Sunscreen is essential for all skin tones and types to protect against skin cancer and minimize sun damage and visible signs of aging. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. So, sunscreen for Black skin is just as important as sunscreen for any other skin tone or type.

Everyone, including those with melanin-rich skin, should follow the American Academy of Dermatology's (AAD) recommendation to use a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher each day (reapplying every two hours or as needed) to protect against sun damage and achieve a healthy, radiant complexion.

What to Look for in SPF for Dark Skin

When it comes to skin care, different skin tones and skin types have distinct needs. Here are some tips to help choose the perfect sunscreen for Black skin so you can stay safe under the sun.

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1. Sheer Formulas

There's little more frustrating than sunscreens that leave a chalky residue on Black and brown skin. If you've tried one too many formulas that give your skin a white cast, you may be reluctant to apply sunscreen at all. But don't lose hope. Many sunscreens combine cosmetic elegance with good efficacy for darker skin tones. For example, EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is formulated to absorb quickly and blend beautifully into the skin while protecting against UVA and UVB rays.

If you're looking for an alternative to traditional sunscreen lotions, EltaMD UV AOX Mist Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 is a spray formula with a transparent Zinc Oxide finish plus antioxidants like Vitamins C and E, which help rejuvenate your skin's appearance. Whichever formula you prefer, the key is to find a product that fits well into your daily routine.

2. Hydrating Ingredients

Some research shows that ceramides—a naturally occurring, moisturizing component of the skin barrier—are less abundant in Black skin. So, look for sun care products with ingredients that moisturize and lock in hydration. For example, EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is formulated with Squalane and Hyaluronic Acid, which boost skin water content and reduce moisture loss.

Alternatively, EltaMD UV AOX Mist Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 boasts moisturizing Aloe Vera, Coconut Fruit Extract, and Glycerin in its ingredient list. Choose a sunscreen with hydrating ingredients like these to leave your skin looking radiant and feeling soft and smooth while protecting your complexion from harmful UV rays.

3. Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 or Higher

The AAD's general rule of thumb is to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and SPF for dark skin is no exception. Black and brown skin contains more sun-protective melanin, but it's still subject to skin cancer (albeit at a lower rate). Sun exposure can also cause or worsen common skin concerns in people with melanated skin, like hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation can occur in response to any skin inflammation or trauma, including acne, eczema, a rash or a scrape, or hormonal changes, as with melasma. Whatever the cause, unprotected UV exposure exacerbates dark spots, so it's imperative to make sun care part of the solution.

The Best Sunscreen for Black Skin

Sunscreen isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. Finding a sunscreen that's compatible with your lifestyle, skin type, and skin tone is an important part of protecting your skin health, so take the time to find a nuanced fit. This will make you more likely to apply sunscreen long term and on a consistent basis, which is necessary to reap the benefits. Looking for more information on how to best care for your complexion? Learn everything you need to know about why sunscreen is nonnegotiable for melanated skin.


  • Mona Gohara, MD

    Dr. Mona Gohara is a Connecticut-based Dermatologist and associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. She has a particular interest in skin cancer prevention and treatment for skin of color. Dr. Gohara spends a lot of time outdoors with her husband, son, and two dogs, Coco and Cleo. They all wear sunscreen.