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Though melasma can be difficult to treat at home, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, daily, can prevent the condition from getting worse, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tracy Evans, who tells Elite Daily that the best sunscreens for melasma are mineral, not chemical-based. Dr. Evans likes sunscreens that contain niacinamide (otherwise known as vitamin B3), which she says is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be helpful in treating melasma, particularly when used in conjunction with prescription products. The expert says it’s best to avoid anything that can irritate your skin, like salicylic acid or strong concentrations of AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), so stick with gentle mineral sunscreens when possible.
Chemical sunscreens can aggravate melasma and exacerbate its appearance, agrees dermatologist Dr. Sanusi Umar, who spoke with Elite Daily for this story. Dr. Umar adds that the additional benefit of mineral over chemical sunscreens is they can minimize melasma by their photoprotective effect. And since visible light is a significant contributor to melasma, he suggests choosing mineral sunscreens that also contain ferrous (iron) oxide, an ingredient that can block visible light.
To shop the best sunscreens for melasma, including picks from our two experts, read on.
1. Expert’s Pick: The Overall Best Sunscreen For Melasma
“EltaMD UV Clear is my all-time favorite,” Dr. Evans says of her suggested sunscreen choice. “It contains niacinamide for an extra anti-inflammatory effect.” Additionally, it’s oil-free, fragrance-free, provides hydration courtesy of hyaluronic acid, and should not clog pores, which is why it tends to work well for a range of skin types, including sensitive and blemish-prone skin. Note that this contains both mineral (zinc oxide) and chemical (octinoxate) ingredients, but the expert says it’s still a top choice for anyone with melasma.
2. Expert’s Pick: The Best Tinted Sunscreen For Melasma
Dr. Umar recommends Sun Bum’s tinted, fragrance-free mineral lotion, because it contains titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron (ferrous) oxides, an ingredient that can block visible light and therefore provide protection against melasma. Though some people don’t like tinted sunscreens, other patients of Dr. Umar’s do, because, “While all sunscreens impart a whitish hue on the skin, the reddish hue of ferrous oxide can reduce the appearance of discoloration of melasma.” Still, like any mineral sunscreen, this may leave behind a slight white cast, so it may not be suitable for everyday wear if you have darker skin.
3. The Best Sunscreen For Melasma & Sensitive Skin
Almost all Avène products are designed for people with skin sensitivities, and their Solaire UV Mineral Multi Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+ is no exception. This sheer, fragrance- and oil-free sunscreen offers 40 minutes of water-resistant coverage thanks to the zinc oxide in the formula, and contains soothing ingredients like allantoin, niacinamide, and the brand’s thermal spring water from France. Overall, this provides a highly effective, non-irritating form of sun protection for all skin types.
4. The Best Sunscreen For Melasma & Oily Skin
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 is made with a combination of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide, as well as soothing botanicals like green tea, cranberry, and pomegranate. Also in the formula are dimethicone and silica, which can help control oil and promote smoother, matte skin, so this is a particularly nice choice for oily skin types. To top it off, it offers water-resistant coverage up to 80 minutes.
5. The Best Sunscreen For Melasma & Dry Skin
If you’re prone to dry skin, the zinc oxide-based StriVectin Full Screen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 contains enriching rapeseed, jojoba seed, and argan oils, along with moisturizing shea butter to further hydrate and nourish your skin. The elegant formula also includes calming and brightening licorice root, anti-inflammatory turmeric, and iron oxide, along with NIA-114, StriVectin’s patented form of niacin/vitamin B3. This sunscreen offers a vanishing tint which disappears into skin rather than leaving behind a white cast. Note that it has a coconut scent, so if you don’t like products with fragrance, skip this one.
6. The Best Drugstore Moisturizer With SPF For Melasma
This lightweight, non-greasy SPF 30 lotion from Olay can be worn as a daily moisturizer alone or underneath makeup. It’s gentle, fragrance-free, and contains zinc oxide as the main sun protective ingredient, while niacinamide, glycerin, peptides, and vitamin E offer plenty of other good-for-skin benefits. It’s a great one-step product to incorporate into any busy-morning routine.
Dr. Tracy Evans M.D., M.P.H., board-certified dermatologist and Medical Director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology
Dr. Sanusi Umar, M.D., Associate Faculty at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Dermatology Division, and Medical Director at Dr. U Hair and Skin Clinic in Manhattan Beach, California