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You probably already take a lot of measures to keep your rosacea flare-ups to a minimum. You eat the right foods and manage your stress.
The blood vessels in your face — and throughout your body — are held together by surrounding tissues that contain proteins known as elastin and collagen.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight can damage and destroy these proteins. This causes thin vessels that result from rosacea to be more easily broken and exposed to the surface of the skin.
Also, exposure to UVB rays may make more blood vessels grow in those with rosacea.
Now, compound this with using a sunscreen that contains certain chemical absorbers that are known to cause skin irritation and can lead to rosacea flare-ups. You’ve got a recipe for aggressive symptoms.
It’s important to find a sunscreen with sufficient UV protection and rosacea-friendly ingredients that aren’t harsh on your skin.
Let’s go over what ingredients to look for, other factors and considerations before you make your purchase, and some top recommendations for rosacea-safe sunscreens.
First, learn the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens. The two types aren’t really what they seem at first. This guide will help you remember how to choose between the two.
Physical (inorganic) sunscreen
This is the sunscreen you want if you’re looking to reduce rosacea flare-ups.
Physical sunscreen is sometimes called “inorganic” because of its ingredients and the way it filters UV light. Nowadays, “organic” seems like a synonym for “good for you.” But that’s not the case with these sunscreen types if you have rosacea.
It’s typically made with zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These ingredients, often in combination with other synthetic ingredients, act as a barrier to both UVA and UVB rays by reflecting and scattering them away from your skin.
Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are naturally occurring chemical compounds. Powdered zinc oxide used in physical sunscreen is made in a lab by electrocuting a solution that contains baking soda.
Keep in mind that tiny particles in physical sunscreens may not fully break down when you rub them into your skin. This can cause your skin to have a whitish sheen to it. If you’re worried about this, there are now versions that help dissolve these particles using nanotechnology.
Also, some physical sunscreens use other chemicals to make the solution easier to apply to your face. These may be irritating to your skin. Keep an eye out for extra ingredients besides zinc oxide and titanium oxide that may cause a rosacea flare-up, such as:
- para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
- Padimate O
- “fragrance,” even if it’s labeled as “natural”
Chemical (organic) sunscreen
This category basically includes any sunscreens that don’t use zinc oxide or titanium oxide to shield your skin from UV rays. This includes numerous chemicals that absorb light before it can enter your skin rather than physically blocking the UV rays.
Don’t let the “organic” label mislead you — what the term refers to in this case is the chemical makeup of the main ingredients in the sunscreen.
While physical sunscreen blocks rays, chemical sunscreen sinks into your skin and reacts with UV rays that make contact with your skin. This results in a chemical process that turns UV rays into harmless byproducts like heat.
The chemical compounds used to achieve this effect are potential skin irritants for rosacea, including:
Other factors you should consider when choosing a sunscreen include:
- Does it contain any artificial dyes or fragrances?
- Does it provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays?
- Is it SPF 30 or higher for maximum protection?
- Will it work for both face and body?
- Is it safe for kids and adults?
- Is it water-resistant?
Here’s a good place to start if you’re ready to look at all the options for rosacea-friendly sunscreen and compare their pros and cons.
None of the following sunscreens contain any fragrances, alcohols, or other artificial ingredients known to cause flare-ups. They’re picked based on top consumer reviews.
Daylong Extreme SPF 50+ lotion
- tested in a controlled study for rosacea tolerance with good results
- SPF 50+ for powerful UV ray protection
- also works as a moisturizer
- some possible side effects, including skin dryness, scaly skin, and papules
Find it here: Daylong Extreme SPF 50+ Lotion
thinkbaby Sunscreen Stick
- SPF 30
- known for not having an oily or greasy feel to it
- comes as a small stick applicator that’s convenient and easy to transport
- may not spread as easily as a lotion
Find it here: thinkbaby Sunscreen Stick
Murad City Skin Broad-Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen
- doesn’t cause stinging or burning when it gets in your eyes, a symptom reported with use of many physical sunscreens
- has a light, non-oily, non-greasy formula
- natural tint so your skin color is visible
Find it here: Murad City Skin Broad-Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen
Blue Lizard Sunscreen
- broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection
- bottle changes colors when hit by harmful UV rays to indicate when you need to apply
- relatively inexpensive for a rosacea-friendly sunscreen
- need to reapply every 40 minutes
- can be greasy or oily on certain skin types
Find it here: Blue Lizard Sunscreen
Raw Elements Face Stick Certified Natural Sunscreen
- easy to transport stick container
- contains some certified organic ingredients
- high percentage of zinc oxide (23 percent)
- certified cruelty-free and comes in biodegradable packaging
- reported as leaving thick white sheen on your skin
Find it here: Raw Elements Face Stick Certified Natural Sunscreen
Vanicream Lip Protectant/Sunscreen SPF 30
- highly rated for lip protection for those with rosacea
- good for moisturizing chapped lips as well as sun protection
- water resistant up to 80 minutes, much longer than many other SPF lip balms
- reported as having a strong plastic-like smell
- can be oily on certain skin types
- may leave a whitish sheen on your lips
Find it here: Vanicream Lip Protectant/Sunscreen SPF 30
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Face Sunscreen
- high percentage of zinc oxide (21percent)
- reported as leaving a whitish sheen
- may not work for people with sun sensitivity
- reported as leaving skin dry
Find it here: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Face Sunscreen
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- good coverage and sun protection
- reasonable priced for high-quality ingredients
- non-greasy and pleasant smell
- some reported breakouts
- may not blend well with darker skin tones
- not water-resistant
Find it here: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Here are some final things to consider before buying any sunscreen:
- Prone to acne? Choose a sunscreen that contains ingredients that won’t irritate existing pimples or skin conditions, or ones that contain safe ingredients that can treat acne.
- Want a tinted moisturizer? Look for sunscreens that double as lotions and contain natural colors to help you achieve the color and look of your natural skin tone.
- Want your sunscreen to double as makeup? Choose a foundation, lip balm, or BB/CC cream that contains SPF and no ingredients that can irritate rosacea.
- Want to save the planet? Choose a sunscreen that comes in an eco-friendly, biodegradable container. Even better, look for the B corp logo. This means that the manufacturer follows sustainable sourcing and fair business practices, such as paying suppliers and employees a living wage.
Sunscreen is important for rosacea because it minimizes flare-ups due to sun exposure. Using the right type of sunscreen is important, because certain ingredients can be irritating to skin in people with rosacea.
Remember that zinc oxide and titanium oxide are key ingredients to a good, safe sunscreen for your rosacea. Chemical sunscreens can be irritating to your skin. Other ingredients like fragrance and alcohols can also result in flare-ups.
See a dermatologist if you’d like more insight into your rosacea and your treatment options.