The 16 Best Sunscreens For Dark Skin Right Now

We ask experts for their top tips to help keep melanin rich skin protected this summer

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by Grazia |

By now you know how important SPF is - the drum that derms, doctors and skinfluencers alike, all bang. And luckily for all, even those of us with brown skin who have previously battled with Casper-like casts, formulas have come a long way. Now, from formulas you can spray over make-up, to protection-laden primers and completely invisible formulas, there really is a sunscreen for everyone. To help you find the right one, we spoke to award winning Cosmetic Doctor Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe.

"SPF is a hugely important step for all skin tones and types and in my opinion one of the most important steps in our routines," says Dr Ukeleghe, skin care expert and founder of Skn Doctor, a one stop shop for clinically tested skincare, consultations and treatments.

"Despite this, there has been a common misconception for years that dark skin doesn't require SPF - this is incorrect. SPF is hugely important for protecting your skin from harmful, ageing UV rays and is all the more important when you are using active ingredients like retinols and vitamin c which leaves your skin more sensitive to rays. Whilst melanin does provide complexions with a little more natural protection, you certainly shouldn't be skipping SPF. More recently, brands are creating chemical SPF formulas which don't leave a white/ashy cast, which is good to see"

READ MORE: 10 Best Sunscreens For Kids To Protect Their Skin This Summer

WATCH: Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe Shares Her Top SPF Face Creams for Darker Skin

So, with a wealth of products on the market to choose from, we asked GP and skincare consultant Dr Kemi Fabusiwa everything you need to know when it comes to sun protection, and why the myths surrounding dark skin and sun exposure could be damaging.

READ MORE: 13 Best Moisturisers For Every Skin Concern And Skin Type

Do I need to use SPF in the UK if I have dark skin?

“The short answer is yes. Damage from the sun on all skin can lead to hyperpigmentation, premature aging and of course skin cancer" warns Dr Fabusiwa. "Individuals with darker skin tones are much more susceptible to hyperpigmentation due to high levels of melanin in the skin which is triggered by UV-radiation from the sun. Although darker skinned individuals can and do still get skin cancer, due to the lack of positive promotion of the importance of wearing SPF and checking for the signs of skin cancer, darker-skinned individuals often have a much later diagnosis of skin cancer and are more likely to get seriously unwell when they are eventually diagnosed.”

Is SPF 25 strong enough if I have dark skin?

“I like to always say that SPF 25 is certainly better than no SPF at all. Although studies show that regular application of at least SPF 30, diligently reapplied it every 2 hours and after you sweat or get into the water is best”

How should I choose an SPF for my skin tone?

“The most important thing to consider is the sun protection factor" reminds Dr Fabusiwa. "Using at least factor 30 should be enough to protect yourself from the sun. After this, you want to consider how the SPF sits and blends into your skin. In general, chemical SPF's are more lightweight and don’t leave behind a ‘white cast’, making them the preferred option for darker skin types. Chemical sunscreens however may be more irritating, especially to those with sensitive, allergy-prone skin. If it is too irritating, this could potentially trigger inflammation and hyperpigmentation in darker skin.”

READ MORE: How To Tackle Hyperpigmentation

Is a moisturiser with SPF insufficient if I have darker skin?

“A moisturiser with SPF is a good start, especially if the alternative is no SPF at all; however you want to make sure that you're using a high enough sun protection factor and reapplying your SPF throughout the day. So try including it under and makeup or invest in a spray-on SPF.”

Does this apply to my body as well as my face?

Yes! Any exposure to the sun should be taken into consideration. “It is true that skin on the body is thicker than the skin on the face, but it under no means does that mean it should go unprotected - so make sure to highly sun-exposed regions of the body that are often forgotten such as the neck, arms and back areas diligently with SPF.”

With so many more options on the market, finding sun protection that works for you doesn't mean having to settle for slathering yourself in a heavy, white cream. From drops to sprays, an invisible layer of protection is obtainable, all the way up to a sensible factor 50+. Shop Dr Ukeleghe's and Team Grazia's highly recommended SPF creams and serums for dark skin tones below, for your safest, sunkissed skin this summer.

