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In the realm of skin care products to prioritize, SPF trounces the rest. And luckily for all of us, the days of a sunscreen residue white cast could very well be behind us, thanks to the burgeoning tinted sunscreens category. A tinted sunscreen provides far more benefits than just sun protection; the color base helps to even out skin tone and imparts a dewy (not greasy) finish.
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It’s true, all the amazing lotions and potions that we use won’t do much to promote healthy skin without good sun protection. “Sun damage, aging, and skin cancer are never on vacation, so your SPF routine shouldn’t be either,” says Beverly Hills dermatologist, Dr. Ava Shamban.
It’s important to have a sunscreen wardrobe that suits your needs for all four seasons. “Our skin knows no difference between hot and cold temperatures, and UV light comes through on cloudy or overcast days,” explains Birmingham-based dermatologist, Dr. Corey L. Hartman. We are all at risk for developing skin cancer, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, cases of melanoma have doubled in the past 25 to 30 years. Daily sunscreen use is our first line of defense against it.
SPF ingredients work two different ways: Chemical sunscreens absorb UVA and UVB rays to prevent damage, while mineral sunscreens (which are great for sensitive skin) sit on top of the dermis to physically prevent rays from hitting the outermost layer of our skin, says Dr. Shamban. You can find tinted sunscreens with both kinds of coverage, and these pigmented formulas are a savvy option for steamy days. Although they won’t provide as much color or coverage as a face tanner would, they will still even out your tone and provide great sun protection.
Tinted vs. Untinted Sunscreens
The fundamental difference between tinted and untinted sunscreens comes down to color. Untinted formulas are typically a shade of white, whereas tinted sunscreens incorporate pigments to cover blemishes and feel more like makeup. Both are effective, and one isn’t better than the other. However, tinted sunscreens can provide another layer of protection, depending on the ingredients. Tinted options that contain iron oxides help shield our skin from blue light emitted by the screen you’re likely reading right now. Plus, the tint makes mineral formulas (which, historically, feel chalky and are hard to blend in) simpatico with all skin tones.
Ultimately the best sunscreen is one that feels like a treat and not a chore, so that you don’t dread applying it daily. Read on to learn how to find the best tinted sunscreen for you.
Top Tinted Sunscreens of 2022
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Isdin Eryfotona Ageless Ultralight Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Best Dermatologist-Recommended Tinted Sunscreen
Both Drs. Shamban and Hartman vouch for this formula from Isdin: “It’s great for people who hate sunscreen because it doesn’t smell or leave a white cast, and it’s very thin and light,” says Dr. Hartman. It’s on the pricey side, but you’ll get months of wear out of it (the container is nearly double the size of many on this list). The watery fluid also packs peptides and antioxidants to repair existing sun damage and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.
Vichy Capital Soleil Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 60
Best Drugstore Tinted Sunscreen
Size: 1.52 fluid ounces
SPF type: Mineral and chemical
Number of shades: 1 universal tint
Dr. Hartman’s favorite drugstore tinted sunscreen is water-resistant, mineral-based, and feels featherweight on your skin. Vichy’s sunscreen is a great choice for city-dwellers as the brand’s signature volcanic water helps to protect your skin from pollution. Reviewers tout its ability to give a believable glow without feeling greasy or oily.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Travel
La Roche Posay’s tinted sunscreen feels like a serum on your skin — it absorbs quickly and leaves a matte finish. We love it for travel because a little bit of the liquid goes a long way and the full-size container is TSA-friendly. The sunscreen has a light-coverage tint, so it’s best for those who want to subtly even out their skin tone without fully covering it. The cherry on top: “It’s a non-comedogenic formula that keeps pores clean,” says Dr. Shamban.
MdSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30 Sunscreen
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Dry Skin
If you’re on the dry side, moisturizer is typically non-negotiable. But this creamy formulation lets you skip that step if you’d like, as it hydrates like a true face lotion while delivering SPF. It contains nourishing vitamin E, plus free radical-foraging antioxidants green tea and vitamin C. “It feels like silk on my face — I either wear it alone or under makeup as a primer,” explains one reviewer.
Supergoop! Mineral Mattescreen SPF 40
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Oily Skin
Tinted sunscreens help neutralize the white cast you often get with mineral formulas, however they’re not always able to prevent shine and pastiness from showing up in pictures. However, “they figured it out with this one,” says Dr. Shamban. She explains that this sunscreen from Supergoop is a solid mattifying primer for oily skin types. And we agree: This cream has real makeup-gripping powers.
