Is Tinted Sunscreen Less Effective Than Regular SPF?

The golden rule of skincare is never skip your sunscreen. But does using tinted sunscreen lessen the benefits of your SPF?

Fact checked by Haley MadesMedically reviewed by Hadley King, MD

Wearing sunscreen every day (yes, every day!) is crucial to keeping the skin protected from harmful UV rays and is an important step to protect the skin’s appearance. It helps to prevent premature aging such as wrinkles, sunspots, hyperpigmentation and dry skin—and of course, lowers the risk of skin cancer. 

But with so many subcategories of sunscreen out there, is it okay to cut corners? We're all for combining steps in our morning regimen to help simplify our routines, and tinted sunscreen is an appealing concept for that reason. We spoke with expert dermatologists to determine just how effective tinted sunscreen is, and how we should use it.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

What is tinted sunscreen?

“Tinted sunscreens are products that combine a colored base coverage with UV filters,” says Jodi LoGerfo, MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Orentreich Medical Group. “The tint is obtained by integrating a blend of iron oxides and pigmentary titanium dioxide, combining broad spectrum mineral UV filters with added pigments.”

The pigment within the sunscreen serves to provide SPF coverage while simultaneously overcorrecting for the white residue sunscreen can often leave behind. To accommodate different skin colors, most tinted sunscreens offer a variety of shades, obtained by mixing iron oxides (which provide pigment as well as additional protection) with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide (mineral sunscreens that reflect UV rays).

“By creating a visible skin-tone color, pigments in tinted sunscreens also reflect away visible light in a way that translucent chemical sunscreens cannot,” says Rachel Westbay, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical.

Is tinted sunscreen less effective than regular SPF?

Good news! According to the experts, no. It's equally—if not more—effective as your regular SPF.

“Tinted sunscreen is as, or possibly more, effective as regular clear or white sunscreen because it contains iron oxides, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are mineral particles that have been shown to block not only UV light, but also visible or blue light emitted from our laptop and phone screens.” says Jeremy Brauer, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Spectrum Skin and Laser.

This means that even if you’re spending all your time inside, it is still beneficial to wear sunscreen to protect you from UVA and UVB rays, which can still come into your home through glass windows and doors. Similar to if you were outside, the effects of sunscreen are still prevalent if you’re just sitting on your couch or working from home. An added bonus is the pigment will help your skin look that much more flawless on harsh Zoom cameras—and will shield you from blue light damage.

“Tinted sunscreens have been shown to block UV light as well as blue light which is emitted from our computers and cellphones. Blue light has been shown to cause oxidative stress on skin, which can also cause wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, etc.” says Dr. LoGerfo.

How to Use Tinted Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen doesn’t have to be confusing! “To apply sunscreen of any type you should always think about the size of a nickel. You want to make sure you’re evenly coating every part of your face and don’t forget about your neck and ears,” says Kate Ballaera, a medical aesthetician at Advanced Dermatology.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to layer, layer, layer and make sure to apply a coat before you’ve gone through your full skincare routine, moisturizer included. Having sunscreen be part of your morning skincare routine is key. If you apply every morning you’ll get the best results from being consistently protected against UV rays—and of course reapply as needed throughout the day, especially if you’re outside.

If you’re really worried about the sun, you can always apply multiple SPFs. “You can use a base sunscreen and then pop a tinted one on top for a flawless look while protecting your skin the way it should be cared for. Always check the actual SPF protection especially if you’re using just the tinted sunscreen alone,” says Ballaera.

Expert-Approved Tinted Sunscreens

According to dermatologists, there’s a lot—it just depends on your skin type and tone to determine what is best for you. The experts we talked to say these are the most effective formulas for flawless coverage and everyday protection.

Clinique City Block Sheer Oil-Free Daily Face Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 25

The lightweight formula helps wick away perspiration and absorb excess oil, while simultaneously providing sheer UVA/UVB daily sun protection with no chemical sunscreens. Use it alone or as a base for your foundation for a flawless finish and radiant skin. 

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40

A fan-favorite, Supergoop is vegan and certified clean at Sephora so you don’t have to feel any guilt while lathering up. A hydrating, makeup-gripping primer with SPF 40 and blue-light protection, this sunscreen has a pearlescent finish to leave skin luminous with an instant glow.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

One of my daily go-to’s, EltaMD provides serious UV protection. In addition to protecting you from the sun, this sunscreen has hyaluronic acid to boost moisture and diminish fine lines and wrinkles.

Priori Skincare TETRA broad spectrum Mineral Sunscreen SPF 55

Developed by scientists for ultimate year-round protection, this sunscreen melts into any skin tone and delivers instant glow. TETRA also provides GPF (Genetic Protection Factor) to protect skin at the cellular level against all modern-time aggressors such as blue light, heat, and pollution. 

Skinbetter Science Tone Smart SPF 75 Lotion

If your skin is on the oily side, look no further. This oil-free, broad spectrum sunscreen acts as a primer under makeup or in place of a light coverage foundation without the unwanted dewy glow of oily skin.

MMSkincare Sasha Suncare Tinted Mineral Sunscreen

For a full coverage look, this formulation is perfect for adding to your routine under makeup or without anything else for a put-together, on-the-go look. Best part? 100% of the profits made through the sales of Sasha Suncare are donated to Beyond Suncare, an organization dedicated to helping and protecting those with albinism.

KINLÒ Golden Rays Sunscreen

If you can’t seem to avoid the white cast in mineral sunscreen, this product is your best bet for a flawless finish. The active formula is sweat-proof and packed with skin-benefiting ingredients that balance, brighten, and improve the appearance of pores and pigmentation over time.

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