Skin of color and sunscreens that won’t leave you chalky.

Hi, I recently come across your blog while reading about skincare products, and as a person of color who recently turned 30, I tend to use a moisturizer with a chemical sunscreen (spf30) but on your website, you stress the fact to invest in a physical sunscreen like zinc. But since I do not want to deal with white cast that physical sunscreens leave behind, what chemical sunscreen would you suggest to use? I currently use Aveeno Positively radiant sheer daily moisturizer.

You make a good point, and many of our patients have been frustrated with this also. I’ll make some recommendations below, but remember skin tone is very individual so you’ll really just have to experiment a bit, and learn what works for you by trial and error.

It has always seemed odd to me that, until recently, skincare and makeup companies relied on very rough estimates of skin tone. I saw a system in Europe at a conference recently where the range of tones and the way they classified skin tone, was so much more exact. I’ll look into it more over the next year. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a system …..say from 1-50….and once you identified your number, products were specified for a range that we could easily identify.

Ideas for sunscreen for skin of color:

  • Many of our patients love the Image Tinted, SPF 30. It has titanium, but the zinc is 6%. In fact, I found out about this product because one of our patients recommended it. We’ll have this in our shop very soon.
  • Dermaquest Tinted works well for many and has zinc 18%.
  • The Aveeno Positively radiant really doesn’t block UVA well, but if you wore a mineral powder over it and a hat, it would be much improved.
  • For mineral powders, look at bareMinerals, and we all love the Jane Iredale mineral compacts which come in a good range of colors
  • The Colorscience mineral powder tinted sunscreens are great.  You have to work with that brush a little to get used to it. These are the only sunscreens in the U.S. I’ve found that zinc and iron oxides in them. Very effective. Try the medium or the tan.
  • Consider the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizers (come in regular and oil-free) to layer over a sunscreen to cut any chalkiness. These come in a wide range of skin tones and have a little sunscreen in them as well. Really not adequate just on their own though.

Why use sunscreen for skin of color? Three good reasons:

  1. Skin of color, while generally less prone to wrinkles, is prone to blotchiness and uneven pigment. A great daily sunscreen face, neck and chest helps to prevent that.
  2. Even small skin inflammations and acne, tend to hyperpigment while healing in skin of color (sometimes for months). The sunscreen helps to prevent that.
  3. Sun damage, while it doesn’t cause wrinkles as much in skin of color, does tend to make texture worse. Wearing a sunscreen helps keep your skin tone even, and keep pores looking less visible.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I




Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!