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, who spoke to Bustle for this article. 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.
Shop The Best Sunscreens For Scars
In a hurry? These are the best sunscreens for scars:
- Best Face Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Clear
- Best Budget-Friendly Face Sunscreen: Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen
- Best Body Sunscreen: Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen
- Best Budget-Friendly Body Sunscreen: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen
- Best Sunscreen Stick: CeraVe Sunscreen Stick
- Best Splurge: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen
1. Doctor’s Pick: Best Face Sunscreen
- Also available on Dermstore, $41
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.
Size: 1.7 oz. | SPF Level: 46 | Fragrance-Free? Yes
Relevant Review: “Only sunscreen that doesn't break my skin out and actually improves texture! My acne scars are fading finally!”
2. Best Budget-Friendly Face Sunscreen
- Also available on Walmart, $12
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.
Size: 1.7 oz. | SPF Level: 50 | Fragrance-Free? Yes
Relevant Review: “Most mineral sunscreens leave white casts and dry out my skin, but this does neither. It has a liquid consistency, spreads easily on my face and leaves NO white cast. A little goes a long way. Best mineral sunscreen I’ve found, and I tried many before finding this.”
3. Best Body Sunscreen
- Also available on Walmart, $15
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.
Size: 5 oz. | SPF Level: 50 | Fragrance-Free? Yes
Relevant Review: “Really like this sunscreen. It's reef safe, protects from the sun great, easy to apply and spread. And I really like that the cap changes color when exposed to UV rays.”
4. An Even More Affordable Body Sunscreen
- Also available on Walmart, $10
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.
Size: 3 oz. | SPF Level: 60 | Fragrance-Free? Yes
Relevant Review: “I have used many sun protection products on my sensitive skin and I have found all to be adverse when I use it. This product is an outstanding exception. It has no negative impact when I use it and found it to be extremely effective. I highly recommend it.”
5. Best Sunscreen Stick
- Also available on Walmart, $13
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.
Size: 0.47 oz. | SPF Level: 50 | Fragrance-Free? Yes
Relevant Review: “I love every CeraVe product I've tried and this item is no exception. The sunscreen feels lightweight on my skin and is easy to rub in. This makes me more apt to put it on than other brands I have tried and hated the heavy, oily feeling it has. Seems to hold up to sweat or water.”
6. Best Splurge
- Also available on Walmart, $60
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.
Size: 3.4 oz. | SPF Level: 50 | Fragrance-Free? No
Relevant Review: “I bought this product after a big skin cancer was taken off of my shoulder. My Physician used the product. It promoted healing up the scar while protecting my skin. It is not greasy or messy, it is highly effective. The scent is not overwhelming like so many of the sun screens I had tried. This is my second order and everyone on my boat that tries this wants to take it home. A great product and worth the high price. You will agree when you try a bottle.”
Ope Ofodile, M.D., F.A.A.D., cosmetic and medical dermatologist, Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta
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