Melanin Approved Protection From the Sun
You've probably heard it countess times before...wear sunscreen every day. But, the fact is that not all sunscreen formulas are optimal for every skin tone, especially those with darker complexions. Whether chemical or mineral, many sunscreens are known to not completely disappear on deeper tones even after they're rubbed in. When formulated incorrectly, opaque ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can cause a white cast. Rather than go without SPF entirely, we recommends looking for formulas that include micronized versions of their key ingredients, or incorporate the addition of masking pigments to avoid a ghostly cast.
Of course, we also recommend keeping an eye out for the right level of broad-spectrum sun protection, SPF 30 for daily use and SPF 50 whenever you are outside for more than an hour. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. To make it seamless for you to keep your skin protected from the elements, we've pulled together a few sunscreen picks from tried-and-true brands that are perfect for melanin-rich skin.
A deeply harmful skin-care misconception that just won't die is that those with darker complexions don't need to wear daily sun protection. Now melanin may be magical, but it isn't sun-resistant. No matter your skin tone, you should be wearing sunscreen every day...even when it's cloudy or you're staying indoors.
Frequently skipping sunscreen increases your risk for skin cancer. Even though melanin-rich skin types have some natural protection against UV light, the highest possible level is SPF 13, which is below the recommended level of SPF 30. People with melanin-rich skin may be less susceptible to skin cancer, but when those with melanin-rich skin are diagnosed with skin cancer the outcomes are typically worse, likely because they are found at later stages. In addition to increasing the risk for skin cancer, foregoing sunscreen can also worsen any existing hyperpigmentation. If you're trying to even your skin tone through treatments, what's the point if you aren't using sunscreen? You're ultimately reversing any of the dark spot-diminishing you want to happen. Public service announcement aside, let's face it: Not all sunscreens are made the same. A lot of options on the market are not formulated with melanin-rich skin tones in mind, so they end up looking chalky. And who wants to look ghostly especially on their wedding day? Many formulas also make skin look greasy, which is also not ideal.
Living with a melanin-rich skin tone is very much like having a superpower. Thanks to high levels of this amino acid, people with melanin-rich skin have some protection against sun rays, which can be harmful to the skin. However, even Superman needs a shield against kryptonite. Despite having a form of built-in sunblock, melanin-rich skin tones still require defense against one of the brightest stars in our solar system. Sunscreen does a great job at this, but not just any sunscreen will do. To properly cater to melanin-rich skin tones, sunscreen needs to be applied daily and liberally, without the fear of producing a white cast. If you have melanin-rich skin, and would prefer sunscreen to melt into your skin without looking like talcum powder found its way into the mix, we’ve rounded up some of the best sunscreens that could work best for you.
Black Girl Sunscreen Black Girl Sunscreen has a cult following among shoppers who've looked high and low for SPF that genuinely disappears once its applied to deeper skin tones. The name of the product says it plainly: This sunscreen was made for women with melanin rich skin. Besides the fact that it doesn't leave that dreaded white cast, we particularly love how moisturizing this sunscreen is. Plus, its vegan, fragrance-free formula makes this sunscreen even more versatile.
Melē Not a fan of how sunscreen feels on your face? Consider adding an oil to your daily regimen instead. Mele's lightweight SPF 30 formula is created specifically for melanin-rich skin, and is made without alcohol, mineral oil, or parabens.
Fenty Skin We can pretty much all agree that we're on board with anything Rihanna puts out. That includes the Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen. Although the launch of the skin-care line was met with some criticism online about the products not being fragrance-free, we actually like how this smells. It's kind of a sweet, fruity scent that's not overpowering. It takes minimal rubbing for it to absorb and leaves you well-protected from UV rays. One of Rihanna's unofficial goals with her namesake brand Fenty Skin is make suncare glam—and effortless—for all skin tones and types and we are SO on board with that!
CeraVe As a mineral option, we suggest CeraVe's tinted sunscreen, which offers lightweight SPF 30 protection and features a subtle tint to even your skin tone.
