Spring and summer are just around the corner and that means we need some extra focus on sun care! While hyperpigmentation is usually harmless, it can still do a number on your self-confidence as it leaves behind dark spots that are pretty visible to the naked eye. These darkened patches occur when an excess of melanin is produced and deposited onto the skin surface. Melanin is the key pigment that lives beneath the skin surface and determines our skin color. It’s present in both fair-skinned and dark-skinned individuals, albeit in varying ratios. As such, hyperpigmentation is a something that can happen to anyone, no matter your race or the geography you live in.
15 Best Sunscreens to protect your hyper-pigmented skin
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, this oil-free facial sunscreen is the holy grail for protecting skin against hyperpigmentation and acne. With brightening Niacinamide, it fades dark spots and discoloration effortlessly when worn daily on the face. Moreover, Hyaluronic Acid plumps up your skin for a healthy look while Lactic Acid sloughs off excess pigment in the skin. The best part is the high concentration of 9% Zinc Oxide to effectively combat pigmentation-inducing UVA rays. Zinc Oxide is also anti-inflammatory and great at soothing PIH-induced redness. Fans of this sunscreen loved how lightweight and silky it feels underneath makeup for a flawless finish.
Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++
We stan a physical sunscreen that doesn’t make us look like an oily mess after a long day. It also doesn’t leave much of a white cast behind. Even though the texture feels slightly thick and goopy, it spreads out well on your skin and settles down to a semi-matte finish within a few minutes. As such, you will never have to worry about your makeup pilling after putting on this sunscreen. Oily skin users also loved how well it controlled the sebum on their faces. As the sunscreen provides you with a high level of sun protection at SPF 50 and PA+++, the pesky sunspots don’t stand a chance at all.
Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen SPF50+/PA++++
If you prefer your sunscreen to have a gel texture, check out this Japanese sunscreen by Shiseido. The formula is jelly-like and feels refreshing when applied on the skin. It also provides ample sun protection against UVA and UVB rays with its strong rating of PA++++. This means that current dark spots are shielded against more sun damage while preventing future ones from appearing. And that’s not all, the sunscreen is also infused with Mount Fiji Mineral Water to boost your skin’s elasticity and firmness for a more youthful complexion.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Sunscreen SPF 60
With a sky-high level of SPF 60, this broad spectrum sunscreen uses Cell-Ox Shield® technology to shield your skin against sun damage and pigmentation issues so that you can head out into the sun with nary a care. Formulated with a dry touch texture, this is perfect for oily skin types as it dries down to a matte finish and reduces shine. It is also untinted and will not interfere with your makeup. It’s no wonder that this high performer bagged numerous awards such as the 2017 Allure Best of Beauty Awards and the 2017 GLAMOUR.COM Beauty Award.
Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Another non-greasy sunscreen for oily skin individuals that is worth a mention. This broad spectrum sunscreen provides you with the ultimate UVA/UVB protection to defend against excess melanin production and pigmentation issues. It goes on creamy and smooth where the whiteness disappears after the product has sunk in completely. With 10.5% of Zinc Oxide, you not only get ample sun protection but also a faster healing process of unsightly PIH scars. Because it’s gentle on the skin with a matte look, this sun shield is also ideal for those who are dealing with acne.
Supergoop! Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen with Olive Polyphenols SPF 40
If you are suffering from a red, blotchy complexion due to PIH, this mineral sunscreen will be your skin-saver. Infused with Olive Polyphenols, this product works to calm irritation and redness for a more even complexion. As it is a physical sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide, it sits comfortably on your skin to reflect UV rays without causing sensitivity. Plus, the antiseptic property of Zinc Oxide kills acne-causing bacteria to prevent more breakouts from occurring. Because it does not leave behind a white film and is non-greasy, this sunscreen is good to layer on underneath your foundation on days when you feel like you need more coverage.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
This no. 1 dermatologist recommended sunscreen with approval from the National Eczema Association is perfect for sensitive skin types. Featuring the brand’s breakthrough Purescreen® naturally-sourced 100% Zinc Oxide technology, the sun protectant arms your skin with superb defense against harmful UVA/UVB rays. In fact, one reviewer mentioned that the product helped fade her hyperpigmentation while preventing new acne from forming. An added benefit is that this sunscreen is so mild it doesn’t burn when sweat and the product get into your eyes.
Earth’s Recipe Waterful Sun Gel SPF50+/PA+++
With SPF 50 and a rating of PA+++, you will be sure that your skin is in good hands with this reliable sun blocker. The gel formula feels light and sheer on your skin. It sinks in quickly to leave behind a silky texture, making it ideal as a primer for makeup. The key ingredient is the Harrogate Sparkling Water from Britain whose carbonation helps to unclog pores for an improved skin texture and clarity. Moreover, it intensely hydrates your skin to keep it soft and moisturized all day. And if you are worried about a white cast, nix your concerns with this sun gel.
MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++
Leveraging on the brand’s new Double Layer UV Blocking System, this sun essence gives your skin long-lasting protection against strong UV rays. Ideal for dry skin individuals, the sunscreen is fortified with four types of moisturizing flower extracts to give tired-looking skin a hydration boost. The gel texture is so lightweight that most users felt like they aren’t wearing anything on their skin. Plus, the formula absorbs rapidly with minimal white cast so that you can easily apply makeup on top of it. Moreover, if you are a fan of dewy complexions, this sunscreen will add a subtle glow to your skin tone without looking overly greasy.
Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
This powerful physical sunscreen contains both Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide to provide exceptional protection against sun-induced hyperpigmentation. The high level of SPF in it holds up well during hot summer days to prevent unwanted sunburns and age spots. Additionally, it is infused with antioxidant-rich Kakadu Plum, Eucalyptus and Red Algae to nourish your skin. For oily skin types, you will be delighted to learn that it dries down to a powdery, matte finish which reduces shine and oiliness. It also has a slight tint which is great for covering mild redness. Use it on days when you want to sport a #nomakeup look.
Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection SPF 50+
If you want a sunscreen with a matte finish and a tint to even out PIH scars, dark spots, and redness, try this one by Replenix. The product has SPF 50 and 16.2% of Zinc Oxide to protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, its skin-perfecting tint conceals flaws for an immaculate finish. For troubled skin types, the non-comedogenic formula prevents clogged pores and future acne formation. Plus, it blends well into the skin and sits comfortably underneath your foundation if you feel like you need more coverage. Lastly, it also doubles up as an anti-aging product due to the infused Resveratrol that prevents the breakdown of collagen and loss of skin elasticity.
Fallene Cotz SPF 58 Water Resistant UVB/UVA Sunscreen
This mineral sunscreen is packed with 10% Titanium Dioxide and 3% Zinc Oxide to fight against sun damage. The high level of SPF 58 creates a physical barrier that bounces UV rays away from the skin to prevent pigmentation and skin aging. Free from chemical agents and oils, it’s proven to not cause skin irritation which is ideal for sensitive skin types. Users who suffered from melasma has shared that this is their go-to sunscreen for providing ample sun protection. The slight beige tint can also cover up light imperfections to enhance your skin complexion.
Origins GinZing SPF 40 Energy-Boosting Tinted Moisturizer
This oil-free sunscreen also doubles up as a moisturizer to cover all your bases in a single application. It contains Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide to reflect sun rays effectively. Additionally, the infusion of Panax Ginseng and Caffeine energizes dull-looking skin for a more radiant and healthy look. Users like it for its lightweight texture that is easily absorbed. The sheer tint also reduces the appearance of dark spots, acne scars, and redness for a more clarified complexion. One added benefit is that Caffeine is a natural anti-irritant while Zinc Oxide heals wounds quickly, thereby making this sunscreen great at calming acne and preventing future zits.
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50/PA++++
For all the urban chicks out there, you definitely need to pack this sunscreen in your beauty arsenal against UV rays. Besides providing sun protection, this cult favorite goes one step further by defending your skin against environmental pollution and blue light from smartphones and laptops. When applied on the skin, the light peach tint provides color-correcting abilities to help your skin look its best. The sheer formula also sinks in quickly without making your complexion look ashy. Moreover, the product settles down into a dewy, luminous finish which adds a healthy glow to your skin. This is great for covering up dark spots and light acne scars without having to reach for your concealer.
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF50+/PA++++
Biore has captured the hearts of many with its Watery Essence Sunscreen. And with good reason too, given that it has won the Best Cosmetic Award in 2014. This improved formula has a super rating of PA++++ to give you greater sun protection that is both waterproof and sweatproof. True to its name, it contains hydrating Hyaluronic Acid to moisturize your skin. Nourishing Royal Jelly is also included to boost collagen and skin renewal, thereby helping to fade skin discolorations. The watery gel absorbs rapidly and provides a smooth base for your makeup to go on seamlessly.
These sunscreens are great at warding off excess melanin production by giving you ample sun protection. The result is the prevention of new dark spots from appearing while lightening PIH-induced scars.
What forms of Hyper-pigmentation are there?
There are numerous forms of hyperpigmentations, of which the three most common ones are: sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Sun exposure is one of the key causes behind melanin overproduction which then leads to the formation of sunspots. This is why dermatologists and skin experts have constantly emphasized the need to apply a good sunscreen in order to shield against the harmful UVA and UVB rays. This will then prevent and halt the formation of the dreaded sun spots. While these spots appear brown and unsightly, they are noncancerous and thus not a cause for concern.
