What Is White Cast & How To Avoid Those Sunscreens

Ever wonder what your grandmother’s skincare secret is? It’s sunscreen. Lathering up on SPF is a year-round essential, so a solid, broad-spectrum SPF is a must-have in your skincare drawer. Not only is it the best way to protect your skin from harmful UV, but it will help keep your skin looking young, healthy, bright, and evenly toned. At Journ, we’re big fans of sun and skin protection in the form of SPF, but we aren’t fans of the white cast some sunscreen products leave behind.

If you’ve ever been excited to try a new sunscreen but were immediately disappointed at the white cast your sunscreen left behind, this guide is for you. Let’s talk about what white cast is, what ingredients cause it, and which sunscreens and ingredients are truly white cast-free.

Plus, we’ll talk about what sunscreen ingredients are clean and kind to skin and the environment so you can feel comfortable and confident in the sun!

What Is White Cast? 

White cast is the term that describes the leftover white/grey tint of sunscreen on the skin. Some sunscreens leave white cast because of how thick they are or the ingredients in them. Some white cast is mild and simply leaves a pasty look to skin after application, while other forms of a white cast can look almost paint-like. Both could cause serious flashback in photos, too!

If you’ve ever experienced skin discoloration after putting on sunscreen, this is a white cast. Luckily, not all sunscreens include the ingredients that lead to pasty post-SPF skin tone. Depending on the kind of sunscreen you choose and which ingredients are included, you can avoid white cast

Why Do Some Sunscreens Leave White Cast? 

One reason some sunscreens may be leaving white cast is because of the type of sun protection they contain. There are two main types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreen uses ingredients that soak into the outermost layer of skin and work to absorb UV rays from the sun before they can harm the skin. These sunscreens are typically much thinner in consistency and can be found in spray bottles and thinner liquid SPF lotions.

Physical sunscreen, on the other hand, is much thicker in consistency. Physical sunscreen is also referred to as mineral sunscreen or natural sunscreen. These products only contain two ingredients (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) instead of a range of ingredients like chemical sunscreen

However, physical sunscreen is much more likely to leave a white cast than chemical sunscreen. This is because of its thickness when applied to the skin. It doesn’t absorb as well into the skin but instead sits on the top of the skin to act as a shield for the sun. The ingredients in physical sunscreen are also responsible for leaving a white cast. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are known as mineral filters, and they sit on the skin all day, so they don’t absorb easily or change color when applied to the skin, causing a white cast

Which Sunscreens Are Really White Cast Free? 

One of the biggest problems with white casts leaving sunscreens is the effects they have on the skin, especially for people of color. Luckily, a few of our favorite brands are stepping it up and designing sunscreens that are truly white cast-free and meant for all skin tones and skin types.

Here are some of the best white cast-free sunscreens!

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen 

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen is an excellent, inclusive option for all skin tones and all skin types. It’s a chemical sunscreen, so it has a thinner consistency than mineral sunscreens and absorbs into the skin much more easily. 

This totally invisible sunscreen sits comfortably on the skin, feels weightless, and doesn’t have that typical sunscreen smell. It offers protection of SPF 40, so you’ll be able to have fun in the sun all day. As a bonus, Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen can be used as a makeup primer so that you can use it with your regular foundation too. 

This sunscreen also works well with our Matcha color corrector, which helps reduce the appearance of blemishes, or our Marrakech color corrector, which helps minimize the appearance of dark circles and sunspots. These can help you achieve a natural-looking finish while also taking care of your skin. White cast, who? 

Black Girl Sunscreen’s Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 

Black Girl Sunscreen is a brand that prioritizes inclusivity for women of color in cosmetics. Made by women of color for people of color, this sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 and is an excellent option for facial and bodily sun protection

It’s fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and completely free of harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate! And, of course, it’s white cast-free for a clear, flawless look once it dries on the skin. Infused with natural ingredients like avocado, jojoba oil, cacao, carrot juice, and sunflower oil, it’s extra hydrating and nourishing for the skin. 

You don’t have to worry about feeling dry, dealing with white sunscreen residue, or getting sunburned with Black Girl Sunscreen’s SPF 30.

Poofy Organics THE Sunscreen SPF 30 

When it comes to clean sunscreens that don’t contain harmful chemicals for the skin and the environment, Poofy Organics THE Sunscreen SPF 30 takes the cake. According to the Environmental Working Group’s ratings, this SPF 30 ranks the highest for cleanliness and the best part? Poofy THE Sunscreen rubs in completely clear! No white cast residue worries here.

The ingredients include jojoba oil, shea butter, beeswax, coconut oil, camellia oil, cocoa butter, NON-NANO, NON-micronized zinc oxide, and organic rosemary extract. The coconut oil does give the product a slightly waxy tint when you first apply it, but it melts and absorbs once you gently massage it onto your skin. 

Coola Makeup Setting Spray Organic Sunscreen SPF 30

Reapplying sunscreen is one of the most important parts of protecting your skin. You may remember to apply your first layer of SPF, but what about your second and third? In general, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’ve gone swimming since applying your first layer. However, if you’re wearing makeup, reapplying liquid sunscreen might not be your preferred choice.

That’s where Coola Makeup Setting Spray Organic Sunscreen SPF 30 comes in. This sun protection is a spray you can use that doesn’t just set your makeup for extra hold but provides your next layer of facial sunscreen without any worries of that annoying white cast. With hyaluronic acid and aloe vera, this spray is soothing to the skin and can help protect you from the sun! 

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench SPF

If your beach and pool days are filled with more swimming than tanning, then this Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench SPF 45 is for you. It’s broad-spectrum and doubles as a hyaluronic acid moisturizer so you can keep skin hydrated even while you’re swimming and sitting in the heat.

It’s fragrance-free, free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, reef-safe, and perfect for melanin-rich skin tones as it doesn’t leave a white residue. It’s comfortable on skin without feeling greasy or thick, yet water-resistant, so it won’t come off easily.

Ingredients in Sunscreen: The Good and the Bad

Finding clean ingredients in sunscreen is just as important as finding a sunscreen that’s white cast-free. 

Here are a few ingredients to look for and a few to avoid as well:

Ingredients To Look For

Looking for natural ingredients in sunscreens is always a good idea. Look for ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, and more. In addition, scientific research points to the safety of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as well, so these are some ingredients you can look for. 

You can also find sunscreens that include moisturizing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, if you have dry skin. Caffeine and biotin are also worthwhile ingredients to look out for. 

Ingredients To Avoid

The following ingredients are somewhat contested, so while you definitely don’t have to avoid them, it’s worth doing some further research on them. First off, Tinosorb S is currently banned in the U.S., so you’re better off steering clear. 

Beyond that, the FDA is currently investigating the following ingredients, among others, to see whether or not they earn a “safe and effective” ranking: 

  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Avobenzone 

While more research is still being done on these ingredients, it’s important to note that the FDA still recommends wearing sunscreen while the investigations are done. 

White Residue, Who? 

When you find the perfect broad-spectrum, white cast free sunscreen, it can feel like you’ve found your new best friend. It’s time we changed the way sunscreen is represented. The recommendations above are excellent options for moisturizing sunscreens that absorb clearly onto skin and are inclusive and suitable for people of color and all skin types and skin tones


How to Choose Your Sunscreen | Penn Medicine 

Sun Safety Sunscreen and Your Morning Routine | Hopkins Medicine

Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreen & Safer Alternatives | Made Safe

Keep using sunscreen while FDA updates recommendations | Health Harvard

The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens | EWG