The Burning Issue: Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin


Key Points

  • Certain sunscreen ingredients and formulas should be avoided if you have sensitive skin.

  • There are many reasons why sunscreens can cause redness and rashes — even in people who don’t have sensitive skin.

  • There’s a difference between facial sunscreen and sunscreen meant for the body.

  • Find sunscreen for sensitive skin, including products safe for those struggling with eczema.

  • Find products that use natural ingredients so it’s safe for the skin and the environment.

Finding the right sunscreen for sensitive skin can be daunting. With so many products on the market, knowing which ones will work for your skin without irritation or breakouts can be challenging.

Sensitive skin is often prone to redness, itchiness, and breakouts. Using the wrong sunscreen can make these issues even worse. Keep reading to take a closer look at sensitive skin, learn how to choose the right sunscreen, and get some tips on using sunscreen for sensitive skin.

Why Can Sunscreen Irritate Your Sensitive Skin?

Sunscreen protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, some people may experience skin irritation as a side effect of sunscreen. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

There can be harsh ingredients found in sunscreens that leave your skin burning, stinging, inflamed, dry, and uncomfortable. These ingredients include chemicals like oxybenzone, which are known to produce allergic reactions. If you have sensitive skin, these reactions can be much more intense and take longer to heal.

Another reason why sunscreen can cause skin irritation is that it can block the skin’s pores. When this happens, the skin cannot breathe. This is especially common in people with sensitive skin or those who are prone to conditions like eczema and acne.

Sunscreen can also cause flare-ups to skin conditions because it can contain ingredients that are irritating to the skin. Some common irritants found in sunscreens include alcohol, fragrances, and preservatives. These ingredients can cause redness, itching, and rashes in some people.

Woman compares two different sunscreen bottle ingredients in store

What To Look For in Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin and Other Tips

Sunscreen is an essential part of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but if you have sensitive skin, it can be challenging to find a sunscreen that doesn’t irritate your skin.

Here are a few specific things to look out for when choosing the right sunscreen for sensitive skin:

Fragrance-Free Products

Look for sunscreens that are labeled as “sensitive skin” or “fragrance-free.” Fragrance can irritate the skin for a couple of reasons. First, fragrances are made up of a mixture of chemicals, some of which can irritate the skin. These chemicals can cause redness, itching, and rashes in some people.

Second, fragrances can be allergens, which means that they can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Allergens are substances that the body’s immune system reacts to, and they can cause a variety of symptoms, including rash, swelling, and difficulty breathing.

Avoid Chemical Sunscreens

Choose a sunscreen with a physical blocker, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients sit on top of the skin and block the sun’s rays rather than being absorbed into the skin like chemical sunscreens, which can cause harm to the body.

Chemical sunscreens are harmful to the skin because they can contain ingredients that can cause redness, itching, and rashes in some people.

Chemical sunscreens are also known to break down when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. This can make them less effective at protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful effects, which is the main reason why people put sunscreen on in the first place.

Alcohol-Free Products

Avoid sunscreens that contain alcohol. Sunscreen with alcohol on the ingredient label shouldn’t be used for several reasons. Alcohol dries the skin, making it feel tight and uncomfortable. This can be especially problematic for people with dry or sensitive skin, as it can cause irritation.

Alcohol can strip the skin of its natural oils, which results in the skin becoming dehydrated. This can lead to several problems, including flakiness, redness, and even premature aging.

Alcohol is a skin irritant. Some people may be sensitive to alcohol, and sunscreens containing it can cause redness, itching, and even rashes.

Woman applies sunscreen to right shoulder

Test It Out

Testing out sunscreen before using it is a good idea because everyone’s skin is different. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s essential to test out a new sunscreen on a small portion of your skin before actually using it on a day out in the sun. Testing out products will give you an idea of how your skin will react to the formula and whether it will cause any irritation or other adverse reactions.

It’s also important to remember that sensitive skin can be more prone to sunburn and other sun damage, so it’s essential to take extra care when protecting your skin from the sun. In addition to using sunscreen, you can also protect your skin by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding the sun during the peak hours of the day.

Facial Sunscreen Vs. Sunscreen for The Body: What’s The Difference in Formula?

Sunscreen for the face is typically designed to be more lightweight and less greasy than sunscreen for the body, which makes it easier to apply and less likely to cause breakouts on the skin. Plus, face sunscreen is often formulated with additional skin-loving ingredients such as moisturizers and antioxidants, which can help to protect and nourish the delicate skin on the face.

