While melanin offers us some protection from the sun, it’s not a protective coating. There’s a common misconception that people with dark skin don’t even need sunscreen. While it’s true that the risk of skin cancer is lower in women with deeper skin tones, there are plenty of other possible issues. For example, venturing out into the sun without an SPF can lead to sunspots and hyperpigmentation, and it can even shift the aging process into high-gear. Over time, frequent sun exposure (without protection) leads to a loss of elasticity, and you guessed it — wrinkles.
The fact is, sunscreen is a critical part of everyone’s skincare routine, regardless of your skin tone or the time of year. Yes, even in the dead of winter or on cloudy overcast days, you still need sunscreen.
But, the problem is that not all sunscreens are created equal. Chances are, most of us with melanin have been through a seemingly endless trial and error experiment to find a sunscreen that actually works. The sequence of events goes something like this: we purchase a sunscreen because we’re drawn to the “good for your skin” ingredients, or we read somewhere that some celebrity swears by it, or maybe it was the clever marketing (and packaging) that got us — (you know you’ve done it). Whatever the reason for our purchase, we take our new sunscreen home, just to find on the first application that it leaves the dreaded grey cast on our skin.
Unfortunately, sunscreens tend to do that.
The ghostly white (or grey) tint that sunscreens leave behind is often caused by zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These compounds don’t absorb well and tend to just sit on the skin. And, while some skincare brands can still use these ingredients to deliver a product that works for deep skin tones (see #’s 3 and 4 below), many forgo these ingredients, and the result is a fantastic sunscreen that does what it’s supposed to do — without the annoying white cast. So if you’re in the market for a good year-round sunscreen, here are a few great options to choose from.
Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF 35
While Glossier’s Invisible Shield sunscreen packs quite a punch with SPF 35, it’s still a lightweight, water-gel formula that almost feels like a serum. The transparent formula is non-greasy and absorbs instantly. It works great under makeup and it doesn’t leave a ghostly tint or grey cast on your skin.
Supergoop! Play Everyday Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Supergoop’s Everyday Sunscreen offers plenty of sun protection with SPF 50. Not only is this sunscreen lightweight and fast-absorbing, but it’s also water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, so you can go for that run or a swim without having to frequently reapply.
Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen - White Tea SPF 50
Coola’s white tea is essentially a moisturizer and sunscreen in one product. With SPF 50, it offers broad spectrum UVB/UVA protection while it keeps your skin hydrated. This formula is lightweight and it absorbs quickly without leaving a grey cast on deeper skin tones. Even more impressive is that it’s water-resistant and loaded with antioxidants.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
EltaMD UV Clear is an oil-free sunscreen that’s chock-full of plenty of “good for your skin” ingredients. With SPF 46, it offers great protection from harmful UV rays. It also contains niacinamide that tackles inflammation and hyperpigmentation, lactic acid for a bit of gentle exfoliation, and hyaluronic acid that deeply hydrates your skin. The lightweight and silky formula can be worn under makeup, and it doesn’t leave any hint of a residue.
SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50
With SPF 50, Skinceuticals is a mineral sunscreen that offers a weightless matte finish. Plus it’s ultra-sheer, so there’s no grey tint on your skin. The silky, lightweight formula spreads easily, absorbs quickly, and is great for all skin types - including oily skin and sensitive skin.