Although it’s tempting to think that the darker your skin is, the more protected from the sun you are, this is very misleading. Yes, it is true that dark skin produces more melanin, the UV protective pigment that causes skin color, but this provides only the most limited amount of sun protection. Having dark skin is not a replacement for suncare products and sunsafe behaviours.
You may not feel like you are burning if you have dark skin, but the truth is that your skin is susceptible to damage from UV rays all the same. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more deadly in people with dark skin than those with light skin.
This is because melanoma is harder to self-detect on dark skin and so is only identified in later stages, when treatment is more difficult. So to stop yourself becoming a part of this horrible statistic, keep yourself properly protected with the best sunscreen for dark skin!
Dark skin needs the same safety precautions as fair skin in order to be protected from the sun. You want to wear UV protective clothing and polarized sunglasses, seek shade when outside, and wear a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your dark, but still exposed skin.
After thorough research into the specific needs of dark skin and the products that provide the most convenient protection, SimplySunSafe recommends Solbar Shield Sunscreen SPF 40 as the best sunscreen for dark skin. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for darker skin.
To be sure that you are sufficiently protecting your dark skin from harmful UV rays, there are a number of must-have features that you should look for in your sunscreen.
Broad spectrum protection
Every sunscreen you buy should offer broad spectrum protection. This means that the sunscreen provides balanced protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. This is essential because each type of radiation works differently. UVB rays cause your skin to tan or burn by damaging its outer layer. UVA rays penetrate the dermis (your skin’s deepest layer) and cause premature aging.
Your risk of skin cancer rises with exposure to either type of ray. Since you are less likely to feel the effects of the harmful UV rays, such as burning, on your dark skin, you may be less aware and proactive about protecting it. Getting into the habit of wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen will help ensure that your dark skin is protected against harmful UV rays even when you don’t feel their effects.
How can you be sure that a sunscreen is broad spectrum when you’re searching and shopping? Just remember to check both the ingredients and the sunscreen’s label. You can look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/B’ on the label. Another way to know if your sunscreen is broad spectrum is if you find the ingredient zinc oxide listed.
Sunscreens with zinc oxide are always an effective and safe option because they protect against the full range of UVA/B rays.
Most sunscreens you come across should be broad spectrum because the FDA has made this type of protection a requirement. But it certainly never hurts to double check the ingredients and label to be sure you’re getting what you need!
Best SPF for Dark Skin
When you begin your search for sunscreen, one of the first things you consider is the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating, right? But do you really understand what SPF means?
Most people base their sunscreen choices on the SPF rating without fully understanding how it works. Being aware of what SPF really indicates is helpful when choosing your sunscreen.
A sunscreen’s SPF tells you what fraction of the sun’s rays will reach your skin if you have properly applied it. For example, if you use a sunscreen with SPF 30, then that means that 1/30 of the sun’s rays will reach your skin when you’re wearing it. So that is why you’re able to stay in the sun longer if you wear sunscreen. But don’t get confused and oversimplify what SPF tells you!
Wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 does not mean that you can stay in the sun 30 times as long as if you were not wearing sunscreen. The effectiveness of SPF depends on many factors like the time of day, amount of sunscreen properly applied, and even light reflections from other surfaces such as water or sand.
Take a look at the table below to better understand how much protection different SPF ratings provide you with:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
When I first saw this table, I was very surprised. As you can see, the truth is that there is little difference between a sunscreen with SPF 30 and one with SPF 100. For this reason, SimplySunSafe recommends that you use a sunscreen with an SPF rating no lower than 30, but no higher than 50.
Having dark skin, you may think that you only need SPF 15, but a minimum of SPF 30 is necessary for all skin tones and types. Our recommendation falls in line with that of the FDA. No matter what SPF rating you choose, be sure that you never forget to regularly reapply sunscreen to your dark skin!
