There is still one common misconception about sunscreen: that darker skin tones don’t need to utilize it. That misconception comes from the belief that melanin completely protects the skin from being damaged in the sun, when in reality melanin simply functions as a broadband UV absorbent.
And, this is where things go horribly wrong. Simply possessing melanin does not protect people of color from sunburn, skin cancer and other environmental elements caused by sun exposure. And according to a 2009 study, skin cancer usually presents itself at a later stage, or abnormally, with people of color — making it all the more necessary to invest in a good sunscreen and regular dermatologist visits.
Each year, more than 2 million people are treated for two types of skin cancer: basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. According to News In Health, the best way to protect skin health and prevent skin cancer is to limit sun exposure and protect your skin with sunscreen. People of all shades of brown need to know how vital it is to include sunscreen in their skincare regimes (and not just when the sun is at its brightest, either).
Simply possessing melanin does not protect people of color from elements caused by sun exposure.
But as a woman of color, I know it can be quite difficult to find the right sunscreen. I found out the hard way — while at the beach, I sprayed sunscreen all over only to come in contact with the water and immediately notice my skin turn blotchy with a white film residue. And it didn’t go away, even when I left the beach that evening! Many ingredients in common sunscreens leave a white filmy substance on the surface of the skin.
The beauty industry hasn’t always been inclusive when it comes to formulas that are made with all shades in mind. We know that from the various makeup brands that are just now getting on board and including skin tones from the lightest to the very darkest. But now more than ever, the options are cropping up all over the beauty scene, and we are loving it. With that in mind, remember that darker skin tones need protection against common problems such as hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tones and dark spots, which darker skin is more prone to acquiring.
When it comes to finding the right sunscreen, the first thing to note is that there are two types: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and soaks up UV rays. Then, it converts the rays into heat and releases them from your body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. Meanwhile, physical sunscreen sits on top of your skin and helps to reflects the sun’s rays, thanks to the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are the main active ingredients in physical blocks.
Get ready to stock up this summer because I have rounded up the best sunscreens for women (and men) of color, from chemical to physical, and from need-to-know brands to classics, so now you really have no excuse not to indulge.
Per-fékt Beauty Skin Perfection Plus With SPF 30
If you are looking for a sunscreen that doubles as a light coverage foundation, then you are in luck. This beauty skin perfecter not only has SPF 30, but also contains a mousse-related formula that helps to blur the appearance of surface imperfections. Use it as a BB cream during the day, or before a morning run. Editor’s note: makeup with SPF is not recommended for long-term sun exposure or beach trips!
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Women of color love Murad — and for good reason. This mineral sun protectant sinks easily into the skin, no matter the tone. This revolutionary product shields skin for the main causes of damage that promotes early signs of aging: pollution, blue light, infrared rays, UVB and UVA. It doesn’t get much better than that. Did I mention that it is virtually weightless?
Aveeno® Protect + Hydrate® Lotion Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SP
This lightweight, daily-use sunscreen is oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores. It also contains an antioxidant oat for the ultimate moisture-boosting and sun protection lotion. It is non-greasy with a barely noticeable beachy scent. It is also a wonder for athletes.
Palmer’s Eventone Suncare Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
This portable and affordable sunscreen is loaded with shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil. It protects the skin against the sun’s damaging rays and works to prevent dark spots from forming while helping to keep current dark spots from getting even darker –– an issue many people of color face. It is the perfect carry-on size to keep in your purse or tote for afternoons out.
Junetics Pure Energy Brightening Day Cream With Broad Spectrum SPF 50
With its innovative mix of amino acids and plant stem cells, this multitasking day cream offers superior benefits: hydration, brightening and sun protection. It helps to even skin tone while diminishing unsightly fine lines and gives the skin a nice, dewy glow after application.
Glossier's Invisible Shield
After trying this product for myself, this is my brown girl go-to. It is totally color-free and has a deliciously silky texture that sinks quickly into the skin. And the clear water gel formula leaves no greasy residue or white filmy overlay, either. It also helps to neutralize free radicals and keeps the city pollutants from latching onto skin. The only thing about this product is that it is not water-resistant.
Julep No Excuses Invisible Sunscreen Gel
This product is not only completely and totally invisible, but it is also enriched with vitamins sourced from Jeju Island, one of the least polluted areas in the world. Upon applying, it feels more like an essence than sunscreen as it quickly hydrates your skin at the same time. The best part? It contains vitamin E and sunflower seed oil — two people of color must-haves. Vitamin E can protect the skin from various effects due to solar radiation by acting as a free-radical scavenger while sunflower seed oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and promotes antioxidant effects on the skin.
La Roche-Posay's Anthelios 60 Sport
This heavy-duty sunscreen is made with an oil-free formula that blends perlite and silica for the ultimate paraben and fragrance-free lotion. It has a dry-to-touch texture and contains Cell-Ox Shield technology, which is a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protectant containing antioxidants.
Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30
This oil-free moisturizer with SPF 30 can be used by itself or layered underneath makeup — it is created with all skin types and tones included. Green tea extracts work to improve and correct discoloration while the SPF does its magic and protects your skin from even the most harmful of rays.
See? No excuses. Protect yourself!