Alastin HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Medium Skin Tones
Alastin is beloved by dermatologists, and the brand’s tinted sunscreen is a bestseller for good reason. You’ll get sheer coverage with a natural tint that warms up your complexion (think your skin, but with a touch of blush). It’s brimming with skin care ingredients, too: You’ll get two potent antioxidants, phytoene and phytofluene, as well as ectoin, which protects you from blue light and helps repair existing sun damage.
Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen
Best Long-Wear Tinted Sunscreen
Size: 1 fluid ounce
SPF type: Mineral
Number of shades: 9
Long-wear sunscreen sounds like an oxymoron (you’re supposed to reapply it frequently, after all), but Tarte’s tinted SPF does an A+ job of smoothing your complexion for hours on end. It controls shine throughout the day without drying out your skin, and plays well with any additional makeup you apply on top, although you won’t need much, as the medium coverage makes pores and imperfections undetectable.
Ilia C Beyond Triple Serum SPF 40
Best Brightening Tinted Sunscreen
Size: 1 fluid ounces
SPF type: Mineral
Number of shades: 3
A cocktail of niacinamide, vitamin C, and SPF 40 make this serum-like tinted sunscreen from Ilia stand out. It’s a true one-and-done product, as a few drops moisturize, brighten, and protect your complexion. Shake it for a full 10 seconds so that the powders in the formula are fully incorporated with the meadowfoam seed and jojoba oil base, then pat it onto clean, dry skin. You’ll get a veil of sheer coverage with no shortage of skin-improving ingredients.
Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Best Makeup-Friendly Tinted Sunscreen
Even though it only launched in March of this year, Tatcha’s sunscreen has racked up hundreds of five-star reviews. The brand is known for products that feel sensorial on the skin and look sleek on your vanity, so if you can’t seem to find a sunscreen you look forward to using, give this one a try. The watery fluid disappears on your skin in the best way. Plus, it creates the perfect base for foundation, blush, or any other makeup you apply on top.
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50
Best Smart Tinted Sunscreen
Size: 1.8 fluid ounces
SPF type: Mineral
Number of shades: 4
Dr. Hartman gives this one from Colorescience high marks for its ability to adapt to any skin tone. Choose a shade that’s closest to your complexion, and the white pigments will shift into a color that matches your tone as you massage it on (it’s magic). You can build it up, too — just wait until the previous layer feels dry on your skin. Oily and combination types can dab it straight onto skin, but those with dry skin do best applying it over moisturizer.
EltaMd UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 – Tinted
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
This dermatologist-loved brand, EltaMd, is known for its over-performing sunscreen formulas, so it’s no surprise that their tinted sunscreen earns glowing reviews. The oil-free lotion refreshes your skin with lactic acid to gently exfoliate, plus hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to hydrate and calm your complexion. Dr. Shamban especially likes it for those with rosacea or acne.
BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Combination Skin
In this tinted moisturizer, hyaluronic acid helps your skin stay supple without feeling slick. It provides medium coverage and glides on like foundation — we even like to buff it onto skin with a brush for the best, airbrushed effect. What’s more, the water-based formula practically guarantees it won’t streak throughout the day. Instead, the pigments settle onto your complexion without sliding around.
Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin
Size: 1 fluid ounce
SPF type: Mineral
Number of shades: 14
A full coverage foundation that won’t trigger breakouts or irritate skin is tricky to find. Tower 28 hit the nail on the head with this lotion. This formula is easy to build up where you want more coverage, but doesn’t feel heavy or cause pimples to surface. It earned a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association, proving its safe to use on the most sensitive skin types.
Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Deep Skin Tones
This sunscreen from Nars moonlights as foundation. The light coverage makes matching a color to your undertones easy, not overwhelming. “It goes on smooth and I only need a dab or two to cover my face,” says one reviewer, who also notes that it doesn’t transfer after you apply it. The formula earns bonus points for including vitamin C, which helps brighten skin over time.
Lancer Mineral Sun Shield Universal Tint
Best Sheer Tinted Sunscreen
This newcomer imparts a candlelit glow on contact. The peachy pink lotion looks like liquid highlighter, but melts into skin for a healthy, just-left-the-spa flush. It contains unique ingredients, like pink rock rose to calm and prevent inflammation, and ginger root extract to reduce any redness. We love it because it’s foolproof to reapply and the hue is super sheer, so you don’t need to worry about the pigments getting splotchy when you layer up.
Shiseido Sports BB SPF 50+
Best Water-Resistant Tinted Sunscreen
A sweat-proof sunscreen is important to have on hand during summertime, and this one is unparalleled. Its quick-dry formula prevents makeup from dripping when you begin to sweat, which is crucial for summer. Shiseido’s proprietary technology maintains the promised level of SPF even when you’re exposed to water, so you can splash away without fear of a mid-swim burn. One caveat: It’s so water-resistant that it won’t rinse off with some cleansers, so use an oil-based face wash to ensure you’ve fully removed it.
