If you want to protect your skin and your health, wearing sunscreen is a good daily habit to implement. And you can keep your routine simple if your makeup doubles as sun protection.
It’s important to protect your skin from the sun. It causes skin cancer, as well as premature aging in the form of discoloration and wrinkles. The preventative step of wearing sunscreen will do more for your skin in the long run than any expensive anti-wrinkle cream.
Sunscreen has come a long way in cosmetic formulations. No longer do you have to slather on what feels like greasepaint to protect yourself from the sun. And there are sunscreens for every skin type, whether yours is sensitive, dry, or oily.
One of the best cosmetic categories to take off in recent years is makeup with built-in sun protection factors (SPF). These products include tinted sunscreens and beauty balm (BB) creams.
These products are formulated to endure both sweat and heat, so they’re ideal for warmer weather. This type of makeup is also a great way to get in the habit of wearing products with SPF year-round. Sun damage doesn’t occur only in the summer. Cloud cover doesn’t block out radiation, but most people don’t think to wear sunscreen on an overcast day in October.
What Makes a Good Tinted Sunscreen?
To make these products work for you, however, you need to know how to distinguish the solid stuff from the duds. Not all makeup is created equal—if you hate how it looks, you won’t use it. And if it looks great but only offers SPF 15, and the sunscreen blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, but not ultraviolet A (UVA), it’s not adequate protection for your face.
So, what makes one tinted sunscreen better than another? Here are some details to consider:
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF): Anything after SPF 30 begins to have diminishing returns. If you jump from SPF 15 to 30, it bumps the amount of rays you’re blocking from 93 to 97 percent. But an SPF 50 only takes you up to 98 percent. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a minimum of SPF 15, and SPF 30 for more extended or intense sun exposure.
- UVA & UVB: The sun emits both short- (UVB) and long-wave (UVA) radiation, and both are harmful. UVB causes sunburns, but UVA causes aging. A product that only blocks one of these isn’t worth your money. “Broad-spectrum” designates sunscreens that protect against both types of radiation. The Skin Cancer Foundation has a more in-depth explanation about how sunscreens work, as well as a handy chart of what UV range each FDA-approved sunscreen covers.
- Broad-Spectrum: Different chemical sunscreens cover different ranges of UVA and UVB rays. This is why you see them used in combination. UVA is further broken down into UVA1 and UVA2, so it’s important to make sure the formulation covers the entire range. Even a broad-spectrum label can mean a product protects against the entire UVB range, but only half of the UVA.
- Physical versus Chemical Sunscreens: Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are both physical blockers, meaning they deflect ultraviolet radiation. While zinc oxide deflects the full spectrum of both UVB and UVA rays, titanium dioxide deflects all of UVB, but only UVA2, so you want both. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb UV, but vary in whether that includes UVA, UVB, or both. Physical sunscreens are responsible for the white cast many people associate with sunscreens, although cosmetic formulas have improved since the days of the white-nosed lifeguard. Still, tinted formulations using physical sunblocks might not be best if you have a darker skin tone. Physical blocks are better for people with more sensitive skin that might be irritated by chemical sunscreens. Zinc oxide is also a skin protectant, which is why it’s in most diaper rash creams.
Our picks all have a minimum SPF of 30 to protect you whether you spend most of your day indoors or out. They also all have a combination of either physical or chemical sunscreens to ensure they protect you from the entire spectrum of UVB, UVA1, and UVA2.
Best Overall: Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm
With an SPF of 45, this BB cream offers more than enough protection for your skin. It covers the entire spectrum thanks to two physical sunscreens: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. This Korean brand was one of the first to bring the BB cream trend to the U.S. market. It remains one of the biggest sellers thanks to its range of different BB creams.
It’s only available in three shades but is formulated to work with a wider range of skin tones. The balm is easy to rub in and blend to even out your skin tone, and it gives you a healthy glow.
In addition to sunscreen and light coverage, the balm includes a couple of bonus skincare ingredients, like niacinamide and peptides.
Best Drugstore Brand: Physicians Formula Super BB All-in-One
For under $20, Physicians Formula Super BB All-in-One is a drugstore brand with SPF 30. It’s truly broad-spectrum and uses both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Several drugstore brands make tinted sunscreens, but almost all are less than SPF 30. One brand does make an SPF 30 product, and another that’s SPF 50, but the only sunscreen they contain is titanium dioxide, which leaves skin unprotected against UVA1. Despite all of that, these products can still be labeled “broad-spectrum,” so pay close attention to the ingredients.
Physicians Formula Super BB met all of our requirements on the sunscreen front. It’s a silicon-based formula, so it works well as a primer under additional makeup, too.
Physicians Formula Super BB All-in-1 Beauty Balm Cream, Light/Medium, 1.2 Ounce
Physician's Formula Super BB All-in-One is one of the only drugstore-brand tinted moisturizers that is a truly full-spectrum SPF 30.
Best for All Skin Tones: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer
BB creams and tinted sunscreens have typically come in more limited shades than traditional foundation. As a result, they match a narrower range of skin tones. However, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair goes beyond the confines of fair, medium, and dark, and includes 10 shades across the spectrum.
Physical sunscreens tend to appear ashy on darker skin tones, so because this product uses sheer chemical sunscreens, it looks better on darker skin. Even though it only contains a chemical sunscreen, this tinted moisturizer still has the right combination of UVA and UVB blockers, so it can be considered broad-spectrum.
Best for Breakouts: It Cosmetics CC+ Oil-Free Matte Cream
It Cosmetics CC+ Oil-Free Matte is a physical block sunscreen. It uses both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, doesn’t include heavy oils, and includes charcoal, tea tree extract, and sulfur—all of which help with oil-control and acne. It also boasts SPF 40 and comes in 12 shades. CC stands for color correction, which is something BB creams are designed to do anyway, so this is really a marketing tweak.
Makeup designated as “matte” doesn’t go on shiny and contains oil-absorbing ingredients to prevent further shine, which this one does.
Best for the Beach: Coola Mineral Sunscreen Face Matte Moisturizer
Coola is a brand from southern California dedicated to sun care products geared toward people with an active lifestyle. So, this means its products are water- and sweatproof, and strong enough for outdoor activities that last longer than a morning commute. Coola’s Mineral Sunscreen Face Matte Moisturizer is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, and then it should be reapplied.
The moisturizer uses the physical block power duo of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for an SPF of 30. And true to its California roots, Coola emphasizes natural ingredients and chooses physical over chemical sunscreen, which makes it a good pick for sensitive skin.
COOLA Mineral Face Matte Tint Sunscreen, SPF 30, Reef-Safe, Unscented 1.7 Fl Oz
Coola's SPF 30 mineral tinted sunscreen uses physical blockers and is rated water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.