On a recent boiling mid-August day, I was getting ready to play tennis with a friend. We were doing our usual pregame ritual of minimal stretching and outfit adjusting when he pulled out a tube of Neutrogena sunscreen. Knowing how popular that stuff is, I asked him how he liked it. He shrugged and said it’s the sunscreen his girlfriend buys, so it’s the one he uses.
I’ve always envied people who can use any old sunscreen with minimal fuss and deliberation, confident that whatever they have is doing its job, never questioning whether the product is making them look sickly and unattractive. Because for me, a man with stunning brown skin and a distinguished graying beard, every sunscreen must be scrutinized to the minutest detail to ensure that the formula not only provides sun protection but also complements my skin tone and features.
Mineral sunscreens have been historically frustrating for people of color because of the visible white cast that zinc would leave on our skin. To avoid the potentially harmful ingredients that may be found in chemical sunscreens, we tolerate looking like we’ve been recently embalmed in order to protect ourselves from UVA and UVB rays. Thankfully, the last few years have seen improvements in the space; there are now tons of mineral-based SPFs in the market that promise to cater to people of color.
We love that for us. But that doesn’t mean I can just pick up whatever is out there with little or no research. Not every sunscreen made for folks with darker skin works for every person with dark skin. I still go on Instagram and canvas my followers for their favorites; I read up on products I may be interested in. And I then try to find reviews written by men with facial hair.
Facial hair makes this process more complicated. I love Farmacy’s Green Defense, but the product does leave a white cast around my beard that requires more rubbing and blending. Not awful, but more high maintenance than I would like. I used a tinted sunscreen from Amavara last summer. I loved how it suited my skin tone, and the formula didn’t irritate my eyes when I start to sweat. But the tint changed the color of the gray on my beard. It was weird. My beard shouldn’t be a mix of black and taupe.
But this summer, thanks to a couple of friends who answered my IG Story asking for their favorite sunscreen for people of color, I finally found the one I hope to use for all of eternity: Live Tinted’s Hueguard. There’s a lot to love about this product, but here’s the most important bit: The scent-free formula, made of non-nano zinc oxide, is somehow at once lightweight and substantial to the touch, so you don’t accidentally overapply, but even if you do end up using too much, it leaves not a trace of whiteness. (Impossible in life but feasible in skin care.) I was impressed by how quickly it’s absorbed by the skin.
I did my usual recon before purchasing this, including watching videos of founder Deepica Mutyala using the product. The Live Tinted website features many models of color, which was reassuring. But more than that, some reviews included photos from confirmed customers. Many of the ones leaving super-favorable feedback were people of color, too. Sadly, I didn’t clock any reviews from men who specifically talked about how the formula worked on their facial hair, but everything else was so promising that I decided to pull the trigger.
And I’m thrilled to report that even the parts of my face that have hair encountered no residual cast of any color. When pumped, the product comes out a saffron-esque shade, but after a couple of rubs on the face, it dries totally clear. The first few times I used Hueguard, I was paying very close attention to how it absorbed around my beard to make sure there weren’t areas where product was clumping. But it was always fine. Now, after using it for about two months, I don’t even think about it anymore. I apply, rub for a few seconds, and move on. It is really nice to not have to obsess about what your face looks like after putting sunscreen on.
Hueguard is also a priming moisturizer, but depending on the needs of my skin, I might use it over a light moisturizer or face oil. (I have been sliding into Live Tinted’s DMs all summer, and they told me that it was fine to do both.) If I feel like using it on its own, I just add an extra pump to the recommended four for full coverage of face, neck, and ears. And it leaves my skin so dewy and plump that I have half a mind to ask the brand to make me their model.
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