Choosing the right sunscreen when you have melasma is an important decision, as you will be using this product everyday. Although caused by hormone imbalances, exposure to sunlight can trigger or worsen visible melasma symptoms. Preventing the condition from getting worse requires constant and effective protection.
Treatments provided by dermatologists to fade melasma always require you to avoid exposure to the sun’s spectrum of damaging radiation – making the right sunscreen an integral part of any treatment plan.
Sunscreen is also a vital element of melasma management as areas that have faded with treatment will often return with continued exposure to the sun. This can be a burden as you’ll have to keep applying sunscreen everyday, but as a bonus, sunscreen has been proven to slow or temporarily prevent wrinkle development and skin sagging (Hughes, 2013)!
In This Article
After thorough research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of melasma, SimplySunSafe recommends BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body as the best sunscreen for melasma. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for melasma.
We understand that choosing a sunscreen for melisma is a very important decision. That is why we have done our best to provide you with a variety of different options, and a buyer’s guide that will help you to make the decision that is most applicable to your individual symptoms. Through our guide, you can choose the best sunscreen for avoiding the dangers of UV rays to your melisma.
Based on the causes, symptoms, and treatments of melasma, there are a number of must have factors in sunscreens for melisma. Often, sunscreen bottles can be difficult to read and understand. With this section, we will outline all the variables you need to know to choose the best sunscreen to minimize your melasma dark spots and discoloration.
Broad spectrum protection
There are two types of damaging UV radiation in the sun’s light – UVA rays and UVB rays. UVA exposure can increase the rate of photodermatitis and melanoma by affecting the DNA of deep skin cells. However, UVA doesn’t cause the pain or redness commonly associated with sunburn. This common symptom of overexposure to sunlight is caused by UVB radiation.
The entire range of sunlight including UVA, UVB, and visible light have the potential to stimulate pigment production in the skin (which can worsen melasma). For this reason, you should only be considering products with broad spectrum protection that offer as much protection as possible.
Best SPF for Melasma
Sun protection factor (SPF) is the most common rating system for sunscreen effectiveness. But its widespread use does not mean people understand it. You might know that a higher number is better, which is true, but this doesn’t help you much.
SPF is a confusing rating system that indicates the amount of time it would take you to burn based on how long you take to burn without sunscreen. If it takes you 10 minutes to burn naturally, an SPF sunscreen should prevent you burning for 15 times longer (150 minutes). If you have particularly photosensitive skin and burn in 5 minutes naturally, the same sunscreen will only delay burning for 75 minutes.
This might lead you to think that a high SPF sunscreen will protect you for hours on end, another reason why it’s so confusing. This isn’t the case because most sunscreens only last for 2 hours, especially when you account for water and sweat affecting your protection. This is why regular reapplication, wearing sun protective clothing, and seeking natural shade are an important part sun protection.
Just so you’ve got a full understanding of SPF, here are a couple of other important points:
- SPF concerns UVB radiation (the one that causes sunburn) and not UVA. To get an idea of UVA protection you have to check the active ingredients (more below).
- The ‘time’ indicated by an SPF rating can be misleading because sunlight intensity and application thickness also affect the calculation. This makes it almost impossible for you to know how long you’ll be protected for based on the SPF rating.
- The rating system makes it seem like SPF 30 offers twice the protection as SPF 15. This simply isn’t the case, as you’ll see in the table below.
To get a clearer understanding of what SPF actually means to us, let’s just focus on the amount of UVB protection each SPF rating provides:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Looking at SPF this way provides us with some concrete information we can use to choose the best rating. The table shows that once you reach SPF 30, the protection doesn’t get much better. This is why the FDA caps SPF ratings at 50+, to stop marketers from using ridiculously high SPF ratings (100) to trick people into thinking the protection is three times better (when it’s actually only 2% more).
So what SPF should you use? Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 or more. No sunscreen is 100% effective and stopping 97% is great protection. If you’re particularly cautious because your skin is more photosensitive because of melasma, you may opt for SPF 50 but this only stops 1% more light reaching the skin. I agree with the dermatologists that SPF 30 is more than enough to protect you.
Physical rather than chemical
Physical sunscreens work by using active ingredients to reflect sunlight. Chemical sunscreens use active ingredients to absorb the damaging UV light before it gets to your skin.