On the other hand, body sunscreen is typically designed to provide strong, broad-spectrum protection against the sun’s rays. It is often water-resistant, making it a good choice for use on the beach or during other activities where you may be sweating or swimming.

The key difference between facial and body sunscreen is the formula and the intended use. It’s essential to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type and the activities you’ll be doing to ensure that you’re properly protected from the sun.

Best Facial Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

Finding the right sunscreen for sensitive skin can be a challenge. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are the best for your skin type. Whether you have oily or dry skin, you can trust that these sunscreens will effectively protect against harmful UV rays without irritating the skin.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 55

This sunscreen is non-greasy and lightweight, making it ideal for sensitive skin. It is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50+

This sunscreen is formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It is also oil-free and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

This sunscreen contains niacinamide, which helps to calm and soothe irritated skin. It is also oil-free and non-comedogenic, making it an excellent choice for sensitive skin.

Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50

This hypoallergenic and comedogenic sunscreen is formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which will help protect sensitive skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays.

Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60+

This sunscreen lotion is also formulated with ingredients that act as a physical barrier against the sun. Because no harsh chemicals can seep into the skin, those with sensitive skin can be assured this product won’t irritate.

Extended hands squeeze sunscreen from tube into hand

Tips for Acne-Prone Skin

Sunscreens that are typically top choices for acne-prone skin are those labeled as “non-comedogenic” and “oil-free.” These products are specifically designed not to clog pores, which can help prevent breakouts. Additionally, sunscreens with a gel or lotion consistency are often a better choice for acne-prone skin than those that are creamy or oily.

The ingredient list is one of the most important things to look for in sunscreen for acne-prone skin. Avoid sunscreens that contain potentially irritating substances. These ingredients can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause dryness, leading to irritation and breakouts. Instead, look for sunscreens that contain soothing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile, which can help calm and protect the skin.

Best Body Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

Wearing sunscreen can help to prevent the sun’s harmful effects and keep your skin healthy. It is crucial to use sunscreen when you spend a lot of time outdoors or if you know you will be exposed to intense sunlight.

Cetaphil Sun Sensitive Skin SPF 50+

Cetaphil Sun Sensitive Skin SPF 50+ is a sunscreen product designed for people with sensitive skin and other skin conditions. It is formulated to provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and it has a high SPF rating of 50+ to help protect the skin from sunburn. It is also non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores and is water-resistant for up to four hours.

This sunscreen is ideal for people with sensitive skin who want to protect their skin from the damaging effects of the sun.

Vanicream Sunscreen Sport SPF 35

It’s a popular choice for a reason! This sunscreen is free of common irritants like fragrance, dyes, parabens, and formaldehyde. It is also non-comedogenic and non-greasy, making it a good option for sensitive skin. Many people who have used this product also say it’s moisturizing and hydrating and does an excellent job protecting the skin after being in the sun for a few hours. 

Sunscreen tubes, sunglasses, and a sun hat rest on table

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 30

This hypoallergenic formula contains the power-packed protection of Zinc, plus rich, skin-soothing certified organic oils. One of them is Jojoba, a popular skincare ingredient that closely resembles the natural oils produced by the skin. This makes it an effective moisturizer and helps balance oily skin. 

Jojoba oil also has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in vitamins and minerals that can help nourish and protect the skin.

Coppertone Pure And Simple Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

This sunscreen is a perfect choice for those with sensitive skin. It doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and other irritants like dyes and fragrances. This formula replaces extreme additives with other natural ingredients that will leave your skin feeling and looking smooth. Coppertone’s use of camellia extract and sea kelp helps calm and soothe the skin.

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion moisturizes and hydrates the skin. This product’s main ingredient is vitamin E, an antioxidant known for protecting skin and keeping it healthy. Those with sensitive skin and eczema can be guaranteed this product will leave their skin feeling better than it had before they even started using the sunscreen lotion.

Sunscreen For Eczema Prone Skin

It is vital to wear sunscreen if you have eczema for a few reasons. Eczema can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you are more likely to experience sunburn or other sun-related skin damage if you do not wear sunscreen. And sun exposure can cause your eczema to flare up, leading to redness, itching, and other symptoms.

CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Face Lotion

CeraVe products — especially this high-SPF sunscreen — are great for those living with eczema. This specially formulated sunscreen provides adequate UV protection on sensitive facial skin and contains a lightweight, oil-free blueprint that is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. 

It contains essential ingredients that form bonds and help restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective barrier. Plus, it dries to a clear finish.

