One of the chief complaints among users of mineral-based sunscreens is the whitish finish that they leave behind. It makes you envision those 1970s lifeguards with copious amounts of white goop slathered on their face.
Even when you try to apply as minimally as possible while still getting the protection you need, it can be difficult to find a product that doesn’t leave you looking ghostly.
A possible solution to this is tinted sunscreen. Tinted sunscreens became popularized as a way to combine sun protection and light foundation for makeup users, but they’re also a great whole-body option for anyone looking to retain a bit of a glow while wearing sunscreen (especially if you need a tan skin sunscreen).
To help you find the right tinted sunscreen for your needs, I’ve put together my favorite tinted sunscreens, just for you!
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to be effective when used with tint, SimplySunSafe recommends Badger Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best tinted sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 tinted sunscreens.
To guarantee you get not just a great tinted sunscreen, but also an effective one, look for the following key features:
Broad spectrum protection
Tinted or not, a make-or-break when it comes to shopping for the perfect sunscreen is what sort of protection it offers. You want to ensure that any sunscreen you choose is giving you broad spectrum protection to fully shield you from the sun’s harmful rays.
Products that offer this high level of protection will usually say either ‘UVA/UVB Protection’ or ‘Broad Spectrum’ in a prominent place on their packaging. This is because manufacturers know that broad spectrum protection will set their product apart in offering you comprehensive sun coverage.
The reason broad spectrum protection is so important is due in part to the way sunscreens are made. Before we knew that the radiation from the sun takes multiple forms, and that more than one kind of solar radiation is dangerous, sunscreens were formulated to protect solely from UVB radiation.
UVB radiation is the form of solar radiation that is responsible for visible skin damage. Exposure to UVB radiation causes reddened, tender skin and sometimes even blistering – what we call a sunburn.
UVA radiation, on the other hand, is sneakier. It causes invisible damage to our skin by affecting the actual DNA of our skin cells. This accelerates the skin’s natural aging process which can result in thickened, saggy, wrinkly skin. It can also increase your risk for genetic mutation of the skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.
Clearly, neither one of these are the sort of thing we want attacking our skin simply because we like a good beach day now and again. This is why it is crucial to ensure that your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection – otherwise you’re paying for a product that is only getting half the job done.
Best SPF for tinted sunscreens
Most consumers are aware that the SPF rating shown on a product should be an important part of your decision making process. The real question is: why? Seriously, think about it. If someone who had never even heard of sunscreen before asked what the deal with this whole SPF thing was… what would you say to them?
You might say that it is a measure of how strong the sunscreen is, or that it tells the purchaser how long they can stay out in the sun when wearing that particular sunscreen, or that a higher SPF means a lower chance of getting burned or developing skin cancer due to sun exposure.
If any of those things would have been your answer, then you would have been at most about half right. The problem is, that is exactly what manufacturers of sunscreen count on. They love the idea that slapping ‘SPF 100’ on their label means that unsuspecting customers will line up to pay double the price for a product that may not be all that better for them.
Here, take a look at this table. It may help clear up some misconceptions about how much protection those SPF ratings really offer.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
If you notice, SPF ratings of 30 and above are nearly identical in protection. Why, then, would you pay twice as much for SPF 100 than SPF 50? Logic dictates that SPF 100 is twice as strong, but we now know that simply isn’t true.
Likewise, SPF ratings only refer to the percentage of protection offered against UVB rays. Most sunscreens only protect from about 30% of UVA rays compared to UVB, so it can be important to get the opinion of a trusted source the EWG about the balance of UVA to UVB protection offered.
Physical is better than chemical
Don’t just be critical of the type of protection a sunscreen offers – take a close look at the ingredients the manufacturer is using to give you that protection too. If you are going to all this trouble to find a sunscreen that keeps your skin safe from harm, you want to ensure that whatever you choose isn’t going to become just another risk factor.
The active ingredients used in sunscreens fall broadly into two categories: physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreens. These categories are defined by how an ingredient goes about protecting you from the sun’s harmful rays.
Physical sunscreens act like, well, a physical barrier. They sit on top of your skin, and as the sun’s rays reach you, they bounce off of the sunscreen and fly harmlessly away. This process is similar to visible light hitting a mirror, rather than traveling through the mirror, the light is reflected away.
