The Best Physical Sunscreen for Darker Skin Tones, According to Dermatologists

Ask a derm, any derm the most important number when it comes to sunscreen, and they'll say: 365 (in other words: wear it all the time). But sunscreens aren't always the most cosmetically elegant beauty products to apply, making the desire to wear them plummet. The wrong formula can bring on breakouts, feel greasy, and in darker skin tones, physical SPFs can leave behind a white cast on the skin. But Adeline Kikam, DO, the brain behind @brownskinderm, says that TIZO AM Replenish Sunscreen ($50) is her go-to pick each and every morning, and she regularly recommends it for those with darker skin tones.

Experts In This Article
  • Adeline Kikam, DO, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Brown Skin Derm
  • Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University

"As dermatologists, we know that when you're Black or brown you age 10 or 20 years slower compared to caucasian skin, so based on that people have not traditionally associated sun protection with Black skin," says Dr. Kikman in the latest episode of Dear Derm. "Unfortunately, we don't have a culture of using sun protection because of all the misconceptions and lack of awareness for the purpose of sunscreen." While people with darker skin tones are less likely to get skin cancer, it's more deadly when it happens, which makes SPF a necessity.

Derms tend to recommend physical sunscreens for Black skin because they're less irritating to conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation (skin conditions that are common in darker skin tones) since they don't sink into skin to absorb rays the way their chemical cousins do. But it's a "catch-22," says Dr. Kikam, because these formulas tend to leave behind a white cast that makes them unappealing for people with darker skin tones.

With Dr. Kikam's favorite Tizo screens, that won't happen. The mineral sunscreen—which offers SPF 40 using a zinc oxide filter—is great for darker skin tones because it offers physical protection with just a bit of a tint so that it smooths into the skin easily. It's also packed with antioxidants like vitamins C and E to help fend off sun damage, plus ceramides to help moisturize and strengthen the skin barrier. "It feels really really great on the skin—it's very light and soft," says Dr. Kikam. "I like the tinted one, though I've heard the non-tinted one is very good too."

And that's not the only sunscreen derms love for darker skin tones. To learn more about Dr. Kikam's picks—plus everything else you need to know about sun protection in darker skin tones—press play on the video above. And don't forget to reapply.

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