New York-based dermatologist Karan Lal says, CeraVe’s hydrating mineral sunscreen (tinted or non-tinted) is hands down the most gentle sunscreen. It’s my go-to for pediatric patients and any patient with super-sensitive skin.”

Woman applies sunscreen to cheek on beach

Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Face Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

This mineral sunscreen is a must-have for people with eczema as it is specially formulated for those with sensitive skin. It boasts a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula that’s waterproof and sweatproof for long-lasting wear. Its oil-free formula won’t clog pores or cause breakouts. This sunscreen dries to a beautiful matte finish, which is great if you want to wear it under your makeup

EltaMD Skincare UV Aero Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 45

This spray-on sunscreen works at any angle and boasts a zinc-based formula that provides up to 80 minutes of water-resistant coverage. The EltaMD sunscreen contains a formula that rehydrates the skin while gently nourishing and strengthening its natural moisture barrier.

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 60+

This product suits adults and children struggling with sensitive and eczema-prone skin. This sunscreen stick provides broad spectrum SPF 60 sun protection and is made with 100 percent naturally sourced ingredients, making it an excellent option for those with the most sensitive skin. Plus, it provides up to 80 minutes of water-resistant coverage.

Best Natural Sunscreens

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Many commercial sunscreens contain chemicals that can harm our health and the environment. That’s why more and more people are turning to natural sunscreens that use only safe, non-toxic ingredients.

If you’re looking for a natural sunscreen, there are a few key things to look for:

  • Choose a sunscreen that uses physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients provide broad-spectrum protection and are less likely to irritate the skin.

  • Look for sunscreens free of synthetic chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to disrupt hormones and harm marine life.

  • Choose a sunscreen with nourishing, natural ingredients such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.

Badger Balm Clear Zinc Sunscreen

Badger Balm Clear Zinc Sunscreen is a natural sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient. Zinc oxide provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It is a safe and effective option for people with sensitive skin or allergies to chemical sunscreens. 

In addition to providing sun protection, Badger Balm Clear Zinc Sunscreen is also moisturizing and non-greasy. It is also biodegradable and reef-safe, making it a good option for environmentally conscious people.

Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen

This sunscreen contains organic, non-GMO ingredients such as olive oil, beeswax, and shea butter. Olive oil, beeswax, and shea butter are all-natural sunscreens because they contain compounds that can absorb UV radiation from the sun. Olive oil contains a high amount of oleic acid, which has been shown to have protective effects against UV radiation. Beeswax contains natural wax esters that can absorb UV light, and shea butter contains cinnamic acid esters with UV-absorbing properties. Together, these compounds can provide a natural sunscreen that can help protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays.

Loving Naturals Clear Body Sunscreen

This sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide as its active ingredient and nourishing oils such as sunflower oil and jojoba oil. It is free of synthetic chemicals and fragrances, making it ideal for sensitive skin.

Woman applies sunscreen to face

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen

This hydrating sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It is made with natural and organic ingredients, including zinc oxide, aloe vera, and green tea, which work together to nourish and moisturize the skin while protecting it from the sun. This sunscreen is also free of synthetic chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates, making it a safe and gentle option for sensitive skin.

COOLA Organic Sunscreen

COOLA Organic Sunscreen is a brand of organic and natural sunscreens made with sustainable ingredients. COOLA’s sunscreens are free from chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to have negative effects on the environment and marine life. COOLA’s sunscreens are also free from synthetic fragrances and dyes, making them perfect for sensitive skin. In addition to offering effective sun protection, COOLA’s sunscreens are also designed to be lightweight and fast-absorbing, making them easy to apply and wear.

Raw Elements Face and Body Moisturizer

Raw Elements Face and Body Moisturizer is a natural, organic skincare product that nourishes and hydrates the skin. It is made with certified organic ingredients, such as shea butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil, which work together to provide long-lasting moisture and protect the skin from environmental damage. This moisturizer is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and is free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, and other harmful chemicals.

It is also reef-safe, meaning that it does not contain harmful ingredients to marine life. Raw Elements Face and Body Moisturizer is a safe and effective way to keep your skin healthy and hydrated.

The Bottom (Tan) Line

Finding a sunscreen that won’t irritate your skin can be challenging when you struggle with sensitive skin and skin disorders. But understanding the cause of reactions and learning about trustworthy sunscreen brands can help you enjoy your time in the sun free of burning, stinging, redness, and other reaction symptoms.

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