Physical sunscreens are recommended for melasma because they stop more visible light and UV radiation from reaching the skin. As mentioned above, even visible light has the ability to stimulate pigment production, so only physical sunscreens will be recommended here.
Physical sunscreens will usually be labeled as such, but if not, look for high levels of either of the two most common physical sunscreen active ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Zinc oxide over titanium dioxide
Studies conducted since the early 2000s have shown that when it comes to physical sunscreens, zinc oxide is more effective than titanium dioxide. Both active ingredients provide sound protection, but zinc oxide offers better protection from more of the UVA spectrum.
Most of the sunscreens recommended here use zinc oxide for this reason. However, I have included one that uses titanium dioxide (La Roche-PosayAnthelios 50) as it is widely regarded as one of the best in the melasma community.
Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone
A common ingredient in sunscreens called oxybenzone may disrupt hormones by acting like estrogen in the body (Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012). As hormone imbalances are believed to contribute to melasma, sunscreens that contain this ingredient may well work against you as you try to avoid sunlight and fade the affected areas.
This chemical has also been linked to endometriosis in women, just another reason sunscreens that contain it will be left off the list of recommended products for melasma.
Suitable for the face and wearable with makeup
Melasma most commonly affects the face, spreading to other areas of the body only when they are exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight. That means the sunscreen you choose will most likely be exclusively applied to your face. For this reason, all of the sunscreens featured here are gentle enough to used on sensitive face skin everyday.
You also don’t want your requirement to use sunscreen to affect your ability to wear makeup. As such, we’ve only included sunscreens that are compatible with the use of makeup. Although the product you choose will have specific instructions, a good rule of thumb is to apply the sunscreen about 20 minutes before makeup is applied to ensure it is effectively absorbed before you continue with your beauty routine.
Invisible (won’t be obvious when applied)
This sunscreen will be worn frequently and in the most visible place on your body. To make sure it won’t be obvious you’re wearing sunscreen, the products listed here are categorised as ‘invisible’.
This means when applied properly and absorbed completely, they won’t whiten the skin, appear greasy, or give you oily skin. This also helps with the simultaneous use of makeup should you require it.
If you know you are very active, or are planning on taking a trip to the beach, you might want to pick up some water resistant sunscreen. This can prevent sweat or water from washing away your sunscreen as fast, allowing you to remain protected for longer.
However, it is important to note that there is no sunscreen that is truly “waterproof”. Water will still cause the cream to wash away faster, so be aware that you will need to apply more often as you sweat or after you go in the water.
Best Sunscreen for Melasma Comparison
|BurnOut for Face & Body||La Roche-Posay Anthelios||SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion||EltaMD UV Physical||Heliocare Ultra Gel|
|Active ingredient||Zinc Oxide (18.6%)||Titanium Dioxide (11%)||Titanium dioxide (11%)||Zinc Oxide (9%) & Titanium Dioxide (7%)||Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide|
|Fragrance free||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No (light but inoffensive smell)|
|Price||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon|
5 Best Sunscreens for Melasma
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, participating in skincare forums, and reading medical journals,SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for melasma.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are invisible, and are compatible with makeup products. These are all features that will likely be preferred by those with melasma, which is why we have prioritized sunscreens that offer all of this.
- zinc oxide sunscreen
- no chemical sunscreens
- uva / uvb broad spectrum protection
- light weight, oil-free, perfect for daily use, and under make up
- paraben-free, fragrance-free
Last update on 2021-10-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body ticks all the boxes to make it the best sunscreen for melasma. It is a physical sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection to keep nasty UVA radiation away from your skin, uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient, avoids ingredients that have the potential to disrupt hormones, is suitable for daily use on the face (they even put that in the name), and has a matte finish to ensure it doesn’t leave a white cast.
When applied properly, even customers with darker skin tones come away very happy with the product’s invisible and matte look. It doesn’t lighten the skin tone when on and absorbs effectively so that makeup can be applied over the top without issue.
On top of all this, BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body is paraben, oil, nanoparticle, and fragrance free, and very reasonably priced considering its quality. All of these fantastic features combine to easily make BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body the best sunscreen for melasma.
