An important note on sunscreen safety: The FDA is proposing changes to sunscreen regulations, as some active ingredients can enter the bloodstream. Until it can reach a more robust conclusion on safety, the FDA — and the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab — urges Americans to continue using mineral and chemical sunscreen to protect against UV damage.
You’ve heard it time and time again: Daily application of sunscreen is non-negotiable and that goes for all skin tones. The problem is too many sunscreens don’t exactly work for darker skin tones. Yes, we all know it too well: you apply sunscreen only to look in the mirror to find that odd, white-ish gray film all over because the formula wasn’t made to blend into melanin-rich skin. And the truth is, this shouldn’t be the case. An unfortunate effect of this problem is that people with brown skin tend to just skip sunscreen altogether, but according to experts that’s a big no-no.
“People with dark skin should still use sunscreen regularly,” says Tiffany Jow Libby, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. “While the presence of melanin in skin carries some inherent protection, it is not nearly enough to protect against day to day UV radiation exposure.” So the key to keeping skin as healthy as possible is finding a sunscreen formula that goes on clear and still blocks out those harmful UV rays.
Libby says the problem often lies in the formula itself. Mineral sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide are opaque physical blockers that sit on top of skin and reflect light (hence the white cast). “However, many formulations now are ‘micronized’ or made with smaller versions of these mineral ingredients and offer the same protection without the chalky appearance,” Dr. Libby says. If you prefer a chemical sunscreen, chances are you won’t have as much of an issue with blending, since these tend to be sheerer and apply easier. But thankfully, people with dark skin tones can still choose their formula of choice as brands begin to produce versions made to apply on the fairest or darkest of skin tones.
We test all types of sunscreens at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab, and how each formula applies on dark skin tones is top of mind. Our Beauty Lab scientists test according to current regulations and send products home with consumer testers, just like you, for evaluations on factors such as ease of application, look and feel on skin, irritation, scent, and sun protection effectiveness. After tens of thousands of responses from over 600 testers in our most recent SPF test, these are the best sunscreens: you can buy for dark and Black skin tones, as tested by the GH Beauty Lab and recommended by top dermatologists