Brown Girl-Approved Sunscreens that Don't Leave a White Cast

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

This story is a part of The Melanin Edit, a platform in which ishonest will explore every facet of a melanin-rich life — from the most innovative treatments for hyperpigmentation to the social and emotional realities — all while spreading Black pride.

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.

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Frequently skipping sunscreen increases your risk for skin cancer. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says that even though darker 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 darker skin may be less susceptible to skin cancer, but, Henry says, "when those with darker 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 darker skin tones in mind, so they end up looking chalky. And who wants to look ghostly? Many formulas also make skin look greasy, which is also not ideal.

"One of the protective characteristics of darker skin — and the reason why we don't get that crinkly skin — is because our skin's oil-producing, [which] is going to stay younger for longer," says board-certified dermatologist Corey Hartman.

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More sunscreens that blend seamlessly on darker complexions are cropping up on the market, so try one of these formulas to keep your skin protected from the sun's rays — without any white residue in sight.

Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen

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. Our editors can confirm the mineral SPF — spiked with antioxidants marigold and black chokeberry extract for additional environmental protection — leaves literally no whiteness behind.

CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30

Regular sunscreen use isn't just something Henry stresses to her patients — it's a major part of her own daily skin-care routine. She uses CeraVe's Ultralight Moisturizer with SPF 30, which, she says, "is quite moisturizing and blends into my dark skin." Henry has partnered with the brand in the past.

Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

ishonest's Best of Beauty-winning Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is beloved by editors and experts alike — and for very good reason. The dermatologist- approved sunscreen utilizes physical blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) to protect skin from harmful UV rays. Makeup artist Delina Medhin was introduced to this sunscreen by her dermatologist. "[This is] one of my absolute favorites of all time," she says. "It plays best under makeup — a tinted moisturizer works fine. I've also never experienced any flashback issues with it."

Paula's Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid

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"The Paula's Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid effortlessly checks off two very important steps in my daily routine: hydrating and protecting my skin," says Spradley. "The lightweight moisturizer blends in so easily to a clear, subtle sheen that makes my skin look nice and dewy, with no greasy finish like some other sunscreens leave behind."

Unsun Mineral Tinted Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen

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.

Isdin Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen

Board-certified dermatologist Elyse M. Love says that her favorite is the Isdin Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. "This mineral-only sunscreen contains a brown girl-friendly tint, providing UVA, UVB, and visible light protection," she says. Love also points out that the formula contains enzymes, which, she says, "have been shown to reverse current sun damage."

This product is also one of Hartman's favorites. "I recommend [it] all day long, not only to darker patients but patients who have oily skin," he says. "It rubs in well, and I can't think of a complaint that I've had after a patient has tried [it]." Hartman also notes that it plays well under makeup.

Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

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Around here, 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 last summer's launch of the skin-care line was met with some criticism online about the products not being fragrance- free, Forbes says that she actually likes how the cream smells.

"It's kind of a sweet, fruity scent that's not overpowering," she says. "It takes minimal rubbing for it to absorb into my skin and leaves me well-protected from UV rays."

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion

Sun damage doesn't discriminate by age, which is why Chloe x Halle are personally focusing their own skin-care efforts on sun protection. "I'm so grateful for all the melanin that I have," Chloe, 22, previously told ishonest. "I'm grateful for the protection that it gives me. But I still need my sunscreen because, you know, I'm trying to have youthful skin all the time."

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 Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

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There's plenty to love about Ilia's Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40. The three- in-one makeup, sunscreen, and moisturizer lends new meaning to the word multitasker. The ishonest 2020 Best of Beauty Award-winner comes in 18 shades, has moisturizing squalane and hyaluronic acid, and gives skin buildable blemish coverage while it protects. "Having skin-care benefits in my sunscreen takes the stress out of remembering to apply this daily," says Spradley. Just remember to apply a traditional sunscreen underneath for maximum protection.

Melé Dew The Most Sheer Moisturizer SPF 30

"I have tried a lot of sunscreens in my decade as a beauty editor. Most I reject after one swipe," says ishonest's content director Jessica Cruel. "Oily texture? Nope. White cast? No thanks. Takes forever to blend? Who has time?" One product that checks all the right boxes for Cruel is Melé's Dew The Most Sheer Moisturizer SPF 30. The product was created specifically for brown skin tones and disappears in seconds when applied.

Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel Sunscreen

Don't be intimidated by the thick texture of Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel Sunscreen: It glides on and melts into the skin like butter. ishonest's editorial assistant Gabi Thorne says she can't get enough of it. "This formula is everything I want and need it to be," she says. The 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 Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 100

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 Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen Gel Broad Spectrum SPF 30

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"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," New York City board-certified dermatologist David Colbert previously told ishonest.

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.

Eleven by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

Tennis star Venus Williams partnered with Credo Beauty to create a mineral sunscreen that doesn't leave a hint of a white cast. Eleven By Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 is a reef-safe, zinc oxide-based formula that protects and hydrates skin. The formula is so good that it even earned a 2020 Best of Beauty Award.

"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," says Williams. "This [line] leaves no white cast and, of course, it's universal for every skin tone and complexion."

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40

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The clear, gel-like Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 is great if you prefer more of a matte finish. The antioxidant-rich sunscreen has scored both Best of Beauty and Readers' Choice Awards. "This is amazing for deep skin tones," says Medhin. "It also is a primer, so it helps smooth the skin and provides a grip for makeup."

Glossier's Invisible Shield

Glossier's Invisible Shield is, hands down, one of the most Black and brown girl-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 kiddin'. "The satiny texture also gives my partially oily skin a subtle mattified effect, which is ideal on a balmy summer day," says Spradley.

SkinBetter Science Sunbetter Sheer SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick

Hartman says that 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," Hartman says.

StriVectin Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Illuminating Cream

"I have to be careful with illuminating face products because sometimes the glow might not be a match for my skin tone," says Forbes. StriVectin's Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Illuminating Cream eliminates that concern for her. 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," Forbes says. "I never noticed little bits of shimmer on my clothes or on anything else I touch after using this."

Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 w/ Sunboost ATB

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Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara previously told ishonest that a multitasking sunscreen with skin-care benefits makes applying SPF "pleasurable, fun, and easy to use." Josie Maran's Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 w/ Sunboost ATB fits the bill with its blend of antioxidant-rich green tea for additional protection and hydrating argan and jojoba oils.

Clinique Sun SPF 50 Face Cream

"Oil-free is another great attribute to look for in sunscreens and moisturizers with sunscreen," says Hartman. "We want to be cognizant of the fact that the physical sunscreen is sheer, but we 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.

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