There has been an explosion in sun protection skin products on the market for women of colour. But which ones actually do the job?
Sunscreens are made up of either chemicals or minerals. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb UV radiation. Mineral sunscreens are most effective against UVA rays, which cause a lot of damage to those with darker skin tones. But they have traditionally left white casts on the skin, which is why people of colour tend to avoid them. However, in more recent years, formulations of mineral sunscreens have changed. Gone are the days where we would have to choose between sun protection and walking around with a white cast.
UVB (Ultraviolet B rays) causes skin cancer and tends to create a higher risk in those with lighter skin. UVA (Ultraviolet A rays) causes skin ageing and can penetrate deeper into the skin. It can pass through clouds, windows and even clothing.
Skin cancer is a condition that can impact individuals of all skin tones. Extensive medical research indicates that even individuals with darker skin tones should prioritise the use of sunscreen. While the statistical risk of developing skin cancer may be lower for those with darker skin, it is essential to recognise that sun exposure can still result in significant damage to the skin.
Here are SPF products that are well-suited to darker skin tones.
Skinceuticals Ultra Defence SPF 50, £45
This SPF is formulated as a day cream, meaning it’s in a moisturiser base, so you won’t need to use a separate moisturiser. It doesn’t contain fragrance or other common "allergens", so it’s good for sensitive skin.
"This SPF is formulated as a day cream, so you won’t need to use a separate moisturiser"
It is not tinted, and when you go out, you can just dust loose mineral powder on top for a more natural coverage. I have been recommending it to patients for many years. The only negative feedback has been from patients with acne who say it’s a little too thick and congesting, or from patients with very dark skin tones where the white cast was visible.
Heliocare 360 Oil Free Gel, £31
The advantage to the Heliocare SPF is that the formulation is very light, has a matte finish, and is "non-comedogenic", meaning it is good for acne or breakout skin. It does contain "parfum" (ie, fragrance), "limonene" and "linalool". These can all commonly cause contact allergies, so it may not be the best choice for those with sensitive skin.
It also contains antioxidants (vitamins C and E) which provide preventative and corrective anti-ageing properties. In addition to the standard UVA/UVB protection, this sunscreen protects against visible light (good for those worried about screen light etc, causing skin pigmentation).
Eucerin Pigment Control SPF50, £22
Eucerin Pigment Control includes some very sophisticated ingredients that help target pigmentation and oxidative stress that is caused by sun exposure.
"Eucerin Pigment Control includes some very sophisticated ingredients"
Eucerin has done extensive research and patented the key ingredient "thiamidol" in this SPF, which has been shown to reduce pigment spots. There is good data to support this. It also contains Licochalcone A, the ingredient that neutralises free radicals caused by UV and high-energy visible light (the light emitted by screens), and glycyrrhetinic acid which helps repair DNA damage caused by UV rays.
I have had positive feedback about this product from my mother, patients and other dermatologist colleagues who have darker skin.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible fluid, £19.90
The Anthelios range is very good for general use for all the family. It contains a chemical filter called mexoryl 400 ,which protects against UVA. It’s nicely formulated in a non-sticky and non-greasy formulation. I have received a lot of positive feedback from patients with the darkest skin types.
However, it has no physical screen component, which is a big negative for protection for darker skin types that are prone to sun-induced pigmentation.
Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50, £30.99
Neostrata is a sheer mineral SPF and it contains active gluconolactone and lactobionic acid, which has evidence of some anti-ageing properties. It also doesn’t contain fragrance or other common "allergens", so it’s good for sensitive skin.
"Neostrata doesn’t contain fragrance or other common "allergens", so it’s good for sensitive skin"
As it’s non-comedogenic, it would be appropriate for acne-prone patients.
Colorescience Total Protection No Show Mineral Sunscreen SPF50, £35
This is a physical sunscreen with 10% zinc oxide, and it's not tinted so it’s one for those of you who are not a fan of tinted SPFs. A bit on the expensive side, but it could be a good option for those with sensitive skin, as the ingredients list is free of fragrance and other common allergens.
Dr Ophelia Veraitch is an award-winning Consultant Dermatologist. All of her chosen sunscreens offer a minimum SPF50 and provide effective protection against both UVA and UVB rays.They are all sunscreens she recommends to patients and ones she uses herself.
Read more: 8 Things dermatologists do every summer
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.