Don’t confuse this product with another in the BurnOut range – Eco-sensitive Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 35. When creating this Eco version, the recipe was changed to increase the product’s SPF to 35. Unfortunately this has resulted in a reduction in quality. Although it still offers great protection, this sunscreen is not suitable for use on the face as it feels and looks greasy when applied.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Lightweight formula
- Matte finish makes it a great base for makeup
- Formula feels a little thick
- Broad Spectrum SPF 50
- Water resistant (40 minutes)
- Light tint, fast absorbing, weightless texture, matte finish
- Recommended for Sensitive Skin
- SPF 50 broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
Last update on 2021-10-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Tinted Sunscreen came in at a close second to BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body. It is an amazing product that is highly recommended by both dermatologists and users with melasma.
Anthelios 50 is a physical sunscreen with broad spectrum protection that uses titanium dioxide as its active ingredient. It doesn’t use hormone disruptors and is paraben and fragrance free. Anthelios 50 is suitable for daily use and has a matte finish that makes it perfect for use on the face and with makeup.
The texture of the sunscreen is amazing (very silky) and when applied does not leave a sticky or greasy feeling. It was formulated to be compatible with other cosmetics and works flawlessly under makeup. This version of Anthelios 50 is tinted to blend more effectively with your skin tone and make it less noticeable under makeup. Although it comes out the bottle quite dark, when absorbed completely the tint isn’t so dramatic that it looks out of place. The tint is designed more to give you a healthy glow.
This sunscreen is quite expensive, though its price is justified based on the fantastic feedback the product gets from its customers. If you want to mix and match you could use this sunscreen just on your face (so it lasts longer) and a more economical option for the rest of your body.
If you’re quite fair-skinned and worried about the tint, they do sell a version without the tint that still has all of the other amazing features.
These points make it sound perfect, so why isn’t it number one?
BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body edges Anthelios 50 out on one point. Research shows that zinc oxide is more effective across more of the UVA spectrum than titanium dioxide. UVA is a key contributor to the worsening of melasma pigmentation and this makes UVA protection incredibly important in these recommendations.
The top two are both amazing sunscreens, so feel free to test both and come to your own conclusions.
- Lightly tinted
- High SPF
- Great texture and finish
- No zinc oxide
- Sheer, filmless tint adaptable to all skin tones
- Boosts radiance for a more even, luminous complexion
- Contains transparent zinc oxide, the only UV filter spanning the full UVA/UVB spectrum
Last update on 2021-10-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Another befitting recommendation by SimplySunSafe for melasma is the SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense. SkinCeutical’s active formula titanium dioxide is fortified with a plankton extract that increases the skin’s resistance to UV rays as well as heat rays. This sunscreen feels very light on your skin as it moisturizes it while providing great protection from the damaging effect of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. It has a very effective tint that blends very well into all skin tones, leaves a nice matte finish and gives your skin smooth, silky and with a glow. With the tint it provides, a foundation may not even be necessary as you wear your makeup. When applied, it dries quickly and leaves no residue. It also doesn’t feel greasy or oily, doesn’t cause irritation or breakouts.
This product gives you a worry-free, outdoor time as you step out into the sun. It is great for all skin types so it wouldn’t matter if your skin is sensitive. It is a fragrance-free, paraben and oxybenzone free, and it is great for both body and face.
While this product is highly recommended, the only let down is that it is water-resistant for up to only 40 minutes which isn’t so bad as it makes up in so many other ways. Overall, if you have Melasma and wonder what sunscreen to use regularly, then you should definitely try this out.
- Hydrates and moisturizes the skin
- Provides universal tint
- Only 80-minutes water resistant
No products found.
EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 is, as the name says, a physical, broad spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen that provides great protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. It uses both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide without using hormone disruptors. It has a transparent finish and is suitable for use as a base under makeup.
EltaMD UV Physical is also paraben, oil, and fragrance free. It was designed to be suitable for extra-sensitive and post-procedure skin. This means it is great if you are undergoing melasma treatment and are looking for a product gentle enough for your skin during treatment.
This sunscreen is lightly tinted to smooth and brighten skin tone. When used in combination with makeup, EltaMD UV Physical blends seamlessly and looks very natural. The color it provides accommodates many shades of skin. Darker skin colors may notice an ashy look after application, however, this can easily be managed with an appropriate foundation.
If you like the sound of this product but are looking for a non-tinted version, EltaMD UV Shield SPF 45 is a good alternative.
- Lightly tinted
- Designed for sensitive skin
- 40-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
- Heliocare provides advanced anti-ageing UV protection.
