Sunscreen is an essential part of everyone's skin-care routine, but there are two challenges that often come with sunscreen for dark skin: The misconception that people with more melanin don't need it, and the fact that many sunscreen formulas leave a ghostly white cast.
First: "All skin tones are susceptible to sun damage and need daily SPF and sun protection," board-certified dermatologist Joanne Simpson, MD, MPH, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
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Even if you have darker skin, skipping sunscreen can increase your risk for sunburn, sunspots, skin discoloration, visible signs of aging and skin cancer, she adds.
As for the second challenge? We've got you covered (without the Casper-like hue) with our list below.
The Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin
- AbsoluteJOI Daily Hydrating Moisturizing Cream With SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen ($42, Amazon)
- Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen ($38, Sephora.com)
- Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Lotion With SPF 30 ($15.99, Ulta.com)
- Bolden Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30 ($27.99, Amazon)
- UnSun Tinted Mineral Sunscreen With SPF 30 ($29, Amazon)
How We Chose
We spoke to Dr. Simpson, an expert in darker skin tones, who shared what to look for (and avoid) in the best sunscreens for Black skin and people who have more melanin.
Along with her input, we chose the sunscreens on this list based on the following criteria:
- A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
- Broad-spectrum coverage (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
We've also included a mix of both mineral and chemical sunscreens, at different price points.
1. AbsoluteJOI Daily Hydrating Moisturizing Cream With SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen
Dr. Simpson is a fan of this mineral sunscreen from AbsoluteJOI because it's moisturizing, nutrient-rich, tinted and blendable.
It helps eliminate an extra step in your skin-care routine by combining moisturizer and skin protection with an SPF of 40. And the cream keeps your skin hydrated, with ingredients like squalene and hyaluronic acid. Plus, it has added antioxidants like vitamin C, green tea and chamomile extracts.
The brand was founded by Anne Beal, MD, MPH, a medical researcher who aimed to create a safe skin-care line that addressed the needs of Black and brown skin. The products address concerns like hyperpigmentation and skin sensitivity.
That's why the Daily Hydrating Moisturizing Cream with SPF 40 is fragrance-free, ideal for sensitive skin and helps to treat dark marks and hyperpigmentation, all sans white cast.
2. Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen With Niacinamide
The Hydra Vizor sunscreen from Fenty Skin (Rihanna's skin-care line), is another two-in-one product that offers both moisture and sun protection. It's suitable for all skin types, oil-free, lightweight and non-comedogenic (won't clog your pores).
While it's working to minimize potential damage from the sun's rays, this sunscreen also helps you tackle hyperpigmentation. It contains niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, which aids in reducing the appearance of dark spots, evens skin tone and controls shine.
There's also no pilling or flashback, so it can be worn under makeup without making you look ashy.
3. Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Lotion With SPF 30
Black Girl Sunscreen's products are "made for melanated skin." Their moisturizing sunscreen lotion with SPF 30 has a sheer formula that can be used on your face and body, to keep you protected without a white cast.
It's hydrating enough to double as a moisturizer thanks to ingredients like avocado and jojoba.
This sunscreen is fragrance-free, paraben-free and does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which have been linked to allergic reactions and hormonal side effects, per the Environmental Working Group.
Plus, the moisturizing lotion is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
4. Bolden Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30
The Bolden Brightening Moisturizer is made without sulfates, parabens or phthalates and it offers both hydration and sun protection. The daily moisturizer and sunscreen can also be worn under makeup, without giving you a purple or blue hue that comes with sunscreens that leave a white cast.
And if hyperpigmentation is a key concern of yours, this sunscreen has you covered. It has vitamin C, which helps to brighten your skin tone.
5. UnSun Tinted Mineral Sunscreen With SPF 30
UnSun Cosmetics was founded in 2016 by Katonya Breaux, to help fill the gap in sunscreens for dark skin. The Tinted Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 30 doubles as a primer and color corrector and offers shades for olive and dark skin tones.
It's a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which provides lightweight broad-spectrum protection from the sun. There's also soothing and moisturizing ingredients like aloe and shea butter.
What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Dark Skin
Here are a few things to look for when shopping for the best sunscreen for dark skin:
1. Chemical vs. Mineral
Sunscreen comes in both chemical and mineral forms, per the Cleveland Clinic. Mineral sunscreens (also called physical sunscreen) often contain active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and they work like a reflective barrier, to help scatter UV rays before they penetrate your skin.
Dr. Simpson recommends reaching for a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide (the AbsoluteJOI and UnSun sunscreens above both fit the bill). While these can sometimes leave more of a white cast, they tend to be good for sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, protect you by absorbing UV rays and turning them into heat before they have the chance to damage your skin. They often contain the following ingredients:
While Dr. Simpson doesn't recommend these over mineral sunscreens because of links to environmental and hormonal side effects, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you're wearing sunscreen regularly. Both chemical and mineral sunscreens that are broad-spectrum with at least SPF 30 can effectively protect you from the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
2. Level of SPF
Dr. Simpson recommends aiming for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Higher SPF means more protection from the sun, but the higher you go, the less of a difference it makes, according to the American Cancer Society.
For example, SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 sunscreens filter out about 98 percent of UVB rays. Note the small difference.
Your skin is exposed to two different types of UV rays from the sun: UVA and UVB, per the Cleveland Clinic. And the level of SPF in a sunscreen only tells you how much you're protected from UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn.
UVA rays, on the other hand, can cause more severe skin damage and skin cancer. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen is more likely to protect you from both types of UV rays.
How to Apply Sunscreen
You should be wearing sunscreen every day, especially outdoors, even when the sun isn't shining, because ultraviolet (UV) light penetrates through clouds and reflects off water and other surfaces, per the Mayo Clinic. You should also apply sunscreen when you're indoors.
The key to applying sunscreen, is to be generous. Use at least 1 ounce (a shot glass full) of sunscreen for your face, neck and the back of your hands. And apply it to any other areas of exposed skin. Be sure to reapply it at least every 2 hours if you're going to be out and about for a while.
Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and apply it about 30 minutes prior to being outdoors, per the Skin Cancer Foundation.
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Q and A: Sunscreen Best Practices"
- Skin Cancer Foundation: "All About Sunscreen"
- EWG: "The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Pick the Best Sunscreen (According to a Dermatologist)"
- American Cancer Society: "Choose the Right Sunscreen"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Sunscreen FAQs"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.