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If you have sensitive skin, you’re probably already aware of this catch-22: Your skin is irritated by the sun’s UV rays but many sunscreens also irritate your skin.
Some people with highly sensitive skin may find that they’re allergic to sunscreen, though this is usually a reaction to ingredients found in chemical sunscreens.
Chemical UV blockers found in many common sunscreens can wreak havoc on sensitive skin — think burning, stinging, and red itchy bumps.
Typically, physical sunscreens like zinc or titanium dioxide are the best options for sensitive skin, but it can still be hard to know which formulas are the best for your skin when there are so many options to choose from.
That’s why Healthline’s dermatology experts have identified the best ones. Healthline isn’t affiliated with any of these companies; our experts simply think that these formulas protect the skin with a low likelihood of irritation.
A favorite among people with rosacea-prone skin, this sunscreen contains octinoxate and transparent zinc oxide, which means it won’t leave a white residue.
With an impressive SPF of 46, EltaMD is a broad-spectrum formula, meaning it will protect against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.
• paraben-free, fragrance-free
• contains hyaluronic acid, which is moisturizing and may help reduce the appearance of fine lines
• higher price than many comparable options
• not labeled specifically as noncomedogenic
Those who like the effects of EltaMD but are looking for a slightly lower price point will probably be fans of La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen fluid.
Paraben- and fragrance-free, both of which can be irritating to even non-sensitive skin, the lightweight, matte formula is ideal for layering under makeup. It offers broad-spectrum protection with SPF 60.
It’s good to keep in mind, however, that an SPF of 45 has been shown to filter out 98 percent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, so an SPF higher than 45 may be unnecessary.
In fact, according to nonprofit search organization Environmental Working Group, “The Food and Drug Administration has proposed prohibiting the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 60+ and have called higher SPF values ‘inherently misleading.”
The concern is that a higher SPF encourages people to stay in the sun for too long, so remember that regardless of the SPF you’re using, it’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
• formulated with a “cell-ox shield,” which filters UV rays and gives skin a dose of antioxidants
• protects against UVA/ UVB rays
• lightweight moisturizer
• may leave skin feeling greasy
• high price point for everyday use
• SPF 60 may be unnecessary
Moisturizer and sunscreen don’t have to be mutually exclusive, especially when you’re short on time. This moisturizer contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 coverage and is completely mineral-based, ideal for sensitive skin.
Additionally, this formula contains feverfew, which may help calm redness and rosacea. It also includes oat, which helps soothe dry, itchy skin.
• hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores
• oil- and fragrance-free
• affordable price point and can be found in most drugstores
• contains soy, which may not be suitable for people with a soy allergy
• some reviewers mention that this product makes their T-zones appear oily
• slow to absorb
This oil-free, lightweight lotion is a great daily moisturizer with SPF 30. Healthline’s dermatology experts find this formula to be very well-tolerated on sensitive skin.
The sun protection comes in the form of zinc oxide and the formula contains vitamin E and aloe to condition and soothe skin.
• contains vitamins B-3, B-5, aloe, and vitamin E, which may reduce the appearance of fine lines
• slightly thicker formula may be hard to absorb
• won’t even skin tone
• leaves skin very matte
Neutrogena’s SheerZinc Dry-Touch in SPF 30 or 50 has received the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, which means that it’s formulated without known irritants to the skin. It’s generally considered safe for people who have eczema.
This is a great option when you’re on a hike, rafting, or other times when sun protection is your top priority.
The formula works well but can be difficult to rub into the face or blend over facial hair, and it may leave a white residue. It’s best for special events and may not work well as a daily option.
• shields skin from sun with 100-percent zinc oxide
• free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes, and irritating chemicals
• sweat- and sun-resistant for 80 minutes
• lower price point
• thick consistency
• may leave a residue on the skin
• not a good formula for everyday use
This paraben- and fragrance-free formula offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection.
Blue Lizard is a well-known Australian brand — and Aussies take their sun care seriously. Great for days when you’re surfing or swimming, this formula is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and contains no coral-harming chemical ingredients.
• fragrance-free and paraben-free
• broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection
• not sweat-resistant
• doesn’t contain hydrating hyaluronic acid or antioxidants as some of their other formulas do
We know that wearing sunscreen is essential, especially when it comes to preventing skin cancer. You may still have questions about sunscreen, and it turns out that many people are using sunscreen incorrectly.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, to cover a full body. This amount will vary slightly but is a good place to start.
Typically, an SPF of 30 or higher is considered safe and you’ll want to apply it to all bare skin. Don’t forget the ears and the tops of the feet!
Wait at least 15 minutes from the initial application before going outside, and don’t forget to reapply every two hours. It’s important to wear sunscreen all year, even on cloudy days.
Everyone needs to wear sunscreen — ideally every day — but finding a non-irritating sunscreen can be a challenge for those with sensitive skin.
You may have sensitive skin if your skin is prone to redness, dryness, or burns, itches, or stings when using products.
When sensitive skin reacts to sunscreen, it’s typically reacting to a chemical ingredient in the formula.
While these sunscreens are considered safe for all skin types, it’s always best to test a new product on a small area of your skin before using it everywhere. As with most products, what may work for one person may not work well for someone else.