Sunscreen is an acknowledged essential, but the user experience can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Those thick, heavy lotions never seem to absorb completely — never mind trying to find a sunscreen that doesn’t leave white residue. The bare minimum requirement, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, is a broad-spectrum SPF 30 that filters out both UVA and UVB rays, but finding one that won't leave a white cast comes down to digging into ingredients.
Physical Versus Chemical Sunscreen
There are pros and cons to both physical and chemical sunscreens, so the choice is really up to you. Here's what you need to know about each.
- Chemical Sunscreen: This lightweight and easy-to-apply type of sunscreen is less likely to leave a white residue than heavier physical sunscreens, and it's easier to blend with other skincare ingredients. Plus, since chemical sunscreens spread easily, there's less risk of leaving parts of your skin exposed because you’re not depending on a thick physical barrier like you would with mineral sunscreen. That said, chemical sunscreens usually include at least two of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. These ingredients, especially oxybenzone, have taken heat in recent years for being linked to endocrine disruption and for negatively impacting coral reefs. Plus, a chemical sunscreen can be pore-clogging, and you also have to wait some time for it to be maximally effective.
- Physical Sunscreen: Also called mineral sunscreen, this heavier type of sun protection actually sits on top of your skin to create a literal (physical) barrier. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the only two mineral ingredients that are FDA-approved for sun protection — and they both look chalky in their raw form. However, despite being thick, mineral sunscreens are still a top choice for many thanks to their natural, reef-friendly ingredients that start protecting your skin immediately. Plus, some formulas these days are made to go on more sheer, and others even come with a tint to offset any chalky residue. Just keep in mind that mineral options will wear off more quickly than their chemical counterparts.
With all that in mind, it's time to shop for the right sunscreen for you. All of the options below have passed the no-white-residue test, and come highly rated on Amazon.
We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
1. The Best Drugstore Option: A High-SPF Chemical Sunscreen With A Cult Following
This bestselling drugstore sunscreen comes backed by more than 3,000 Amazon reviews. It features a quick-absorbing, oil-free formula that provides broad-spectrum coverage (it includes the six chemical sunscreen ingredients listed above). It has an invisible, matte finish and it's noncomedogenic, so it’s a nice budget-friendly alternative to La Roche-Posay (my next pick below). Offering the most sun protection on this list (100+ SPF), it's a great option for anyone seeking potent protection from the sun without any white cast.
Rave Review: "Long lasting, good coverage, no white or greasy residue. On occasion I miss a spot and you can see the difference from space."
2. An Oil-Free Chemical Sunscreen For Your Face
This sunscreen for your face comes courtesy of La Roche-Posay, an award-winning French skincare brand that has racked up accolades for its lightweight sunscreens that pack heavy-duty SPF. This one is a chemical sunscreen, though notably oxybenzone-free, and has the brand's Cell-Ox shield technology, which blends broad-spectrum SPF with antioxidants to neutralize stray free radicals generated by sun exposure. It absorbs quickly without a residue, and has a matte finish that oily skin will appreciate (thanks to oil-absorbing perlite and silica), so it also makes a nice primer under makeup. The noncomedogenic and oil-free formula is fragrance free and dermatologist-tested for tolerance, so even sensitive skin stays comfortably protected.
Rave Review: "The newer formulations smooth on easily and penetrate deeply leaving no residue. This one is the best yet – it's a "dry" lotion, so it isn't at all greasy or oily, it blends in very quickly and leaves your skin with a nice matte finish."
3. A Mineral Sunscreen With A Tint To Offset Any White Cast
Finding a mineral sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast can be a tall order, but this botanical-infused physical sunscreen has a finish that's decidedly not chalky. It combines the best features of a tinted moisturizer with a potent SPF. The reef-friendly formula has a subtle gold tone to offset the mineral SPF 50 that's derived from a combination of non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It's also packed with nourishing ingredients you might find in a high-end skincare product, including kakadu plum, eucalyptus, and red algae. The versatile tone adapts itself to a range of skin tones, and scores of reviewers loved it for a natural makeup look. This gentle yet powerful, non-chemical sunscreen is fragrance free and tested by both dermatologists and pediatricians.
Rave Review: "It goes on feeling moisturizing but dries down feeling dry and smooth, not greasy at all. I’ve also found that there is no white cast on my darker skin tone. I apply a liberal amount, (about a dime size on half of my forearm in the picture) and I really don’t see any white sheen to my skin."
4. This Soothing Tinted Mineral Sunscreen For Face & Body
While the price tag might seem initially steep, reviewers love this option for its ability to leave no trace, or as one noted, "no ghost appearance." This tinted sunscreen for face and body derives its broad spectrum coverage from 20% soothing zinc oxide, using no chemical sunscreen fillers. Its tinted blend helps it adapt to a variety of skin tones and further offsets any chance of a white cast. Its coverage feels lightweight, with a dewy finish that contains two skin-rejuvenating antioxidants: vitamin C and vitamin E. The gentle formula is also notable for what's lacking: you won't find and fragrance, dyes, or preservatives on the label.
Rave Review: "It works impeccably well, doesn't sweat off immediately or run off in a white or tan mess, my face feels cool and dry while using it and it doesn't clog my pores."
5. A Tinted Powder Sunscreen For Makeup
Reapplying sunscreen is great in theory, but when you work hard to achieve a certain makeup application, it can be hard to want to top off your facial SPF every two hours. That's why this tinted powder sunscreen with a brush is your new BFF. Use it for SPF touch-ups on the go that won't melt your makeup. Derma-E promises that their translucent, reef-safe, non-nano zinc and non-nano titanium dioxide sunscreen adapts to any skin tone, and packs a ton of skincare benefits )thanks to the green tea, chamomile, and Vitamin E). And the vegan formula is made without any parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, lanolin, GMOs, gluten, or soy.
Rave Review: "The powder is very finely milled and is translucent on pale or lightly tanned skin yet does not feel dry or cakey after applying. The brush feels like a high end make-up brush and evenly distributes and applies the powder. I've used several mineral powder sunscreens similar that cost 2x or 3x as much and DermaE is the better product. [...] DermaE has been bumping around the bottom of my purse and not once has the lid popped off. Perfect to set make-up, apply during the course of the day or add extra layer over liquid sunscreen."