EltaMD With more than 3,000 reviews, one of the favorite product picks for melanated skin has a serious cult following. EltaMD's UV Clear is a great option, also, for those with acne-prone skin, since it contains ingredients like niacinamide and lactic acid to control oil. This dermatologist-approved sunscreen utilizes physical blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) to protect skin from harmful UV rays. Makeup artists also love it because it works best under makeup or as a tinted moisturizer. Photographers also love it because it never causes flash back in photos. Very important for your wedding day!
UnSun Cosmetics We love this tinted mineral sunscreen from UnSun Cosmetics. It is made with darker tones in mind. It also works well as a primer and color-corrector, in addition to being water-resistant for up to 80 minutes per wear. Unsun was one of the first brands to fill the sunscreen void for darker skin, and since its launch in 2016, it has yet to disappoint. The tinted sunscreen comes in Light/Medium and Medium/Dark shade options. Unsun's hydrating ingredients like glycerin, coconut oil, and aloe leaf juice just might be the perfect middle-ground for year-round protection.
This clear, gel-like Supergoop! is great if you prefer more of a matte finish. This antioxidant-rich sunscreen is amazing for deep skin tones. It also is a primer, so it helps smooth the skin and provides a grip for makeup. It not only rubs in invisibly, but is also oil-free and leaves behind a soft, velvety texture. A must have for any bride!
Glow Recipe If you're a fan of Glow Recipe's watermelon-based skincare collection, consider adding this SPF from the brand to your range of essentials. Not only is it optimized for a wide range of skin tones, but it also features ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to soothe and plump skin to give you the perfect photo finish.
Cay Skin Supermodel Winnie Harlow recently launched this broad-spectrum SPF 50 face moisturizer from her buzzy Cay Skin line, which is fragrance-free in addition to dermatologist and ophthalmologist-tested.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare This featherweight mineral SPF from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare effortlessly melts into all skin tones, thanks to its transparent, micronized zinc oxide formula.
EleVen by Venus Created by tennis pro Venus Williams with Credo Beauty, this fragrance-free sunscreen applies like your go-to serum, and contains 25 percent zinc oxide. Added naturally-derived skin soothers like prickly pear makes it a dream to wear every day. It doesn't leave a hint of a white cast and it is a reef-safe, zinc oxide-based formula that protects and hydrates your skin. No matter what skin tone you are, you want your skin to look like your skin and you don't want any layers on top. This Unrivaled Sun Serum leaves no white cast and its universal for every skin tone and complexion.
Kinship Over 400 Credo Beauty shoppers and counting love using this moisturizing, reef-safe mineral sunscreen. In addition to providing broad-spectrum protection, it also uses a plant-based probiotic to fortify the skin's barrier.
KINLÒ Here's another tinted sunscreen from tennis star Naomi Osaka's Kinlò collection, which is an every day staple in her beauty routine. It has a slight tint which gives you a great glow while it also helps protect your skin against damage.
Laneige This hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested sunscreen is ideal for both darker skin tones and sensitive skin, since it contains centella asiatica to help soothe irritation.
Bolden An equal part moisturizer and sunscreen, Bolden Skincare's fan-favorite SPF 30 formula includes brightening vitamin C and deeply moisturizing squalane to improve skin's texture and tone over time.
Farmacy At first squeeze, the richness of Farmacy's Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen may be a bit scary. It looks like it won't blend in at all. However, the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide formula doesn't need much rubbing or body heat to melt right into skin. This mineral SPF, spiked with antioxidants marigold and black chokeberry extract for additional environmental protection leaves literally no whiteness behind.
CeraVe Regular sunscreen use should be a major part of your daily skin-care routine. Uses CeraVe's Ultralight Moisturizer with SPF 30. It's quite moisturizing and blends right into darker skin.
Dr. Brandt's Say no to thick, pasty sunscreen. Try Dr. Brandt's Liquid Sun Shield . A few drops of the milky, mineral sunscreen melts right into your skin with ease. It doesn't leave a single streak of ashiness or sticky residue behind. The formula is light enough to wear during the summer and still feels moisturizing in colder months.
Paula's Choice Paula's Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid effortlessly checks off two very important steps, hydration and protection. This lightweight moisturizer blends easily with a clear, subtle sheen that leaves your skin looking nice and dewy, with no greasy finish like other sunscreens sometimes leave behind.
Isdin This mineral-only sunscreen contains a melanin-friendly tint, providing UVA, UVB, and visible light protection. The formula contains enzymes which have been shown to reverse current sun damage. It is perfect for those who also have oily skins. It rubs in easily and cleanly and works very well under makeup.
Neutrogena Sun damage doesn't discriminate. While melanin does provide a level of protection that, you still need sunscreen because it is the best way to keep your skin looking youthful. Neutrogena's affordable Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion feels like liquid gold on your face. The lightweight sunscreen leaves zero traces of a white cast on the skin and comes in both SPF 30 and SPF 50.
Ilia There's plenty to love about Ilia's Super Serum Skin Tint. This three-in-one makeup, sunscreen, and moisturizer lends new meaning to the word multitasker. Available in 18 shades, Super Serum has moisturizing squalane and hyaluronic acid and gives skin buildable blemish coverage while it protects. Having skin-care benefits in your sunscreen takes the stress out of remembering to apply sunscreen daily. Just remember to apply a traditional sunscreen underneath for maximum protection.
One product that checks all the right boxes for is Melé's Dew The Most Sheer Moisturizer SPF 30. This product was created specifically for melanin skin tones and disappears in seconds when applied. It's laced with anti-inflammatory niacinamide and antioxidant-rich vitamin E.
Sonrei Don't be intimidated by the thick texture of Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel Sunscreen: It glides on and melts into the skin like butter. It is everything you want and need it to be. This vegan sunscreen is formulated with three different pollution-fighting antioxidants — ferulic acid, vitamin C, and E — that hydrate and brighten skin. It also comes in SPF 30 and 50.
La Roche-Posay The La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 100 feels like heaven as you apply it to your skin. It absorbs into a cast-free, natural finish and is great for those who are prone to sunburns. Plus, the formula lives up to its "Melt-In" name: It takes minimal rubbing to get smooth, invisible coverage and your skin won't feel greasy or look chalky.
Tula The American Academy of Dermatology always recommends an SPF of 30 because it is clinically proven to be a sufficient amount of protection to reduce or minimize the adverse effects of sunlight. Tula's Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen Gel Broad Spectrum SPF 30 offers just the right amount of protection. Its papaya and pineapple extracts help even out hyperpigmentation, which more readily affects darker skin tones.
Glossier Glossier's Invisible Shield is, hands down, one of the most melanin friendly sunscreens on the market. Its colorless, silky texture works flawlessly on virtually all skin types and complexions and goes on completely clear. When they said invisible, they weren't kidding. The satiny texture also gives oily skin a subtle matte effect, which is ideal on a balmy summer day.
SkinBetter Science Sunbetter Another popular and easy-to-use SPF format is a stick like the SkinBetter Science Sunbetter Sheer SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick. You can use it on the go and it's a good option for people who have oily skin because it spares you all that extra hydration and moisture you get in some of the heavier formulations.
StriVectin If you find that you have to be careful with illuminating face products because sometimes the glow might not be a match for your skin tone, StriVectin's Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Illuminating Cream eliminates this issue. It's got super-fine shimmer particles that impart a peachy glow all over the skin. It really gives that 'glow-from-within' look, and the best part is that it's not messy.
We love Josie Maran's Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 w/ Sunboost ATB because it is a multitasking sunscreen with skin-care benefits that makes applying SPF pleasurable, fun, and easy to use. It fits the bill with its blend of antioxidant-rich green tea for additional protection and hydrating argan and jojoba oils.
Clinique Oil-free is another great attribute to look for in sunscreens and moisturizers with sunscreen. You want to be cognizant of the fact that the physical sunscreen is sheer, but that you may still have skin that's oily, that has rosacea or acne breakouts. Anyone with these skin concerns might like Clinique's Sun SPF 50 Face Cream, which applies like a velvety moisturizer and keeps skin hydrated without clogging pores, thanks to glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid.
Sunscreen is one of the most important forms of protection for any skin type or shade. However, for people with melanin rich skin, selecting the right sunscreen is very important to avoid white casts, as well as to optimize for the best form of coverage. When looking for sunscreen, always consider the type you prefer, where you’ll be using it, the price, and whether you have any skin concerns you’d like the sunscreen to address, then let us know if you have a favorite!