Many consumers today are looking for multi-tasking beauty products, and tinted sunscreens check more than one box. But what is tinted sunscreen, exactly? Apart from providing sun protection, this product comes with other benefits that you might not be aware of.
What Is Tinted Sunscreen?
Aptly named, a tinted sunscreen is a sunscreen that comes in different shades to better match your natural skin tone. "Tinted sunscreens are wonderful because they contain mineral [ultraviolet] filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide . . . combined with added pigments," says Dr. Maiman.
King agrees, noting that products like EltaMD's UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 contain encapsulated pigments called iron oxides, which break upon contact with the skin to blend in seamlessly and won't leave behind that chalky white residue that some mineral regular sunscreens are known for.
Dr. Maiman explains that these pigments have two primary functions. First, they combat that chalky appearance and second, the colored pigments reflect away visible light in ways that regular sunscreens can't.
And though it can be easy to compare tinted sunscreens with foundations or tinted moisturizers that contain SPF, they are still very different products. King says that a foundation with SPF still might not provide adequate sun protection and that tinted moisturizers with SPF have a primary function of hydrating the skin.
According to Dr. Maiman, if you're looking for the best protection against the sun's harmful UV rays, always trust a sunscreen before a foundation or moisturizer. "The best way to think about it is that, as the name implies, tinted sunscreens are first and foremost sunscreens," she says. "They are, therefore, much more reliable in their ability to provide sufficient broad-spectrum UV coverage when used on a daily basis. Most moisturizers and foundations with SPF are exactly as their name implies: they tend to be, first and foremost, either a foundation or moisturizer, [and] the SPF is a bit of an afterthought."
The Benefits of Iron Oxide Formulas
Both King and Dr. Maiman say that tinted sunscreens are just as effective as other types of sunscreen. Dr. Maiman likes to recommend tinted sunscreens to patients who want light coverage to even out their skin tone while still getting the full amount of SPF. She also likes tinted sunscreens as an option for protecting against blue light.
More studies are showing that blue light from phones and computer screens can lead to premature signs of aging. Dr. Maiman explains that emerging data shows that the most effective ingredient for protecting against blue light is iron oxide. Because the majority of non-tinted sunscreens don't have iron oxide, she recommends opting for the tinted version so you can get this added benefit.
As mentioned above, one of the best things about tinted sunscreens is that you don't get that odd white cast that non-tinted sunscreens can sometimes leave behind. King says that non-tinted sunscreens leave this "ghosting effect" because of the titanium and zinc oxide in them and those with darker skin tones would benefit from using a tinted sunscreen so that it blends in more naturally.
Finally, you can often find iron oxides paired with other beneficial ingredients. This tinting agent works well with all kinds of formulas, so look for a tinted formula that can repair, strengthen, and rejuvenate skin through free radical-thwarting antioxidants, for example.
Tinted Sunscreen as a Foundation
If you don't want to layer on that many products, both King and Dr. Maiman say tinted sunscreens can take the place of a foundation in your makeup routine. As long as you're looking for something that gives you light coverage, this is a perfectly acceptable method of making your routine a little more efficient.
"Most decent tinted sunscreens give the kind of coverage worthy of a light foundation, so they can definitely be worn alone or in place of foundation without any other complexion-correcting makeup," says Dr. Maiman. She also says because tinted sunscreens can be limited in shades, it might not match you perfectly. If you're looking for something that's full coverage, you're better off applying sunscreen and foundation than just opting for a tinted sunscreen.
"There aren't many cons of tinted sunscreens," she says. "It can be considered appropriate for everyone." If you're curious, go ahead and try it—tinted sunscreen could just be the new star of your skin care routine.