This form of hyperpigmentation appears as blotchy patches on your face. Melasma is normally concentrated in the T-zone area - think cheeks, nose bridge, forehead, and chin. However, it can also spread to other body areas like your arms and legs, even though this is less common. Common triggers of melasma are attributed to sun exposure and hormones. As such, it is commonly experienced during and after a pregnancy, going on birth control or when you experience a change in your hormone levels. Because melasma can be harder to treat compared to other types of hyperpigmentation, prevention is better than cure as suggested by most dermatologists. And your first line of defense against this unwanted skin condition is to religiously layer on a broad spectrum sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Another leading cause of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) which is usually the result of acne or certain facial injuries. These pigment spots tend to be red or pink in color, although it may also appear as brown on darker skin tones. PIH comes about when there is a trauma done to the skin which triggers an inflammatory response. The inflammation then stimulates the melanin-producing cells to increase their production which then leads to the unsightly pigment spots. In order to avoid worsening PIH and fade away these scars, using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more should be an integral step in your daily routine.
To help you in your fight against sun-induced hyperpigmentation, we’ve trawled through heaps of sun blockers on the market. We then narrowed down and compiled this list of the best sunscreens that have been proven to fight off hyperpigmentation.
The Quick Guide to Sunscreens for Hyperpigmentation
When you visit your local drugstore to pick up a new sunscreen, take a minute to stop and read the labels on the product carefully. Most sunscreens come with labels like “Broad Spectrum”, SPF levels, and PA ratings to convince you they are a good buy for you. But what do these terms really mean? Are these what your skin needs? We break it down for you below.
What You Need to Know About Sunscreens:
- Broad Spectrum: if you see a “Broad Spectrum” label on a sunscreen, it’s a good sign that it guards against UVA and UVB rays. UVA causes pigmentation by oxidizing the existing melanin in your skin. Additionally, UVB adds to the damage by stimulating greater melanin production. Hence, it’s important for your sunscreen to provide adequate protection against both types of UV rays in order to treat and prevent hyperpigmentation from worsening.
- SPF: otherwise known as the Sun Protection Factor, SPF tells you how effective the sunscreen is in protecting your skin against UVB rays. If a sunscreen has SPF 50 in it, it means that it will protect your skin up to the level of 50 times more UVB radiation than is needed to burn the skin. Dermatologists usually recommend a minimum of SPF 30 or more for everyday use.
- PA: otherwise known as the Protection Grade of UVA. It refers to the sunscreen’s capability of shielding your skin from UVA rays. The PA rating is based on the Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) score. This PA rating system originated from Japan and has been used as a universal measure in most Korean and Japanese sunscreens. To understand how it works, there is a range of PA+ to PA++++. The greater the number of ‘+’ signs, the stronger the PA is.
Now that you have a better understanding of what these sciencey sunscreen labels mean, you will be better able to choose a sunscreen that fit your preferences and skin type.
Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens:
In recent years, there has also been a constant debate on whether one should use a physical or chemical sunscreen. The formulation and the way it works vary between the two types. But despite these differences, there is no right or wrong in using a particular sunscreen filter over the other. The deciding factor really depends on your preferences and how well your skin reacts to each variant. We look at the characteristics of each type in greater detail:
A physical sunscreen normally includes mineral ingredients like Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide. This is why they are often referred to as mineral sunscreens too. These active ingredients mimic a physical shield by sitting atop the skin’s surface to reflect UV rays. This accounts for why most physical sunscreens feel thicker in texture compared to chemical ones. They also tend to leave behind a white cast. This is something to take note of if you have darker skin tones or like to layer on makeup afterward. But a major benefit of using physical sunscreens is that they are less irritating to the skin which makes it a better choice for sensitive skin types.
A chemical sunscreen usually contains one or a combination of carbon-based ingredients like Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, and Octinoxate. Unlike physical filters, these chemical filters absorb UV rays into the skin and transform the UV radiation into heat before releasing it from the skin. As such, chemical sunscreens have a greater likelihood of triggering skin sensitivity when compared to physical filters. Despite this shortcoming, chemical sunscreens spread easily on the skin without leaving any white residue behind. This makes it easier for daily application without interfering with your makeup.
Dealing with hyperpigmentation can be tricky as exposure to UV rays may worsen the issue. This is why dermatologists stressed the importance of using a suitable broad spectrum sunscreen as the first step towards fixing hyperpigmentation. In fact, a research study has shown that daily application of a broad spectrum sunscreen had improved users’ skin clarity and texture significantly within a period of three months. By consistently using the right sunscreen over a year, it had even gone as far as to reverse the damaging effects of UV exposure by fading the discoloration caused by dark spots, melasma, and PIH. Even more reasons to use your sunscreen!