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Long after I’ve retired from this beauty editor gig, I’ll still be hammering the importance of sun protection into people’s heads. In my twentysomething years of living, it remains one of the most overlooked skincare habits, even as we continue to learn more about the connection between sun exposure and a handful of life-threatening diseases; ever heard of a little thing called skin cancer? That’s why we’re rounding up the best sunscreens for dark skin tones so there will be zero excuses not to wear any.
The list of excuses for not wearing sunscreen every day is long and tired. If you have time to drink a gallon of water every day or apply an entire makeup beat in minutes, surely you can make a little room for SPF. And when you consider the number of moisturizers actually infused with protection properties, I mean … come on. It has to end here, even if you’ve got brown skin and are convinced SPF almost always leaves a white, chalky cast. The assumption that darker skin is immune from serious sun damage is one of the most dangerous myths out there.
“Although darker skin does have more natural protection from the sun, daily broad-spectrum sunscreen use with an SPF of at least 30 is still highly recommended,” says Valerie D. Callender, MD, FAAD, medical director of Callender Dermatology & Cosmetic Center. “All skin incurs free-radical damage from UV radiation and the potential for skin cancer, regardless of color.”
Though, the struggle can be real. More often than not, sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—which happens to be the most widely used SPF ingredients—aren’t the most flattering on brown skin. But there are other options that don’t make you look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Alternatively, you can invest in SPF products that use a lower concentration of those ingredients. Ahead are the top faves for darker skin.
This formula feels extra-juicy when you first apply, but it’s quick-absorbing, transparent, and doesn’t need an over-abundance of rubbing in. It also has that Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation, so you know the experts would actually recommend it.
Dr. Callender adds that although it “contains zinc oxide at 9.0 percent, the micronized form used in conjunction with 7.5 percent octinoxate provides excellent protection without causing the gray hue often associated with zinc oxide use. This formula also contains silymarin and caffeine, two ingredients that add extra protection against the free-radical damage caused by UV exposure.”
This oil-free formula dries into a matte finish but still helps increase hydration levels, leaving skin more even-textured. It makes for an awesome makeup primer, too.
I’ve waxed poetic about the wonders of squalane oil before, and this sunscreen harnesses its moisturizing benefits along with a high level of SPF. My only tip would be to really blend this one in. When you first apply to the skin, it does give off a gray cast because the formula is on the thicker side. But once it’s completely rubbed in, it gives the skin a matte feel that sits comfortably under makeup.
This one also requires a lot of blending, but my favorite thing about it is that it doesn’t transfer to the top of my shirts when I’m getting dressed and undressed. And the slight tint it leaves on your skin washes away easily with water. If you want that bronze glow without having to spend a ton on a bronzing oil, this is definitely an affordable alternative (with SPF to boot!).
Entrepreneur and Thirteen Lune co-founder, Nyakio Grieco, recently launched this antioxidant-rich SPF 40 moisturizer. It promises the ultimate hydration with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, antioxidant-rich green tea extract, and 2 percent niacinamide.
Coppertone recently launched this totally clear sunscreen that’s formulated with nourishing vitamin E.
Founder Deepica Mutyala created this mineral SPF to blend seamlessly into tan and dark skin tones, leaving a glow instead of a white cast. We’d say she nailed it.
Model Winnie Harlow’s skincare line includes this glowy, sheer sunscreen made with nutrient-rich seaweed and powerful antioxidants.
This totally sheer SPF is ultra-hydrating thanks to jojoba, cacao and avocado.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, try this fragrance-free matte version.
Leave it to Rihanna to create this invisible, hydrating sunscreen that helps reduce dark spots while you wear it.
This sunscreen oil absorbs quickly with zero streaking or residue and was made specifically for melanin-rich skin.
It’s tough for mineral sunscreens not to leave a white cast, but this sensitive-skin friendly version is lightly tinted so it evens out all skin tones and leaves a pretty glow.
This fully transparent zinc oxide sunscreen is great for for those with sensitive skin — and lightly tinted to work with all skin tones.
This lightweight serum is formulated with 25 percent zinc oxide with a gorgeous demi-matte glow finish.
If glowy finishes scare you because you have acne-prone skin, choose this mineral sunscreen that won’t make you break out. It contains the brand’s proprietary plant-based probiotic that supports a strong skin barrier clear skin.
This chemical and mineral sunscreen blend hydrates while evening skin tone over time with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and aloe.