8 Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin, According to Skincare Experts
Finding a sunscreen to protect darker skin tones has always been filled with trial and error. Take some of the guesswork out with these expert tips.
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Finding a sunscreen to protect darker skin tones hasn’t always been easy. For years, a white cast was just the name of the game for me when hitting the beach. Luckily now, there are brands crafting formulas that offer excellent sun protection without having to accept the embarrassing white ring on your face and white streaks on your body. We spoke with skincare pros to send you off in the right direction while seeking out the best sunscreen for dark skin.
Best sunscreens for dark skin
- Best overall/Best for kids: EltaMD UV Pure Kids Sunscreen Lotion
- Best budget: Kinlo Golden Rays Sunscreen
- Best brightening: Bolden Brightening Moisturizer Sunscreen
- Best sweatproof: Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion
- Best SPF and primer duo: Tizo3 Facial Mineral Sunscreen and Primer
- Best spray: Cay Skin Isle Nourishing Body Mist
- Best for scalp protection: Sun Bum SPF 30 Scalp and Hair Mist
- Best for mature skin: No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Day Cream
Best overall/Best for kids
EltaMD UV Pure Kids Sunscreen Lotion
Master Esthetician Sarah Akram says mineral sunscreens like the EltaMD lotion are the best sunscreens for dark skin for little ones. “My preferred sunscreen for babies is a minimum SPF 30 [with] zinc [oxide] and titanium [dioxide],” she tells us. “Baby skin is more fragile than adult skin, so it easily burns. So I prefer these sunscreens over clear gels or aerosol sprays because I know they are more effective [at protecting the skin].”
This zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-rich water-resistant formula reflects and scatters UVA and UVB rays and melts onto wet or dry skin quickly, which is plus when reapplying SPF to the skin of wiggly kids ready to spend more time in the sun doing summer activities.
- Offers UVA/UVB sun protection
- Good for kids and adults
- 80 minutes of protection
- Over 2,300 Amazon ratings with a 4.5-star average
Kinlo Golden Rays Sunscreen
Sunscreen for dark skin and mineral SPFs aren’t usually synonymous because it guarantees a white cast on the skin. However, this skin tint passes the swatch test. I say this from experience, which isn’t all that surprising considering award-winning tennis player Naomi Osaka crafted the brand with melanin-rich skin in mind. The tinted sunscreen is infused with SPF 50+ alongside skin-loving ingredients like jojoba, safflower seed oils and zinc oxide that protects the skin from UV and blue light rays.
- Formulated with zinc oxide to protect the skin from UV and blue light rays
- Three hue options (light, medium and deep)
- SPF 50+
- Travel-friendly size
- Because the formula is mattifying, it might not work well for dry skin
Bolden Brightening Moisturizer Sunscreen
For skin that needs brightening, having vitamin C built-in is an excellent help. Not only does this squalane and safflower oil-infused broad-spectrum sunscreen not leave behind an unwanted chalky cast, but vitamin C in the formula addresses hyperpigmentation while protecting the skin from sun damage. This makes it one of the best sunscreens for dark skin, even with sensitive skin.
- Formulated with brightening vitamin C
- Works well under makeup
- Formulated by a Black-owned business
- SPF 30
- Averaging 4.6 stars on Amazon
- Could be too hydrating for oily skin types
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion
Across the internet, this lightweight, Shiseido SPF 50+ sunscreen is a fan favorite. If you’re planning a full day on the water, once this formula is on, it will not budge when wet. Its wet force technology takes negative ions in the formula and combines them with positive ions in water and perspiration to form bonds.
This creates a layer of invisible sun protection that is waterproof and sweatproof. While the SPF’s heat force technology activates by external heat, it creates a super-strength UV-protective barrier.
- Water and sweatproof
- Doesn’t leave behind a white cast
- Super hydrating
- Ideal for dry, combo and normal skin types
- SPF 50+
Best SPF and primer duo
Tizo3 Facial Mineral Sunscreen and Primer
“Tizo3 Facial Mineral Sunscreen and Primer is amazing because it’s a physical block,” Akram shares. Akram says a tinted mineral sunscreen helps prevent the dreaded white cast that many mineral sunscreens leave behind on dark skin. Additionally, she says not to get hung up on the white cast when we’re spending much more time in the sun.
“I’m not saying walk around with a white cast on your face running errands to and from the grocery store. But if you’re having a beach day or going to be outside, it’s OK to have a little bit of a white cast on the skin. That’s a shield to help protect the skin, especially with how strong the sun is these days.”
- Doubles as a primer and skin protectant
- Perfect for post-procedure use
- Free of chemical sunscreen filters, dyes, fragrances, oils and preservatives
- 80 minutes of water-resistant protection
- Over 4,900 Amazon ratings with a 4.7-star average
- Could leave a hint of a white cast
Cay Skin Isle Nourishing Body Mist
For a spray SPF, this highly reviewed body mist boasting SPF 50 broad-spectrum UV protection and a Clean at Sephora seal is a top pick among people with deeper skin tones. Reviewers also note glowing skin is also on the menu when you spray this on the body. That glow is attributed to the skin barrier-protecting seaweed, moisture-boasting hyaluronic acid and vitamin C in the formulation.
