Keep Radiant & Protected with Sunscreen for Darker Skin Tones

Discover Pippa Harman’s expert take on sunscreen for darker skin tones. The former Beauty Pie formulator and ingredients whizz and now the co-founder of AI and aesthetician-driven skincare company Renude, shares her insights on sun care for Black skin

Sunscreen for darker skin tones is crucial in protecting against sun damage, as melanated skin is not invincible to its harmful effects. While more melanin in the skin does offer more inherent protection, as with all skin harmful UV rays can still penetrate the skin, leading to issues like hyperpigmentation, premature ageing, and even skin cancer. Applying appropriate sunscreen daily is crucial for maintaining healthy skin.

Understanding skin phototypes

Fitzpatrick Scale shows six skin tones

To understand the relationship between SPF and different skin tones, it’s worth exploring skin phototypes. The Fitzpatrick Scale is a historical grading system used in dermatology to classify skin into six types based on its response to UV exposure. The initial purpose of this system was to assess the risk level associated with developing sun-induced damage, in particular skin cancer. Darker skin tones (Types 4 to 6) possess higher melanin content, providing natural sun protection equivalent to approximately SPF 13.4 (Type 5) to SPF 17.5 (Type 6). This scale is somewhat subjective and considered outdated by some, but it is still used across dermatology and aesthetics as a reference for assessing the skin.

How to select SPF for darker skin tones

Choose a sunscreen that will avoid a white cast

Select a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast

Synthetic (aka chemical) sunscreens contain organic compounds that absorb UV rays and convert them into heat. They are generally more transparent on the skin and can blend more easily, so can be a great option for darker skin. There are some exceptions, however, as some chemical sunscreens are powder form and can still create a white cast. One of the most common ones to look out for is Methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol. This ingredient unfortunately can create a white cast even in a mineral-free formulation, so if you’re unsure, it’s best to double-check with the brand if it’s suitable (or with your Renude aesthetician if you’re a member.)

Mineral (aka physical) sunscreens usually include active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are white powders and therefore result in sunscreen looking chalky on darker skin. Certain mineral sunscreens are available in tinted versions, which can better match a range of skin tones and minimise the appearance of white cast. The downside is they tend to have very limited shade ranges and don’t always cater to dark brown skin, so it’s always best to try the product on your skin first to check it’s a good match.

Opt for a high SPF

While natural melanin provides some sun protection, dermatologists still recommend always using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for optimal protection. It is a common misconception that darker skin tones are naturally protected from the harmful effects of the sun. It is crucial to understand that everyone, regardless of skin tone, can be affected by sun damage. No matter the pigment in your skin, a high SPF helps compensate for any inconsistencies in the application, ensuring a more reliable shield against UV damage.

Best sunscreens for darker skin tones:

EVY Technology Daily UV Face Mousse SPF30
Eucerin Oil Control Sun Gel-Cream Dry Touch SPF50
Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Essence SPF50

Additional considerations for darker skin

Visible light protection: High energy visible light (aka ‘blue light’) is another wavelength of the sun’s rays, which are much less damaging, but can still contribute to hyperpigmentation. Look for sunscreens that include HEVIS protection to ensure you are protected against this too. 

Sunscreen for sensitive skin: If you have sensitive skin, the simplest advice would be to look for a chemical sunscreen which has been tested as hypoallergenic (and doesn’t contain Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol.) This means that it has undergone additional testing and is less likely to cause irritation to the skin (although this isn’t a guarantee). The alternative is to find a tinted mineral formula, but this can be more challenging to find a formula which is a shade that matches your skin perfectly.

Reapplication is key: Regardless of your skin tone, regular sunscreen reapplication is vital, especially after swimming, sweating, or prolonged sun exposure. Sun filters in sunscreens are used up as they work to protect the skin, so need to be reapplied regularly to ensure consistent protection. Follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer or the British Association of Dermatologists, to reapply every 2 hours.

Renude is an AI and aesthetician-driven skincare membership. Members can have 1-1 skin consultations and the AI technology alongside aestheticians expertise builds a personalised plan to your budget.

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1 Comment

  1. by Blysmo on 09/08/2023  9:38 PM Reply

    Discover the allure of timeless beauty with Blysmo's exquisite range of transformative beauty products, enhancing your natural radiance.

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