The Best Mineral Sunscreens for Dark Skin Tones
Written by: Megan O’Neill
Updated on: July 19, 2022
Photo courtesy of Nicole L. Hill/The Licensing Project
The good news: Mineral sunscreen (also called physical sunscreen) has evolved to the point that it now easily melts into the deepest skin tones. The unappealing white cast that mineral sunscreens used to leave behind was something people (of all skin tones, but especially people of color) put up with in exchange for avoiding all the problems associated with chemical sunscreens—potential carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and skin irritants. “It’s been a long time coming, but I always felt that once the industry as a whole began to consider the needs of people with darker skin tones, innovation in mineral formulas would come to life,” says Katonya Breaux, who founded Unsun, a mineral sunscreen company, when, as a Black woman, she felt glossed over by the sunscreen industry. “It wasn’t fair that the only convenient sunscreen options for people of color were chemical sunscreens,” she says. “I wanted something I knew to be safe for the user and also for coral reefs.”
5 New Favorite Mineral Sunscreens
Mineral sunscreen, the best-for-skin choice in clean circles, is made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both—these should be the only ingredients listed in the active ingredients box; otherwise, it’s not a pure mineral formula. They act as a physical shield against UVA and UVB rays and have traditionally been harder to blend into darker skin tones. But mineral sunscreen tech has improved significantly in the last few years, and new methods of encapsulating and combining ingredients have resulted in silkier, more blendable textures.
Ultraluxe Hand ProtectionUnsun Hand Cream SPF 15 goop, $27SHOP NOW
Featherlight SerumEleVen Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 goop, $50SHOP NOW
Subtle Matte FinishClark’s Botanicals Invisible Hero SPF 30 goop, $75SHOP NOW
Best Tinted Mineral Sunscreens
On top of these advancements, some of the best mineral sunscreens for dark skin tones are subtly tinted, a feature that ensures there’s never even a whisper of a white streakiness left behind, whether your skin tone is deep or fair. “The tint makes mineral sunscreen easier to use for darker skin tones,” says Breaux, whose tinted face sunscreen has become a cult hit at goop and beyond. What’s more, the touch of pigment in tinted mineral sunscreen can have a subtle blurring, skin-smoothing effect, softening the appearance of imperfections.
Vitamin C and SPF in OneILIA C Beyond Triple Serum SPF 40 goop, $64SHOP NOW
Skin-BoostingUnsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen goop, $29
and Super MoisturizingSHOP NOW
Glowy-Sheer FinishSaie Sunvisor goop, $37SHOP NOW
Doesn’t Melanin Shield Darker Skin?
Although melanin offers some protection, dark skin tones absolutely still need sunscreen. Not only does it protect against sun damage, which shows up as premature wrinkles and fine lines, but it’s also one of the best ways to protect against skin cancer—which can be deadlier in people of color than in White demographics. Skin cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage in people of color, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. (Note: The AAD provides a brilliant gallery of photos that show what skin cancer can look like on skin of color, since medical textbooks have traditionally shown examples on White skin tones only, a practice which can lead dermatologists to overlook telltale signs in patients of color.)
Mineral Sunscreens for Summer-Body Glow
“It took me three years to approve our untinted sunscreen for body,” says Breaux. “Creating a formula without a tint requires a considerable amount of effort. We included moisturizing ingredients as well as sun protection, and we ended up with a beautiful, blendable balance.”
Why We Avoid Chemical Sunscreen
No chemical sunscreens meet goop’s clean ingredient guidelines. Some of the most common active ingredients in chemical formulas—oxybenzone, avobenzone, and homosalate—have been flagged by the EWG as hormone disruptors. The EWG’s recent sunscreen report cites four separate studies from 2020 showing that oxybenzone can act as an endocrine disruptor and may increase the risk of breast cancer and endometriosis. Chemical sunscreen brands have justified formulating with these chemicals with the “dose makes the poison” argument, but endocrine disruptors are pernicious—there’s no known safe dose—and even very tiny amounts can interfere with our reproductive system, our metabolism, and more. Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, carries none of these risks, and when you smooth it on, you get protection against harmful rays—all the mineral formulas in the goop shop are broad-spectrum, meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays—as well as a surge of skin-soothing ingredients (zinc oxide is the active ingredient in diaper creams and benefits sensitive skin types).
Sunscreen Support: Vitamin C
Not only can vitamin C brighten, smooth, and boost glow and clarity; it can also help protect skin. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals, which helps prevent sun damage that can show up as premature lines and wrinkles. This powder is one of the purest, most powerful topical vitamin C treatments: It activates when you mix it with water (just sprinkle it into your palm, add a few drops of water, and smooth over skin) or a serum, moisturizer, or mineral sunscreen.
True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster goop, $90SHOP NOW