The 4 Best Facial Sunscreens For Dark Skin

Don't be basic about the way you protect your pretty face from gnarly UV rays.
Publish date:
May 30, 2014
neutrogena, spf, sunscreen, skincare, beach, dark skin, Kate Somerville, SPF 30, SPF 50, sunblock

Do I love summertime? No. I do not. Mostly because I strongly dislike being hot. But warmer temperatures do bring up some pretty sweet memories.

Like a lot of kids, I spent many a summer at YMCA camp. My 7-year-old self would tell you it was the best thing ever.

I loved the stupid-elaborate tag games they made us play, the weird songs we’d sing on the bus, and the field trips to just about every museum in the Bay Area. But it was the counselors that I loved most of all.

I have no idea what their ages were--as a kid, anyone left in charge of you is old--but all of the girls had full early '90s hair and serious tans. They smelled like sunscreen and cherry Chap Stick and they were the most glamorous beings I'd ever seen. I wanted to be just like them!

Weirdly, the thing about those girls that was most exotic to me was their sunscreen. Like most little black girls in the '80s and '90s, I was always told that I didn’t need sunscreen. We never kept it in our house.

It is true that black skin produces a natural SPF of 13.4, according to physicians at the Skin Cancer Foundation. (White skin has a natural SPF of 3.4.) But this is not to say that black skin can't burn, or worse, get skin cancer.

Just in case I haven't been clear, let me say this again, plainly.


I learned this the hard way, by getting a gnarly a face sunburn during a Y-Camp beach trip. My nose was all scaly and peel-y and sensitive to the touch.

After that, my mom sent me out with some mystery sunblock that came in a brown tub and smelled like medicine. This was NOT the sunscreen that my glamazon counselors were using, and the second I got the chance I bought myself some delicious-smelling Coppertone. That was it. Lifelong obsession cemented.

Today, I still use Coppertone on my body at the beach, but facial sunscreen is a whole different ballgame. I've spent way too many years (and dollars) on skincare to let some basic sunscreen gum up the works!

Personally, I look for a facial sunscreen with SPF 30, a light formula that doesn't interfere with all of the other business I put on my face every day, zero parabens, and (obviously) no white residue.

After many years of trial and error, here are my favorite facial sunscreens for dark skin.

Kate Somerville Daily Deflector Moisturizer (SPF 50+)When I first started using this stuff it was called Serum Sunscreen; that's why I was drawn to it. It's oil-free and light in texture so it plays well with my regular moisturizer. It’s not cheap, but it really works and it doesn’t have a strong scent. They recently reformulated the product to add in some wrinkle-reducing ingredients, as well a shiitake mushroom-derived skin tightener. All of the Kate Somerville products that I’ve tried have a really nice texture and work well on my sensitive skin.

Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth (SPF 50+)I’m a big fan of Ole Henriksen products for the simple fact that they actually do as they claim. This makes my skin truly radiant without any irritation. Sure, it's a litter heavier than my other fave facial sunscreens, but it's still fine to wear under my regular moisturizer. Plus, it's heavy for good reason. It's got micro-algae (for collagen production) and Vitamins A, C, and E. The only thing I don't love is the scent, but that's a personal thing because I don't like the smell of citrus.

Coola Classic Sunscreen (SPF 30)This is the most recent addition to my product arsenal, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite. The formula is super lightweight and contains soothing evening primrose and linseed oils. I use the clean and refreshing cucumber scent. I put it on in the morning and my skin just wakes up! There's also an unscented version for all y’all fragrance-free folks.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen (SPF 30)If you can't wrap your brain around paying $30+ for sunscreen, then I'd point you to Neutrogena. They're not paraben-free (which maybe doesn't matter to you), but they meet all of the other requirements on my sunscreen list. I’ve only used the SPF 30, but the Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen comes in SPF 45, 55, 70, 85, and 100+. It's also non-comedogenic, so it doesn't turn me into a grease monster when I layer it over my normal moisturizer. I don't use this every day, but it's $10 and it performs great in a pinch.

There you have it! Four facial sunscreens for dark skin with zero white residue. Never again do I want to hear, "Sunscreen makes me look ashy." That's no excuse for putting your skin at risk.

Black may not crack, but everybody burns. Be smart out there this summer and protect your mug--it’s the only one you’ve got!