The Best Sunscreen for Dark Skin, According to Experts and Customer Reviews
If you have dark skin, you know the ever-so-common challenge with sunscreen. You try to protect your skin from harsh UV rays, but can't find a formula that doesn't make you look like you jumped into a bag of all-purpose flour. But, thankfully, skincare brands are starting to catch on and create formulas that are actually brown-girl friendly—because melanin-rich skin needs sun protection, too.
Yes, no matter how light or dark your skin tone, daily application of sunscreen is absolutely necessary. "It's a myth that people with darker skin tones don't need sunscreen," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "UV light can affect all skin tones, leading to skin cancer and premature aging, including wrinkles and pigmentation." He adds that darker skin tones are actually at a higher risk for hyperpigmentation (AKA dark spots), because darker complexions naturally make more melanin than lighter ones.
But the problem tends to lie in the formulation. "The most important thing is to find a sunscreen that you will gladly wear daily," advises Ope Ofodile, MD, MPH board-certified dermatologist. Dark skin tones need sunscreen that goes on clear and rubs easily into brown skin. Dr. Zeichner notes that chemical sunscreens tend to rub in better on the skin and can achieve ultra-high SPF values, while mineral formulas are often better-tolerated and less irritating. And Dr. Ofodile agrees, sharing that even though mineral sunscreens can sometimes leave a white cast, it's still her go-to for improved coverage when spending excessive amounts of time outdoors.
When choosing a brown girl-friendly formula, Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist, suggests reaching for those with keywords on the label such as "clear" or "invisible." You can also keep your eye out for sunscreens for dark skin that feature antioxidants and weightless moisturizers including hyaluronic acid, which signal that the product is also crafted for skincare and not just SPF protection.
Ready to find your holy grail sunscreen for dark skin? With the help of a few experts and customer reviews, we found the best brown girl-friendly options that go on clear, won't pill, and don't appear oily post-application.
Best Overall: Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30
When a sunscreen is made with women of color in mind, you know it's sure to impress. This formula is a go-to for celebrity facialist Taylor Worden because it's a sunscreen and moisturizer in one. "It goes on smoothly and dries clear and sheer without leaving a white cast," she says. Not to mention it's vegan, reef-friendly, and paraben-free (for the record, parabens can interfere with the hormone balance of your body and some studies suggest they are carcinogenic), so you don't have to think twice before applying. And with a formula full of good-for-you ingredients like sunflower oil and jojoba oil, which help prevent sunburn and hydrate the skin, there's so much to love about this easy-to-blend sun protection.
Best for Mature Skin: ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Don't let the tinted formula scare you. This luxury sunscreen's tint was made with a wide variety of skin tones in mind, dark ones included. This mineral formula is Dr. Robinson's pick since it's a non-nano (translation: won't penetrate skin and get into your bloodstream) physical-based sunscreen. "It has iron oxides and topical antioxidants to protect against blue light and environmental free radicals," says Dr. Robinson. "Plus, it has an enzyme, called photolyase, that helps repair damage done by the sun," she adds. This surely comes in handy when you accidentally forget to reapply every two hours.
Best Alternative Formula: Mele No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30
If you feel like traditional sunscreen makes your skin feel tight and dry, you'll love this silky option. It's a sheer oil that goes on clear, no matter if you have caramel-colored skin or a deep mocha brown. As for the oil itself, it's super lightweight and leaves the skin with a pleasant dew-like finish without looking too shiny. Dr. Zeichner likes this pick for delivering chemical protection to the skin sans greasiness. "The oil base is soothing and hydrating, but will not leave the skin feeling heavy," he says. "And the formula provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays."
Best for Sensitive Skin: Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen
"This sunscreen offers mineral protection in a silky formula that fully rubs in without leaving a white cast behind," says Dr. Zeichner. "Tinted sunscreens contain iron oxide pigments that even protect against HEV (High Energy Visible) light, or blue light, which contributes to issues with hyperpigmentation." And since it's sensitive-skin friendly and fragrance-free, you can wear it no matter your skin type.
Best Lightweight Cream: Elta MD UV Clear Facial Susncreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Dr. Ofodile says this is one of her must-have mineral sunscreens because it's made to go on clear for darker skin types. It's a fan favorite that has more than 10,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, making it on the site. It's available in both tinted and untinted formulas and is a zinc-based sunscreen that works for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone.
Best Mineral: Dr. Brandt Liquid Sun Shield Daily Brightening Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
This invisible sunscreen does far more than protect against sun damage. It's filled with skin-bettering ingredients, including plankton extract to help reduce hyperpigmentation and clary sage ferment to brighten skin. And, it offers broad spectrum SPF 50 protection to shield you from both UVA and UVB rays, making it a great mineral pick.
"[This is] honestly the first mineral sunscreen that my skin loves," reported a shopper. "It provides an invisible finish and gives me that dewy/glowy finish, and I love that."
Best Drugstore: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 30
Drugstore sunscreens sometimes get a bad reputation, but the truth is there are gems like this one that are worth way more than their price tag. This weightless sunscreen has more than 7,000 five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers, and has a feather-light formula that disappears once you rub it into your skin, according to a customer who noted that "it doesn't leave any sort of weird white cast on my dark skin." Also nice: The under-$10 price tag makes it super wallet-friendly.
Best for Dry Skin: Unsun Mineral Tinted Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen SPF 30
Tired of looking for mineral formulas that don't go on white, founder of Unsun Katonya Breaux decided to concoct her very own brown girl-friendly formula sans all the chemicals. Her formula is infused with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and vitamin E and has a zinc oxide and titanium dioxide base, which "offers broad spectrum protection against UVB and UVA rays—similar to what you would get in a chemical sunscreen—without the harmful ingredients," Dr. Zeichner previously told Health.
"I am a medium/deep skin tone and typically do not care for sunscreen. So, I don't bother with sunscreen unless it is mineral-based, but unfortunately many of those leave a white caste. This is the first I have tried that does not do so on my skin tone. It goes well under my makeup and does not interfere with my foundation. I also wear it on its own," said one five-star reviewer.
Best Tinted: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation
This two-in-one formula is a hybrid between a lightweight foundation and serum-based sunscreen and it does wonders for brown skin. It's formulated with plant-based squalane, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid to keep skin, dewy, smooth and moisturized all-day long. Plus, the non-nano zinc oxide protects against UV rays and blue light, and it doesn't leave a white cast behind.
One reviewer wrote: "I love this product! My skin looks so dewy and plump when I wear this skin tint. I get so many compliments and I feel as if the actives within the serum help to keep my skin clear and moisturized at the same time."
Best for the Family: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body and Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60
If you're looking for a family-friendly option that won't disappoint, look no further than this one from La Roche-Posay. The best part? You won't find any white cast in sight. It's milky, feels oh-so-good when you apply it, and it absorbs almost instantly so you won't have that sticky feeling throughout the day. Dr. Ofodile says, "It has a sophisticated feel, is non-comedogenic, provides broad spectrum protection, and is available at an affordable price."
Best for Oily Skin: SuperGoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
This sheer formula lives up to its name because it goes on super clear. It's perfect for those looking for more of a matte finish since it absorbs excess oil and shine throughout the day.
"I've been looking for a high SPF sunscreen that I could truly use on my face that would not leave a white cast. This finally does the job. It feels like satin on the skin and, while I don't wear makeup, I loved that it left that matte look that many people use makeup to achieve. This was an added benefit in these summer streets not looking greasy and oily. Melanated folks, this costs a ton but it's worth it, and I will be buying again," shared a customer.