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Tinted sunscreens provide both cosmetic and functional benefits, according to doctors we consulted — and they might help reduce the number of products (and steps) it takes to wrap your morning beauty routine, noted board-certified dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD. Tinted sunscreens can replace up to four skin care and cosmetic products, including a moisturizer, sunscreen, primer and foundation.
And they’re worth considering because they are just as effective as their untinted counterparts, experts told us. “If a tinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30 and an untinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30, then these products offer the same sun protection benefits,” said Ilyas. “SPF is not a marketing term, it has substance,” she said: SPF is a “standardized measure” and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
So what’s the difference? Tinted sunscreens offer similar benefits as traditional sunscreens but include flesh-colored pigments that blend into the skin more seamlessly, explained Ilyas. These pigments make tinted sunscreens “more cosmetically elegant” than their untinted counterparts, plus they can camouflage discoloration and sun damage, according to Ilyas. Tinted sunscreens are “often considered” to be in the same category as “all purpose” BB creams and CC creams, added board-certified dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD.
- BB creams, or beauty balms, are geared toward those dealing with redness, noted makeup artist Nydia Figueroa.
- CC creams are color correcting creams and typically offer a matte finish, helpful for those who have oily or acne-prone skin, Figueroa added.
To help simplify your search for the best tinted sunscreens, we asked doctors and makeup artists to share their expert guidance on how to shop for them, what their limitations are and which tinted sun protection products the experts might recommend.
Tinted sunscreen limitations
While tinted sunscreens are recommended by every expert we consulted there are some issues worth considering before buying any.
- Tinted sunscreens are “ideally suited for facial use” because the pigments could potentially rub onto clothing — they can also be applied to your body if you want to camouflage bruising and sunscreen, highlighted Ilyas.
- While some brands include a few different shades, it might be hard to find an exact match if you have a darker skin tone.
- There’s no visual cue that you need to reapply sunscreen (which it’s generally agreed upon that you should do every two hours, at least) — the chalky residue from untinted sunscreen can serve as a “reassurance” that the SPF is on your skin and when it fades, it is a reminder to reapply, according to Ilyas.
- Those with sensitive skin may experience a breakout or allergic reaction, but it is “very rare” for those issues to occur, noted Peredo.
How to shop for tinted sunscreens
Outside of covering various types of sunscreen like spray and mineral formulations, we’ve noticed popular brands like Supergoop! and EltaMD offer tinted sunscreens. We put together a few pro tips to help you quickly identify the best tinted sunscreens while shopping.
- Look for products offering broad spectrum coverage from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB rays), advised Peredo. UVA rays are associated with signs of aging and UVB rays can cause sunburns and skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
- The FDA advises using a sunblock with a sun protection value (SPF) of at least 15, but Peredo prefers sunscreen, whether tinted or untinted, with an SPF between 30 to 50. (Both the nonprofit organization Skin Cancer Foundation and the AAD recommend a minimum of SPF 30 coverage).
Best tinted sunscreens, BB creams and CC creams
Tinted sunscreen, as well as BB creams and CC creams with SPF, can be found at beauty retailers like Sephora, Ulta and Dermstore. Shopping reader favorite retailers like Walmart, Target and Amazon also carry tinted sunscreens. Popular skin care companies like Paula’s Choice, EltaMD and Australian Gold as well as cosmetics brands like Tarte and Lancôme, offer tinted sunscreens.
Ilyas noted that as a person of South Asian descent, she finds Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue “has shades for all skin tones,'' noting that, “most importantly,” it employs titanium dioxide as the active sunscreen ingredient. Bare Minerals claims the creamy tinted sunscreen boasts a non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic formula and is dermatologist-tested. Complexion Rescue is available in 20 colors and offers a sheet-to-medium coverage to the skin, according to the brand. It boasts a 4.4-star average rating from nearly 6,000 reviews on Ulta.
Makeup artist Meredith Boyd said EltaMD makes her “hands down favorite tinted sunscreen” and noted “this product never disappoints” because it offers UV protection and “superior hydration.” This SPF boasts a 4.7-star average rating from more than 8,000 reviews on Amazon. Boyd noted the brand’s “sheer” facial sunscreen works on all skin tones and provides a “light coverage.”
Makeup artist Aly Zabielski’s favorite BB cream is from Dr. Jart+ because “it visibly perfects your complexion all while protecting you from harmful rays” and she highlighted that it leaves behind a “natural finish” to the skin. This BB Cream received a 4.2-star average rating from nearly 3,000 reviews on Sephora.
Zabielski also likes this “light” mineral sunscreen that boasts an oil-free formula and is available in 15 shades, ranging from 100C to 426W. She also noted Supergoop’s fragrance-free tinted sunscreen offers SPF 50 protection. Supergoop! CC Screen earned a 4.1-star average rating from 525 reviews on Amazon.
When Figueroa wants to achieve a “beautiful, natural coverage,” she reaches for this tinted sunscreen that acts as a hybrid primer, moisturizer, foundation and sunscreen. The paraben-free tinted sunscreen boasts a combination of calming ingredients like aloe and vitamin E as well as hydrating shea butter and chamomile. It is available in 14 shades and received a 4.2-star average rating from nearly 430 reviews on Ulta.
CeraVe’s “lightweight” tinted mineral sunscreen is “a must have” for Figueroa when she wants light coverage. It is formulated with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, plus it received a 4.2-star average rating from more than 190 reviews on Walmart.
Boyd noted this Smashbox product is her “go-to” BB cream because she finds it evens out skin tone, controls oil “without leaving a chalky finish” and it offers an SPF 35 broad-spectrum protection. It received a 4.4-star average rating from nearly 170 reviews on Amazon.
Boyd highlighted this “breathable” CC cream because it provides full coverage and she finds the product does not clog her pores. The non-comedogenic tinted sunscreen is available in 16 colors and received a 4.6-star average rating from more than 260 reviews on Dermablend.
Figeroua called this her “holy grail” BB cream because she finds it provides “beautiful coverage, helps smooth out texture and minimizes pores.” She noted the vegan product helps brighten the complexion without weighing down the skin. It received a 4.3-star average rating from nearly 850 reviews on Nordstrom.
For days when Figeroua wants a tinted skin care product that provides full coverage, she prefers the “versatile” IT Cosmetics CC cream. It is made with a combination of moisturizing hyaluronic acid and a trio of anti-aging ingredients: antioxidants, peptides and collagen. This CC Cream is available in 12 colors and boasts a 4.3-star average rating from more than 15,000 reviews on Ulta.