Tinted Sunscreen : How to choose the right one

Tinted Sunscreens Dr Erum Ilyas recommendations for NBC News

June 29, 2021

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What exactly is tinted sunscreen? 

Tinted sunscreens are essentially sunscreen products with a color tint to mask the whitish residue that sunscreens can leave on the skin. By adding pigments to the product, the intent is to make the sunscreen more cosmetically elegant to apply and enhance compliance.  It also permits a product to “multitask” by providing sunscreen, hydration and evening out the appearance of skin tone.

How functional is tinted sunscreen? 

Tinted sunscreens are often considered in the category of BB creams and/or CC creams.  These are intended to be all purpose creams that provide a little bit of everything- color correction, hydration and SPF. This makes tinted sunscreens very functional. 

Does it offer the same sun protection benefits as untinted SPF? 

SPF is a standardized measure that is a regulated claim by the FDA.  SPF is not a marketing term, it has substance.  If a tinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30 and an untinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30, then these products offer the same sun protection benefits.

What are the pros and cons of tinted sunscreen?

The pros of tinted sunscreen is that it is far more cosmetically elegant to apply which can enhance compliance with sunscreen use, especially in skin of color, tan skin or self-tanned skin.  Tinted sunscreens multitask with color correction also potentially reducing the number of products needed.
The con of tinted sunscreen is that it is ideally suited for facial use.  Although I have several patients that use these on their body, especially my elderly patients looking to cover the appearance of sun damage and easy bruising on their arms, the reality is that the pigment does have the potential to rub off on clothing.  

Who would benefit from using a tinted SPF? 

There are a number of “complaints” my patients have about sunscreen products. Somewhere close to the top of this list is that they simply do not like the way sunscreens make their skin look. Those that find the appearance of untinted sunscreens unacceptable or that avoid mineral sunscreens due to the white cast would benefit from consideration to a tinted SPF.

Who could probably skip using a tinted sunscreen? 

If the appearance of sunscreen does not seem to phase you or if you are not one to use makeup or color correcting products, there really is no need for a tinted sunscreen.  The other group of patients I have that I recommend the use of untinted sunscreen products to are those that need the visual cue of their sunscreen as a reminder to reapply if they spend long hours in the sun, especially if they sweat or swim.  The whitish cast can serve a role in reassurance that the sunblock is on and likely active.  The fading of the cast serves as a reminder to reapply.

Overall, how do you recommend readers shop for tinted sunscreen? 

The best way to shop for a tinted sunscreen is to consider the type of coverage you are seeking.  If it is simply to mask the whitish cast, choosing a product with a hint of tint that can be somewhat universal is very reasonable.  If your goal is sunscreen plus color correction, consider a brand with a wide range of tints and find one best suited for your skin tone.

Tell us about your favorite tinted sunscreens and why you like them. 

Tinted sunscreens are ideal in that the hint of tint provided makes these products much more cosmetically elegant to apply while still affording the potential option of a physical sunscreen ingredient such as Titanium and/or Zinc.

If you are a seeking a product that has a hint of tint that can complement most skin types, our AmberSkinCare by AmberNoon Tinted Mineral Sunscreen is a great starting point.  It's hint of tint formulation allows most users to avoid the harsh white residue of mineral sunscreen.
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My go to recommendation for my patients seeking pigment matched coverage is Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue.  The wide range of tints to choose from and, most importantly, the fact that Titanium is the active sunscreen ingredient make it my favorite option.
I also point out to my patients that although there are many brands that attempt or claim to have products for all skin tones, I can honestly say that pre-COVID I spent time walking through every aisle of Ulta and Sephora trying every shade and can almost never find a shade that matches my skin tone.  As a person of South Asian descent there are clearly many people with the same issue.  Bare minerals is the only brand that truly has shades for most skin tones.




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