A dermatologist and celeb facialist share their top-ranked tinted SPFs that not only protect against harmful rays but also even out skin tone.
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While wearing SPF is a definite necessity, it can be, well, annoying—especially if you prefer to wear face makeup, be it a face-full of foundation or a few dots of concealer. Layering sunscreen under your makeup can leave your skin feeling heavy and even greasy. And if you’re using a mineral sunscreen? You might be stuck with a ghostly cast.
Luckily, more and more sun-care brands are offering tinted sunscreens: genius products that offer both light coverage and protection from harmful UV rays. They’re essentially a happy medium between tinted moisturizers and regular sunscreen. The result? A safe way to let your skin breathe or go makeup-free during the summer, while still adding a little sheen or helping to even out skin tone. While sunscreen formulas have come a long way in the last few years, there’s one serious drawback: the lack of inclusive colors across tinted sunscreens. (The beauty industry has made some strides toward shade-inclusivity, but there’s still farther to go.)
That said, it’s important to understand the difference between makeup with SPF or tinted moisturizers with SPF and tinted sunscreens, says Marie Hayag, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in New York City.
Moisturizers and makeup with SPF are usually lower in SPF and don’t have the same protective effect as tinted sunscreens, says Dr. Hayag. She recommends using a physical sunscreen, which blocks out UV rays with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Unlike chemical sunscreens (which absorb the sun’s harmful rays, and are found in many makeup products), mineral/physical sunscreens actually work by sitting on top of your skin and physically blocking harmful rays.
“Also, most people don’t apply enough—about a teaspoon is recommended, whether it’s moisturizer or makeup—to provide adequate protection,” explains Dr. Hayag. (Think about it: You prob aren’t using an entire teaspoon of your expensive SPF tinted moisturizer or foundation every day.)
She also recommends using sunscreen every day—even if you don’t plan on leaving the house, and yes, even in the winter. “No matter the season or weather, ultraviolet light is always present, and too much of it can cause skin cancer, melanoma, and early photo-aging,” says Dr. Hayag. “You’re constantly being exposed to UV radiation, and even when it’s overcast, up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays are absorbed by your skin. Don’t forget to wear it indoors as well because some UV rays go right through windows.”
If you’re already into the tinted SPF game, great; Dr. Hayag is totally in support of these products. Just make sure you follow her guidelines when buying a product: First, she recommends looking for a product that contains iron oxides, which are used in tinted SPFs for their ability to reduce white cast (typically from zinc oxide) in sunscreens while protecting against visible light and UVA rays. “Plus, you get the added benefit of protection from blue light,” says Dr. Hayag. That’s right: Iron oxide can be quite effective at absorbing visible light, including blue light, and, thus, can derail these rays from damaging your derm, according to a 2013 study.
(Also read: How Blue Light Exposure Can Damage Your Skin)
In addition to iron oxide, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide, Dr. Hayag encourages looking for antioxidants to ensure that you’re getting the most protection from harmful UVA/UVB rays. She also recommends using fragrance-free products to avoid irritation, as well as products that note that they’re coral reef-safe for environmental considerations—especially if you’ll be swimming in the ocean.
You should be using SPF 30 or higher and re-apply every couple of hours—especially if you’re being active. And, FYI, you can skip your moisturizer on days when you’re wearing a tinted moisturizer or sunscreen because moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and oils are often right there in the formula. Finally, if you want to give your complexion a boost, Dr. Hayag recommends looking for a sunscreen that contains light-reflecting particles like mica, because these can “give you a nice glow and add a sheen to your complexion.”
Below, shop some tinted sunscreens that meet Dr. Hayag’s requirements and are approved by celeb facialist Joanna Vargas, along with tinted moisturizer options that do provide enough sun protection so you can forgo straight-up SPF.