Chemical sunscreens are designed to soak down into your skin itself. As the sun hits your skin, the chemical sunscreen absorbs the radiation before it can attack your skin cells.
Both of those methods sounds great at first, but both do have drawbacks. The difference is that one is sometimes annoying while the other is actively harmful.
Physical sunscreens, due to the way they work, can cause a whitish cast on the skin or be difficult to rub in. Despite these negatives, physical sunscreens stop more radiation than across a broader UV spectrum, work immediately upon application (no wait time), last longer on the skin, are less likely to cause irritation, and have a longer shelf life!
Chemical sunscreen ingredients, however, can cause skin allergies with repeated use. They can also be absorbed into the body, where they mimic a variety of hormones. This behavior has nicknamed them ‘endocrine disruptors’, meaning that they affect your body’s hormone balance and can cause all sorts of problems.
For this reason, SimplySunSafe prefers physical over chemical.
Choose lotions over sprays
While it isn’t always a huge concern, for many applications I prefer lotions over sprays. For one, spray sunscreen options typically contain chemical sunscreens rather than physical. Even when the sunscreen itself isn’t a concern, though, you never want to use spray sunscreens on children or on the facial area.
This is because, as the FDA investigated, inhaling a sunscreen’s active ingredients is a much more direct form of exposure than topical application. This could increase the risk of health complications down the road. Putting sunscreen on the face (or squirmy youngsters) has, of course, a much higher risk of inhalation than other areas of application.
Not every person who buys tinted sunscreen wants to use it on their face. It may be useful to anyone with medium or darker skin tones as a way to reduce the whitish appearance of many physical sunscreens. In this use, sprays are also a bad idea.
They’re notorious for being difficult to apply evenly. We’ve all seen the pictures online of people with streaky sunburns that are clearly from the improper application of sprays. Now, think about how obvious that streaky appearance will be when you add tint to the sunscreen.
Not only are you putting yourself at greater risk for a sunburn, but it’ll be far more difficult to get evenly tinted coverage from a spray.
Depending upon your intended use for the tinted sunscreen you’re looking at purchasing, the finish may or may not an important factor for you. However, if you plan to use it on your face (especially if you want to use it as a makeup sunscreen) you’ll want a sunscreen that finishes as close to matte or transparent as possible.
Now, by ‘transparent’ I don’t mean clear. I mean, isn’t so white as to convince people you’re imitating a mime. You also don’t want it to be too greasy or shiny. In general, sunscreens that have a greasy finish can feel very heavy on the ultra sensitive skin of your face, can clog pores or cause breakouts in users with acne-prone skin, and can make it impossible to effectively apply makeup.
Whether you’re applying it alone or by itself, tinted sunscreen for the face should be a comfortably thin, easy-to-spread formula that will not leave you with too much shine, too pale of a cast, or streaks of tint from uneven application.
Depending on the individual sunscreen, very thin formulas will need to be applied gradually to avoid streaking: use too much at once and the tint can settle like foundation and leave you doing a lion impression until it wears off.
Best Tinted Sunscreen Comparison
|Badger Tinted||Cōtz Flawless Complexion||Juice Beauty Tinted Mineral||MDSolar Sciences Tinted Moisturizer||Rubber Ducky Naturally Tinted|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (17%), Titanium Dioxide (2%)||Zinc Oxide (8.5%), Titanium Dioxide (7%)|
|Finish||Sheer Tint, Slightly Greasy||Sheer Tint, Slightly Greasy||Sheer Tint, Non-Greasy||Sheer Tint, Non-Greasy||Moderately Tinted, Slightly Greasy|
5 Best Tinted Sunscreens
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best tinted sunscreens. All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are tinted, and are suitable for daily use.
Badger’s Tinted version of their fabulous unscented sunscreen is a great all-around sun solution. It provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 coverage with only one active ingredient: zinc oxide (18.75%).
That wonderful simplicity doesn’t stop at the active ingredients list, either! This is a skin-loving formula that is 98% certified organic, so you can feel good putting this on.
Keep in mind, due to the nature of physical sunscreens, any tinted sunscreen that comes into contact with clothing has the potential to stain. This may not be so much a concern if you’re wearing this to do yard work or similar, but you might want to think twice about white shorts at the park.
