It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that everyone needs sun protection, whatever your skin tone may be. We explore everything there is to know about SPF for dark skin, along with personal favourites from those in the know.
If you grew up in a household with a Black mother, it’s likely she would not let you out of the house unless you did two things. Firstly, you had to take a jacket with you (even in the depths of summer) and secondly, you had to moisturise away any signs of ashy skin on your entire body.
But how often did she stress the importance of SPF? Most likely never. We’ve been brought up to think we don’t need it, thanks to our magnificent melanin. Luckily, times are changing and we’re learning more about our skin. So, we need to move away from the Black skin myth that deeper tones don’t need sun protection.
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It’s fair to say that there is a lack of education on melanomas in darker skin tones. People of colour are often left out of the conversation, meaning we don’t know the risks or the sort of skin changes to look out for.
“I like to educate patients and clients about the need for sun protection from two angles: UVA and UVB,” says Dija Ayodele, founder of Westroom Aesthetics and the Black Skin Directory, who has always been vocal about the need for sun protection on darker skin. “Some skin cancers can even develop in areas not typically exposed to the sun, like toe nails, palms, and the soles of feet.”
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Then, there are the formulas. During a holiday in the Algarve, I bore witness to a few tan-to-darker skinned individuals experiencing mild sunburn on the tips of their noses, eyelids and shoulders. I’m Portuguese, so I’m used to that type of sun exposure – but I still knew to protect myself. However, the one travel-sized bottle I had to hand was terrible. It was so white and I even tried to mix it with my foundation to disguise those grey-blue undertones.
After that, I decided to do some research and rounded up some of my favourite beauty experts to share their go-to SPFs. Here’s what they said.
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Leticia Sophia, celebrity MUA
“I’ve always loved the sun and tanning, but being a make-up artist has made me more aware of how important it is to protect your skin. I absolutely love La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid – it doesn’t leave a white cast (even at factor 50), its texture is super light without feeling oily on the skin, and it’s also perfect as a base before moisturiser and foundation. It’s an essential in both my personal and client make-up kit.”
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid
Shop La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid at Boots, £13.50
Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, medical director at Adonia Medical Clinic
“My skincare non-negotiable is my sunscreen. The one I’m currently using is the Murad City Skin. The formula protects against UVA, UVB and blue light. Plusthey’ve added niacinamide into it as well. It’s a smart, mineral-based sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white-cast on my face which is another total plus for me.”
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50 PA ++++
Shop Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50 PA ++++ at Lookfantastic, £60
Dija Ayodele, aesthetician
Dija had a few recommendations for some go-to SPFs depending on your skin’s needs. We like the sound of Ultrasun’s Face Anti-pigmentation SPF50+:“If you’re tackling pigmentation issues, this will help in the long run. A clever ingredient called ectoin works to quell excess pigmentation. Nice texture, and you can skip moisturiser on this one.”
Ultrasun Face Anti-pigmentation SPF50+
Shop Ultrasun Face Anti-pigmentation SPF50+ at Beauty Bay, £32
Patricia Mamona, athlete
“Because I’m an athlete, I spend a lot of time in my outdoor office. I am not very prone to burning, but long hours in the sun leave my skin feeling dry, plus I know its effects on premature ageing. I love using Rituals’ The Ritual of Karma SPF 50 Face Cream to counteract that. It’s very light on the skin, hydrating, doesn’t feel greasy, no white-cast as you’d expect in an ordinary SPF, so I’m happy to wear it on its own or as a make-up base.”
Rituals The Ritual of Karma SPF 50 Face Cream
Shop Rituals The Ritual of Karma SPF 50 Face Cream at Rituals, £15.50
Bisi Akins, presenter
“When I was out in Portugal as the official presenter for the Afronation festival in 2019, I knew I would have extremely long days in the sun, working on the beach. I had recently started looking at different SPF products and I stumbled across The Body Shop’s Vitamin C Glow-Protect Lotion SPF30. This moisturiser did the job, no white cast, with a little going a long way. I was able to stay protected, stay matte, but still glow. I use it consistently now.”
The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-Protect Lotion SPF30
Shop The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-Protect Lotion SPF30 at The Body Shop, £15
Simran Randhawa, model and journalist
“My go-to SPF has to be Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40*. It’s my absolute favourite because it has no white cast (obviously!), doesn’t smell like sunscreen, and has a really nice texture that gives such a great base for make-up.”
*currently available in the UK with SPF 30.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 30
Shop Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 30 at Cult Beauty, £30
Iman Bokolo, beauty PR
“My favourite SPF is the La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protection. It is on the pricey side of things but I see it as an essential step in my skincare routine. The veil offers SPF 50 to protect my skin against harmful UV rays and also contains an herbal extract blend that helps with brightening which is great to help with my hyperpigmentation. Unlike most SPFs I’ve used, this one doesn’t leave a white cast and aids my skin, which is a bonus.”
La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protection SPF 50
Shop La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protection at Harrods, £170
Uche Natori, content creator
“My SPF pick is The Body Shop’s Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF50 – this stuff is like magic. It has a great formula that’s super lightweight and leaves a wonderful glow on the skin that sits perfectly under make-up or worn on its own. It doesn’t break me out or leave a nasty grey cast, perfect for all my brown/dark-skinned ladies.”
The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion
Shop The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion at The Body Shop, £18
Laura Hector, beauty PR
“From working in beauty PR I’ve been lucky enough to try many beauty and skincare products including sun creams and products that contain SPF. One of my absolute favourites has to be Glossier’s Invisible Shield SPF30, it melts into your skin and also applies smoothly under my skin when I wear makeup without feeling caked or clogging my pores.”
Glossier Invisible Shield SPF30
Shop Glossier Invisible Shield SPF30 at Glossier, £20
Sheilla Mamona, journalist
“This is my favourite spray-on SPF. It’s incredibly moisturising and sets as an oil, giving you a really healthy, glowy finish. Although it’s designed to be a ‘spray and go’, I prefer rubbing it into the skin, for an even finish. All in all, this one is a winner.”
Bioderma Photoderm Hand-Free Transparent Sunscreen Mist SPF50+
Shop Bioderma Photoderm Hand-Free Transparent Sunscreen Mist SPF50+ at Feelunique, £15.20
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