If you’ve developed patches of discolored skin on your face, it could be melasma. It’s a common condition for pregnant women and those with medium to dark skin. But this type of hyperpigmentation is preventable and treatable. It starts with sheltering the skin from the sun.
With that said, what’s the best sunscreen for melasma? That’s the question we’ll answer in the reviews below.
In summary, we recommend choosing the best sunscreen based on your needs and how likely you are to wear it. If it sits in your cupboard because it’s too difficult or awkward to use, it’s not going to protect you. We selected a range of safe and effective sunscreens for everyday wear and fun in the sun. We’ll point out the pluses and minuses of each of these products:
|The best sunscreens for melasma||Why we love them|
|EltaMD UV Physical Tinted Mineral Sunscreen|
|La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60|
|CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30|
|Cetaphil Sheer 100% Mineral Liquid Sunscreen for Face SPF 50|
|ETUDE HOUSE Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++|
|Supergoop! Glow Stick SPF 50|
Table of Contents
- Is physical or chemical sunscreen better for melasma?
- How much SPF is necessary to prevent melasma?
- How to choose the best sunscreen
- Best Sunscreens for Melasma in 2021
- EltaMD UV Physical Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60
- CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30
- Cetaphil Sheer 100% Mineral Liquid Sunscreen for Face SPF 50
- ETUDE HOUSE Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++
- Supergoop! Glow Stick SPF 50
Is physical or chemical sunscreen better for melasma?
The experts say that mineral sunscreen is more effective than chemical UV filters because it reflects both UV and blue light. Who knew that the light from your phone screen and computer could damage your complexion?
Moreover, mineral sunscreen is less likely to irritate sensitive skin. That’s crucial because inflamed skin can worsen hyperpigmentation (1).
Most of the melasma sunscreen reviews below cover mineral sunscreens.
On the other hand, chemical sunscreens are often easier to wear underneath makeup and they don’t leave a white cast on dark skin.
In any case, no sunscreen offers 100% protection. SPF 30 filters out 97% of harmful rays if it’s worn properly. If you’ve put on too thin of a layer or forget to renew it after spending time outdoors or in the water, it’s not nearly as good of a defense.
If you’re battling melasma, we highly recommend protecting yourself with a hat to shadow your face and staying in the shade, too. Even the light reflecting off water, snow, and shiny surfaces can cause damage.
How much SPF is necessary to prevent melasma?
The Skin Cancer Foundation advocates for SPF 15 for occasional exposure like driving to work. They say SPF 30 or higher is necessary for extended time outdoors. Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the UV rays still reach the surface of the planet. (2)
The SPF, or sun protection factor, indicates how much time you should have before getting sunburned. If you normally sunburn within 15 minutes, SPF 15 should give you 15 times 15, or 225 minutes of protection. But SPF 15 only prevents 93% of the UV rays from harming the skin. (That’s how people can tan with sunscreen).
Again, we suggest using the best sunscreen you can afford and applying enough of it as often as you need to defend your skin.
How to choose the best sunscreen
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details. You need a sunscreen that you’ll wear every day. The tiny amount of SPF in your makeup isn’t enough. Your face moisturizer might have it, but if you’ll be outside at the beach or in the garden, it won’t be enough.
Consider your lifestyle. If you wear makeup daily, you might prefer a chemical sunscreen that absorbs quickly and doesn’t pill up underneath foundation. On the downside, if you have sensitive eyes, choose carefully as some chemical sunscreens will make them sting.
If you have dark skin, mineral sunscreen can be problematic because it needs to be rubbed in thoroughly. Even then, some brands will leave a white cast that you’ll have to hide with makeup. (Pro tip: a drop of foundation mixed in with mineral sunscreen can make all the difference without the need for an additional layer).
Tinted sunscreen is handy because it disguises the dark patches of melasma. And for folks with rosacea, eczema, and acne-prone complexions, you’ll need to find something that’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. Most will be labeled as such, thankfully. It also helps to choose fragrance-free and oil-free products.
Best Sunscreens for Melasma in 2021
Now that you’ve had an overview, dig in deeper with the sunscreen reviews here.
EltaMD UV Physical Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
EltaMD makes both transparent and tinted versions of their mineral sunscreen. It’s ideal for sensitive faces as it contains no artificial fragrance, parabens, oils, or allergens.
We selected the tinted version as it helps disguise hyperpigmentation on light to medium complexions.
It uses a blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect harmful rays. It’s also water-resistant so you can sweat and go swimming without needing to reapply for 40 minutes. Even then, it’s smart to reapply every two hours to maintain a solid defense.
Users say it has a smooth consistency that’s easy to rub in. It absorbs quickly without feeling sticky or greasy. Plus, the tube seems to last for quite a while.
- Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free for sensitive complexions
- Available in tinted and transparent versions
- Mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays
- Water-resistant (sweating, swimming) for up to 40 minutes
- Easy to apply, absorbs rapidly, never sticky or oily
- A bit pricier than drugstore sunscreen, but beloved by many with sensitive skin
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60
Here’s one of the most popular chemical sunscreens. It wears well underneath makeup especially since it has oil-absorbing properties. It keeps the skin fresh and natural-looking unlike many sunscreens that end up greasy.
