Tinted sunscreens are having a moment. These mineral-based sunscreen formulations have an added color base that can help even out skin tone while protecting your skin. And thanks to their ability to block visible light, they may help certain skin conditions. Could the days of unsightly sunscreen residue be in your past?
What is visible light, and how can it affect your skin?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and visible light are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum. UV radiation is composed of three different wavelengths: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer, so UVA and UVB are the primary wavelengths that penetrate the skin’s surface. The harmful effects of UV light on the skin have been well documented. UVA is primarily responsible for premature skin aging, and UVB has been implicated in sunburns and skin cancer. The primary source of UV radiation is sunlight.
Visible light is also emitted by the sun. It is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be perceived by the human eye. Visible light may also come from artificial sources, including medical devices, screens, and light bulbs. Visible light has several skin-related therapeutic uses at specific wavelengths, including treatment of superficial blood vessels, removing unwanted hair, and treating acne and precancerous skin lesions.
Visible light penetrates much deeper into the skin than UV radiation, and can also have negative consequences for your skin. For example, visible light has been implicated in exacerbating disorders of excess skin pigmentation, including melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots). One study showed that visible light caused more noticeable, persistent hyperpigmentation that UVA alone, especially in people with deep skin tones. This may be especially true for blue light (the kind emitted by device screens), which seems to promote pigment production more than other wavelengths of the visible light spectrum.
Components of tinted sunscreens
Broad-spectrum, non-tinted sunscreens contain filters that block UVA and UVB, but these preparations are not designed to block visible light. To block visible light, a sunscreen must be visible on skin. The problem? The particles in broad-spectrum, non-tinted sunscreens are “nanosized” (made smaller) to help reduce the white appearance of sunscreen. Thus, non-tinted sunscreens are formulated to be invisible on skin, a