Physical is better than chemical
Sunscreens can be grouped into two main categories – physical and chemical. What is the real difference between the two types, you ask? It lies in the active ingredients of the sunscreen, and in the way they work to protect you against the sun’s UV rays. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays as they reach your skin, whereas physical sunscreens reflect the UV rays before they reach your skin.
For a few important reasons, SimplySunSafe recommends physical or combination sunscreens over chemical ones. These reasons are that physical sunscreens:
- Work immediately upon application
- Last longer
- Are less likely to cause irritation
- Have a longer shelf life
There are a lot of good reasons to choose physical sunscreens over chemicals ones. Perhaps the most important reason, however, is that chemical sunscreens tend to contain ingredients that are endocrine disruptors. What does that mean?
Basically, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mess with your hormones. You don’t want that, right? Look out for the worst of these chemicals, one called oxybenzone. Always check the ingredients when buying sunscreen and avoid this chemical at all costs!
While you’re searching the ingredients and labels, there are some other keywords that you can look out for. Check for the word ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ to make sure that the sunscreen you’re looking at is not chemical. You can also check for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, two safe and effective ingredients.
Just because you have dark skin and you may not feel the effects of the sun’s harmful UV rays as noticeably as those with fairer skin, you do not want to skimp on your sun protection. To be sure that you are applying safe and gentle yet effective ingredients to your skin, always choose a physical sunscreen!
When searching for an effective sunscreen to protect your dark skin, one of the biggest challenges can be finding one that will not leave a white cast or have a greasy or oily finish on your skin. Because, let’s face it, if a sunscreen leaves your skin looking chalky and feeling greasy, you are not likely to wear it very often.
As you know, not wearing sunscreen puts you at greater risk of developing skin cancer and leaves you more prone to earlier deterioration of your skin’s appearance. We can’t have that so you’ll just have to find a suitable sunscreen!
Although it isn’t easy to find an effective sunscreen for dark skin with no white cast, it is possible! I have recommended products that will provide you with a matte and nearly invisible finish. These sunscreens will fade into your skin when you apply them properly so that you don’t have to worry about a whitish cast on your dark skin. You will have the necessary sun protection without sacrificing your skin’s beautiful appearance!
Suitable for daily use
It may not feel like it, especially if it is not hot or sunny, but your dark skin does need to be protected by broad spectrum sunscreen every day. That is why the best sunscreen for black skin will be both effective, and sensitive and convenient enough for daily wear.
When you’re looking for a sunscreen to wear every day, you want to find one that will not cause irritation to your skin. To avoid irritation of your dark skin with daily sunscreen application, you should search for products that are hypoallergenic and free from irritants like parabens.
The products I have recommended have been carefully selected based on an examination of each product’s ingredient list, and are all suitable for daily use. They are convenient and will not cause irritation to your dark skin, but will provide you with the broad spectrum protection that you need.
Rub on lotion not spray
Since I’m telling you to apply your sunscreen every day, a spray sunscreen may seem like a great idea. However, I do not recommend using spray sunscreens. This is because their safety and effectiveness are uncertain.
When thinking about safety, a rub on lotion will always be the better choice. Your skin may be able to cope with the ingredients in sunscreens, but your internal lung tissue doesn’t handle them as well. Unfortunately, spray sunscreen make it easy to accidentally or unknowingly inhale these potentially harmful chemicals, and that is why I don’t recommend them.
Besides being less safe, spray sunscreens are also less effective. This is because they create a thin an uneven layer on the skin, lowering the amount of protection they offer. You have far more control of properly applying a sufficient amount of sunscreen evenly when you use a rub on lotion than when you use a spray sunscreen.
So when searching for the best sunscreen for African American skin, even if you feel like a spray sunscreen may be more lightweight and leave less residue on your skin, choose safety and effectiveness. It will serve you in the long run to choose rub on lotions over sprays for less potential harm and better coverage!
