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How to Avoid the White Cast with Sunscreen, According to An Expert

Photo by Milan Markovic/Getty Images

In the pursuit of flawless skin, protecting ourselves from the sun's rays is paramount. Yet many of us have faced the dreaded white cast left behind by sunscreen, which can turn our skincare routines into ghostly affairs. Whether you have a fair, medium, or deep skin tone, finding the right type of sunscreen that blends seamlessly can be challenging. But fear not! There are sunscreen formulas out there that cater to all skin types, ensuring you stay protected without compromising on appearance. From helping you understand the best sunscreens for your pigmentation to giving you the best hacks for a glowy finish, we've got you covered.

Sunscreen application is vital in preventing skin cancer and sun damage, but it shouldn't come at the cost of your confidence. With advancements in formulation, modern sun-care products are designed to be more inclusive and effective. Ahead, with the guidance of an expert, we are giving you the rundown on the different types of sunscreens—from mineral to chemical—and tips on choosing the best ones for your skin type. We'll also share practical methods for applying sunscreen to avoid a white cast so that your skin looks radiant and stays protected throughout the day, all while maintaining your regular skincare routine.

About the Expert:
Rachel Lozina is a licensed esthetician who founded Blue Water Spa in Oyster Bay, NY. 

Why Do Some Sunscreens Leave a White Cast?

Some sunscreens can leave behind a white cast due to the presence of zinc oxide in their formulation. Licensed esthetician Rachel Lozina explains, "Zinc is naturally white, thick, and pasty. However, sunscreen has become more cosmetically elegant over the years and isn't so obvious when you apply it." Zinc oxide is a powerful UV blocker, but its natural properties can create an unwanted ghostly effect, especially on darker skin tones. Fortunately, modern sunscreens have evolved with advanced formulations, making them more blendable and less noticeable.

How to Avoid a Sunscreen White Cast?

1. Opt for Tinted Sunscreens

Tinted sunscreens are a game changer in the fight against the dreaded white cast. Rachel Lozina advises, "Look for tinted sunscreens that can blend in with your skin tone." These sunscreens come in various shades to match skin tones and offer a seamless blend with excellent UV protection. Tinted formulas help prevent the ghostly look and offer a hint of coverage, making them perfect for a no-makeup day.

2. Choose Micronized Zinc Formulas

"Look for micronized zinc formulas, which are smaller in molecular size, blend into the skin, and won't leave a white cast," says Rachel Lozina. Micronized zinc oxide particles are much smaller than their traditional counterparts, which helps them to spread more evenly across the skin. This advanced formulation ensures you get the same level of protection without the chalky residue, making it suitable for all skin tones.

3. Apply in Layers

Instead of applying a thick layer of sunscreen all at once, try applying it in thinner layers. Start with a small amount, let it absorb, and then apply another layer. This method ensures thorough coverage without the heavy white residue. Applying in layers also allows the sunscreen to set correctly, providing adequate protection while maintaining a natural look. (This tip works well with both mineral and chemical sunscreens!)

4. Choose Gel-Based Formulas

Gel-based sunscreens are lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin, making them less likely to leave a white cast. These formulations are particularly beneficial for those with oily or combination skin, as they provide a matte finish and also help prevent shine. Look for gel sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection to ensure your skin barrier remains protected from harmful UV rays without compromising aesthetics.

5. Layer With Moisturizer

Applying a lightweight moisturizer before sunscreen can help it blend better into your skin. The moisturizer creates a smooth base, making it easier for the sunscreen to spread evenly and absorb without leaving a white cast. Opt for a moisturizer that is best for your skin type for optimal results. This hack is especially useful for those with dry skin, as it prevents the sunscreen from clinging to dry patches.

6. Let Sunscreen Absorb Before Makeup Application 

Give your sunscreen time to completely absorb into your skin before applying makeup. Waiting at least five to ten minutes gives the sunscreen time to set and reduces the risk of it mixing with your makeup and creating a white cast. This pause also helps ensure that the sunscreen forms a proper protective layer. Once absorbed, proceed with your usual makeup routine for a smooth, natural finish.

The Best White Cast-Free Sunscreens: 

1. ANUA Heartleaf Silky Moisture Sun Cream

ANUA Heartleaf Silky Moisture Sun Cream
Courtesy of ANUA

Reach for ANUA’s Heartleaf Silky Moisture Sun Cream when you want advanced sun protection with skin-soothing benefits. Formulated for all skin types, especially oily and sensitive, it targets UV protection, sebum control, and irritation with key ingredients like heartleaf extract, niacinamide, and green tea leaf extract. And of course, the lightweight, vegan formula glides on smoothly without leaving a white cast, so you can reapply as needed without worry.



BLACK GIRL SUNSCREEN SPF 30 is formulated with people of color in mind. It provides everyday sun protection that also doubles as a moisturizing lotion. Developed by women of color, this sunscreen protects your skin from harmful UV rays while also catering to melanin-rich complexions. 

3. COLORESCIENCE Total Protection No-Show Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

COLORESCIENCE Total Protection No-Show Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

We love this formula for its comprehensive protection from UVA/UVB rays, blue light, pollution, and infrared radiation. The lightweight, milky texture blends easily and feels weightless while offering a solid defense against the sun—an absolute essential as the weather warms up. 

4. SHISEIDO Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+

SHISEIDO Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+
Courtesy of SHISEIDO

This travel-ready essential is perfect for all your outdoor adventures. It features WetForce x HeatForce technology for strong protection and is infused with skincare ingredients to prevent wrinkles and dark spots. Plus, the compact stick format allows for easy on-the-go application. Stick in your purse so you can reapply on the fly. 

5. SUPERGOOP Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

SUPERGOOP Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

People (and by “people,” we mean everyone) are obsessed with SUPERGOOP’s Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, and for good reason. It has an invisible finish and is super versatile, boasting a 100% invisible, water- and sweat-resistant formula. It feels weightless with a natural finish that’s suitable for all skin types. Bonus: It doesn't have that polarizing sunscreen smell, feels non-greasy, and doubles as a makeup-gripping primer. 

6. ELTA MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

ELTA MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Courtesy of ELTA MD

This versatile sunscreen is designed for combination, dry, oily, and acne-prone skin. It contains 5% niacinamide to reduce blemishes and discoloration, and micronized zinc oxide to shield your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Use it daily for smooth and protected skin—you can’t go wrong with this lightweight, fragrance-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic formula. 

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About the author
Chelsea Hall
Chelsea Hall
Chelsea is an NYC-based fashion and beauty writer with over 7 years experience. She has held roles at publications such as Harper's Bazaar, WWD, InStyle, and Marie Claire. Her writing has also appeared on and
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Article Last Updated July 10, 2024 12:00 AM