How to find a good sunscreen for dark skin, according to dermatologists

How to find a good sunscreen for dark skin, according to dermatologists
  • Finding the right sunscreen for people of color with skin any darker than fair is incredibly difficult because of the white cast it leaves on melanin-rich skin.
  • Insider spoke to two dermatologists on the best way to find sunscreen for melanin-rich skin.
  • Chemical sunscreens can be great because they are completely sheer and don't leave a white cast.
  • If you have sensitive skin and can't wear chemical sunscreens, tinted mineral sunscreens that match your skin tone can help you avoid the grey look.

"If you're at all a melanated woman, it's really hard to find sunscreen," Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a recent video with Vogue.

People of color oftentimes have a difficult time finding sunscreens that look good and properly protect melanin-rich skin from the sun.

"Many of my patients report that while they want to wear sunscreen, they are often disappointed by the 'white cast' that many sunscreens can leave on their skin," Dr. Valerie Harvey, a dermatologist in Newport News, Virginia, told Insider.

Sunscreens often leave people of color looking grey, ashy, or purple because of the 'white cast' they can leave.

"In addition, since sunscreens have been predominantly marketed to individuals with fair/white skin for skin cancer prevention- patients with skin of color are less likely to believe that benefit from wearing sunscreen."


But sunscreen is crucial for everyone to wear to prevent skin cancer, premature aging, and other skin conditions due to sun exposure with no protection.

Insider spoke to two dermatologists on the best ways to find sunscreen for melanin-rich skin.

Always start with moisturizer to reduce the grey effect

Dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, director of the University of Miami's Skin of Color Division, told Insider it's crucial to moisturize before applying sunscreen to reduce the risk of dryness that can lead to an even greyer look with sunscreen.

If your skin is dry, you are more likely to look grey or ashy prior to putting on sunscreen and look even greyer once the possible white cast comes on.

"Some people use a moisturizer with sunscreen added, but many people feel that they like to use a separate moisturizer in the morning," Woolery-Lloyd said.


Well-moisturized skin will look healthy and free of grey, creating a perfect canvas before your sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens don't leave you ashy

There are two primary types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical.

Mineral sunscreens use zinc, titanium, or iron oxide to create a physical barrier to block out the sun. While they are great for people with sensitive skin, Woolery-Lloyd told Insider they tend to leave the white cast Ocasio-Cortez talked about in her skin routine video.

If you don't have sensitive skin and want something sheer, chemical sunscreens are completely invisible because they contain UV which instead absorbs light rather than reflecting it.

"For darker skin types, the chemical sunscreens are, are cosmetically elegant because they're clear and they don't leave any," Woolery-Lloyd said.


Tinted sunscreens can help even discoloration and hyperpigmentation — two common concerns for melanin-rich skin

If you have sensitive skin and can't avoid using mineral sunscreen, Harvey told Insider it's a good idea to find a tinted sunscreen to match your skin tone. That can protect you from the sun's harsh rays without leaving you pale or grey.

"Tinted sunscreens which contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or iron oxide provide broad-spectrum coverage against UVA/UVB and visible light and are an ideal choice suffering from these conditions," Harvey told Insider.

Because hyperpigmentation and discoloration are both common concerns for people with melanin-rich skin, the tinted sunscreen can also help even your skin tone.

Get a minimum of SPF 30 and wear it every day

While having melanin-rich skin can better protect you from the sun than having fair skin, it doesn't mean you should buy less powerful SPF.

According to Woolery-Lloyd, your sunscreen should be at least SPF 30 to protect the face on your skin.


"People always ask 'what's the best SPF,'" Woolery-Lloyd told Insider. "The best kind is the one that you love and you will wear every single day of your life."

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