6 Best Sunscreens for People with Dark Skin Tones
Dermatologists share the best sunscreens for people with darker skin, including products that absorb easily and are free of white residue.
How to find the right sunscreen for dark skin tones
Melanin, which includes reddish and brown pigments naturally found in the skin, can provide some protection from the sun. This is why people with a naturally darker skin tone are less likely to get a sunburn. However, even if you have darker skin, it is still important to protect your skin and make sunscreen a part of your daily skin care routine.
“Photoaging, wrinkles, melasma, (brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face), post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer can still occur in Asian, Black and Latina women (and men) and be caused by or exacerbated by UV (ultraviolet) exposure,” says Naissan O. Wesley, a dermatologist in Los Angeles.
In fact, the effects can be seen quickly. “Under the microscope, sun damage can occur within seconds, and to the naked eye, burning can be seen within 15 minutes,” says board-certified dermatologist, Jessie Cheung. Unfortunately, beautiful, olive skin can look a little chalky after the application of sunscreen. However, after many years of people hoping for fast-absorbing products, an array of beauty brands now exist that offer sunscreens that can blend in well with your skin tone and offer a high enough SPF — 30 or more.
Here are some of our experts’ top picks for fast-absorbing sunscreen for dark skin tones.
EltaMD Skincare UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
A favourite of Dr. Cheung’s is EltaMD sunscreen, which is made for those prone to acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. “It won’t irritate sensitive skin,” she says. It is oil free and fragrance free and includes ingredients like hyaluronic and lactic acid for moisture, niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3).
Niacinamide has been shown to help smooth the surface of the skin, and vitamin E has been linked to helping reduce the oxidative stress of people affected by premature aging due to UV rays.
EltaMD Skincare UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $64, geebeauty.ca
(Also, check out the best lip balms with SPF.)
Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen goes on light and silky with zero residue to be found. This oil and scent-free formula is a good option for those who tend to have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Created with ingredients such as protein-rich red algae, it not only protects you from UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays but also from the blue light emitted from your smart devices. Thanks to hydrating meadowfoam, it makes an excellent primer to add before makeup, and when used alone, you’ll see a dewy finish.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, $45, sephora.com
A favourite of Dr. Wesley, who prefers to use products with a minimum of active ingredients, this formula contains physical blocking agents (minerals), like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “Some women of colour have a history of sensitive skin (eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis), and so for this reason, the physical sunscreens are typically less irritating for more sensitive skin,” she says.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, physical sunscreens deflect rays before they penetrate your skin. In contrast, chemical sunscreens (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, and octisalate) work as a sponge and absorb UV rays before they can cause skin damage. And while she points out that it can be difficult to find physical sunscreens that blend well with olive skin tones, Arbonne is a CC cream available in different shades.
Arbonne Intelligence Pollution Defense CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $52, arbonne.com
“Though darker skin tones get the benefit, their skin melanin, offers an SPF equivalent to 4,” says Dr. Cheung. She cautions that you shouldn’t get too hung up on a sunscreen’s SPF rating since the ingredients are more important. Though some products may offer a high SPF, they could also have zero UVA protection. “You want broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, which is best offered by zinc oxide,” she says. Offering 21.6 percent zinc oxide, this sunscreen is a perfectly pocket-sized drugstore find. (Also, learn about the most important skin-care product, after sunscreen.)
Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $20, shoppersdrugmart.ca
This broad-spectrum sunscreen protects users from UV rays with a combination of chemical and physical agents—octinoxate, octisalate, and zinc oxide. The formula can work well for those with sensitive skin as it does not contain fragrance or artificial colouring. And though it is oil free, it melts into brown skin with ease without leaving a whitish cast and dries down to a matte finish. (Also, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your ears and these other body parts.)
Theraderm Platinum Protection Facial Sunscreen SPF 43, $71, walmart.ca
Black Girl Sunscreen
Made by women of colour for those who have brown skin, Black Girl Sunscreen goes on clear and residue free. The lightweight formula is made with moisturizing avocado, jojoba, sunflower oils, and cocoa seed butter, which helps create a hydrated pallet for smooth under makeup application. In addition to the SPF 30 version for adults, this reef-friendly product also has an SPF 50 iteration designed with kids in mind.
Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30, $25, wocbeauty.ca
Next, read up on the skin care reactions that indicate it’s time to stop using a certain product.