That's because the newest generation of sunscreens don’t leave a white cast, feel greasy, or include counter-intuitive photosensitizers. Plus, they’re reef-safe. And available at every price point. They don't even have to smell like sunscreen, if you don't want 'em to. [Excuses have left the chat.] ITG has recommended a lot of SPFs over the years (white cast-free mineral ones, totally clear ones, ones for oily skin, and creamy, moisturizing ones), but this summer, you’ve got even more options to explore.
(A quick note before we get going: Many sunscreens that work on my complexion can leave a grayish tint on those with darker skin. In this article, I’ve only recommended sunscreens that, in addition to passing my tests for wear and ingredients, have been approved by independent BIPOC reviewers, particularly on YouTube, several times over. I hope this will help readers of all skin tones feel confident in trying a new, potentially life-changing SPF. Now, let’s get to it!)
Versed Guards Up
The fast facts: a mineral sunscreen with SPF 35 that’ll cost you $22 (about $13 per oz.)
A no-brainer for everyday use because it’s easy to blend in, un-sticky, and doesn’t have that sunscreen-y smell. This is the sunscreen I gifted my grandpa, a sunscreen-averse septuagenarian with a history of skin cancer. He likes it because it doesn’t sting if it gets into his eyes, and I especially love that it comes fortified with antioxidants to boost UV protection. Plus, it’s available at Target. Like I said—a no-brainer. Guards Up comes out of the tube with a peachy tint that, after a quick blending and two to three minutes of just letting it be, totally disappears. It leaves more of a skin-finish than the other sunscreens on this list—not dewy, not matte, just somewhere in the flattering in-between. It’s a good, not too shiny mineral option for those with oily skin.
Eleven by Venus Williams On-The-Defense
The fast facts: an SPF 30 mineral sunscreen that, at $42, is on the pricier end (about $22 per oz.)
Considering how many hours Venus has spent training in hot Florida sun, and on the courts all over the world, I think she knows a thing or two about SPF. Her new sunscreen duo consists of a mineral-only SPF serum and cream, the latter of which I prefer. It’s quite rich, and totally replaces my daily moisturizer (a one-and-done swap out I appreciate). Actually, it’s the most like a full-on skin treatment out of any other sunscreens on this list: notable ingredients include a whopping 25-percent non-nano zinc oxide, fatty acids, and skin-friendly saccharomyces ferment. It leaves a healthy, dewy glow that makes me want to forgo makeup altogether. I’ll be taking this one with me into winter.
Black Girl Sunscreen
The fast facts: a chemical sunscreen with SPF 30 that’s priced at $19 (about $6 per oz.)
As a responsible reviewer, I should let you know that this sunscreen is currently on backorder. But as a Black Girl Sunscreen enthusiast, I can only recommend that you go ahead and place that order anyway and sit tight. It’s worth the wait! On first squirt, BGS looks (and smells) like a traditional sunscreen. Rub it in, and two things happen: the whiteness totally disappears, and you start to feel a sensation like a burst of water. If I had my eyes closed, I don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference between this stuff and a gel cream. The hydrated, dewy glow lasts all day without veering towards greasy territory. Aside from all that, you’ll be getting a really good deal, price-wise. If you’re not waiting for its delivery, what are you waiting for?
Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen
The fast facts: a mineral sunscreen with SPF 30 for $30 (about $18 per oz.)
Biossance is arguably as synonymous with squalane as Josie Maran is with argan oil, and their sunscreen is no exception. Squalane, a lightweight oil that mimics your skin’s natural sebum, plus water lends this sunscreen a breathable, hydrating texture that wouldn’t be notable at all if it were a chemical sunscreen… but it isn’t. I have never used a mineral sunscreen that feels so much like a gel without being clumpy or powdery. (Chemical sunscreen lovers who’ve wanted to reap the skin soothing benefits of zinc, start here.) Some YouTubers have found that it does leave a veeeery very slight blue tint on dark skin—most people seem to be OK with it, and it does diminish after a few minutes of settling in, but still something to note.
Krave The Beet Shield
The fast facts: a chemical sunscreen for $20 (about $12 per oz.) with an SPF that’s… kind of a funny story
“Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” whispers The Beet Shield to the FDA, probably. That’s because, technically, The Beet Shield can’t be marketed as a sunscreen in the US. The brand’s South Korean founder Liah Yoo formulated it with advanced sun filters that, while widely tested and commonplace in Asia, haven’t yet been approved for use by the FDA. While they wait, the brand chose to re-name their Beet The Sun SPF 50 to The Beet Shield, and sell the exact same formulation without the SPF label. (Krave explains their marketing decision here, and chemist Labmuffin has another explainer on her blog.) If every chemical sunscreen you’ve tried in the past broke you out, you may want to give this one a try. It leaves no white cast and feels watery, and for a brief moment has the nostalgic scent of Elmer’s glue. Plus, the extra antioxidants help protect against environmental stress like pollution and HEV light. It’s an internet favorite.
Habit N°41 Mister
The fast facts: a $30 (about $33 per oz.) chemical sunscreen mist with SPF 41
It’s essentially impossible to translate the half teaspoon of sunscreen you really should be using on your face to a mist. What I really like about this one, from Habit, is that the brand takes the liberty of instructing users to use a healthy seven pumps to adequately protect your face. Without that instruction, how many would you have used? Two? Three? And I know it works, because when I took it out for a spin a few weeks ago, I guess I missed a spot because a little corner of my forehead got burnt while the rest of my face stayed protected. I’m still not sure if this will replace my regular sunscreen use, but I can tell you that it’s invaluable for reapplication and for covering those areas (namely, my scalp) where I’ll never use a cream.
Paula’s Choice Resist Super Light Wrinkle Defense
The fast facts: a mineral sunscreen with SPF 30 that runs for $33 a bottle ($16.50 per oz.)
Just because this sunscreen is called “Wrinkle Defense” doesn’t mean it’s made for mature skin—actually, mature skin tends to be dry, and this sunscreen is best suited for skin that’s on the oily side. Though it feels creamy coming out of the tube, it dries down to a unique velvety matte finish that’s good for keeping shine at bay throughout the day. And all the extra antioxidants (resveratrol, EGCG, vitamin E, microalgae, and pomegranate extract, to name a few) make this sunscreen preventative skincare at its best.
Everyday Humans Resting Beach Face
The fast facts: an SPF 30 chemical sunscreen for $24 (about $14 per oz.)
Do you like your skincare to multitask? Cool, me too—which is why, on my laziest summer days, it’s easy to reach for Everyday Humans’ Resting Beach Face. It’s packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid, antioxidant and caffeine rich green tea, and alteromonas ferment extract, a potent skin-soother that’s also found in Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Anti-Pollution Drops. It feels hydrating (but not sticky) on skin and blends in easily—actually, Everyday Humans recommends squirting some on a makeup sponge and gently dabbing it on for reapplication throughout the day. The brand is only seven weeks old (a wee babe!) and its serum-sunscreen hybrid has already become a cult classic.
Photo via ITG