sun care and self tanning

Skip the White Cast: The Best Ways to Apply Sunscreen Without the Ashiness

Protect your skin without the unwanted white residue
June 07, 2023
How To Avoid A White Cast In Your Sunscreen Hero Bmag 060723 2

Wearing SPF daily is a must, it’s one of those skin care rules that you’ll want to follow to protect your health and the health of your skin. However, the white cast that some sunscreens can leave behind might tempt you to skip out on SPF altogether. Thankfully there are several new categories of sun protection that won’t give you a chalky ashen appearance. 

So instead of putting your skin at risk for sun damage (which can lead to signs of aging faster and worse), try upgrading your SPF skin care lineup with a few new additions. Below, we’re sharing the sunscreen picks and tips you can use to help avoid the pasty and ashy look of sunscreen white cast for all skin types and skin tones.

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Why Do Sunscreens Give You a White Cast?

A white cast refers to when your sunscreen leaves behind a white, filmy layer on your skin (sometimes it can have a purple or blue-like hue to it). This can be especially noticeable on darker skin tones and in photos, similar to makeup flashbacks. Don’t worry, this isn’t something that happens with every SPF — things like formulation and application are usually the cause. 


Mineral sunscreen formulas include ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, with the latter occasionally giving off an ashy appearance. Plus, how you put on your sunscreen can also play a part. Check out our tips to help avoid the look of a white cast after applying sunscreen.


1. Opt for a Chemical Sunscreen

Unlike physical sunscreen (also known as mineral sunscreen), which works like a shield to deflect harmful sun rays from your skin, chemical sunscreen works like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Most importantly, the AAD shares that this offering tends to be easier to rub into the skin without leaving behind a white residue.


Editor’s tip: Use a multitasking skin care product that can provide both hydration and sun protection. Looking for a new sunscreen pick? Try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30, formulated with vitamin C, pro-retinol, hyaluronic acid, and SPF 30 to help soften and soothe the skin while offering a layer of sun protection. Pump a nickel-sized amount of the lotion onto your fingertips, and gently pat it onto your face, neck, and chest area.


2. Give Your Sunscreen Time to Work

One grave mistake you may be making is not giving your sunscreen enough time to sit on your skin before heading outdoors. The AAD says that you should apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go outside to allow the product to absorb into the skin and provide maximum protection. For the best protection possible Mayo Clinic recommends using sunblock with at least an SPF 15 (that’s when the sunscreen will start protecting skin against the sun’s UVB rays.) 


Editor’s tip: For maximum coverage gravitate towards products with SPF 30 or SPF 50. Try the RevitaLift Derm Intensives Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Invisible UV Fluid that blends well on all skin tones and will not leave a white cast. Infused with vitamin C and vitamin E, this sunscreen leaves the skin feeling immediately moisturized and well-protected.


3. Reach for a Tinted Sunscreen

If you have a dark skin tone, you may already be aware of how essential it is to find a sunscreen that doesn’t leave you with ashy-looking skin. Thankfully, a tinted sunscreen option can help in that area. Offering the best of both worlds, this pick provides sun protection and a subtle tint to complement your skin tone. 


If you’re an avid makeup wearer, grab the L’Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Water-Infused Tinted Moisturizer in one of the 14 available shades. The lightweight moisturizer is formulated with SPF 19 and provides the coverage of a natural-finish foundation while giving the skin a dose of instant hydration for a dewy, healthy glow.


Editor’s tip: If you want more protection, you can layer the lightweight L’Oréal Paris Wrinkle Expert 55+ Age Defense Lotion SPF beneath the above mentioned tinted moisturizer. The SPF 30 protects the skin from the aging aspect of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Bonus: After four weeks of use, you’ll notice wrinkles are noticeably smoother with the knowledge that you were protecting your skin as well.


4. Pat Sunscreen Onto Your Face

When it’s time to apply sunscreen, your first thought may be to slather the product all over your skin. Of course, the goal is to ensure that every area of your body is protected, but rubbing sunscreen onto your skin can prevent it from laying evenly. In turn, this can cause streaking and leave a white film-like appearance. Instead of rubbing, try patting sunscreen into your skin.


Editor’s tip: Keep in mind that you’ll need to take other sun protection measures as well. These include seeking out shade and wearing protective accessories, like sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.


5. Use Foundation Formulated With SPF

Another great way to avoid sunscreen with an ashy white glare is by using your foundation for extra protection. Reach for a hybrid liquid formula like the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation with SPF 50, which offers the coverage of a foundation with the hydration of a serum. While this foundation was formulated specifically for mature skin, the infused vitamin B3 is an added ingredient that skin of all ages can use. 


The lightweight formula also evens skin tone and delivers a natural, radiant finish that won’t settle into lines. Use a damp makeup blender to tap and seamlessly blend the foundation onto your face.


6. Give Gel Sunscreen Formulas a Try

Gel sunscreen has a clear formula, making it another option ideal for those who don’t want to deal with a white cast. A gel texture goes on smooth and easy, seamlessly blending into your skin. According to the AAD, gels are also great for hairy areas like the chest and scalp as it’s very light and won’t leave a cast. Gel sunscreens can also be used on the scalp, an often neglected area.


Editor’s tip: Sunscreen spray is another type of sunscreen that can offer the same benefits as sunscreen gel. It’s easy to apply from scalp to toe and allows you to cover hard-to-reach areas such as your back and buttocks.


7. Use a Sunscreen Oil

Love the idea of boosting your skin with moisture while protecting your skin from the sun? Sunscreen oil may be just what you need. Perfect for those who have difficulty blending traditional sunscreens onto their skin, this lightweight formula makes the process easy. We also love that this offering hydrates and leaves the skin with a luminous glow. 


Editor tip: Before you apply your sunscreen you’ll want to make sure your skin is clean and dry to allow the SPF to penetrate deep and do its job. According to Mayo Clinic, your sunscreen should be the last step in your routine — especially if it’s a physical formula.

Next: 5 Hard-to-Reach Places You Shouldn’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen

Photo Credit: Photographer: Nelson Huang, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Producer: Becca Solovay, Beauty Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Visual Designer: Sarah Duvivier, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Digi Tech: Jacky Jiang, Photo Assistant: Tyler Andrews, Model: Mecca Allah

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