Sunscreen can be love hate. On the one hand it protects you against trough like wrinkles and on the other hand, it makes you look like Casper the ghost. Neither side of this sunscreen fence seems like the perfect choice 'eh. First choice: You have white cast your whole life... without wrinkles. Second choice: You have beautiful skin in your 20's, but as time ticks on and your 40+ collagen levels fall, trough like sun damage appears. Hmmm... If only there was an in-between... a choice 1.5. If only you could sit on top of the fence your whole life. If only you could have the best of both worlds...

Why Does Sunscreen Make My Face White?

In Anti-aging & Protective Skincare, Suncare by Cheryl WoodmanLeave a Comment

Sunscreen can be love hate. On the one hand it protects you against trough like wrinkles and on the other hand, it makes you look like Casper the ghost. Neither side of this sunscreen fence seems like the perfect choice ‘eh.

First choice: You have white cast your whole life… without wrinkles.

Second choice: You have beautiful skin in your 20’s, but as time ticks on and your 40+ collagen levels fall, trough like sun damage appears.

Hmmm… If only there was an in-between… a choice 1.5. If only you could sit on top of the fence your whole life. If only you could have the best of both worlds…

Well my friend, maybe you can. All you need to know is this. Exactly what white cast is. Exactly what causes it. And exactly the type of sunscreen that doesn’t leave white residue. I’ve got just the thing…

Sunscreen can be love hate. On the one hand it protects you against trough like wrinkles and on the other hand, it makes you look like Casper the ghost. Neither side of this sunscreen fence seems like the perfect choice 'eh. First choice: You have white cast your whole life... without wrinkles. Second choice: You have beautiful skin in your 20's, but as time ticks on and your 40+ collagen levels fall, trough like sun damage appears. Hmmm... If only there was an in-between... a choice 1.5. If only you could sit on top of the fence your whole life. If only you could have the best of both worlds...

What Is White Cast?

Sunscreen makes your face white because of a concept called white cast. Apply sunscreen or sunblock and the cream you rub in looks exactly like a moisturising lotion. Apart from sometimes, it stubbornly doesn’t absorb. This means there are ingredients in sunscreen which are different to your average lotion.

I bet you can guess which ones ‘eh.

You’ve got it, it’s those sun protecting ingredients.

When you experience white cast, you’re seeing sun protecting ingredients sat on your skin. They’re not rubbing in, because they’re not designed to.

Here’s the thing. Sunscreens or sunblock’s need to sit on top of your skin to work. It’s ok if they absorb down a few teeny-tiny layers, but ultimately, up top is where they need to be. Think of it like this, a meerkat sat on top of its hideaway, high on its hind legs is in the ultimate position to defend against birds of prey. A meerkat hiding deep down underground is not. He has no idea what’s going on. Meerkat uptop can do his job. A meerkat down below has no hope.

This is how sunscreen works. To defend your skin from UV light, sunscreen needs to sit above your skin. When sunscreen is absorbed deeply, the layers of skin it’s below become UV exposed.

The good news is this: white cast is not inevitable. There are certain types of sunscreen ingredients which cause white cast. Avoid or counteract the effects of these and you my friend have found yourself a no-white-cast winner.

Why do I Have White Cast on My Face?

Sunscreens designed for your face are in general more sensitive than sunscreens designed for your body. This is for 2 reasons. First, as the cheapest anti-ageing cream available you’re most likely to apply sunscreen to your face every day. And 2, the skin on your face is thinner and therefore out of all skin areas, most sensitive.

Which means sunscreens for your face are formulated to be super sensitive.

…and this in turn means, they tend to use the most sensitive sun protecting ingredients.

There are 2 types of sunscreen ingredients;

  1. Chemical filters
  2. Physical filters – considered most sensitive

Chemical sunscreen filters work by absorbing UV light. Physical sunblock filters work by reflecting UV light.

Now… can you take a guess which type is most likely to cause white cast on your face?

Physical filters are almost always responsible for white cast. Physical sunblock filters work like mirrors. They’re spread onto your skin to reflect light. When light is reflected back, you get white cast. An effect which multiplies itself by ‘infinity’ when exposed to a camera flash.

How to Get Rid of White Cast From Sunscreen

Choosing a sunscreen which won’t give you white cast is easy when you know which ingredients cause white cast. You’re already half way there. You now know white cast is caused by physical, light reflecting sunblock filters in your sunscreens. And helpfully there are only 2 kinds.

