Pick up a white cast free sunscreen from this curated list of some of the best sunscreens for dark skin for all budgets and skin types for you to enjoy healthy looking skin all year round.
Yes, it’s REAL! The gorgeous sun is out there, and many of us have started reacquainting ourselves with sunscreens to ensure we live our best lives post-lockdown, whilst enjoying al fresco dining with family and friends, jogging outdoors, booking beauty treatments again, and discussing our upcoming summer getaways.
For people with melanin-rich skin, who are gradually albeit slowly embracing daily sun protection factor (SPF 30+) moisturisers beyond the warmer months, to prevent many skin disorders and premature photo ageing, getting the right sunscreen can be a little bit tricky.
This is due to the fact that traditional sunscreens are generally formulated with big molecules of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, the star ingredients in sunscreens that tend to leave a white cast on dark skin tones, making them look like ghosts with blue/gray skin undertones.
Thankfully, with scientific advances, many beauty brands have either successfully micronized zinc oxide and titanium oxide, or they have added masking pigments in their sunscreen formulas, making them more inclusive and better suited to darker skin tones.
With the debate raging around chemical versus mineral sunscreens, what is actually the difference between them, and which ones should you go for?
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The Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens
Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, primarily use Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Oxide in their formulas to enable the sunscreens to form a barrier on the surface of your skin that helps reflect harmful UV rays away from the skin. Mineral sunscreens tend to be more environmentally friendly, a little thicker, more expensive, and they can sometimes be a little bit challenging to apply, particularly on medium to dark skin tones.
Chemical sunscreens use physical filters alongside other ingredients such as avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, or oxybenzone to create a chemical reaction on your skin, turning the harmful UV rays into heat. They tend to be reasonably affordable, more lightweight, making them easier to apply on your skin, leaving behind no white cast.
In recent years, clinical studies have highlighted the link between some chemical sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone to contact and photocontact allergy reactions and as an estrogenic hormone disruptor linked to Hirschsprung’s disease.
Moreover, further clinical studies have identified the negative environmental impact on water sources and the sea food chain of a number of sunscreens’ UV filters such as oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, and ethylhexyl salicylate.
Whilst dermatologists tend to recommend mineral sunscreens – especially for sensitive skin, the line is increasingly becoming blurred between chemical and mineral sunscreens thanks to great strides in cosmetic product research and development.
Some beauty brands, including Childs Farm and The Black Girl Sunscreen, have successfully managed to develop highly effective dermatologist-approved, environmentally friendly (coral reef safe), fragrance-free, cruelty-free vegan chemical sunscreens.
Other innovative brands such as Ultrasun have opted instead to develop both high quality mineral sun creams and sunscreens with a healthy mix of the safest chemical and physical filters to better meet customers’ health and skincare needs.
Virtually no single sunscreen ingredient can provide full broad protection on its own. Consequently, sunscreen ingredients must all be combined to others. One of the main challenges in sun product formulation relates to the development of successful associations between different UV filters and/or screens which are deemed safe enough for people.
Ultimately the best sunscreen is the one that is the safest for you to use based on your own preferences, is easy to apply and reapply, and which works well for your skin type.
Many people, myself included, tend to combine both vegan friendly chemical sunscreens with mineral sunscreens to better cater to their specific health and skincare concerns. In light of my acne-prone and eczema-prone sensitive skin, I tend to use twice daily SPF 50+ sun creams head-to-toe irrespective of whether I am indoors or outdoors. By proceeding this way, I managed last month to quickly get rid of eczema flare ups on my hands that had been triggered by the change in season.
Having said that, below is the list of some of the best sunscreens for dark skin tones, from dermatologist-approved vegan chemical SPFs to mineral SPFs and hybrid formulas developed by cosmetic giants, independent brands, and Black-owned beauty brands.
The Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin Tones – The Shortlist
Ultrasun Face Anti-Pigmentation SPF 50+ 50ml
A leading brand in sunscreen research and development, Ultrasun uses Titanium Dioxide (nano) and non nano Zinc Oxide in its product formulas. My favourite product amongst its extensive line is the Ultrasun Face Anti-Ageing & Anti-Pigmentation SPF50+ lotion that blends both mineral and chemical filters to protect the skin from harmful UVA (95%), UVB, HEVL (blue light) and Infrared-A rays, whilst preventing and diminishing the intensity of pigmentation.
The lotion’s star ingredient is Ectoin, a patented natural enzyme that protects the skin from the effects of UVA-induced skin ageing including hyperpigmentation, which remains one of the main skincare concerns amongst people with dark skin tones.
I find the sunscreen formula to be a little thick for my acne-prone, eczema-prone and allergy prone skin, which is why I prefer to use it in my nighttime skincare routine. I definitely wake up to healthy, soft and glowing skin. I believe the formula, designed with a matte finish, might work best for people with dry to normal skin with uneven skin tone.
Childs Farm SPF 50+ Sunscreen Cream 125ml
The dermatologist approved Childs Farm’s sunscreen cream is an environmentally-friendly hypoallergenic chemical sunscreen that uses only physical filters (Titanium Dioxide) which are very low in potential irritancy to cater to the needs of sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
The water resistant formula infused with hydrating aloe vera leaf juice protects and hydrates people with sensitive skin, including children and babies older than 6 months onwards from UVA and UVB rays.
I owe my fast recovery from the eczema flare ups on my hands to this Vegan Society registered, cruelty-free, fast-absorbing, unfragranced, parabens and SLSs free SPF 50+ sunscreen cream that I apply daily all over my face and body for optimum protection.
This sunscreen, combined with certified organic shea butter and my DIY body oil blending jojoba oil and almond oil, genuinely work wonders for me, leaving me with healthy and radiant skin. I highly recommend this sunscreen to people with eczema-prone sensitive skin, because it delivers on its promises.
Dr.G Green Mild Up Sun SPF50+/PA++++ 50ml
Clean beauty addicts might want to try out this gentle mineral sunscreen infused with 100% Zinc Oxide which has specifically been formulated for all skin types, particularly for people with sensitive skin or a weakened skin barrier. The lightweight hypoallergenic sun cream, enriched with pycnogenol, a naturally derived ingredient extracted from pine trees which helps protect the skin against external pollutants, efficiently shields your skin from harmful UV rays and blue light.
I found the non-sticky formula, enhanced with Centella asiatica and houttuynia cordata extracts for their soothing and moisturising properties, easy to apply and to absorb into my skin, leaving me with a white cast free matte finish.
SkinCeuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense SPF50 Moisturiser 40ml
People who are seeking to minimise the appearance of discoloration to achieve a brighter and a more even complexion definitely need to check out this rather interesting high SPF50 protection moisturiser from SkinCeuticals The dual-action, lightweight chemical sunscreen enriched with anti-pigmentation ingredients 1% Tranexamic Acid and 2% Niacinamide, helps protect the skin from UV-induced signs of ageing and sun damage ,whilst helping to balance and even skin tone.
I am very impressed with the rather smooth non-sticky formula that quickly absorbs into my skin, leaving my face with brighter skin and a healthy glow. As a minimalist makeup wearer, I find that it works very well as a base under makeup. I highly recommend this to people with acne-prone and oily skin.
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50 PA ++++ 50ml
The fast-absorbing mineral sunscreen smoothly penetrates the skin, leaving behind a white cast free and radiant face with no greasy residue. The effective mineral broad spectrum PA++++ and SPF 50 formula helps protect skin from UVA/UVB rays, infrared radiation, pollution and blue light from devices.
The multi-taking facial sunscreen, packed with Vitamin C, has a soft peach tint that blends well with all skin tones to support instant colour correction and deliver visibly brighter skin. The innovative formula, which is a little bit on the pricey side, can be worn alone or applied before makeup.