It features a blend of UVA and UVB filters plus antioxidants. It’s called Cell-OX Shield Technology because it prevents sunburn and photoaging by defending against damage caused by the small percentage of UV that can still get through.
Moreover, even though it’s a chemical sunscreen, it doesn’t have oxybenzone or octinoxate. Both are potential hormone disruptors that could worsen melasma.
Happily, the award-winning formula is mild enough for infants over 6 months of age. Plus it’s free of oils, artificial fragrances, and parabens. It’s even water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Users say it’s a “dry” lotion that quickly blends into the skin, leaving it matte. A person with dark skin may notice a slight ashy cast, but this tends to fade in a few minutes.
- Premium sunscreen effective for adults and mild enough for babies
- Features Cell-OX Shield Technology that defends against sunburn and photoaging
- Has oil-absorbing perlite and silica to maintain a matte finish
- Wears well under makeup and water-resistant up to 80 minutes
- No parabens, oils, or artificial fragrances
- A little costly but has significant benefits especially for oily skin and those who wear makeup
CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30
Keep your morning routine to a minimum with this tinted sunscreen moisturizer. It’s made by one of the top dermatologist-recommended brands and it’s designed for sensitive skin.
It offers 100% mineral protection with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Furthermore, it has no artificial fragrances or parabens. It’s safe for rosacea, eczema, and other skin conditions.
Instead, the non-greasy formula uses hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides to help the skin retain moisture and maintain a healthy barrier. Still, you can wear it over top of your regular moisturizer.
The sheer tint helps camouflage dark patches and prevents the white cast that some mineral sunscreens leave behind. It also acts as a helpful primer for makeup. Take note, however, the color is best suited for light skin tones. If you have dark skin, get the regular un-tinted formula.
- From a dermatologist-recommended brand and safe for sensitive skin including melasma, rosacea, and eczema
- No artificial fragrance or parabens
- Mineral sunscreen with a sheer tint can act as a primer under makeup
- Moisturizing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid keep the skin healthy
- Sheer tint is light-colored
Cetaphil Sheer 100% Mineral Liquid Sunscreen for Face SPF 50
We often think of sunscreen as lotion. Of course, it’s also available as a spray, stick, powder, and liquid like this product. The main benefit of a liquid sunscreen is the quick absorption and weightless texture that’s perfect for wearing with makeup.
Cetaphil’s mineral formula is so lightweight that it astonishes people. It’s effortless to put on and sets to a matte finish. How can something so sheer offer so much protection? After all, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and never leaves the skin ashy or greasy.
Moreover, it has no perfumes, parabens, or chemical filters. It provides a light dose of moisture with skin-soothing ingredients like allantoin and niacinamide.
- Sheer, lightweight liquid perfect for makeup wearers
- Absorbs quickly and sets to a matte finish with no greasy or ashy after-effects
- Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes
- Free from perfumes and parabens
ETUDE HOUSE Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++
We had people asking about the best Korean sunscreens for melasma so we included one from Etude House. (It wasn’t affected by the little scandal with Purito’s and other brands’ sunscreens).
The advantage of Korean sunscreens versus American-made ones is the PA rating. The SPF designation is only a measure of how much protection against UVB and sunburn, not photoaging. But the PA rating addresses photoaging or UVA rays. The more plusses you see, the better!
This particular sun milk has a soft fruity scent and a lightweight texture that sinks right into the skin. It’s a pleasure to use, plus it offers all sorts of nutrients from botanicals like acerola, açai, and Centella asiatica. These anti-aging ingredients keep the skin moisturized and healthy.
This is a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide in nanoparticles. Once massaged in, the particles won’t leave a white cast on the skin but they still reflect damaging rays. Furthermore, the matte finish wears well under foundation.
- Korean sunscreen with a high level of broad-spectrum protection
- Lightweight formula with zinc oxide nanoparticles to prevent ashiness
- Matte finish wears well under makeup
- Nourishing botanicals keep the skin healthy and moisturized
Supergoop! Glow Stick SPF 50
What about a sunscreen stick you can carry in your bag? We love this one because it’s never messy, plus it can be used on the face or body. The protection is invisible, leaving the skin dewy but not greasy.
It’s described as a dry oil and it’s not oil-free. Instead, it has vitamin-rich plant oils that keep the skin soft and moisturized.
The only complaint is that it’s not mineral, but rather chemical. The active ingredients are avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene.
- Convenient stick sunscreen for the face and body
- Packed with nutrients and moisturizers
- Not messy or greasy, it leaves the skin dewy soft
- We saw a few complaints about it making vision temporarily a little blurry because of oils around the eyes
Whether you’re trying to prevent it or treat it, you need the best sunscreen for melasma. Choose one that you can use daily and make it part of your routine. You’ll thank yourself in the future.
We hope we helped you find the best skincare products for your needs today. If you love your new sunscreen, we’d enjoy hearing about your experience. Free to leave us a comment below.
1. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/melasma-overview by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, accessed June 30, 2021
2. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/ by the Skin Cancer Foundation, accessed June 30, 2021