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Sunscreen for darker skin tones: What you need to know, plus 10 best SPFs to shop

As a person of colour, do you struggle to find the right SPF? Find out from our expert-recommended options.

Sunscreen. Image via Getty Creative.
Sunscreen for darker skin tones: What to know, plus expert recommendations

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

It's important to recognize that everyone, regardless of skin tone, is at risk of developing skin cancer.

SPF is a crucial part of any skincare routine — but when it comes to sunscreens, there are many myths surrounding SPF for darker skin tones. So, we spoke to Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology, to explore what people should know.

5 sunscreen mistakes you may be making if you have a darker complexion:

Skipping sunscreen all together

According to Yadav, a harmful misconception is that a more pigmented complexion provides built-in sun protection thus you don't need SPF. Everyone needs to use SPF to protect their skin from sun damage.

"While those with very deep complexions may naturally provide around SPF 10, it's not enough to adequately protect skin from damage," says Yadav.

Believing darker skin can't get sunburnt

Darker skin tones don't often show a sunburn, but the damaging UV effects are there.

"While it's harder to see a sunburn or sun damage, you'll certainly feel it when you get too much sun — skin hurts, feels inflamed and peels," says Yadav.

Not using SPF because it doesn't suit your skin tone

Sunscreens often leave a white cast on coloured skin, which is why people may avoid using it. However, according to Yadav, chemical SPFs compared to mineral ones will definitely disappear into all skin tones, and tinted mineral sunscreens blend even better.

"Sunscreen technology is constantly evolving too," adds Yadav. "New options are launching every month that are designed to blend beautifully into all skin tones."

Relying on makeup with SPF

Most people don't use enough makeup to get enough SPF coverage from the makeup, says Yadav. People with darker complexions often use concealers or foundations to even out skin tone. However, relying on makeup alone won't protect skin from UV damage.

"Instead, apply a powder or spray SPF as the last step of your beauty routine to ensure you're getting full protection from UVA/UVB rays," Yadav advises.

Shot of a young woman sitting and resting on the beach
Don't skip sunscreen — even on cloudy days.

Skipping sunscreen on cloudy days

This is a common misconception about cloudy days and SPF use. Regardless of whether it's bright and sunny or overcast, sun damage can happen.

"You're not even protected inside, as sun through the windows as well as blue light exposure from devices can all damage the skin," Yadav adds.

How to choose the best sunscreen for your skin type

When choosing a sunscreen, skin type is important to consider.

The two decision-making factors are usually skin tone and level of sensitivity.

If you have more melanated skin tones, finding a mineral sunscreen that blends well may be a struggle — but not impossible. Yadav notes powder formulas now come in a range of tints that can blend well and even out skin tone.

While chemical sunscreens blend well, they may not be suited for sensitive skin types.

"If you're prone to acne or skin irritation, you may find that chemical sunscreens bother your skin, but that tends only to be in the most reactive skin types," Yadav says.

10 best sunscreens for dark skin

Dr. Yadav's recommendation: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40. Image via Sephora.

At the top of Dr. Yadav's list is the Supergoop! Unseen sunscreen — since it goes on clear and has a silky texture, which also makes it great as a makeup primer.

$49 at Sephora

Dr. Yadav's recommendation: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Curly Girl Shop.
Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Curly Girl Shop.

This sunscreen is designed for richly pigmented complexions, yet goes on sheer so you don't have to worry about a white cast. It also has plant-based ingredients to brighten and even tone.

$25 at Curly Girl Shop

Blue Lizard Sheer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+

Blue Lizard Sheer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+. Image via Amazon.
Blue Lizard Sheer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+. Image via Amazon.

A sheer, lightweight sunscreen that blends in well, doesn't feel greasy or leave a white cast. It also has hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and antioxidants to lock in moisture. It's also perfect for acne-prone skin since it's non-comedogenic, so it won't clog pores.

$22 at Amazon

Vichy Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Vichy Face Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Sephora.
Vichy Face Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Sephora.

This sunscreen contains powerful antioxidants to defend against free radicals and environmental damage. It's also lightweight and non-greasy suitable, doesn't leave a white case either so it's suitable for pigmented skin since it blends in well.

$32 at Amazon

CAY SKIN Isle Glow Face Lotion SPF 45

CAY SKIN Isle Glow Face Lotion SPF 45. Image via Sephora.
CAY SKIN Isle Glow Face Lotion SPF 45. Image via Sephora.

Cay Skin SPF is a mineral-based sunscreen that provides high protection and a luminous, non-greasy finish. It is lightweight and has a tint which makes it perfect for all skin tones and types.

$45 at Sephora

Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen

Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen. Image via Sephora.
Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen. Image via Sephora.

A mineral milk sunscreen that is super lightweight and customizable so it can be mixed with any skincare or makeup product to add sun protection. It also has a tint, making it great for pigmented skin tones.

$47 at Sephora

Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42

Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42. Image via Sephora.
Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42. Image via Sephora.

A lightweight, oil-free sunscreen that provides high broad-spectrum protection against sun damage and environmental aggressors. Infused with vitamin C-derivative, hypotaurine and rosemary extract, it helps to prevent the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone, making it perfect for uneven, pigmented skin tones.

$48 at Sephora

Evereden SPF 50 Premium Mineral Sunscreen

Evereden SPF 50 Premium Mineral Sunscreen. Image via Sephora.
Evereden SPF 50 Premium Mineral Sunscreen. Image via Sephora.

This sunscreen has a sheer fluid texture patented by Sheertech Zinc which gives a sheer finish and no white case making it suitable for all skin tones and types. It also nourishes the skin with vitamin E and sunflower seed oil.

$39 at Sephora

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Sephora.
Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. Image via Sephora.

A lightweight, non-greasy mineral sunscreen that is enriched with squalane and zinc oxide to soothe and protect the skin while also providing a sheer, non-white cast finish.

$44 at Sephora

belif Aqua Bomb Broad Spectrum SPF 50

belif Aqua Bomb Broad Spectrum SPF 50. Image via Sephora.
belif Aqua Bomb Broad Spectrum SPF 50. Image via Sephora.

A two-in-one moisturizer and lightweight sunscreen that hydrates the skin while leaving no residue or white cast. It is fast-absorbing with a non-greasy formula that leaves a natural finish, so it works great on pigmented skin tones.

$50 at Sephora

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