Plus, how to apply tinted sunscreen the ~right way~.

By Maggie O'Neill
July 15, 2020
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Wearing sunscreen is a must, but it can be tempting to skip that step of your morning routine if the kind you’re putting on washes you out or leaves an annoying white cast behind. Enter: Tinted sunscreen, which offers the same great protection, but blends in more naturally.

Tinted sunscreen is just as safe and effective as other types of SPF, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Tint is typically added to mineral sunscreens because the ingredients of mineral sunscreens, zinc and titanium, have a tendency to cast a white or ghostly appearance to skin,” she explains.

It works similarly to makeup with built-in SPF. However, if you tend to stick with a light layer of makeup, you might be better served by tinted sunscreen: “The major difference between the makeup and sunscreen products is the consistency and application process—most people do not apply their makeup in a thick-enough amount to achieve the SPF level,” notes Dr. Nazarian.

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On that note, it’s important to make sure that, if you do use tinted sunscreen, you put enough on. “It may look like makeup, but it is sunscreen and should be applied like regular sunscreen,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He recommends using a quarter-sized dollop to cover your face, and reapplying every two hours—like you would with normal sunscreen.

Another plus: Tinted sunscreen won’t bother you if you have sensitive skin, points out Dr. Nazarian. “Tinted sunscreens are oftentimes even safer for people with sensitive skin because the addition of tint is typically to offset the zinc and titanium; zinc and titanium are ideal ingredients to use for sunscreen in people that have sensitive skin because they are much less-likely to irritate than the traditional chemical sunscreens,” she explains. “If you have sensitive skin, stick to tinted mineral formulas as opposed to those that contain chemical sunscreen ingredients,” Dr. Zeichner adds. That said, the only real danger associated with tinted sunscreen is an allergy to the tint itself, which Dr. Nazarian says is “highly unlikely.”

If you find yourself stuck in the sunscreen aisle trying to pick the best tinted option, Dr. Nazarian suggests looking for one that will moisturize. “I find that tinted sunscreens are even more cosmetically appealing when the sunscreen itself has a hydrating base, with moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides,” she says. These allow the product to smoothly blend into the skin, and they will improve your skin with continued use, Dr. Nazarian adds. Something else to watch for is how much zinc oxide is in the formula you’re considering. “My biggest tip is to look for the highest concentration of zinc oxide in the product because that gives you the best protection,” advises Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York-based dermatologist.

Ready to swap your chalky-white sunscreen for something a bit more natural-looking? Ahead, 10 popular tinted sunscreen options—and reasons why derms and users are obsessed with them.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer SPF 40

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This tinted sunscreen is free of fragrance and parabens, and also contains two potent ingredients—zinc oxide and hyaluronic acid—to protect and moisturize skin. But the major selling point is that it’s super lightweight, Dr. Nazarian says. “It doesn’t feel greasy or too occlusive,” she adds. The formula is best suited for people with lighter skin tones and those prone to rosacea and other sensitive skin conditions, she adds.

Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face Mineral Lotion SPF 50

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Hypoallergenic and made without reef-harming oxybenzone, this water-resistant, mineral sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and includes vitamins and antioxidants that calm sensitive skin, says Dr. Nazarian. Additionally, it feels good: “With an SPF of 50, you’d expect it to feel really heavy, but it applies matte, not shiny or oily,” she notes.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen SPF 50

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Derms love this pick, which combines titanium dioxide and antioxidants for prevent sunburns and premature skin aging. Dr. Zeichner is a fan of the unique fluid formula and super light consistency, while Dr. Nazarian likes it for its quick absorption (it also dries matte and won't leave you shiny). Additionally, it works for many different skin tones, points out Dr. Nazarian.

CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30

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This tinted sunscreen is a favorite of Dr. Nazarian’s. She recommends it often to her patients, in part because it “improves the hydration of the skin with each use," thanks to nourishing ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which help to restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture. This option is good for people with sensitive, dry, or acne-prone skin, she adds.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Glow Sheers SPF 30

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Dr. Zeichner recommends this one because it comes in so many adaptable shades. Other benefits include its light consistency and broad-spectrum protection, he adds. Plus, the non-greasy formula is packed with anti-aging vitamin C and vitamin E to block skin from free radical damage.

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Face Lotion

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“This all-mineral sunscreen is ultra gentle on the skin,” Dr. Zeichner says. The lightweight formula is a go-to for Health's senior editor, Susan Brickell, since it's free of harsh chemicals (read: no reef-damaging oxybenzone), has a decadent, whipped-like texture that doesn't feel like your average oily sunscreen, and provides a natural-looking matte finish.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinted Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

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This antioxidant-packed tinted sunscreen moisturizes and provides broad-spectrum protection, making it perfect for all your outdoor activities. It’s also 20% zinc oxide. (Remember: The more zinc oxide a sunscreen includes, the better protected you’ll be.) One reviewer commented on how well it evened skin without making her look ghost-like: "Really good at evening out skin discoloration and provides a nice coverage from the sun. Would definitely recommend to someone trying to avoid the white casts that some sunscreens leave."

CoTz Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40

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One Amazon shopper referred to the purchase of this sunscreen as their "best decision ever," adding that it didn't leave white residue behind or leave her face shiny or oily. It's also a smart choice for those with sensitive skin—since it has no chemical sunscreen ingredients—and the water-resistant formula provides broad-spectrum protection, which is ideal for sweaty outdoor workouts or afternoons by the pool.

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

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While it might be a splurge ($66 for the large bottle), this tinted option comes from dermatologist-loved brand SkinCeuticals—so you know it must be good. It contains zinc oxide to offer broad-spectrum protection, and yet goes on sheer for natural-looking coverage. Even better: You can swim for up to 40 minutes without needing to reapply this water-resistant sunscreen.

Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution Sunscreen Multi-Protection Tint SPF 50

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Multiple Sephora reviewers claim that this tinted sunscreen makes their skin glow. Additionally, they praise it for its scent, non-oily finish, and, most importantly, because it doesn't leave their face looking chalky. Perfect for city-dwellers, it does double duty, protecting your face from harmful pollutants and the sun’s harmful rays, and works to even skin tone and help prevent dark spots.

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