Why do Some Sunblocks Give off a White Cast, and How Can I Avoid it?

Unfortunately, effective sun protection can have downsides, but they're not excuses to go without! A white cast is easy to remedy. Here's how to wear SPF without the deathly pallor.

You need sun protection, but you probably don’t want to look like a vampire. The way sunblocks reflect light can lend an unflattering white cast to the skin. Wearing sunblock in photographs or under harsh lights can cause major ghost face. We explain why it happens and how to prevent it.

Why do Some Sunblocks Give off a White Cast, and How Can I Avoid it?Why do Some Sunblocks Give off a White Cast, and How Can I Avoid it?

Physical Sunscreens are More Likely to Look White on the Skin

Physical sunscreens, primarily zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are great SPF options that provide full broad-spectrum protection. Also known as 'sunblocks', products containing these ingredients remain on the skin's surface and deflect the sun's rays.

The wrong formula could make you look like you’re haunting the party you’re attending instead of showing up alive and well. Whitish sunblock ingredients are generally present in natural formulas and children's formulas. Physical blocks are considered safer overall than chemical ones because the former don’t penetrate the skin.

Is There a Way to use Physical Sunscreen Without Having a White Cast?

Definitely! The whitening effect of sunscreen depends on a lot of factors: the amount you apply, your natural skin colour, and more.

For example, darker complexions tend to see this problem more than lighter ones. If you prefer to slather on sunscreen, a chemical formula may be a better choice for special occasions and photo ops. For everyday use, the whiteness of physical sunblocks usually isn't terribly noticeable unless you’re in harsh lighting.

Another way to look less like a Halloween decoration is to let your physical SPF fully sink in before applying makeup. It takes longer for your skin to absorb the heavier consistency of products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Piling cosmetics on directly afterwards only impedes the absorption process.

Why do Some Sunblocks Give off a White Cast, and How Can I Avoid it?Why do Some Sunblocks Give off a White Cast, and How Can I Avoid it?

How do I Avoid Looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost Because of my SPF?

Unfortunately, if you’re in heavy lighting or at a photoshoot, you may need to avoid physical sunscreens altogether. A lightweight chemical SPF, such as Aspect Hydra Shield with Zinc, is ideal for these occasions unless otherwise indicated your doctor.

Some SPFs are specially formulated to prevent white glow and photo flashback, so check labels. La Roche-Posay Uvidea XL Melt In Cream SPF50 is great for all skin types and provides broad-spectrum protection. Alpha-H Protection Plus Daily SPF50+ has a slightly tinted formulation that guarantees no white cast and is perfect under makeup or as a tinted moisturiser to subtly even the skin tone. 

We have loads of sunscreen options, many of which contain a blend of chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients. If you prefer to get expert advice instead of browsing, simply contact our trained skincare team.

If you're looking for a natural sunscreen, be sure to check out our guide Best Natural Sunscreens for Summer

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