- Easy to pack, no-spill packaging
- Lightweight and nourishing
- Has a Clean at Sephora seal
- Crafted with skin-barrier-protecting ingredients
- SPF 50
- Has fragrance
Best for scalp protection
Sun Bum SPF 30 Scalp and Hair Mist
Protective styling curls before jetting off for a well-deserved warm-weather vacation means not having to worry about your hair. But there’s one forgotten part of that equation: the scalp. To protect the scalp without causing greasy buildup, this non-comedogenic sunscreen spray delivers SPF 30 UVA/UVB protection to the scalp with an easy-to-apply spray applicator. This scalp sunscreen is also useful for bald heads.
- Lightweight and fast-drying
- SPF 30 UVA/UVB protection
- Non-comedogenic, oil-free
- Over 1,000 Amazon ratings with a 4.5-star average
- Vegan and Hawaii 104 Reef Act Compliant
- Reviewers wish the bottle came in a larger size
Best for mature skin
No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Day Cream
“Because you want to make SPF application as easy to remember as possible, I love recommending my patients a day cream that has SPF in it,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell, MD, FAAD. “One of my favorite chemical sunscreens that I use on my darker skin tone is No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action, which targets the appearance of pigmentation and brightens for an even-looking skin tone. It also provides a radiant glow with ingredients like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and matrixyl 3000+, a collagen peptide technology.”
- Formulated with a skin-firming complex to reduce the signs of aging
- Comes in a fragrance-free option
- SPF 30
- Over 2,400 Amazon ratings with a 4.6-star average
- Could be too heavy for oily or combination skin
What to consider when buying sunscreens for dark skin
For starters, Dr. Mitchell says finding a formula you actually like and will apply regularly is the first step in finding the perfect SPF match. It’s also pertinent to know the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen.
“The main difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen is how they protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays,” Mitchell explains. “Chemical sunscreens use ingredients like avobenzone and octisalate to absorb UV rays before they cause skin damage. Mineral sunscreens use ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block the sun and scatter the rays before they penetrate the skin.”
No matter which formulation you select, Mitchell wants to emphasize all skin tones need to apply SPF daily. The Fitzpatrick classification of skin types ranges from level I (pale white skin: always burns, doesn’t tan) to VI (dark brown or black skin: never burns, always tans darkly).
“Even Fitzpatrick levels IV to VI [need to] wear sunscreen every day to help reduce the risk of developing signs of photoaging such as hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and loss of skin elasticity.”
And if you’re seeking out in-office treatments like micro-needling and lasers in addition to treating hyperpigmentation and fine lines with active ingredients like retinol and BHAs/AHAs, sun protection, Mitchell notes, is a non-negotiable if you don’t want to reverse results faster than it took to achieve them.
Types of sunscreens for dark skin
- Chemical Sunscreen: “Traditionally, people with darker skin tones have gravitated to chemical sunscreens because of their nice absorption into the skin, leaving it without a chalky appearance or heavy feeling,” Mitchell shares.
- Mineral Sunscreens: “With the advancement in the formulation of mineral sunscreens, they come widely recommended for people with darker skin tones. Their micronized formulations feature smaller particles that allow better absorption into the skin, leaving less of a white ghostly appearing on the skin.”
- Tinted Mineral Sunscreens: “Tinted mineral sunscreens containing iron oxide are becoming a favorite for many because of the product’s ability to block visible or blue light damage to the skin,” Mitchell tells us. Blocking blue light from our devices is important because the light Mitchell says leads to hyperpigmentation and aging of the skin.
How we found the best sunscreens for dark skin
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
Does dark skin need higher SPF?
“Melanated skin has a natural protection factor of up to SPF 13 compared to that in white skin, which is reported to have an SPF 3.4.” Even with natural protection, Mitchell says the best sunscreens for dark skin are SPF 30-40.
Is SPF 70 enough for black skin?
“SPF stands for sun protection factor,” Mitchell explains. “The number indicates how long the sun’s UVB radiation would take to burn skin when using the product as directed vs. the amount of time with no sunscreen. So, if you’re wearing SPF 30, it would take 30 times longer for skin to burn than without sunscreen.”
With that said, she notes SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s harmful UV rays while SPF 50 blocks 98%. “So applying a higher SPF than 50 does not provide much additional protection for any skin type.” However, reapplying protection every two hours, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in direct sunlight, is key.
Can black skin get sunburned?
The short answer is absolutely. Here’s why. “Even though people with darker skin types won’t burn quite as quickly, they are still at risk for skin damage and photoaging. They should take preventative measures to minimize those risks,” Mitchell shares. She also says there is another important reason beyond sunburn to protect the skin: skin cancer.
“Because of misinformation about applying sunscreen to darker skin, skin cancer, like squamous cell carcinoma, in darker skin tones is often detected at later stages, and as we know with skin health, prevention is key. Regular sunscreen use, paired with annual skin health checks from a board-certified dermatologist, is very important.”
About the Experts
- Dr. Hope Mitchell, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and the CEO and founder of Mitchell Dermatology. With over 25 years of experience in the medical field, she is an accomplished, highly qualified dermatologist and entrepreneur.
- Sarah Akram is a Master Esthetician who counts Angela Bassett and Mindy Kaling as clients. She is the founder of Sarah Akram Skincare, providing customized skincare treatments and modern technology with all-natural products to customers in need of skin renewal.
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