It is water resistant for up to 40 minutes which can give you a bit of extra protection on a hot, sweaty day.
The finish on this sunscreen is a general tint that should blend with a range of skin tones, though can be just a bit greasy and so isn’t recommended for use under makeup.
- Water resistant
- Generally flattering tint
- Moderately priced
- Not for use on face
Cōtz Flawless Complexion is a great tinted sunscreen that just barely missed 1st place in this list. The reason Badger won out is this: the two products have very similar results, but Cōtz has a slightly more complicated formula and charges significantly more (I think because it is listed as SPF 50).
The small difference in coverage just doesn’t justify the added cost, so while this product is still a great pick it did get edged out by Badger for the top recommendation.
However, Cōtz is arguably the best tinted sunscreen for oily skin. Its subtle tint does a great job of blending with a variety of skin tones, and can also easily be applied under makeup because of its non-greasy finish.
Users report only the barest touch of oil, similar to a moisturizer. The dryer finish combined the non-comedogenic formula means this is a great everyday choice for anyone with oily skin, and could also be used as a base layer underneath makeup without clogging pores or making skin too oily.
- Can be used on face
- High SPF
- Not water resistant
Juice Beauty’s Tinted Mineral Moisturizer stands out as the best tinted sunscreen for the face. It provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection with just zinc oxide (20%) as the active ingredient.
Best of all, it comes in three shades (Ivory, Sand, and Tan)! In general there’s nothing wrong with universally tinted sunscreen, but when you want to use it on your face, differences between the sunscreen’s tint and your skin tone can be quite a bit more noticeable. Check out the swatches below to pick the one that best matches your skin tone.
The ability to choose a level of tint that more closely matches your skin makes this tinted moisturizer a great option to wear by itself or underneath makeup.
Users love this formula because you can get a significant amount of coverage with just a small amount of product. It goes on smoothly, and moisturizes without making your face so oily as to dissolve your makeup.
- Offered in multiple shades
- Non-greasy moisturizer
- More expensive
This fabulous product from MDSolarSciences is quite possibly the best tinted sunscreen for sensitive skin. This facial sunscreen provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 protection via a combination of zinc oxide (17%) and titanium dioxide (2%).
It is also rated as water resistant for up to 80 minutes – a serious plus if you’re trying to look glamorous at the beach.
This product is the most expensive on this list, however, after taking a look at the formula and the tons of positive customer feedback, it certainly seems worth the extra dough.
Users are in love with this product for its easy-on, blendable tinted coverage that is kind to even the most sensitive of skin types.
This formula was actually created to help individuals with sensitivities and skin concerns such as acne and rosacea. As such, you can rest assured that you’ll get the coverage you’re looking for without irritating your skin or clogging your pores.
- Non-greasy finish
Rounding out the top 5 tinted sunscreens is this naturally tinted sunscreen option from Rubber Ducky. This is an SPF 50 product, so if you are particularly fair or photosensitive you’ll like this sunscreen for the extra bit of protection it offers.
It provides high quality, broad spectrum protection through a combination of zinc oxide (8.5%) and titanium dioxide (7%). This sunscreen is also water resistant, making it a great general-use choice for days when you’ll spend a lot of time sweating or splashing.
While the price point is quite a bit lower than most sunscreens marketed for use on the face, users report a greasy finish that may make it better for use on the body if you have oily skin.
Note: If you are particularly fair, this sunscreen’s natural tint may be a little too dark for you. Some fairer users noted that the color showed up on their skin more than desired, while users with darker skin tones love the lack of white cast due to the stronger tint.
- Reliable tint
- Slightly greasy
I hope that, after reading this guide, you have found your perfect sun-protection match. And if not, at least you have a great launching pad, between these products and the buying guide that’s included. You should have all the info you need to make a great purchasing decision on your next sunscreen.
While SimplySunSafe recommends Badger Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best tinted sunscreen, all of the products listed here are great choices. When compiling these guides, I try to give you sound advice and reliable product recommendation. That being said, everybody is different, and you may have to try a few before you find one that works for you.
Have a tinted sunscreen product that you love, but don’t see listed here? Let me know! I love learning about new products, and hearing what some of my readers’ favorite sunscreens are – who knows, you might even give me a head start on the next guide!