Between skin care, sun protection, and makeup products, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by a lengthy beauty routine. That's why multitasking beauty products are on the rise. Tinted sunscreens, for example, combine the best of facial sunscreen with light coverage. Plus, many tinted sunscreen formulas contain active ingredients commonly found in skin care products for added skin perks—all in one easy step.

But, as with all personal care products, it's important to use tinted sunscreen as intended to get the full benefits. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to apply tinted sunscreen and how to choose the best formula for your unique skin needs.

Tinted Sunscreen 101

Tinted sunscreen is facial sunscreen formulated with mineral active ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Unlike regular sunscreen, it also contains pigments to closely match various skin tones, providing sheer coverage and eliminating white cast. Though tinted sunscreen is often compared to foundation, it most closely resembles BB cream, a light-coverage makeup product that gives skin an even, seamless appearance.

The pigments in tinted sunscreen also have added skin benefits. Iron Oxides, which give tinted sunscreens their hue, help reflect sunlight and artificial light, including blue light from phone and computer screens. Iron Oxides can also help reduce melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Choosing the Best Tinted Sunscreen

When looking for any sunscreen—tinted or untinted—the American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following criteria:

  • Broad-spectrum protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB rays
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes

From there, your ideal formula depends on your skin type, skin tone, and any skin conditions or concerns you may have.

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Sunscreen Type

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens have advantages, but tinted sunscreens tend to prioritize mineral UV filters, which physically shield your skin from sunlight. Physical blockers like Zinc Oxide often leave behind a white cast, so adding a tint to these formulas increases blendability. Plus, Iron Oxides give you the best blue light protection when combined with Zinc Oxide. So, look for a mineral or hybrid tinted sunscreen.

Skin Type and Concerns

Consider your skin type when deciding on the finish and active ingredients. For example, EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 has a matte finish and contains Dimethicone to reduce shine, making it ideal for oily skin. If you have dry skin, EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 may be a better match. This sunscreen is formulated with Hyaluronic Acid to boost skin hydration and antioxidant Vitamin C to reduce visible signs of aging. Both of these sunscreens are also well suited for sensitive skin. EltaMD UV AOX Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 is a tinted sunscreen that also contains antioxidants designed to help combat signs of photoaging like fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Apply Tinted Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a key player in your line of defense against harmful UV rays, but you have to apply it properly to get the full benefits. Here's how to apply tinted sunscreen for adequate, even sun protection step by step.

1. Prep Your Skin

When it comes to how to layer your products, it goes like this: skin care, sunscreen, makeup. While tinted sunscreen mimics some properties of makeup, it's still sunscreen, so it should come after the final step in your skin care routine and before any makeup. At the very least, prep your skin for tinted sunscreen by cleansing and moisturizing.

2. Use Enough for Thorough Coverage

One of the most common mistakes people make when applying tinted sunscreen is using too little. Per the Skin Cancer Foundation, you need about a nickel-sized dollop of tinted sunscreen for your face alone for adequate sun protection.

3. Distribute It Evenly

The best way to apply tinted sunscreen to your face is by gently rubbing it in with clean fingertips. Special applicators, such as a brush or beauty sponge, are convenient for hands-free application, but they absorb some of the product. This means that less ends up on your skin. Remember commonly missed areas like the lips, ears, and eyelids, and blend your sunscreen into your neck and chest using upward motions (just be careful not to stain your clothing!).

4. Wait a Few Minutes before Applying Makeup

If you plan to apply makeup after tinted sunscreen, let it absorb for a few minutes first. Applying makeup too quickly can undermine sunscreen's effectiveness, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Wondering whether you should use tinted sunscreen before or after primer? Apply your primer after tinted sunscreen and before the rest of your makeup. Putting on primer before tinted sunscreen creates a barrier between it and your skin, which can make it less effective.

Using Tinted Sunscreen Like a Pro

All skin care products leave behind some degree of residue on your fingers, but since tinted sunscreen contains pigment, cleanup is key. Wash your hands with soap and water after applying so you don't transfer any sunscreen to your clothes or furniture. Remember to wait about 15 minutes before heading outside, too. Finally, stay on top of your sun-protection game by reapplying your tinted sunscreen at least every two hours. Now you're ready to face the day with confidence that radiates from the inside out!


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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