- The range consists of ultra-smooth, easy-apply advanced sunscreens combining high technology mineral & nonmineral filters with photobiological protectants, featuring Fernblock, a natural fern extract unique to Heliocare.
Last update on 2021-10-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Heliocare Ultra SPF 50+ Gel is a high-SPF, broad spectrum, physical sunscreen that uses both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as its active ingredients. It is free from hormone disruptors, suitable for daily use on the face, and works well under mineral makeups.
This product is marketed specifically for use after clinical treatments. It was designed to work well on skin at its most sensitive, while it needs the most protection. This is fantastic if you are undertaking dermatological melasma treatment and are looking for a product that won’t affect your more sensitive skin.
The gel has a moisturiser-like texture and is transparent, so won’t leave a white cast on your face. The formula’s lack of comedogenic (blackhead-causing) lipids make it great for greasy and mixed skin types prone to breakouts. It has a light feel and absorbs well to allow makeup application.
This is the most expensive sunscreen recommended in this list and this could make you think twice about purchasing it. If that is the case, you could reserve this sunscreen only for when undergoing treatment when your skin is particularly vulnerable.
(This sunscreen was previously known as Heliocare Ultra SPF 90 Gel. However, due to new packaging restrictions, the product can now only be marketed at SPF 50+. If you’re interested in this product you can get the old SPF 90 version for slightly cheaper.)
- Designed for post-treatment skin
- Cosmetic texture
- High SPF
- Very expensive
After reading this summary of the best sunscreens for melasma, the relevant factors that contribute to this important choice should be a lot clearer.
SimplySunSafe recommends BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body, however, all 5 provide the required protection without negatively affecting your melasma. Feel free to test a few of these products, as experimenting and adjusting based on your personal preferences will result in you finding the perfect product for your own skin.
Sunscreen is a great tool for fighting melasma, but remember to take protective measures to stay out of the sun in general as well. The best defense against the sun is limiting your exposure in the first place.
If you know of a product that has been particularly effective for your melasma, please let me know about it in the comments below and I will consider adding it to this guide.
If you’d like sunscreen recommendations for other skin conditions, SimplySunSafe has a range of guides including sunscreen for PMLE and sunscreen for skin sensitivity. Just go to the top of this page and search for a condition to find the recommendations you’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is chemical sunscreen bad for melasma?
A: Chemical sunscreens are bad for melasma because they can cause allergic reactions. The ingredients in chemical sunscreens react with your skin and boost the pigmentation process. The problem with chemical sunscreen is that it often contains substances that are actually harmful to the skin when they react with sunlight.
For example, oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor, which can drastically increase your chances of developing melasma. So, even if you’re not dark to begin with, this breakdown of cells can give you that brown tone that might progress to darker patches. Hence, it’s best to use physical sunscreen against melasma rather than chemical ones.
Q: What ingredients should a sunscreen have for melasma prone people?
A: In order to provide protection from UV-A and UV-B rays, products should contain broad-spectrum sunscreen. Some ingredients are formulated specifically for people that have melasma with very sensitive reactions to sunlight. For instance, titanium oxide is a physical protectant that can prevent sunburns and the formation of dark spots due to tanning or aging. However, it may make the skin feel thicker and dryer.
Zinc oxide is another chemical form of sunblock that won’t oxidize in the air as some mineral filters do. Products using zinc often don’t have the drawbacks that minerals do when applied over acne lesions. You may use sunscreens with nano zinc to prevent the formation of white cast.
Q: Are mineral sunscreens better for melasma?
A: Essentially, mineral sunscreens are made up of small particles that do not penetrate the skin or come in direct contact with it like traditional sunscreens. In addition to this, because they consist of natural minerals and crystals, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, mineral blockers can safely be used for melasma-prone skin without worry about allergies or other side effects.
Q: Can sunscreen make melasma worse?
A: Yes and no. It can make melasma worse if it is not protecting your skin in the right way. If you pick a sunscreen with chemical ingredients that disrupt hormones or cause changes in pigmentation, it may worsen your melasma. Skin type, skin tone, age of onset, and medication is taken can all affect how sunscreen protects from photoaging.
Sunscreen that is ineffective for an individual’s needs may worsen their symptoms rather than help them. Therefore, it’s vital to be aware of the chemicals in your sunscreen, as they may aggravate an existing skin condition.