The Black Girl’s Guide to SPF (Plus, the 7 Best Options to Get You Started)

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Cleanse. Tone. Exfoliate. We’ve heard all about the importance of a complete skincare routine. However, the majority of Black women, myself included, skip one of the most critical steps—protecting our skin from harmful environmental factors with the use of some good ol’ sunscreen.

According to the CDC, less than 30 percent of American women regularly protect their faces from the sun. And the number for Black women in particular? Even lower—over 61 percent of individuals surveyed admitted to never wearing sunscreen at all. But, it may surprise you to learn that this is not just a coincidence amongst the Black community. Thanks to Fitzpatrick skin typing, a scientific classification system, we know that women with melanin in their skin have a stronger defense to the sun’s damage. However, when the classification system was popularized in the 70s, the Black community interpreted that their skin was insusceptible to UV rays, a common misconception that lives on today.

The good news is that people with darker skin tones do in fact have a natural sun protection factor of 13, thanks to their skin’s natural production of melanin. But since dermatologists recommend a daily SPF of 30 or higher, a layer of sunscreen is non-negotiable. Still, there are many people of color who forego using it simply because of one important fact: Sunscreen makes us look ashy as hell.

So, I turned to social media to gather honest feedback from Black women on the best sunscreen products for our skin. I asked beauty editors, skincare influencers, and regular everyday women for their takes, then tested them out myself to create this Black-girl friendly guide to glowing, healthy and protected skin.

the black girls guide to spf blacks girl sunscreen
Angie Martinez-Tejada

1. Black Girl’s Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 30 

I first came across Black Girl Sunscreen while on a product restock trip a few months ago. As I searched the aisles, a store associate approached me and recommended the brand, but quickly informed me that it wasn’t sold at that particular retailer. When half of my Instagram followers suggested Black Girl Sunscreen for this story, I knew that I finally had to try it out.

When I did, I instantly understood everyone’s obsession with it. You can tell that the founder, Shontay Lundy, created it to eliminate the stress associated with wearing sunscreen while Black.

It’s lightweight but not watery, and leaves no cast whatsoever. In fact, instead of an ashy appearance, Black Girl Sunscreen actually gives your skin a healthy-looking glow upon application. Who would’ve thought such a product existed? Free of irritant chemicals like fragrance and parabens, the tube comes packaged in a vanity-worth bottle and is available at Target. This is truly the Black girl’s sunscreen.

the black girls guide to spf supergoop superscreen
Angie Martinez-Tejada

2. Supergoop Superscreen Daily Moisturizer Spf 40

The Superscreen moisturizer is a fragrance-free hydrating cream that’s lightweight, yet noticeably nourishing. It applies to the skin smoothly, while invigorating it with nutrient-rich ingredients like blue-green algae and cerium to hydrate, nourish, and protect your skin.

Although cerium is a rare mineral and the main culprit for that dreaded white cast, this formula contains just the right amount to protect your skin from blue-light rays while remaining virtually undetectable on your face. And, with an SPF of 40, it’s definitely a worthy contender in your skincare arsenal.

the black girls guide to spf supergoop unseen
Angie Martinez-Tejada

3. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen Spf 40

The hundreds of raving reviews about SuperGoop’s Unseen Sunscreen had me itching to see what the hype was all about. Despite its name, the Unseen Sunscreen is actually more of a primer than it is a moisturizer. This makes it really great for layering under your daytime look by setting your make-up while providing a whopping SPF of 40.

Like most primers, the Unseen Sunscreen is slightly mattifying. This was a pleasant surprise to me since many SPF products tend to make me look a bit shiny. So, if you’re a makeup enthusiast with normal to oily skin, definitely try this one out.

the black girls guide to spf drunk elephant umbra tinted
Angie Martinez-Tejada

4. Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense Spf 30

If your skin is more on the sensitive side, this daily sunscreen is definitely worth a shot. Drunk Elephant specializes in high-quality, clean ingredients that naturally rejuvenate your skin. The product smoothly glided onto my face, unlike many other sunscreens which tend to require you to have to work the product into your skin.

Delivering moisture, color, and sun-protection, the Umbra Tint SPF is truly a triple threat. It's almost as though the formulators created this tinted version to cater to us melanated gals. I love how it seamlessly blends with my skin tone, but these results may vary depending on your range.

the black girls guide to spf drunk elephant
Angie Martinez-Tejada

5. Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer™ Physical Daily Defense Spf 30

The Umbra Sheer version boasts the same incredible benefits as the Umbra Tinte, but without the added color. I tested it out while in the Dominican Republic, so the mini version that’s included in the travel size pack was perfect for on-the-go protection.

While my skin definitely felt protected, I’ll admit that it did leave behind a pretty visible white cast on my face. At one point, my mom said, “you look like you’re at the beach,” so I’d say this is a good option for the ladies with lighter skin tones.

the black girls guide to spf urban skin rx
Angie Martinez-Tejada

6. Urban Skin Rx Complexion Protection Moisturizer Spf 30

Before embarking on this quest for the perfect sunscreen, Urban Skin Rx was my brand of choice when it came to sunscreen. While the consistency isn’t as thick as I’d prefer (I usually need two pumps for full coverage), I was immediately sold on the product when I noticed how undetectable it really is. On some days, I would even forget that I had it on.

At first, I was a little hesitant about the price point considering the fact that each bottle contains just 1.7 fluid oz and I had to use twice as much—but at $20, I’d say it’s worth having on reorder.

the black girls guide to spf joanna vargas
Angie Martinez-Tejada

7. Joanna Vargas Daily Hydrating Cream

Even though it isn’t explicitly branded as an SPF product, this moisturizer is formulated with super ingredients like Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide to naturally protect the skin’s barrier from the sun.

I was eager to test out its efficacy since it was created by a celebrity facialist and skincare expert. The first thing that stood out to me was its subtle fragrance. While really pleasant to my senses, this could pose a threat to sensitive skin. As for sheerness, I have to admit that it does go on clear! You could barely see any white residue leftover, which is always a plus for Black girls.

Several reviews revealed that the product tends to peel and I can confirm that this is true. I found myself having to wipe my face midday to eliminate the flakiness, but this wasn’t a huge deal breaker for me since I can just swap it out as a nighttime moisturizer. It provided intense hydration which I love, and since it isn’t technically an SPF product, I’ll be adding this to my lineup when the cooler months roll around.

The days of skipping sunscreen are over; but as we know, not all SPF is created equal. When preparing for your next skincare haul, make sure to do your research, ask questions, and read reviews so that you know exactly what to look for when it’s time to add to cart.