Let’s talk about the only type of sunscreen we can all universally agree is the best of the best: sunscreen without white cast. If you’re here, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve been ~burned~ by some less-than-ideal SPFs in the past that left you looking like a chalky nightmare. You already know you should be wearing a daily sunscreen (ahem, two people die from skin cancer every hour), but it makes it extra difficult when most sunscreens leave behind a white residue, right? So in my quest to make sure you protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer always and forever, I found all the best sunscreens that won’t leave behind a white cast. Get ready for tinted sunscreens (think: lightweight makeup with SPF), clear sunscreens, water-proof sunscreens, and super silky serum-sunscreen hybrids that feel more like high-end skincare than anything else.
And to help me cut through the SPF noise, I caught up with two dermatologists to explain which sunscreens leave a white cast, how to avoid them, and how to pick the best one for your skin type. Because at the end of the day, having a sunscreen that you like enough to actually wear matters. So let’s dive in.
Meet the experts
What causes a white cast in sunscreen?
Sunscreen formulas fall into two categories: mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays, converting them to heat, and releasing them. Mineral sunscreens, however, sit on the surface of your skin and act as a physical barrier to reflect the sun. They’re made with ingredients like zinc and titanium oxides—which, spoiler, are white-colored minerals, making mineral sunscreens the biggest white-cast offenders.
“The zinc oxide in mineral sunscreens reflects the light and gives you a white cast or opacification,” says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. The ingredients in chemical sunscreens—see: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate octisalate, or octocrylene—don’t have the same white color, so they typically don’t leave the same white residue after you rub it in, regardless of its formulation.
But if you prefer mineral sunscreens (also called zinc sunscreens)—which are usually ideal sunscreens for sensitive skin, FYI, and better for hyperpigmentation, as well as being considered reef-safe—it’s not all bad news: “There have been huge advancements in the way mineral sunscreens have been formulated and coded,” says Dr. Engelman. “They don’t necessarily have the same light reflection anymore.” Enter: mineral sunscreen formulas with transparent zinc, or with thin, silky, or tinted consistencies that disappear as you rub them in (more on that below). Which brings me to:
What to look for in sunscreens without white cast
Look at the formula
If you want a mineral sunscreen, look for a formula that promises a clear or sheer finish, which means it’s specifically formulated to leave an invisible protective barrier behind, thanks to transparent zinc oxide (versus white zinc that’s typically found in mineral SPFs). “You can also look for a tinted mineral sunscreen,” says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, which are pigmented in different shades to help counteract the white cast.
Opt for a chemical sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens, as Dr. Patel says, don’t reflect the light like mineral sunscreens, so they don’t leave a white cast. So if you don’t want to play the whole trial-and-error game with mineral sunscreens (although, I did find a whole bunch that I think you’ll like), it’s totally cool to just pick a chemical sunscreen and call it a day. Whichever one you’re most likely to wear every single day—even when you’re indoors—is the one you should go with.
Choose SPF 30 or higher
Yup, SPF 30 is the minimum requirement for any sunscreen to be effective. Sry, bb, but if your moisturizer has anything less than that, it’s not giving you the full sun protection that you need. And it’s not just us who say it on repeat—it’s the gold standard of the American Academy of Dermatology too. Once you’ve nailed the SPF, look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum,” meaning they will protect you from both UVB rays (which can lead to cancer-causing sunburns) and UVA rays (which can lead to sun spots, fine lines, and skin damage).
And now, what you came for: The 9 best sunscreens without a white cast, ahead. And a few of our top picks, if you’re in a hurry:
Our top picks for sunscreens without white cast in 2022
And now for the real breakdown of each sunscreen, keep scrolling.
Best Sunscreen Without White Cast on Amazon
CoTZ Sensitive Non-Tinted Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen for Body and Face Broad Spectrum SPF 40
“This is a really nice and elegant mineral sunscreen,” Dr. Patel says, which, hey, is what we all want from a mineral formula. Not only does it have a very protective SPF 40, but it also disappears completely as you rub it into your skin, and it’s a great sunscreen for sensitive skin, given that it’s fragrance-free.
Best Moisturizing Sunscreen Without White Cast
Specific Beauty Active Brightening Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Not into zinc sunscreens? No problem. Opt for this chemical-based daily moisturizer with SPF 30 that won’t leave behind any white cast. It’s formulated with niacinamide, which will help fade dark spots and brighten skin with every use, along with vitamin E, which helps prevent your skin against environmental damage. Plus, since it’s a moisturizer first and foremost, you won’t feel any greasiness or tackiness on your skin.
Best Matte Sunscreen Without White Cast
Black Girl Sunscreen Make It Matte Sunscreen SPF 45
This sunscreen, which dries totally clear and matte, is a great pick if you’re layering this underneath your fav makeup trend, and if you don’t want a dewy or shiny finish. But you don’t have to sacrifice moisture here, since it’s packed with a cocktail of aloe vera extract, coconut oil, shea butter, and squalane.
Best Clear Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen with Niacinamide
This chemical sunscreen for oily skin not only dries completely invisible, but it’s oil-free, making it ideal for acne-prone or oily skin types. And thanks to the hyaluronic acid in the formula, it will still help your skin retain its moisture, while brightening dark spots with niacinamide.
Best Sheer Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin
Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 PA+++
If you have sensitive skin, finding a fragrance-free sunscreen is essential. Luckily this mineral sunscreen is both fragrance-free and alcohol-free, and it’s also spiked with squalane, which helps keep your skin moisturized. While it does look white when you first squeeze it out, it disappears as you rub it in your skin, leaving behind a sheer, glowy finish.
Best Sunscreen Without White Cast on Sephora
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++
There’s a reason this chemical sunscreen became a cult-favorite over night: The clear gel formula absorbs into your skin without a trace, leaving you with the broad-spectrum protection of SPF 40. Plus, it’s formulated with lightweight ingredients like jojoba oil and shea butter to hydrate without the grease or shine.
Best Serum-Like Sunscreen Without White Cast
EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
This mineral sunscreen is totally sheer and has a serum-sunscreen finish—meaning it feels smooth and silky like serum, while still protecting your face like a sunscreen with SPF 35. This organic sunscreen is also soothing, thanks to prickly pear extract.
Best Waterproof Sunscreen Without White Cast
EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion, Broad-Spectrum SPF 50
Warmer days are headed our way, ppl. And once that mid-July 90-degree day hits, you’ll be really glad to have a mineral sunscreen that’s not only made with transparent zinc oxide to eliminate white cast, but is also a water-resistant formula (read: sweat-proof) that won’t slide off your face by noon.
Best Lightweight Sheer Sunscreen
Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+
Thanks to the super-light and milky texture of this oil-free chemical sunscreen, it won’t feel heavy or tacky when layered over your skincare or underneath makeup. In fact, a few reviewers say when used as a primer, their makeup doesn’t budge.
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