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SHOP: The Best SPFs for Dark Skin Tones

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" This is great if you're a newbie to SPF" says Dr Ukeleghe. "It's totally foolproof and completely invisible with a primer-like texture so will be great under makeup. As it's a purely chemical sunscreen, I prefer to wear this on cloudy/colder days as it doesn't give me as much protection as a chemical + physical sunscreen mix"

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"Made by women of colour for women of colour, and can be bought from Candour Beauty, a black owned beauty superstore. Pros: The conscious formulation - Oxybenzone and Octinoxate free. Super nourishing and hydrating ingredients for Normal to Dry Skin"

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This fine mist not only acts as an SPF, offering a broad spectrum with no white residue, but also a make-up setting spray. Although undetectable on dark skin, this broad-spectrum mineral formula is a little thicker so be mindful when near your hairlines.

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This factor 50, This water resistant formula glides on like a dream and leaves a deeply hydrated glow in its wake, thanks to lightweight ingredients like buriti oil. Imperceptible on skin, protecting against both UV and visible light damage, there's no wonder it's won over countless dark skinned fans

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The SPF 50+ sunscreen serum is perfect for people with acne-prone skin who prefer an oil free base. With niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and tea tree, it works to protect skin, while staving off breakouts and UV-induced hyperpigmentation.

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An invisible sunscreen that's great dark skin tones, this has oil-absorbing powders which help to mattify skin. With antioxidant rich vitamins C & E that offset free radical damage, it's a city dweller's dream.

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Oily skin? Dr Ukeleghe has recommends La Roche Posay. "The Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid is the most accessible (and price friendly), sold everywhere from Boots to Look Fantastic. My go to recommendation for those with oily skin, for its matte finish and high protection"

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A mist that comes out as a milk and blends to an oil. If the clever texture doesn't keep you loyal to this SPF, the scent will: think creamy coconut and salty, ocean-fresh skin.

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Dry skin? This Beauty Editor approved formula combines hydrating ingredients such as fortifying volcanic water, with high sun protection. Don't overlook the 'tan enhance' element either: darker skin can also benefit from antioxidant beta-carotene, to minimise pigmentation and boost overall glow.

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This new SPF brand has products to protect everything from your hands to your lips. Our favourite however, is this broad-spectrum, lightweight sunscreen primer hybrid that provides a velvety makeup base, suitable for both dry and oily skin types. "This texture is fantastic like a lightweight serum meets formula. Can be worn alone or mixed in with moisturiser. A super hydrating formula for those with Normal - Dry Skin" recommends Dr Ukeleghe.

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We've been spoiled with various SPF textures over the years, from mousses to waters and milks. This lotion is thicker than its counterparts, but as a result you're assured that skin is getting total, full body protection. As with most of Avène's range, the formula works to mollify fussy, sensitive skin (perfect if you're prone to eczema or other dryness).

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It makes sense that Japanese brand Shiseido would create an excellent SPF: East Asian beauty brands have long taken sun protection seriously. Whilst all SPF needs topping up regularly, Shiseido's offering is especially water and sweat resistant – perfect for melanin-rich skin that tends to have larger sebaceous glands and can therefore, often be oilier.

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Those in the know will appreciate Bondi Sands' SPF (it has the approval of TikTok's most discernible beauty guru, @mikaylanogueira). Lightweight, fluid and without a hint of white cast, this texture melts into skin, leaving a subtle glow behind. For under a tenner, it's one of the high street's best SPF buys to date.

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With many dark-skinned people opting for heat protective styles like knotless braids or canerows during the summer months, it's imperative we protect our scalps. Enter this, a tropically scented mist with its water-resistant chemical, yet reef safe formula. A black braided girl's dream.

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A Grazia beauty team favourite, this refreshing mist is not only a totally transparent formula. but also a high performance SPF for all skin types. Non greasy, non sticky, and fast absorbing, this is a great sunscreen to keep in your bag for an easy spray and go.

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Although technically a moisturiser first, the Hydra Vizor has a built-in broad spectrum, factor 30 sunscreen for a daily dose of protection as part of your usual routine. Pink tinted, but clear on application, it's also available fragrance free for sensitive skin.

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