Throughout the years, sunscreens have evolved to meet the public’s needs. These innovations have included improved protection from sunburn and skin aging, as well as specific formulas to protect people with sensitive skin and make sunscreens easier to apply. However, until now, many sunscreens left a noticeable white film on the skin that discouraged some people from using them. New developments in sunscreen have now addressed this issue so your sunscreen can now match your skin tone and provide needed sun protection.
“We know that the lighter a person’s skin, the higher their risk for skin cancer,” says board-certified dermatologist Henry W. Lim, MD, FAAD, former chair of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “While people with darker skin have a lower risk for skin cancer, it can still develop. However, what we are learning is that the darker your skin tone, the higher your risk that UV rays and visible light from the sun will cause dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, on your skin. This is because darker skin has different types of melanin—the pigment produced by cells that give skin its color—than those with lighter skin. For that reason, we recommend sun protection for everyone.”
The recent development of tinted sunscreens provides people of all skin tones with sun protection that will blend well with their natural skin tone. Broad-spectrum, water-resistant, tinted sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher will provide protection from both ultraviolet rays and visible light from the sun.
UV rays from the sun cause the skin to tan, which is a sign of skin damage. Dr. Lim notes that new research shows visible light from the sun can cause skin darkening in people with darker skin, but not in people with lighter skin.
“By tailoring the sunscreen formulations to an individual’s skin tone, people are more likely to protect themselves from the sun, therefore reducing their risk of skin cancer,” said Dr. Lim. He recommends using a tinted sunscreen that contains iron oxides since they increase the protection against visible light and ultraviolet A radiation. It should be noted that iron oxides are listed under “inactive ingredients”.
In addition, Dr. Lim encourages the public to select the appropriate tinted sunscreen shade, which will depend on an individual’s skin tone and undertone. The skin undertone refers to the hue underneath the surface of the skin, which affects the overall skin appearance. To find the tinted sunscreen that best matches your skin tone, both skin tone and undertone should be considered. In general, tinted sunscreens with “universal shade” are suitable for most skin tones.
Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and indoor tanning beds is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. In addition to seeking shade and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing the following to protect yourself from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer:
- Lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and pants. It’s important to cover up as much of your skin as possible when spending time outdoors.
- Sunglasses with UV protection. Sunglasses are an important part of your sun-protective wardrobe. When purchasing sunglasses, always look for lenses that offer UV protection.
- A wide-brimmed hat. A hat is a simple and effective way to cover up your face and neck.
- Shoes that cover your feet. However, if you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops or going barefoot, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.
“Having an active, outdoor lifestyle has many benefits,” says Dr. Lim. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors, while protecting themselves from the sun’s dangerous UV rays. For exposed areas of the skin, consider using a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or higher, sunscreen, and for those with darker skin, tinted sunscreens should be considered. When outdoors, be sure to reapply every two hours. If you have any questions about the right sun protection for you, ask a board-certified dermatologist.”
To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.