Dr Yemi Bello, clinical fellow in dermatology and beauty aficionado, is back with another beauty products roundup. This time she gives us the lowdown on her tried and tested sunscreens that won’t leave the tell-tale white cast on your skin.
For many Black people, just the word sunscreen conjures up thoughts of a thick greasy paste that leaves a chalky cast in its wake. While sunscreens can help protect the skin against effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays (e.g. premature wrinkles, sunburn and unwanted hyperpigmentation), some sunscreen properties can make them unappealing to use. Sunscreens are commonly grouped according to the type of UV filters they contain – chemical, mineral (physical) or a combination of both. The most common mineral filters are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. And it’s these ingredients that are largely responsible for the notorious white cast.
Therefore, finding a chemical sunscreen that has a transparent finish on melanin-ated skin isn’t the novelty that many cosmetic companies will have you believe. The real trick is finding a mineral sunscreen that leaves little to no cast. Nowadays, the advances in skincare technology are making this easier. Brands may achieve this by using more finely milled particles and incorporating universal tints.
Apart from the finish, I also look out for sunscreens which have both good UVA and UVB cover (broad spectrum) as well as blue light protection for bonus points. The SPF and PA or star ratings tell you just how well a sunscreen protects your skin from UVB and UVA rays respectively.
“Searching for the right sunscreen can be an expensive game of trial and error, it’s always great when someone’s done the work for you!”
As searching for the right sunscreen can be an expensive game of trial and error, it’s always great when someone’s done the work for you! Over the years, I’ve experimented with mineral sunscreens from brands listed below as well as those from Andalou and Kiehl’s.
Some of the very first to give me hope in mineral sunscreens were the SPF30 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid by Clinique and the Heliocare 360° Mineral Tolerance Fluid SPF50. Clinique’s is a lightweight milky fluid which applies well and leaves a non-greasy look. It’s a product that’s grown on me as I’ve learnt how to use it. Heliocare’s, is an antioxidant-enriched tinted lotion that claims to offer the added benefits of protection against infrared rays and visible light. While these both work reasonably well, I find their performance can vary slightly depending on the products I’ve applied beforehand. Under the right conditions, they can leave a minimal tint for me so I’m sure they’d work even better on lighter skin tones.
The five that made the final cut are listed below. Each sunscreen has been tried on multiple occasions, with and without make-up. To judge the cast formation, I’ve looked at the finish under different lighting, taken pictures and asked friends.
So, here’s a quick review of my current faves and how they fared on my Fenty 420/430 complexion.
Replenix Antioxidant Sunscreen Moisturiser SPF 50 Plus (broad spectrum)
This is a water-resistant sunscreen spray that uses micronized zinc as its active ingredient. It’s formulated with a blend of antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea extract, resveratrol and ubiquinone. Made with a silicone base, it appears ‘oily’ at first but dries down into a matte finish. Like the very similar, Dr Dennis Gross Sun Spray, it’s one of the few mineral sunscreens on the market that leave a reliably transparent finish on all skin tones. It is easy to apply on the skin and performs well when used alone, with a moisturiser or under make-up. You can pick up a 4 fl oz bottle for around £23.
This physical sunscreen by Murad is a lightweight and cosmetically elegant lotion. It has a soft peachy universal tint. Although it’s described as fragrance-free by the manufacturer, it does have a fresh but gently pleasant scent to it. It is formulated to, not only, prevent damage from UV rays but also blue light. It applies effortlessly onto the skin, without leaving a white cast or a greasy finish. It is purposefully formulated with key ingredients such as the photoprotective antioxidants, vitamin C & E, and other great ingredients like Argan oil and oat extract. While it sits well under make-up, I also feel confident wearing this alone. At £60 for a 50ml bottle it is quite dear for everyday use but definitely worth purchasing.
‘Calm’ is a milky fragrance-free lotion enriched with chamomile flower, green tea and algae extracts. It applies easily onto the skin and leaves a moisturising but non-greasy finish. On close scrutiny it can leave a barely visible hue at the perimeters of my forehead but even this seems to disappear as it dries. I can happily go out foundation-free with this sunscreen on. Due to a combination of the price point, ease of use and reliability, it’s become a firm staple for me in the milder months. I use the version for oily/combination skin but there is also one for dry skin. At £30 for 60mls it is one of the least expensive of my collection.
This a rich creamy formula teeming with gorgeous ingredients such as aloe vera juice, sodium hyaluronate, CoQ10, antioxidants and peptides. Packed with natural oils such as lemon peel oil, it has a slight citrusy fragrance. It does take a noticeable amount of effort to rub in but with faith and elbow grease, it eventually leaves a virtually cast free finish with a really soft, moisturised feel to the skin. Again, this is a sunscreen I would happily wear outdoors whilst make-up free. At £45 per 40ml, it is on the expensive side.
Matte Screen is a tinted lightweight sunscreen which is designed to mattify the skin and blur pores. It feels beautiful on the skin – light, airy and glides on smoothly. It gives the skin a soft matte finish. It essentially behaves like a primer that happens to contain a sunscreen and so works as a great base for foundation. However, it does take some rubbing in to get the colour to fade and when it does, it can leave a faint cast at the very perimeters of my face. This sunscreen retails at £38/4mml tube.
What I’ve learnt from trying out mineral sunscreens is that they can be a bit temperamental at times. My top tips include shaking the product well and starting with well hydrated skin before application. This can be either freshly washed and dried skin or after moisturising with a plain gel moisturiser. For a sunscreen that requires more effort to work in, applying it in layers can help to achieve the correct amount of sunscreen coverage. When it comes to 100% no white cast, the sprays by Replenix and Dr Dennis Gross take first place. Next in line is Murad’s. With respect to end feel on the skin, the top by far are the Murad’s and the Supergoop Matte Screen.
Overall, mineral sunscreens have definitely come a long way from their old school counterparts. The next step in the evolution of these products is to produce cheaper alternatives whilst still maintaining the high quality.