The 10 Best Sunscreens for Black and Brown Skin, According to a Black Woman
It’s time to find your favorite new SPF and get that skin glossed up!
Summer is in full swing, and while it may feel like it’s passing by in a blink of an eye, it’s here and we need to be responsible about it. One of the summer’s biggest threats: harmful UV rays from the sun. But that doesn’t mean you should stay indoors away from the sun (we believe it’s good for the soul to get some safe R&R), it just means you need to use SPF, even if you have Black or Brown skin.
For those of us blessed with the 8th world wonder that is being melanin-enriched, there tends to be a misconception that SPF is irrelevant and our skin is impervious to the suns’ rays. The myth is that our skin has built-in SPF, and while that may be true it doesn’t mean we can’t get sunburned or develop skin cancer. But another reason people with Black and Brown skin don’t wear sunscreens is that many formulas leave an ashy residue behind and don’t blend into our skin.
“Historically, chemical sunscreens were most elegant because their ingredients contain smaller molecules that are not necessarily opaque," explains Michelle Henry, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. "However, physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can leave a white cast because they are larger molecules.”
Over the years, technology has advanced and sunscreens are being more inclusive as they are evolving. “Many companies have started using micronized or nano-sized zinc and titanium to reduce the cast and have also added a tint to make it easier to blend in with all skin types,” explains Dr. Henry.
As people have become more informed on the benefits of using SPF and formulas have advanced and become more inclusive (Note: there is still a lot of work to be done), many people have started using sunscreen more often. In case you need a reminder though, here’s a list of glow-giving, non-white-casting SPFs for your face and body:
Best facial sunscreens for Black and Brown skin:
Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
Created by women of color for women of color, this SPF is a dream come true for melanated skin. Its formula is packed with natural ingredients like nourishing avocado, moisturizing cocoa, and anti-aging carrot juice. Its mattifying formula is perfect worn on its own or under makeup, and since it's vegan and cruelty-free, you'll feel good about using it, too.
EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
Made by Queen V herself in collaboration with The Sunscreen Company, this clean lightweight serum combines sun production and hydration all in one. This mineral SPF 50 serum contains 25% zinc oxide to protect and prickly pear extract for anti-aging.
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Broad Spectrum SPF 45 Hyaluronic Cloud Moisturizer
This a double dose of hydration and sun protection. This fluffy-light formula applies soft and weightless to the skin and douses it with its 30% hyaluronic acid complex while shielding the skin against UVA/UVB rays. This cream-to-water formula draws in water and keeps your skin hydrated all day. Don’t fear all of this hydration, it is a non-greasy formula so you can easily apply makeup on top.
REN Clean Screen SPF 30
Packed with yummy summer ingredients like passion fruit extract, this mattifying sunscreen contains 22% non-nano naturally derived zinc oxide which offers sun protection and anti-aging benefits. The brand is known not only for their incredible products but also for its commitment to the environment. This product is made using 50% recycled plastic for the tube and 100% for the cap!
Glossier Invisible Shield
The self-proclaimed "sunscreen for people who hate sunscreens," is a transparent SPF 35 that comes in a convenient pump-form for a mess-free application.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
This one of the first sunscreens to go viral for its completely transparent formula. It comes out in a gel-like texture and goes smoothly on the skin, leaving an almost velvety feel behind.
Surreal Skincare Plain Jane SPF 20
Don’t be deterred by its whitish formula—this SPF blends in like a dream. Doing double duty as a moisturizer and a daily SPF, this product is loaded with incredible ingredients like raspberry seed oil and edelweiss flower extract which are a natural antioxidant and have a natural SPF of 12. That being said, because of the oils in it, it's perfect for dry skin.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
This sunscreen is endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation and is perfect for all skin types, even for those with rosacea and eczema. It features nine percent transparent zinc oxide for its SPF 46, and it also has a ton of skincare ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid. Say hello to healthy skin.
Best body sunscreens for Black and Brown skin:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 100+
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology proved that SPF 100+ was significantly more effective at protecting you from sunburn than lower number SPFs, so pile it on! Apart from protecting your skin, J.Lo's makeup artist, Scott Barnes, uses it on the star to give her that fabulous head-to-toe glow. If all of this hasn't already sold you on this drugstore buy, it can also be used as a makeup setting spray! I have a backstock of it and never leave home without it.
Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50
This clean and water- and sweat-resistant formula is safe for you and the ocean's fishies! This hydrating, reef-safe, and fast-drying SPF delivers high-performance protection while keeping the skin moisturized. This formula is perfect to give your skin a bit of glow while not leaving a tacky feel or ashy residue behind.