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- Tinted sunscreens are a multipurpose product that provides SPF protection and light skin coverage.
- Although some mineral sunscreens can cause a white cast, tinted versions blend naturally.
- We asked experts to weigh in on their favorite tinted sunscreen products below.
If you’re a less-is-more kind of consumer, you’re likely already aware of the beauty of a good tinted sunscreen. Where some two-in-one products seem gimmicky, the best tinted sunscreen formulas provide both excellent daily sun protection, as well as a light coverage. The latter is intended to complement your skin tone, acting as a perfect base prior to makeup application or a smooth, natural fresh-faced look. Of course, with dual expectations, not every tinted sunscreen on the market delivers as promised, but the experts confirm which do in our FAQ section below.
These are the best tinted sunscreens in 2021:
Because of the possibility of leaving a whitecast appearance on the face, Dr. Obioha generally recommends tinted SPF for those with more melanin in their skin. “Tinted sunscreens are a great option, especially in the summer. If you’re looking for some coverage but don’t want to apply a full face of foundation, a tinted sunscreen is perfect for you,” says the L.A.-based dermatologist.
Dr. Obioha recommends Elta MD UV Clear. Though only available in one tinted shade, the SPF 46 product gets the stamp of approval because of its ability to easily blend into the skin. The formula also includes iron oxides which help prevent hyperpigmentation. Plus, Dr. Obioha says this EltaMD product has buildable coverage. “Since the product is tinted, you will not experience a white hue as you would with other sunscreen products,” she says, adding that ultimately, if the product does not suit your skin, she still recommends the label’s clear-tinted option.
Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30
“In terms of an everyday moisturizer that has a little more coverage, I like the Nars Pure Coverage Radiant Tinted Moisturizer,” says Santa Barbara-based dermatologist Dr. Chan. “It’s really nicely formulated with mineral as well as chemical filters. And it just has nice coverage.”
The Nars product has SPF 30 protection and a natural-appearing “skin finish,” Dr. Chan shares. Best of all is the product’s color range, with an amazing 16 shade options. Because of its inclusive offering, Dr. Chan says this product is for most people, herself included.
Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
For Branca, a favorite product is the Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen. This formula offers broad spectrum — meaning against UVA and UVB — protection with SPF 30. “I find this better for skin that veers towards dry, as it has a bit of a heavier consistency,” she says. Ingredients also include shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil.
Unsun’s tinted sunscreen comes in two skin tone options: light/medium and medium/dark. Once you determine which is best suited for you, Branca suggests applying it some time before blending with other products or leaving the house. “This needs some time to set for a less ashy finish for deep complexions.”
Surf Mud Natural Zinc: Tinted Covering Cream
This product was developed by and for surfers, and is formulated to be a waterproof and reef-safe — specifically made without oxybenzone and octinoxate, two products recently banned in Hawaii for their danger to marine life.
As a professional surfer, Anna Ehrgott is no stranger to intense and continuous sun exposure. “I generally spend at least two hours in the sun every day,” she tells INSIDER, “both my work and my free time are spent in direct sunlight.” Surf Mud is the product she uses for a tinted level of protection.
Ehrgott jokes that she likes the product so much she uses it as a makeup foundation. “I’m a bit pale in winter but my skin does tan easily in the sun,” she says. “I do think it’s a flattering shade that blends well with slightly tan to more caramel skin colors.”
ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless
Another favorite product for deeper skin tones is the Isdin Eryfotona Ageless, says Dr. Obioha. Like the EltaMD, Isdin’s formula only offers one shade of tint, but it’s easily blendable, even if the initial product looks lighter than your skin. (The doctor demonstrates this on her Instagram account, as well).
Isdin’s formula has SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays, as well an other ingredients that can help improve overall skin health, including photolyase enzymes to support repair of sun damage and a peptide complex for collagen and skin elasticity.
Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20
With seven skin tint options, the Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer tops the list for Florida-based makeup artist Lennie Billy. As she and her clients spend significant time outdoors, she says sun protection is essential to her makeup kit, including this SPF 20 product.
“I love the Tarte formula because it’s super natural, fresh, dewy and is a beautiful product for those ‘no makeup’ makeup moments or even male grooming.” That said, as the SPF is on the lower end of the spectrum, Billy says she tends to use this product “for moments I or my client/model won’t be under the sun for long.” Therefore, those with much less daily sun exposure might be more drawn to an option such as this one.
NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection
NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection is a mineral sunscreen with SPF 50 that comes highly recommended by Branca. “I like the texture that is light, very fluid, and applies very easily,” she says. The formula also includes Polyhydroxy Acid or PHA, which have both exfoliating and hydrating properties. “The color though is probably more suited to lighter complexions,” notes Branca of NeoStrata’s singular skin tone sunscreen option.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do tinted sunscreens work?
Sunscreen options include those with chemical/organic or physical/mineral filters — and occasionally, both. Where each provides protection from harmful UV rays, chemical filters tend to have a more sheer, unnoticeable finish on the skin, whereas mineral options that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide may not.
“Mineral sunscreens provide the best UV protection and are the gold standard of sunscreen,” says Dr. Onyeka Obioha, MD a board-certified dermatologist and Glory Skincare Dermatologist Advisor tells INSIDER. “Unfortunately, mineral sunscreens often don’t blend in well.”
Dr. Obioha says she recommends tinted mineral sunscreens instead. “It will blend in better and not leave a gray hue to your skin, as many sunscreens do. Better yet, tinted sunscreens with iron oxides also protect against visible light which has been shown to contribute to hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin.”
As cosmetic formulator Annalisa Branca explains, tinted sunscreens work by combining UVB/UVA filters and mixtures of oxides that create different shades to suit different skin tones. “The downside of these products,” says the Netherlands-based formulator, “especially when they are quite pigmented, is that people don’t apply nearly enough to avoid looking cakey.”
She personally prefers tinted products with just a hint of color as this might encourage more product — or rather, the appropriate amount of product — to be used. “A tinted sunscreen is sufficient only if it is used at the recommended 1/2 teaspoon for face and neck,” Branca confirms.
When should you wear tinted sunscreens?
“Tinted moisturizers are the best for everyday use,” says Dr. Aegean H. Chan, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist. She reiterates the common dermatological advice that SPF protection should be used every day, and not reserved for designated outings where you’ll be in direct rays, such as at the beach. “If you’re going to be outside for a sustained amount of time, you should be using a proper sunscreen and make sure you’re putting on enough.”
For daily use — “You’re going from your house to your car, your office to your car, running a few errands,” she suggests — tinted SPF serves as protection and, for those who want it, a smooth finish that can help even skin tone. Spending hours in direct UV rays and still want a tinted product appearance? “You can mix with a proper sunscreen but it can be tough if you’re using a tinted product. The more product you use, the harder it is to blend in.”