Scars are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, and may burn more easily, so protecting your scars from the sun is essential, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ope Ofodile. Dr. Ofodile tells Bustle that the best sunscreens for scars are mineral-based, and have an SPF of 45 or higher. Why? “Physical or mineral sunscreens are preferred due to their broad-spectrum coverage and superior protection over all forms of ultraviolet rays, and some scars are also more sensitive and easily irritated by the components of chemical sunscreens, especially avobenzone,” Dr. Ofodile explains. She says there’s “a reduction of melanin due to disruption of melanocyte production in scars, which often causes the white (hypopigmented) appearance,” and that “melanin is protective against UV rays and explains why individuals of darker complexions are less likely to burn.” So less melanin means increased photosensitivity, which explains why some scarred areas burn so easily.
As for what type of mineral sunscreen to choose — i.e., a lighter, oil-free sunscreen or a richer, creamier option — that’s a matter of personal preference, although the expert says it is important to keep the wound moist while healing. It also depends on the body part you’re dealing with, as some sunscreens are better for your face (or lips, or scalp) than others. As long as you’re consistently using a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher, that’s all that matters.
Keep your scars protected with any of the best physical sunscreens ahead, including one doctor-approved pick.
1. Doctor’s Pick: Best Face Sunscreen
Dr. Ofodile likes EltaMD UV Clear for scars on the face. This is a mineral-based sunscreen, but it does contain a chemical sunscreen (octinoxate) as well. However, it’s free of the avobenzone that Dr. Ofodile said can be irritating to scarred, sensitive skin. This is loaded with good-for-skin ingredients, like vitamin E, niacinamide, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, and zinc oxide, and it’s also fragrance-free, oil-free, and easy to blend — just put some elbow grease in and any trace of white cast should disappear. Dr. Ofodile often advises her patients to use EltaMD UV Clear in combination with Strataderm, a silicone-based scar screen, for maximum protection.
2. Best Budget-Friendly Face Sunscreen For Scars
Popular drugstore brand Cetaphil recently launched their first-ever sunscreen line, which includes this lightweight mineral face sunscreen. With an SPF of 50 and a water-resistant rating of 80 minutes, it helps nourish, hydrate, and protect sensitive skin using antioxidant-rich vitamin E and soothing allantoin — a winning combination for scarred skin. The fragrance-free formula dries down to a sheer, matte finish, so it won’t leave your skin feeling greasy or suffocated.
3. Best Body Sunscreen
Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen is a zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based lotion that offers SPF 50 protection and up to 80 minutes of water resistance. It provides thick, effective coverage that stays on while you swim and sweat, all without stinging or irritating delicate skin. It’s fragrance-free, like all of the sunscreens on this list, and safe for sensitive skin types — but this is best suited to use on your body, whereas the brand does make a face-specific sunscreen that’s also great, but only has SPF 30. One cool feature here is that it has a cap that turns blue in the sunlight to remind you to apply — or reapply — your sunscreen.
4. An Even More Affordable Body Sunscreen
Neutrogena offers a wide range of good-quality, budget-friendly sunscreens, including this mineral-based lotion with SPF 60+ and a water-resistant rating of 80 minutes. It’s fragrance-free, oil-free, and boasts the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, meaning it shouldn’t cause irritation for people who have sensitive skin, eczema, or other similar skin conditions. You can’t beat the under-$10 price tag, either.
5. Best Sunscreen Stick
Great for touchups, layering, and on the go use, CeraVe’s mineral sunscreen stick has an SPF of 50 and a water-resistant rating of up to 40 minutes. In addition to the effective sun protection it provides, this also contains skin-strengthening ceramides and hydrating hyaluronic acid. It’s also oil-free and fragrance-free, and therefore suitable for sensitive skin.
6. You May Also Like
The admittedly pricey ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ is always showing up on dermatologist best-of lists, because the silky formula keeps skin protected from the sun and also contains naturally occurring enzymes that help repair existing sun damage. It goes on clear, sinks in quickly, and leaves skin feeling soft and moisturized, but not at all greasy. This is another wonderful face sunscreen for year-round use, and it layers beautifully under makeup.
Ope Ofodile, M.D., F.A.A.D., cosmetic and medical dermatologist, Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta