I’m A Black Woman Who’s Tried Dozens of Sunscreens—These 6 Actually Work

Written by Adele Ashley Adams

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Source: Jakob Owens
Source: Jakob Owens

I distinctly recall my grandmother telling me not to waste my money on sunscreen as Black people don’t get sunburned or get skin cancer. I now know that is one of the biggest myths about skincare for darker skin tones, but it was a lesson I learned the hard way.  

Let me take you back eight years. I was 21, my skincare routine—if you could even call it that—was just hot water and an apricot scrub, and I was managing a charity barbeque with some friends. Everything was going smoothly. The celebrity guest arrived on time; our participants were smiling; and most importantly, it was a beautiful, hot summer day, with the sun high in the sky. I spent the entire day under the sun and thought nothing of it until a week later. My entire face was burnt, and the first thing I noticed was that my skin was peeling, then it turned dull, dry, and matte, which lasted for months. My skin looked nothing like the pearls Beyoncé sings of. I was miserable, and my self-esteem took a nose-dive, but I also headed straight to the beauty counter to invest in sunscreens.  

I quickly realized that finding a sunscreen that I loved would take some trial and error. For me, the perfect sunscreen does not irritate my skin, feels good enough for me to want to wear every day (yes, even in winter or staying inside), and most importantly, does not leave a grey or ashy film on my face. Unfortunately, darker complexions are not always accounted for in the beauty industry, and there are many sunscreens that leave a white cast on Black and Brown skin. I felt like Goldilocks while searching for the sunscreen that is just right, but with time, patience, and more inclusion in skincare, I have been able to find sunscreens that fit my three personal sunscreen rules. Here are some of my favorites:

Black Girl Sunscreen
Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Created specifically for People of Color, the original Black Girl Sunscreen is an SPF 30 cream that rubs in easily with no white cast. It can double as a moisturizer and gives my skin a nice glow that is perfect for those no makeup days. BGS recently launched a new Make It Matte SPF 45 that is a watery gel formula that works well under makeup.

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Fenty Beauty
Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer SPF 30

In my eyes, Fenty Beauty can do no wrong, so when I heard that Fenty Skin was launching and included SPF in the moisturizer, I knew it had to be good. Unsurprisingly, the Fenty Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer has become one of my favorite daytime moisturizers with SPF. I was skeptical at first, as it comes out of the pump purple and there was a white cast initially, but that went away in 10 minutes as it absorbed into my skin. As it is only an SPF 30, it is perfect for when I’m sitting by a sunny window or running a few errands, but I would not reach for it on long summer days under the sun.

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Alumier MD
Clear Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 42

I cannot recommend the Alumier MD Clear Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 42 enough. Alumier is a professional-grade skincare brand, so products need to be ordered through a skincare clinic, but it is one of my go-tos for when I am spending a lot of time in the sun. It has a slight tint to it that makes it great on no makeup days that need a little bit of coverage. My skin always feels so hydrated and looks dewy whenever I wear it, which is an added bonus.

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100% Mineral Powder SPF 35

Sun protection only works if you reapply it regularly, but I am not about to rub a liquid sunscreen all over my makeup every few hours. The Supergoop (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 is a lifesaver when I am wearing makeup as it sets my makeup and mattifies my skin while ensuring that I am not compromising my sun protection. It is also small enough for me to keep in my purse, which makes it a great on-the-go option. I also need to point out that all the Supergoop products are Black and Brown skin-friendly, which means that there is an option for everyone.

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UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

There is a reason why the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is recommended by dermatologists. It is formulated with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid, making it gentle enough to use if you have acne or dry skin but does not appear greasy on oily skin. Created specifically for sensitive skin types, this sunscreen is what I reach for if my skin is irritated as it calms redness and soothes the skin while remaining lightweight and hydrating.

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Sun Bum
Lip Balm SPF 30

I always want to make sure my entire face is protected, so I usually have a couple of the Sun Bum SPF lip balms bouncing around in my purse. The balms come in a variety of flavors (Coconut is my favorite) and always leave my lips soft, moisturized, and protected.

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