Dr Jart + Premium BB Beauty Balm SPF 40
Best Color Correcting Tinted Sunscreen
Dr. Jart’s tinted sunscreen has loads of devotees who swear it’s a forever staple in their makeup bag. “It has single-handedly transformed the appearance of my skin by improving the texture and keeping me blemish free,” says one reviewer, adding that the coverage is subtle and never greasy. The three shades work across skin tones to balance anything that feels uneven, be it breakouts, scars, or redness.
ClearStem SunnySide Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Best Tinted Sunscreen Powder
ClearStem specializes in formulas that won’t trigger or worsen breakouts, and their powder SPF lives up to the promise. It’s non-comedogenic and contains niacinamide to manage acne-related inflammation. But the sunscreen is great for all skin types: It sits well under and over makeup, and makes reapplying SPF a breeze. Just glide the brush over your face when you need more protection at the beach, on the road, or at home.
What to Look for in the Best Tinted Sunscreens
SPF level: The best level of protection for daily use is SPF 30 to 50, according to both Drs. Hartman and Shamban. You can find products with SPF 100, but “anything over SPF 50 has a minimal differential in percentage of protection,” Dr. Shamban explains. Many tinted moisturizers provide about SPF 15, which isn’t enough for daily protection, so be sure to read the fine print and apply extra sunscreen on top if necessary.
Water resistance: This comes down to personal preference, says Dr. Hartman. If you can’t go to the beach without getting in the ocean or you break a sweat as soon as you head outside, a water-resistant formula is your friend. You’ll typically find the duration of water resistance in minutes on the bottle (usually hovering around 60 to 90 minutes). Take note of the time limit and reapply when needed.
Broad-spectrum protection: This means that the sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. Exposure to UVA beams can accelerate signs of aging, like dark spots and wrinkles, while UVB rays cause burns. Windows usually shield you from any UVB risk, but UVA rays can still penetrate them, so it’s important to always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, as it filters out both.
What to Consider for the Best Tinted Sunscreen for Your Skin Type
Sensitive skin: Seek out tinted sunscreens with mineral formulas. Some chemical options can be irritating on reactive skin, so look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label. “If you have some redness, a tinted sunscreen with some green undertones can help counteract it,” Dr. Hartman adds.
Oily and acne-prone skin: “Mineral-based powders are beneficial for oily or acne-prone types,” says Dr. Shamban. If powders aren’t your first pick, try a non-comedogenic gel or serum, which will lend protection without adding more shine.
Normal skin: Your skin will get along with the majority of tinted sunscreens (lucky you). Just opt for one with broad-spectrum protection that feels lightweight on your skin.
Dry skin: “Look for serum-, lotion-, or cream-based formulas that have additional skin care active ingredients, such as ceramides, hydrators, antioxidants, and humectants to limit transepidermal water losses and seal in the natural skin moisture,” says Dr. Shamban. Many new formulas include those ingredients, so options abound.
The Best Way to Apply Tinted Sunscreen
To make a habit out of wearing SPF, Dr. Shamban recommends applying tinted sunscreen after a morning shower, and on more than just your face. “Consider anywhere above or below the bath towel: Legs, arms, shoulders, decollete, neck, and hands are all territory that needs to be adequately covered, particularly during summer,” she explains. Unlike moisturizer, skin should be dry before applying SPF. If you’re using other serums or creams on your face before applying sunscreen, wait five to 15 minutes before you smooth SPF on top.
Ensuring you have enough product to cover your whole complexion is important. There’s no golden rule when it comes to the amount to use, as everyone’s face size is different, but Dr. Hartman says two to three finger lengths of formula is a good benchmark. If you feel smothered, you can use a little less — the important part of SPF is staying loyal to daily application, Dr. Hartman says, so find something you feel comfortable wearing and fully commit to it.
Meet the Experts
Dr. Ava Shamban is a Harvard-educated board certified cosmetic dermatologist, best-selling beauty author and a clinical trial investigator born in Los Angeles and based in Beverly Hills. She is the founder of Ava MD, SkinFive Medical Spas and the ATS research clinic in Santa Monica.
Dr. Corey L. Hartman is the founder and medical director of the Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Hartman is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Meet the Author
Claire Sullivan is a freelance beauty writer based in New York City. She spent six years writing and editing on staff for Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings, most recently covering the beauty beat for both brands. Her background in food writing translates to a no-nonsense approach to skin care, hair care, and makeup: In her eyes, it’s all about technique and ingredients. Claire loves to turn expert advice into easy steps that inspire you to give your beauty routine a makeover.