Best Sunscreen for Dark Skin Comparison
|Solbar Shield||Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector||Tropical Sands All Natural||Nature’s Gate Aqua Block||Vanicream Sunscreen|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (7.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Titanium Dioxide (7%) & Zinc Oxide (6%)||Zinc Oxide (22.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (6%)||Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%) & Zinc Oxide (6.9%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) & Titanium Dioxide (3.4%)|
|Matte/Invisible finish||Yes (when applied properly)||Yes||Yes (when applied properly)||Yes (when applied properly)||Yes (when applied properly)|
|Water resistant||80 minutes||None||40 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin
After extensive research into the most effective sun protection products for dark skin which included discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the best 5 sunscreens for dark skin. Each product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, has a matte and invisible finish, is suitable for daily use, and comes as a rub on lotion.
Solbar Shield Sunscreen SPF 40 is a winner when it comes to providing the best sun protection for your dark skin. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through its active ingredients zinc oxide (7.5%) and titanium dioxide (5%).
This sunscreen’s formula goes on transparently and is great for daily use. The formula is hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and unscented so it will not cause you irritation. It includes vitamin E and pure aloe vera extract which help to soften and hydrate your skin.
Solbar Shield is water resistant up to 80 minutes which means that it will protect you effectively throughout the year, even on the hottest summer days filled with sweating and swimming.
Customers with dark skin love this product because it provides them with protection that is suitable for daily use, works for them throughout the year, does not cause them any irritation, and blends in well with their darker skin tones.
Solbar Shield Sunscreen is very reasonably priced for its quality protection. It is an excellent choice to protect your dark skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
For those with especially dark skin: Some customers who had trouble in the beginning getting the sunscreen to blend in without leaving a white cast simply mixed a little bit of lotion together with the sunscreen, and it will absorb and be unnoticeable on your very dark skin.
- Transparent finish
- 80-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector SPF 50 is a close second to the best sunscreen for dark skin. It provides broad spectrum with its active ingredients titanium dioxide (7%) and zinc oxide (6%).
This product’s formula is lightweight and will not leave a greasy or oily feeling on your dark skin. It is made of high quality ingredients for broad spectrum protection and has added multi-antioxidants, which aid in neutralizing environmental damage to your skin.
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector is an excellent option for daily use as it will not cause skin irritation. It is non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, oil-free, and fragrance free. The formula was developed by dermatologists and includes green tea and vitamin E to promote healthy skin.
Customers with dark skin come away very satisfied after using Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector as their daily sunscreen. They report that it is an effective sunscreen which does not interfere with their appearance, and does not leave a heavy, oily, or uncomfortable feeling on their skin throughout the day.
The main drawback to this product is that this it is not water resistant. This means you must be vigilant in reapplying it during the summer and on especially sunny days. Alternatively, you can use this sunscreen for everyday wear and another water resistant sunscreen for of intense use.
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector is on the pricey side so that is something that you will need to consider in terms of what is consistently convenient for you. However, dark-skinned customers say that the price is worth having an effective sunscreen that they can use every day without discomfort or issues with their appearance.
- Transparent finish
- Lightweight formula
- Not water resistant
Tropical Sands All Natural Sunscreen SPF 50 is another excellent option for protecting your dark skin. This formula provides broad spectrum protection with its active ingredients zinc oxide (22.5%) and titanium dioxide (6%).
This sunscreen is a great option for daily use on your dark skin because it will not cause you any irritation, but will provide effective protection. The formula is hypoallergenic, paraben free, and fragrance free. It also made with green tea, an antioxidant that will promote health in your skin, and shea butter which helps to moisturize your dark skin.
The texture of this lotion is very thick. Customers with dark skin say that if you do not spend time rubbing this product in properly, then you will be left with a white cast. This is due to the high concentration of zinc oxide in the formula.
But don’t despair! Satisfied customers have discovered the same helpful trick as Solbar users for making the sunscreen fade into your skin. They say that you should rub some lotion or water on your hands before applying the sunscreen. Customers found that when they did this, the sunscreen not only rubbed in more easily, but blended into their skin better, leaving an almost invisible finish.