MDSolar Sciences Mineral Tinted Cream SPF
Touted by both Dr. Hayag and Vargas, this fragrance-free find is recommended for daily use by the Skin Cancer Foundation and works for most skin tones. “It also contains a high amount of zinc oxide, iron oxides, and antioxidants,” such as protective vitamin C and green tea, says Dr. Hayag. “It’s also very light and silky smooth.” Reviewers agree: One fan goes as far as to say it “feels like satin on your skin” while another describes it as “super moisturizing” and says that little bit definitely goes a long way.
Supergoop Daily Correct CC Cream
Yes, this is technically a CC cream, but because it contains SPF 35, antioxidants, and zinc oxide, Dr. Hayag says it provides adequate sun protection. Think of this derm-approved pick as a primer, foundation, and sunscreen all in one, which protects against harmful UV rays while leaving your skin feeling plump, nourished, and hydrated thanks to hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. Unfortunately, this CC cream falls short in one area: It’s not available in an inclusive range of colors, and its four options are best for light-to-medium skin tones.
Lancôme UV Expert Mineral CC Cream
If you’re looking for more of a tinted moisturizer than a tinted sunscreen, try this Lancôme CC cream. It contains mineral sunscreen and provides SPF 50 protection. It’s also very hydrating (thanks to moringa oil) and contains antioxidants, just like Dr. Hayag recommends. Available in five different shades from “Light” to “Deep,” the cream also provides medium-to-full color coverage that’s buildable.
Drunk Elephant Umbra Tint Physical Daily Defense
This tinted sunscreen from Drunk Elephant (yes, the same company that one woman credits for clearing her cystic acne) is super creamy—and a little goes a long way. It contains SPF 30 and zinc oxide for powerful UV protection. Plus, it has a slight, pretty sheer tint that makes it suitable for light to medium skin types—but, according to reviewers, that’s about it. While the tinted sunscreen lacks shade diversity, it wins points for ingredients such as sunflower sprout extract, which is intended to protect from pollution.
Bare Republic Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen Lotion
This tinted sunscreen is unique because it has a matte finish—that way you’re not left looking and feeling greasy. It’s packed with antioxidants from ingredients such as raspberry seed oil and offers waterproof SPF 30 protection for up to 40 minutes. It’s also completely coral reef-safe and acts as a physical sunscreen. Again, a downside: It’s best for light-to-medium skin tones.
Neova DNA Damage Control Silc Sheer 2.0 SPF 40
This tinted sunscreen, whose tint is also designed to work for all skin types, is ideal for acne-prone or mature skin, as it contains citric acid, which promotes new cell growth and, thus, fills in scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also wins Dr. Hayag’s seal of approval because it contains protective iron oxides and antioxidants. And it’s because of super skin-saving ingredients like these that reviewers continually rave about its effectiveness. Just take it from one reviewer who “as a skin cancer patient” says that it’s the “best sunscreen [she’s] ever used” and that it has “very nice color, light coverage to blend old scars and flaws” while still protecting against harmful rays.
Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen
Unlike typical sunscreens that come as a liquid or spray, this product is a powder that, just like foundation or blush, you swipe onto your face with a cushy brush—plus it comes in five different shades, ranging from “Fair” to “Deep.” Talk about easy to apply (and great for your hairline and part)! In fact, its simple application is what makes it one of Dr. Hayag’s favorite tinted sunscreens. In order to get full protection from the SPF 30 and iron oxides, the company recommends moving the brush in small, circular strokes to release plenty of powder as you sweep it across your face. Colorescience also says to use a water-resistant product if you’re going to the beach or sweating a ton, so heed their advice and keep this tinted sunscreen for dry outdoor activities, such as a BBQ.
IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream
Not only is it available in more shades (12 to be exact!), but this CC cream also offers more coverage than others, making it a sunscreen-worthy pick from Dr. Hayag. It boasts an SPF of 50+, sun-shielding ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and a natural finish. But that’s not all, folks: this cream also has collagen, peptides, and hyaluronic acid that hydrate, firm, and smooth your skin, even while out in the drying and damaging sun.
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