I love the sun. I was born in July (shout-out to all my fellow Cancers), so perhaps I'm predestined to love warm weather and the feeling of the sun grazing my brown skin. The origins of my sun-worshipping ways really have no bearing here because the indisputable fact for Black and brown people is that the majority of sunscreens for the face and body leave a ghostly white cast that's just plain unsightly. And because of this, it's tempting for us to just skip this vital skincare step altogether, which skin experts agree is a terrible idea.
The myth that Black people don't need sunscreen has long been busted, and it's high time for everyone, independent of their skin tone, to incorporate SPF into their everyday routine. Aside from the scarier consequences of skipping sun protection (ahem, skin cancer), there are other common challenges like uneven texture and hyperpigmentation that are exacerbated by the sun, too. So, yeah, sis. Get some sunscreen. Ahead, 17 options that provide sheer, non-ashy coverage for women with dark skin.
There's nothing I love more than a compact tube of solid sunscreen. They're the perfect travel companion, as they're TSA-approved (for when we can all move freely about the globe again) and just generally easy to toss in your bag and go. This one by Supergoop! is one of the best, because it's truly sheer (it literally applies clear) and lives up to its name by inducing a dewy glow all over the skin.
This truly sheer sunscreen applies like a lip balm all over the face. It contains the brand's signature blend of antioxidant oils and cupuaçu butter to keep the skin soft and protected. If you're not a fan of coconut oil, then skip this one. Otherwise, have at it.
Patience is a virtue, and you'll need a little but of that when applying this zinc oxide formula by Beautycounter. I do notice an initial ashiness upon application, but it dissipates with time. One trick that helps the process along is to warm up the product in your hands a bit before gently pressing into the skin. The clean ingredient list is well worth the extra minute or two it takes to achieve an invisible finish.
This stick of all-natural goodness contains rosehip oil, primrose oi, and vitamin E to coat the skin in a gentle layer of protection against the sun. While the balm is tinted, it does dry down to sheer within seconds.
Glossier calls this clear water-gel formula "sunscreen for people who hate wearing sunscreen," and for good reason. It's lightweight and undetectable but highly effective due to active microcapsules that deliver potent active ingredients to the skin.
This velvety smooth dry-gel sunscreen really does what it says in the name. It blurs like your favorite makeup primer, nourishes like skincare, and protects against the sun without any visible signs that it's even there. When applying it on top of other skincare products, make sure they're completely dry and set to avoid pilling.
This has been a go-to in my arsenal ever since it launched years ago. The clear gel applies without a trace, feels lightweight on the skin, and layers well with other skincare products in addition to makeup. Pro tip: Don't get it too close to your eyes. As with most products, it doesn't feel so great on the eyeballs.
A conversation about sunscreen for darker skin tones would be utterly incomplete without mentioning this brand. Created by a Black woman, with Black women in mind, the mission is to spread sun awareness and the freedom to get out there and be active to the communities it serves. Black Girl Sunscreen does so by supplying a truly sheer product that won't irritate the skin, whether you're applying it as your daily moisturizer, or relying on it to protect your skin on the beach. Major thumbs up.
This broad-spectrum SPF 35 sunscreen is a little thinner than a typical lotion and quickly dries down to an undetectable layer of hydrating protection. Bonus points for being free of harsh chemicals that can be damaging to the skin, and to the environment.
This oil-free moisturizer protects against the sun without clogging pores. If you're got sensitive skin and are looking for a solid budget option, this is the one. No white cast, either.
I was first introduced to this brand after a fellow beauty editor of color posted about it on Instagram. I frantically DM'd her to find out if the Korean formulation was sheer, and when she responded positively, I was so excited to have yet another brand to recommend here. It's an ultra-lightweight, fluid-like formula that blends out easily and without any signs of a ghostly mask.
This reef-safe mineral sunscreen is lightweight in consistency, but that doesn't make it any less effective. Its unique formulation is broad-spectrum SPF 50 and protects the skin against harmful UV light, blue light, infrared radiation, heat, and environmental pollutants. Most importantly, the peach-toned lotion melts seamlessly into all skin tones without a trace.
This oil-free formulation is lauded by dermatologists and skin experts for its effectiveness on sensitive, acne-prone skin types. I'm happy to report that on top of those traits, it's also wonderful for melanin skin. No white haze here.
One of my aunts has highly sensitive, highly reactive skin that's prone to burning in the sun. (Her complexion is closer to butterscotch, as compared to my milk chocolate.) Ever since I can remember, this has been her go-to SPF, and the only one she would reach for that would protect without irritation.
This physical sunscreen offers powerful UV protection from harmful rays, in addition to a cocktail of other complementary ingredients like astaxanthin and sunflower sprout, and marula oil to support healthy, glowing skin. There's a slight ghostly cast immediately upon application, but it disappears within a minute or two.
My fellow Who What Wear editors can corroborate the fact that when we all worked together in the office IRL, I kept this handy can on my desk to mist over my face any time I was stepping foot outside. It's ridiculously easy to use throughout the day and doesn't interfere with any makeup I've got on. While I've never noticed any white residue on my skin, I do sometimes notice white spots on my clothing. So just remember to aim the nozzle at your face to avoid this mishap.
I'd say this one is more of a spritz than a mist, so it feels a little more wet on application. It contains spearmint and peppermint oils that have a cooling sensation on the skin, so be aware of that just in case you're not into tingly feels. When I apply on top of makeup, I like to gently tap (with clean hands) just to make sure the surface of my skin is completely covered.
Up next, I always get compliments on my eyebrows—these are the products I swear by.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.
Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.
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