Another positive aspect of this sunscreen is that it is water resistant (40 minutes). This makes it an excellent option for protecting your dark skin during the summer months when you will likely be sweating and swimming.
Tropical Sands Sunscreen is very reasonably priced, just another reason this is another great option for your dark skin. It is right up to par with our number 2 choice, Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector, and has taken the third spot due only to its thicker texture, which may leave a white cast if not applied properly.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- 40-minute water resistance
- Formula feels a little thick
Nature’s Gate Aqua Block Vegan Sunscreen SPF 50 is a good option for protecting your dark skin. It provides broad spectrum protection through its combination of active ingredients: octinoxate (7.5%), octisalate (5%), octocrylene (7%), and zinc oxide (6.9%).
The formula is made with aloe vera leaf juice which is very moisturizing and causes the sunscreen to leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated. Nature’s Gate Sunscreen is gentle on your skin and paraben, fragrance, and oxybenzone-free so there is little chance it will irritate your skin even with daily use.
Nature’s Gate Aqua is (as the name suggests) water resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a good option for your dark skin during the summer and on hot days.
Customers are satisfied with this product for use on dark skin. They say that while the formula is thick and takes time to rub in all the way, it does not leave your skin feeling greasy, and actually leaves your dark skin quite moisturized.
Users like that this sunscreen blends into their dark skin without leaving a noticeable white cast. They do note, however, that when you go in the water, the sunscreen will look a bit grey for about 30 minutes, and then will once again fade into your skin becoming unnoticeable.
Nature’s Gate Aqua Vegan Sunscreen is another good choice for protecting your dark skin. This combination sunscreen will provide you with sufficient and convenient protection at a very affordable cost!
PLEASE NOTE: This is a hybrid physical-chemical sunscreen unlike the other purely physical sunscreens on this list. The ‘oct’ ingredients listed above do cop some negative press but it still has the second-highest rating from human health authority EWG. That’s good enough for SimplySunSafe and hopefully for you too!
- 80-minute water resistance
- Formula is slightly thick
- Chemical ingredients
Vanicream Sunscreen is another good choice of sunscreen to protect your dark skin. this product provides broad spectrum protection through its active ingredients zinc oxide (6%) and titanium dioxide (3.4%).
This formula is designed especially for sensitive skin and is dermatologist recommended, which makes it a great option for daily use. Your skin will not be irritated by this sunscreen as it is non-comedogenic and free from parabens, PABA, gluten, oil, and fragrances.
Vanicream is water resistant (80 minutes) which makes it a product that you will be able to use throughout the whole year, even during the hot summer.
Customers are satisfied with this product overall in protecting their dark skin. They do note, however, that this formula is quite heavy and difficult to blend into dark skin tones.
Customers say that for daily use throughout the year during times that do not involve beach time or swimming, you may want to apply a powder foundation on top of the sunscreen. They say that the powder foundation will help to balance out the slightly greasy feel and white cast of this sunscreen.
Vanicream is a reasonably priced, effective option for sun protection of your dark skin. Though it has landed last on SimplySunSafe’s list, it is worth testing to see if this product could be the best one for you!
- 80-minute water resistance
- Formula is a little heavy
- Slight white finish
This guide was written to help those are looking to find the best sunscreen for dark skin. I hope that by reading this you have gained further insight into what you need to search for in sunscreens, and have found one that will fit your needs.
SimplySunSafe recommends Solbar Shield Sunscreen SPF 40 but all 5 products recommended will provide you will reliable and sufficient sun protection for your dark skin.
It is always a good idea to test a few products when searching for the perfect sunscreen. Once you have tried various sunscreens, you will be able to choose the one that will fit as many of your needs as possible. Then you will no longer need to worry about whether or not your dark skin is properly protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays in your day-to-day life.
I always love to learn new things and hear about new products from other people. So if you know of or use another good sunscreen for dark skin, please let me know in the comments. I will take a look and maybe even add it to SimplySunSafe’s list!