“Dark skin does have built-in SPF,” Dr. Amy Wechsler, a NYC-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology, told Consumer Reports. What that means for richer complexions is that though you may not have to worry about turning embarrassingly pink (complete with the you-should-have-known-better looks from friends and strangers), you’re not totally in the safe zone when it comes to deeper skin-rooted issues.
Deeper skin tones are due to a higher production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its shade. The more melanin present, the fewer UV rays are able to penetrate the skin. A National Cancer Institute study proved that medium-dark skin filters out about twice as much ultraviolet radiation as lighter tones.
While that news is definitely a reason to celebrate for you (perhaps poolside, with a cocktail), hang on to your sun hats. Higher melanin levels are not enough protection to prevent photo-aging or skin cancer. It’s absolutely imperative to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 for all skin types and tones. Also, daily sunscreen prevents hyperpigmented areas of skin, or dark spots, from becoming darker, allowing for a more even skin tone overall, which is every girl’s #goals.
Another note to consider is that while the deepest skin tones may be harder to burn and not show the immediate effects of sun damage via redness, one can still feel the burn after long periods of intensive sun exposure. Ouch. The peel is still real, and the drying effects you may notice today are the wrinkles of tomorrow.
Now, you might be overwhelmed by the number of sunscreens on the market. Basically, they can be broken down into two categories: mineral (the more natural option) and chemical (a synthetic medley). Both of them work by scattering the sun’s harmful rays. Here are a few reasons why we think you should take the more natural route.
Mineral sunscreens are easy to spot. They will have one or both of these two active ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They work as a physical barrier on top of the skin, whereas chemical sunscreens, typically indicated by the ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone, have to be absorbed by your skin. Despite being approved by the FDA, these chemicals should not be slipping into your bloodstream via the dermis on the daily.
These synthetic compounds can irritate the skin and make your eyes burn if you sweat or swim and it runs in your face, cause swelling and redness, just to name a few immediate reactions. One more hidden but in our opinion huge problem with synthetic sunscreens is that these chemicals may even cause skin to oxidize, which means they turn into free radicals—which are being absorbed into your skin and reapplied on a regular basis. AKA the opposite of all that antioxidant work you put into your skincare routine. Yikes.
According to this study by the EWG, synthetic sunscreens can also mimic hormones in both men and women, resulting in an imbalance that can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. Those common chemicals found in synthetic sunscreens have been found in breast milk and urine samples, and pose risks to babies in utero when the mothers use or inhale them. These same chemicals are damaging not only our willing bodies, but the incredible coral reefs. The reefs didn’t ask for this.
So, while we never miss a chance to sprawl poolside or at the beach like it’s our birthday, mineral sunscreens are key to playing it safe, both for ourselves and the environment. The bottom line is while some of us may be safer from the unfailingly annoying, Captain Obvious exclamations of your friends, e.g. “You’re so red!”, none of us are impervious to possibly accelerating the signs of aging. So block up earth-consciously, and shop a few of our faves below.
Sheer Zinc Spray Sunscreen SPF 30
This super-even mist goes on sheer, even though it’s a natural zinc formula, so it won’t leave a chalky white film. It’s light and easy to reapply. It’s perfect for all-over bod application for outdoor activities.
Mineral Sunscreen Cream for Face and Body
With only five ingredients, you can trust this organic and fair-trade product to do what you ask of it, and nothing more (ahem, like altering your hormones or damaging endangered wildlife). It’s definitely an all-natural favorite.
Pot of Shade Heliotropic Treatment Primer SPF 30
It’s natural, but still translucent, and multifunctional with its botanical-packed ingredients. Antioxidants treat UV-exposed skin, while zinc oxide protects. Sweet iris stem cells help plump the skin and create a glowy, even surface—the perfect, protective primer step before makeup.
Face + Body Natural Sunscreen
Top-rated by the EWG, this formula is perfect for all over the body as well as the face. It’s ideal for an active lifestyle, as the clean formula doesn’t run or sting your eyes. It’s reef-safe, so you can ride this wave guilt-free.
Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30
This lightweight, topshelf cream is the perfect last step to your morning skincare regimen. It protects without any added weight, is a great base for makeup, and evens skin tone of darker spots or redness. It’s detoxifying, anti-aging, brightening, calming, and great for acne-prone skin with its nutrient-packed ingredient list.
Sport Mineral Sun Stick
Super-moisturizing with coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa seed butter, this convenient stick is the perfect toss-in-your-bag-and-go product. It’s perfect for touchups, and sweet orange oil gives it an energizing scent.
Everyday Coverage Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
Feather-light matte coverage that stays put all day with natural zinc oxide. It only comes in three shades, but the shades are adaptable to a wide range of skin tones. It blends well with other moisturizers and is a great green-beauty grab for a light and natural summer look.
SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen
Goddess Garden Organics
While this physical barrier makes itself apparent by its color, it simply asks that if it goes on white, keep rubbing. Once it’s properly applied to the skin, the sheen should be minimal, and you’ll know you’re completely protected. It’s perfect for swimming and an active lifestyle.