The Best Sunscreens For Dark Skin, According To A Dermatologist

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By now, we all probably know that sun protection is essential to keeping your skin safe from harmful UV rays. But we also know that not every sunscreen works for dark skin tones. Just because you have darker skin doesn’t mean that you should have to deal with sunscreens that leave behind white casts all in the name of skin health. Luckily, there are plenty of sunscreen options out there that provide all of the sun protection without the white cast. To find out the best sunscreen for dark skin and to answer all of your burning SPF questions, we spoke to dermatologist Dr. Karyn Grossman, who’s celebrity clients include Gwyneth Paltrow, Linda Evangelista, and Molly Sims.

Do people with darker skin tones need to wear sunscreen on a regular basis?

“All people, regardless of skin tone, should wear sunscreen daily,” encourages Dr. Grossman. “People with darker skin tones often believe that they do not need protection because they are less susceptible to sunburn than, let’s say, a very fair skinned red-head.  However, people with darker skin tones can still get burned, and they often get a tan, which is also a sign of sun damage.”

But it goes even deeper than that. “In addition to providing protection from burn and tan, SPF is also very important to protect the skin from pigmentation issues, which are more common in darker skin-toned individuals,” says Dr. Grossman.

Why do some sunscreens leave behind a white cast, particularly on medium to deep skin tones?

“There are two main categories of ‘active ingredients’ in SPF. There are physical blocks, such as zinc and titanium, and there are chemical blocks, which are essentially all of the rest,” Dr. Grossman tells us. Essentially, physical sunscreens (also referred to as mineral sunscreens), physically block UV rays while chemical sunscreens prevent sun damage, well, chemically.

“Some SPFs can leave a white cast on the skin when they have either zinc or titanium as active ingredients in their formulation,” says Dr. Grossman. So if you have dark skin, one solution to avoiding white casts is to opt for chemical sunscreens.

What is the best sunscreen for dark skin?

According to Dr. Grossman, you have several options. “The best option is to use a tinted physical sunscreen. Here, pigment is added into the physical sunblock to give it a tint. This decreases the white/gray cast that can be seen on darker skin types,” she says. “[Tinted] sunblock is created by adding iron oxide to the formulation. This is a very important ingredient for people who are trying to combat pigmentation or melasma. Iron oxides help to block visible light, which also contributes to pigmentation. For patients who want to improve pigmentation, sunscreen with iron oxide is best.” If you’re going to opt for a physical sunscreen, tinted or otherwise, “Whichever option you choose, please always look at the ingredient list on the product packaging to check for the active ingredients.”

Second, “The second option is to use a blend of physical and chemical sunscreens, which decreases the gray/white cast by reducing the amount of physical sunblock on the skin,” advises Dr. Grossman.

Whatever sunscreen you end up choosing, you can guarantee that these dermatologist approved picks will offer sun protection without a white cast.

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