  1. Zinc oxide
  2. Titanium dioxide

Some sunscreens or most properly called sunblock’s/mineral sunscreens are made from zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide completely. Other sunscreens have a mixture of physical and chemical sunscreens. Some have only chemical sunscreens.

A mineral sunscreen like this, is most likely to give you white cast.

Taking a quick peak at the ingredients list below, can you spot why?

John Masters SPF 30 Natural Mineral Sunscreen

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Titanium Dioxide 7.5% (Sunscreen), Zinc Oxide 5.0% (Sunscreen) INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Aqua (water), aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice,* capric caprylic triglycerides, ethyl hexyl palmitate, glyceryl stearate, glycerin, cetyl alcohol, jojoba oil,* shea butter,* panthenol, tocopherol acetate, allantoin, sodium pca, green tea extract,* magnesium aluminum silicate, hyaluronic acid, calendula extract,* ethyl hexyl glycerin, benzyl alcohol.

You’ve got it. This mineral sunscreen uses only physical sunblock filters… and no anti-white-cast science… (of which I’ll explain in detail soon). If you want a mineral sunscreen without white cast, this mineral sunblock isn’t for you. However hold tight my friend because very soon I will have more than 1, non whitening zinc oxide sunscreen recommendation for avoiding white cast.

Mineral Sunscreen Without White Cast

Now my friend, take a look at this next demi-mineral sunscreen.

Green People’s Sun Lotion SPF 30 Scent Free

Aqua (spring water), isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate (naturally occurring uv-filter), helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil*, elaeis guineensis (palm) oil, titanium dioxide [nano] (mineral uv-filter), diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, cetearyl glucoside (plant derived emulsifier), cera alba (beeswax), aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice powder, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, chamomilla recutita (chamomile) flower extract, althaea officinalis (marshmallow) root extract, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, leontopodium alpinum (edelweiss) leaf extract, commiphora myrrha (myrrh) oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract*, sodium stearoyl glutamate (plant derived emulsifier), gluconolactone, sodium benzoate, sodium dehydroacetate, phytic acid.

This sunscreen is a mixture of chemical and physical/mineral filters. It uses a naturally occurring chemical filter, alongside titanium dioxide. This sunscreen has little to no white cast for 2 reasons;

  1. It uses a mixture of chemical and mineral filters… and chemical filters do not ‘in-general’ cause white cast
  2. It uses a piece of no-white cast science…

See that word nano after titanium dioxide? Nano means the titanium dioxide used in this sunscreen has an extremely small particle size. It’s ground up to be teeny-tiny. Imagine sifting flour. Large white clumps sat in the sieve for ages are extremely noticeable, small white powdery flakes slipping into your mixing bowl are almost invisible. This is how nano titanium dioxide and nano zinc oxide work. They still act like UV reflecting mirrors, but their small particle size means they rest on your skin almost unnoticed.

The SkinCeuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF 50  and the Heliocare 360° Mineral SPF50+ are other good examples.

Natural Sunscreen With No White Residue

While Green People’s Sun Lotion SPF 30 ticks many minimal-white cast, natural sunscreen boxes, those of you with a darker skin type, or a paler skin type that’s caught a tan, may want another alternative. A natural sunscreen with no white residue.

This my friend, brings in our last, super simple no-white cast science trick.

…and it really is extremely simple.

Choose natural sunscreen with a tint.

While you can minimise white cast with clever formula tricks, it is very hard to eliminate it completely… unless you add in another colour. One that matches your skin tone.

This is why mineral sunscreens like the Balance Me BB Natural Perfection SPF 25 and the Caudalie Teint Divin Mineral Tinted Moisturizer can guarantee you a natural sunscreen with no white residue.

Pro-tip; Always buy a pre-prepared mineral SPF tint. Don’t mix a mineral sunscreen with your own foundation,  if you do this, the SPF of your cream is un-tested and un-guaranteed. AKA it may not protect you against trough like wrinkles as stated by it’s high SPF.

Sunscreen that Doesn’t Leave White Residue

Now on the other hand, if you want a kind on the pennies, no white cast alterative and are not so concerned about using an all natural sunscreen, then you my friend can choose a sunscreen free of all physical filters.

…but don’t worry, they can still be sensitive skin friendly.

This pick from Soltan, is a no white-cast, good for face and body sunscreen. And it’s only £6. Not bad ‘eh.


My friend tell me about your white cast experiences… did you know about the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen filters? What are you using? Tell me in the comments section below…