Isdin Eryfotona AK Fluid SPF100+ 50ml
The zinc-oxide mineral based sunscreen by Isdin is beloved by dermatologists in light of its exceptionally high broad spectrum coverage (SPF100+) and its ability to support sensitive skin affected by rosacea, acne, and skin prone to hyperpigmentation such as melasma.
The Isdin formula is known to help prevent and facilitate the treatment of skin lesions due to sunlight exposure by leaving a protective film on the skin, with Repairsomes DNA and a sun protection factor UVB 109, UVA 39, which reduces the appearance of new lesions. Regular use also promotes the natural mechanism of DNA repair.
Heliocare Gelcream SPF 50 (50 ml)
This gelcream, with a natural-looking dewy finish, is a tinted sunscreen protector that works like a foundation to offer very high protection against UVA & UVB. The sunscreen, which is available in a light and brown shades, blends both mineral and non-mineral filters including the patented anti-oxidant fernblock, a natural fern extract to protect skin health.
The product is designed for all skin types, and it might work best on days when you want to go for a “no-makeup makeup” look.
Osmosis Protect SPF 30 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen 50 ml
The Osmosis is a zinc oxide mineral-based sunscreen that offers sheer, long-lasting, and broad-spectrum coverage, protecting your skin from UVA/UVB whilst helping to combat signs of sun damage. The sunscreen’s lightweight formula makes it invisible on any skin type, including dark skin tones and ageing skin.
Though a little pricey, this is a great daily go-to sunscreen for people with normal skin to ensure the skin remains smooth, radiant, and fully protected all year round.
The Black Girl Sunscreen SPF30 89 ml
The vegan, coral-reef friendly Black Girl Sunscreen is an everyday chemical SPF face and body moisturiser for all skin types that is free from harmful Oxybenzone and Octinoxate ingredients, which you can wear under your makeup or on its own.
The avocado and jojoba oils enriched formula offers SPF30 broad spectrum coverage against harmful UVA/UVB rays, whilst supporting the skin to fight the signs of ageing and preventing acne. The sunscreen is also paced with cacao butter and carrot juice oil to help smoothen and even out complexion and sunflower oil to help prevent skin irritation from sunburn and other skin irritants.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 – 50 ml
The Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 from Supergoop! is an invisible, weightless, and skin-soothing sunscreen for daily use that helps prep the skin like a primer before a makeup application, whilst offering full spectrum protection. This oil-free formula is infused with red algae to help shield the skin against the harmful effects of blue light, and meadowfoam seed oil to boost skin hydration for a more even skin texture.
The fast absorbing coral-reef friendly, free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances sunscreen works well for dark skin tones, including those with oily skin types, as it leaves the skin with an invisible matte finish.
Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 30 – 30 ml
A slightly citrus scented facial sunscreen for everyday use, the Invisible Shield from Glossier is a very lightweight water-gel formula that easily absorbs into the skin, leaving you with a fresh face with no white cast, ready for makeup application.
The non-comedogenic, vegan and cruelty-free product formula is packed with UVA/UVB filters (Avobenzone, Homosalate, and Octisalate) that help prevent sun damage and skin cancer, and works to neutralise harmful free radicals. The product is suitable for all skin types.
Charlotte D LaPlante 1, et al. ( 2018). Oxybenzone Alters Mammary Gland Morphology in Mice Exposed During Pregnancy and Lactation
Samantha L Schneider 1, Henry W Lim 2 (2019). Review of environmental effects of oxybenzone and other sunscreen active ingredients
Joanna A.Ruszkiewicz, et al. (2017). Neurotoxic effect of active ingredients in sunscreen products, a contemporary review
Joseph C DiNardo 1, Craig A Downs 2 (2018). Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3
Cosmeticobs (september, 2015) . MBBT: an exceptional, but contradictory UV-filter