How To Apply Sunscreen On Dark Skin Tones Without Appearing Ashy

By Ashleigh Cometti
Mineral or physical? Which one is best for those with dark or deep skin tones? Photo / Samiira Wali

This week’s Ask The Beauty Editor sees one reader write in about which sunscreen is best for their skin tone.

Dear Beauty Editor,

I understand the importance of wearing sunscreen daily no matter your skin tone, but I’m really struggling to find one that doesn’t appear ashy or grey on

I’ve tried a few different formulas in recent months, but now that summer is here, I really want to settle on one that I can rely on to wear daily (and that plays nicely with makeup).


Sunscreen Scream Queen

Dear Sunscreen Scream Queen,

I’m really glad to hear that you’re meticulous with your sun care — it’s a commonly held myth that those with dark or deep skin tones are immune to the effects of the sun, when quite the opposite is true.

Skin cancer rates are rife in Aotearoa, with 6000 people diagnosed with melanomas every year.

People with brown, dark brown or black skin have more melanin, or the pigment which gives skin its colour, and helps to protect the skin from the sun by absorbing and distributing UV radiation.

Although this makes them less susceptible to melanoma (think Type V or Type VI on the Fitzpatrick skin type system) the risk of skin cancer remains.

According to the Molemap New Zealand website, those with dark skin can still get sunburned and develop dark spots, melasma, hyperpigmentation or skin cancer, with deadly melanomas more difficult to detect and often identified at a more advanced stage.

Regardless of your skin tone, Molemap recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or higher to protect against harmful UV rays (best practice being SPF50).

A study published in 2019 by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that tinted mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide were the best option for people of colour.

Thankfully the industry is shifting to appeal to a new consumer base, with some brands offering sunscreens geared towards different complexions.

Tinted sunscreens available in a close-to-your-skin-tone shade while still providing high-level sun protection are a safe bet. Look out for brands that couple an SPF formulation in a tinted moisturiser base, which works double duty to help reduce hyperpigmentation if you struggle with uneven skin tone.

Try the Ultra Violette Daydream Screen SPF50 Tinted Veil in the shade V11, $62, which promises buildable, even coverage alongside UVA and UVB protection.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Skin Perfecting Tint in the shade Mahogany, $67, is a three-in-one makeup, skincare and SPF product which highlights contains a non-chemical broad spectrum SPF30 sunscreen to keep skin protected.

Supergoop! Glow Screen SPF40 in the shade Sunset, $70, contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamin B5 to hydrate and nourish skin while it protects.

Invisible sunscreen is an excellent option to sidestep the dreaded white cast or purple tones traditional sunscreens can cause. Instead, these sunscreens contain zinc oxide nanoparticles which apply (almost) clear. They’re not always completely transparent on the darkest skin tones but won’t leave you looking ashy either.

Try the Lancome UV Expert Youth Shield Aqua Gel SPF50, $108, a three-in-one primer, moisturiser and sunscreen which promises an invisible finish on those with a dark skin tone.

Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF30, $140, is an invisible SPF treatment that blurs, protects and primes skin for up to 12 hours of continuous makeup wear.

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