I went to the dermatologist a few months ago for the first time in a long time (I blame it on COVID), and just as I'd predicted, my derm wasn't happy with me. In short, he said that in the last two-ish years, I'd spent far too much time in the sun and spent far too little time applying and reapplying sunscreen. And he was right. When the weather permitted during lockdown, I spent hours on my rooftop laying in the sun. When I wasn't doing that, I was hanging out in a park (socially distanced of course) or running outside—all either sans sunscreen or with very little sunscreen on.
Suffice to say, I left my appointment on a mission to finally take proper care of my skin, starting with my SPF routine. As someone who spends a lot of time scrolling on TikTok, my mind went straight to sunscreen of the tinted variety. Thus, I set out to find a tinted sunscreen that worked for my skin—one that gave me a no-makeup-makeup look while simultaneously protecting my skin from damage.
First things first, I called on Debra Jaliman, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist, to give me the low-down on sunscreen in general. Sun damage is cumulative," Jaliman tells me. "Even on a rainy day, you will get ultraviolet damage because the UV light goes through the clouds. That’s why it’s important to wear sunscreen every single day rain or shine." According to her, there are three simple rules of thumb when purchasing and using sunscreen: 1) Stick to an SPF of 29/30 or higher, 2) use about a half teaspoon of product, and 3) reapply every two hours (more if you sweat or go swimming). Tinted or non-tinted, tinted moisturizer with SPF or tinted sunscreen—none of these things matter really. It's all about those three things. Well, those, and the concentration of zinc oxide, which she says should be above 9%, especially if you have sensitive skin.
With a wealth of knowledge in tow, I test-drove eight tinted sunscreens, the likes of which are in heavy rotation on my FYP. There's EltaMD's UV Daily Sunscreen, which Hailey Bieber has shared on her TikTok page (check out this Vitamin C she also uses). And of course, there's Supergoop! Glowscreen, which has a cult-like following of its own on the app. But despite what Beauty TikTok might have you believe, those aren't the only two tinted sunscreens on the market. In fact, neither received my number one ranking.
See which one did and read all about my tinted-sunscreen journey below.
Okay, so I may have exaggerated before when I acted like Supergoop! Glowscreen was far off the top of my list. Really, I loved this product and used it daily for at least two weeks. It goes on really smooth, feels light and barely there, and gives your skin a nice shimmery sheen, sort of like Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter primer. That said, given that I don't usually wear makeup or anything with that shimmer-type look to it, this product ended up being a little bit too much for me. From Supergoop! I actually prefer the brand's Unseen Sunscreen, which has no color to it at all and feels like absolutely nothing is there. But hey, that's just me.
The benefits of Glowscreen go way beyond just sun protection, which with SPF 40, passes Jaliman's test with flying colors. It also includes hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin to retain water and overall moisture, and niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B that helps soothe and heal your skin, making it more than worth its $36 price tag. But keep an eye out for sales—I've seen red-marked Glowscreens on multiple occasions.
To say I've been seeing EltaMD's tinted sunscreen a lot lately would be the understatement of 2022. It's practically all I see people on TikTok using for SPF, and when I put up a poll on my Instagram asking people for their favorite tinted sunscreens, it and Glowscreen were by far the top contenders. So of course, when I decided to test out some products, it was high on my list.
I can see why people love this product. It's simple and effective, and something about the brand having "MD" in its name made me feel extra good about wearing it. Also, like Glowscreen, EltaMD's sunscreen also includes hyaluronic acid, giving it an almost skincare-like quality. My only qualm is that there is only one shade that's meant to be universal, but it was much too dark for my skin. Perhaps in the summer, once I've had a little more time in the sun, it would match better, or if I mixed it with some of my normal moisturizer to dilute the color a bit, but on its own, the shade didn't naturally match.
Everyone always says that if you're lost when it comes to skincare, always default to the brands that make simple, no-fuss products, one of which is CeraVe. Because of that, I stopped at my local CVS and picked up the brand's Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen which is tinted and has an SPF of 30.
For one thing, the price is hard to beat. This isn't a small product size, so you're really getting a lot of bang for your buck since, right now, it only costs $14 on Amazon. The formulation is very creamy and hydrating and I like that the shade was a nice match for my skin and blended in nicely. Because of its creamier, thicker texture, I'd suggest using a little less of this sunscreen than you would with most other tinted SPFs at first and then build on it. Either way, though, you'll absolutely get that wet, glowy look from this product, which is never a bad thing if you ask me.
Another great thing about this CeraVe product is how gentle it is for people with sensitive skin. In fact, most of CeraVe's products are that way because they are fragrance-free and don't contain parabens, so if you're someone who can't put just anything on your face (me!), perhaps it's time to test out some of the brand's gentler products.
As someone with fair skin that's seen its fair share of sun damage, I was intrigued by Koa's high SPF at 45+. After talking with Jaliman, I was also impressed that it contains 12% zinc oxide, which I now know is nice and high. Upon trying it out for the first time, I enjoyed the extremely lightweight formula, which is more liquidy than most of the sunscreens I tested for this story. My only issue with it was the slight white cast it left behind, which wouldn't bother me if I were going to the beach, but might hinder me from using it for regular, everyday wear.
Rest assured on your next beach day because Koa's Mineral Sunscreen is 100% reef-safe, thanks to its non-nano zinc oxide formula.
As a kid, when I'd go on vacation to the beach, I'd always try and convince my parents to buy me Sun Bum sunscreen as opposed to a bottle from one of the big brands because I loved the way it smelled and its overall cool, surfer aesthetic. I guess it stuck because when I saw that the brand had a tinted face sunscreen with SPF 30, I immediately picked it up and took it to the register without so much as a second thought.
This sunscreen feels almost whipped it's so lightweight, and it goes on almost matte, which is very different from the other products I tested out. Normally, I'm not really a matte-makeup person, however, since summers in New York are extremely hot and humid, I actually think that once the weather heats up, I'd love a slightly matte sunscreen to counteract my natural dewiness.
You still here? If you're one of the people who stayed until the end, you'll be rewarded with my absolute favorite tinted sunscreen—well, technically it's a tinted moisturizer with SPF 35—of the bunch: Saie's Slip Tint in the shade 3.5. Hear me out: As someone who rarely wears makeup, especially face makeup, I was shocked at how much I liked wearing this just barely tinted moisturizer and sunscreen. It didn't really cover anything up on my face; all it did was make my natural skin look glowier and more even-toned. It also made my blush and highlighter—both liquid—stay on for way longer, which has always been somewhat of an issue for me when I put those products on my bare skin. I'm not kidding, ever since I started using this product, I've had to force myself to use and test out other ones—that's how much I love it.
Another thing I adore about this product and all of Saie's products really is how clean they are. They are also gluten-free, cruelty-free, and come in packaging that's easily recyclable.
More tinted sunscreens to try:
Technically a tinted moisturizer, this super-smooth product also has an SPF of 30, making it perfectly suitable for an everyday sunscreen. Another winning quality? It comes in three shades—ivory, fair, and tan—making it more likely that it'll blend in naturally.
This Clarins tinted sunscreen is also a tad on the pricier side, but according to a majority of the 177 Nordstrom reviews, a little goes a long way allowing one bottle to last for ages.
Shop our favorite non-tinted sunscreens: