07/19/2024

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I love the way my tinted sunscreen makes my skin look, but beyond that, I love that it protects me from UV damage, wrinkles, and potential skin cancer. However, it honestly makes my skin look hydrated and reflective, but still better than when I wake up, which is the real reason why SPF has become an everyday necessity.

But the other morning, I was using my Supergoop! Doing Glowscreen like I usually do – squeezing it on the back of my hand, mixing it with my Rose Inc Skin Tint, and rubbing it all over my face – and I thought, “Well, that’s really different from the label. -I thought, “Is this really as protective as the SPF 40 on the label? Am I cheating in some way? Because this feels more like makeup.

If you’ve been shopping for beauty products lately, then you’re well aware that skincare, sunscreen and makeup have mixed together to create a number of popular products. All of these loaded sunscreens are being marketed to do many other things, from brighten to brighten to even out skin tone. Glowscreen, for example, uses ethically sourced mica to provide reflective highlights for my skin, so it’s also an illuminator. Ilia has a popular Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40 that’s more like a serum, so it feels like a tinted skincare product. Tower 28’s Tinted SPF looks like a foundation, feels like a moisturizer, and it’s also an effective sunscreen (?).

I don’t know if I’m cynically skeptical, but I asked a trusted dermatologist, Doris Day, MD, who practices in New York City, to answer my questions about sunscreen as it relates to skin tone. Going forward, she helped me better understand how to consider all these enhanced versions of tinted sunscreens.

Do tinted sunscreens work?
Technically speaking, yes. According to Dr. Day, tinted sunscreens are just as protective as colorless sunscreens. This surprised me. I thought that tints (like the makeup part) might somehow dilute the level of protection. But Dr. Day told me that a sunscreen is a sunscreen and the tint is just an addition that doesn’t affect the effectiveness. “The brand might start with SPF 50 and when they add other ingredients it goes down to 40.” Those other ingredients might be something like mica, which provides a luminous pearlescent tint or hyaluronic acid for added hydration. But, according to Dr. Day, a simple rule of thumb is, “If you have a sunscreen that says all of those things on it, it’s still your sunscreen. There are other ingredients there to support the sunscreen.”

How much tinted sunscreen do I need to use?
This is where people (me) might cheat with tinted sunscreen or sunscreen makeup: You can’t stretch or cut it off like foundation. “When you use a tinted moisturizer with SPF on the label or something like that, that’s sunscreen,” explains Dr. Day, adding that it should be a mineral formula (zinc oxide) with an SFP of 30 or higher. “But if you think about how much you’re putting on your face, you’re probably not applying it effectively enough to do the job of a sunscreen. If you put pea-sized drops on your face, it’s like taking a piece of fabric and stretching it very thin so it doesn’t even really hide anything, like wearing very thin leggings and you can still see your butt.”

As far as sizing goes, you’ll need to apply sunscreen to your face multiple times, whether it’s tinted or not. “You can think of it like four peas,” says Dr. Day, “one on your forehead, one on your cheeks, and then one on your chin. Then you need more on your neck. Remember, you need a full-body amount of wine glasses. Mineral sunscreens are like physical [sunscreen] protection, so the thicker it is, the better the protection.”

What if I want complete coverage?
If you just want a tiny drop of your tan or SPF moisturizer – and you’re really clean – that’s okay, you just need another layer of sunscreen underneath it. “If you suspect you’re not using enough tinted sunscreen, a sheer sunscreen is a great base,” explains Dr. Day. “I think it’s like finishing my morning routine. You can still add it and go for a bike ride or whatever, but you know you’re done with the workout.” Know that you have your sun protection and then build on top of it.

What’s a good basic sunscreen to have on hand?
“It’s important to have a sunscreen that works, that protects your skin from the sun.” Dr. Day recommends Blue Lizard’s mineral formula, which she uses daily. She also recommends La Roche-Posay Pure Mineral, which comes with and without color, and ISDIN, a great dermatologist brand with a lot of clinical research behind it.

How do I apply sunscreen to my sunscreen makeup?
“I start with a sunscreen that looks like nothing,” says Dr. Day. “You want something sheer so your natural tan comes through. You want to cover your whole face. Do it first thing in the morning. Also, the neck is important. Go around your mouth because the area around your mouth is aging just like your neck, so you really have to protect it. Now you can add SPF tones or bronzer or whatever color you want.”

Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes likes to use her tinted sunscreen instead of makeup. She uses Supergoop! Golden Hour shade in Glowscreen as a liquid bronzer around her forehead, then uses the original pearlescent tint as a primer slash illuminator on the rest of her face. You can see that the sunscreen does work as a makeup primer and also has built-in sun protection. This is also a great reapplication technique. However, in this case, it is best to lay a clear sunscreen underneath the Glowscreen.

It’s important that you use a mineral sunscreen primer and then apply a sunscreen makeup that is also a mineral formula – so look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in both. “The FDA does restrict how sunscreen ingredients can be mixed,” says Dr. Day. “It’s hard to find data on that, about mixing chemical sunscreens or absorbent sunscreens with mineral sunscreens, and whether that creates heat or causes other problems. We need more clarification on that. But there are some reasons you don’t mix absorbent sunscreens with non-absorbent sunscreens, so I would caution you against that. But mineral-based formulas can be layered.”

The bottom line: SPF cosmetics and skin care products are great and they do protect your skin, but you need to apply them like you would sunscreen: thickly, on your face and neck. If not – honestly – use a colorless mineral sunscreen underneath just to be safe.

What is a good sunscreen formula for darker skin tones?
It’s important to talk about sunscreens and skin tones. Traditionally, one of the main drawbacks of mineral sunscreens (tinted and colorless) is that it can turn white or gray on darker skin tones. Enough to make you skip the sunscreen, but it’s still important to prevent skin cancer and sunburn. “For my darker-skinned patients, what I see over time is that the parts of (skin) that are exposed to the sun are a completely different color than the parts that are not exposed to the sun, and it’s hard to fix that,” explains Dr. Day. “Patients are more likely to color and use sunscreen, and they keep their natural, unique color rather than having three different skin tones. The sunscreen formula that is most aesthetically pleasing and looks good on the skin is usually the absolute choice.”

In a recent article where black women shared what sunscreens they actually use every day, some suggestions for pure mineral formulas include Black Girl Sunscreen, Glossier Invisible Shield and Neutrogena Hydro Boost SPF 30.

What is a good tinted sunscreen recommendation?
Dr. Day explains that many of her patients prefer tinted sunscreens for aesthetic purposes. Finding a tinted mineral sunscreen that you like depends on your skin type. Our Refinery29 team has some favorites for all of our skin tones. Superb! Glowscreen is the most popular because it adds dewiness and almost blurs pores and dark circles, but it’s very minimal. When Jacqueline Kilikita, Senior Beauty Editor in the UK, started using it, she stopped using foundation altogether. Our team also supports Tower 28’s SunnyDays Tinted Sunscreen and Saie’s Slip Tint, both of which feel like tinted moisturizers or lightweight foundations and offer more coverage. Summer Fridays has introduced a new creamy sunscreen that is a hybrid between a sheer base and a luminous shade.

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