With the unofficial start of summer, it’s critical to seek skin protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Innovative sunscreens have improved users’ protection from sunburn and skin aging.

Sunscreens and their various formulas have continued to evolve to meet consumers’ needs. Among the innovations, specific formulas have emerged to protect the skin of individuals with different skin types as well as modifications in application methods. Popular sunscreens have frequently left an apparent film on the skin that discourages many from using sunscreens. Sunscreens most recently have addressed this negatively perceived issue so that sunscreen can match skin tone, making their use more appealing.

“We know that the lighter a person’s skin, the higher their risk for skin cancer,” said dermatologist Henry W. Lim, MD, the former chair of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “While people with darker skin have a lower risk for skin cancer, it can still develop. However, what we are learning is that the darker your skin tone, the higher your risk that UV rays and visible light from the sun will cause dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, on your skin. This is because darker skin has different types of melanin—the pigment produced by cells that give skin its color—than those with lighter skin. For that reason, we recommend sun protection for everyone.”

The sun’s UV rays cause the skin to tan, an indication of skin damage. Lim noted that new research indicates that visible light from the sun can cause skin darkening in people with darker skin but not in those with lighter skin. Recent development of tinted sunscreens provides individuals of all skin tones with protection from the sun, blending well with natural skin tones. Broad-spectrum, water-resistant tinted sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher provides protection from both ultraviolet rays and visible sun light.

“By tailoring the sunscreen formulations to an individual’s skin tone, people are more likely to protect themselves from the sun, therefore reducing their risk of skin cancer,” said Lim. He recommends using a tinted sunscreen containing iron oxides because they increase protection from visible light and ultraviolet A radiation. Iron oxides are listed as “inactive ingredients.”

Additionally, Lim encourages consumers to select the appropriately tinted sunscreen shade, depending on individual skin tone as well as “undertone.” The skin’s undertone relates to the shade underneath the skin’s surface, affecting the overall skin appearance. To determine the tinted sunscreen best approximating your own skin tone, consider both skin tone and undertone. Research shows that in general, tinted sunscreens with “universal shade” are suitable for most skin tones.

The most preventable risk factors for skin cancer are overexposure to UV rays from the sun and indoor tanning beds. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that in addition to using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, protection from sun and reduction of risk of skin cancer results from covering as much skin as possible when outdoors; wearing sunglasses with UV protection; wearing a wide-brimmed hat; and protecting feet with shoes or carefully applied sunscreen.

“Having an active outdoor lifestyle has many benefits,” Lim said. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors while protecting themselves from the sun’s dangerous UV rays.” For exposed areas of the skin, consider using a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, and for those with darker skin, tinted sunscreens should be considered. When outdoors, be sure to reapply every two hours. If you have any questions about the right sun protection for you, ask a board-certified dermatologist or your own provider.