Sun protection for melanin-rich skin

Yes, even dark skin tones need sunscreen—here’s why

5 minute read

We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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Melanin—the pigment that gives skin its color—is fascinating because of the way it works. Dark skin tones are rich in melanin, which can help protect against UV rays. That said, everyone needs to practice sun protection like wearing sunscreen, even those with dark skin tones. 

Let’s bust a myth: even if your skin’s natural melanin content helps delay skin concerns like signs of aging, UV damage can still cause problems like skin cancer. You should definitely practice sun safety to protect your skin, no matter what!

The science of melanin-rich skin 

Melanin is the pigment in your skin. It’s formed within tiny cells called melanocytes that produce melanosomes, which are tiny packages of pigment. Melanin doesn’t just give your skin its hue—it can also absorb UV light to help protect the skin cell from UV damage. So the more melanin in your skin, the greater its potential to absorb energy from the sun. 

Skin tones with less melanin are more prone to certain signs of sun damage, like loss of elasticity, fine lines, and sun burns. But all skin is still susceptible to damage from the sun’s UV rays. That includes skin cancer, which often isn’t diagnosed in people of color until its later stages. 

Shoutout to melanin for all the awesome work it does protecting our skin! We can help those little melanosomes out by practicing sun safety. While that includes wearing sunscreen, you can also wear sun-blocking clothing, seek shade, and basically do what you can to avoid overexposure to the sun (while still being sure to get enough vitamin D, of course).

Our favorite sunscreens for dark skin tones 

For many people, the hardest part of practicing daily sun protection is finding a good sunscreen that doesn’t feel greasy or leave a white cast. Of course, finding a no-white cast sunscreen can be especially challenging for people with deep skin tones. The good news is that sheer, lightweight sunscreens for melanin-rich skin exist—the ones below are some of our favorites that aren’t known to clog pores or cause irritation

Urban Skin Rx Complexion Protection Moisturizer SPF 30

Urban Skin Rx has been designing skincare products for melanin-rich skin since 2010, so it’s no surprise that they have one of the best sunscreens for dark skin tones. This moisturizer with SPF ticks all the boxes, including a non-greasy finish that won’t leave a white cast. $19.99 for 1.7 oz via Urban Skin Rx

CosRx Aloe Soothing Suncream SPF 50

This nourishing SPF moisturizer is a good option for a lightweight facial sunscreen with no white cast. Aloe is a key ingredient which helps soothe skin inflammation like acne. $16 for 1.67 oz via CosRx

Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40

Mineral sunscreens (or physical sunscreens) tend to work well for people with sensitivities to chemical sunscreens. Although many mineral sunscreens leave a white cast, this spray sunscreen by Bare Republic goes on sheer, making it suitable for most skin tones. $14.99 for 6 oz via Bare Republic

Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 35

This sheer sunscreen with a dewy finish layers well with makeup. Its lightly moisturizing base works well for dry or combination skin types. (Tip: After applying, let it absorb for 5-10 minutes before applying makeup to help prevent pilling.) $25 for 1 oz via Glossier

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55 

Neutrogena’s sheer face mist is a drugstore staple. Head’s up: the term “face mist” is a bit deceiving—to apply, you spritz your fingers then rub the product into your skin. $17.49 for 3 oz via Ulta

Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel Sunscreen SPF 50

A gel sunscreen with a rich base that’s perfect for dry, thirsty skin. This clear-drying sunscreen includes vitamin E, vitamin C, and ferulic acid for antioxidant benefits. $35 for 3.4 oz via Sonrei.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 100

Designed for sensitive skin, this non-greasy sunscreen suits most skin types. However, it has a thick consistency that may leave a white cast. We don’t think this is a great sunscreen to layer with makeup, but this is still a great option if you’re looking for a high-SPF body sunscreen. $24.99 for 3 oz via Ulta

We’re here to help build your skincare routine

If you’ve read this far, then kudos to you for doing your skincare homework. You know that everyone’s skin is different, so it can take some educated guessing to figure out what works for you. If you’d like to take the guesswork out of skincare, then Curology’s got your back. 

At Curology, we believe that everyone’s skin is unique, and that skincare should be accessible for all. That’s why all of our prescription treatments are customized to meet your skin’s needs and sent straight to your door. We believe in creating products that are inclusive and empower people to love their skin.

Curology members get paired with an in-house dermatology provider, licensed to practice in their state. They’ll evaluate your skin and consult with you about the best treatment for your skin’s needs. Your provider will prescribe you a Custom Formula with a mix of 3 active ingredients for your unique skin.You can try Curology for free (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling). Subject to medical consultation.

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