused oil into your skin as the last step in your morning skincare routine. Give it a few seconds to absorb and watch as it gives you an immediate glow.

Because it's an oil, it can feel a bit greasy for those with already oily skin. We recommend using a powder foundation on top to eliminate some of the excess shine.

Price at time of publish: $20

SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Reef-Safe: No | Size: 1 oz

Best Stick: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ with Vitamin E

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ with Vitamin E

What We Love: It's easy to toss in your beach bag for quick re-application on the go.

What We Don't Love: This product, like most sunscreen sticks, doesn't always spread evenly.

Neutrogena is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to skin and sun care. This stick is an ideal on-the-go-option because it is spill-proof, goes on clear, and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. The formula also offers vitamin E to nourish skin and protect it from environmental damage while you're outside.

The nature of sunscreen sticks can sometimes mean less coverage, especially when it comes to getting those hard-to-reach spots around the nose. To ensure even application, try smoothing the stick over your face slowly, section by section in a mirror.

Price at time of publish: $13

SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 1.5 oz

Best Sport: Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

What We Love: In addition to SPF 30, the formula contains organic ingredients like aloe leaf juice, jojoba oil, and coconut oil to moisturize and calm skin.

What We Don't Love: The sunscreen is thick and requires extra effort to fully rub in.

When it comes to sport sunscreens, you'll want to look for something that stays put, no matter how much you sweat. This option from Juice Beauty contains zinc oxide and a nourishing blend of organic aloe leaf juice, jojoba oil, and coconut oil that keeps skin protected and hydrated for up to 80 minutes, whether you're on the court or field or in the pool. The bottle's bright lime green color makes it easy to spot (even at the bottom of your bag) and serves as a reminder to re-apply each time it catches your eye.

Because of the rich emollient ingredients and hefty helping of zinc oxide, this sunscreen involves a bit of elbow grease to spread it evenly across the skin. Once it's been blended in, though, it's undetectable on all skin tones.

Price at time of publish: $16

SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Reef-Safe: Yes | Size: 3 oz

Our Testing Process

For this story, our team of editors tested four of the eight sunscreens to ensure they effectively protected from UV exposure, felt great on the skin, and didn’t leave a white cast. All product testing was conducted in our Manhattan-based Lab on freshly cleansed, bare skin. Throughout the two day trial, we analyzed how long it took each sunscreen to absorb into our skin; made notes on the texture and consistency (outlining whether it was thick or thin, oily or hydrating); examined how well it layered with makeup; and tested the water-resistance by spritzing our faces with a spray bottle.

Once we collected insights on the four sunscreens we tested, we consulted a leading dermatologist for additional information on clean sunscreens and did extensive market research to create a well-rounded list of white cast-free options.

What to Keep in Mind

SPF Protection

When shopping for sunscreen, it's important to consider the amount of SPF protection. The SPF number indicates how much protection a product offers against UVB rays, and according to Dr. Hartman, everyone should wear SPF 30 or higher every day. "If you plan to spend an extended period of time outside in the summer, using a higher SPF can add an additional layer of protection," he explains. "Once you get above SPF 50, though, the increased protection is marginal." With that said, a sunscreen with an SPF in the 30 to 50 range is best.


As with any product you put on your skin, it's important to select a sunscreen based on your skin type. If you have dry skin, you should look for a formula that offers hydrating benefits in addition to sun protection (we recommend Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30). For those with oily, acne-prone skin, look for a non-comedogenic formula that won't contribute to shine. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ with Vitamin E, leaves skin feeling smooth and soft.

In order to truly find out if your skin will react well to a particular formula, Dr. Hartman tells us it's best to perform a patch test. "Use a small amount [of the formula] and rub it into your wrist and wait 24 hours." If you have no reaction, the sunscreen should be fine to use on other parts of the body without issue.

Your Questions, Answered

Why should you wear sunscreen on your face?

Slathering on SPF is the single best step you can take to avoid premature skin aging as well as prevent skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen on your face every day helps to protect your skin from sun damage, loss of elasticity, hyperpigmentation, and even fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, daily exposure to UV light can cause skin cancer, so when it comes to prevention, lathering up is key.

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

As Dr. Hartman explains, if you work indoors and you don't sit near a window, then applying sunscreen once in the morning should be sufficient. "If you spend any time longer than 10 minutes outside, sit near a window, or go swimming, you should reapply every two hours," he says. When you're outdoors more in warmer weather, it's essential to reapply, especially if you are swimming or sweating.

How can you tell if sunscreen is reef-safe?

Phrases like "reef-safe" and "reef-friendly" are not actually regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), so it can be tricky to figure out which sunscreens are actually harmful to marine wildlife. It's important to check the active ingredients label on the back of your sunscreen to ensure that reef-harming ingredients aren't included.

If your sunscreen contains chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate, you'll want to swap it out for a mineral-based option containing zinc oxide, which has been proven to be harmless for coral reefs. "Much of the evidence suggests that non-reef-safe sunscreens are tied to ingredients present in chemical sunscreens," Dr. Hartman shares.

Why Shop With Us

Caitlyn Martyn is an staff writer at InStyle and Linne Halpern is a freelance beauty, fashion, and lifestyle writer. For this story, the InStyle editors tested four out of the eight sunscreens featured, and added additional recommendations and insights from Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board certified dermatologist based in Birmingham, Alabama.

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