9 Sunscreens For Sensitive Skin That Won't Cause Irritation

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by Lisa Fogarty
Originally Published: 
Beautiful young woman at beach applying sunscreen on face. Mature woman with freckles and red hair e...

If you're here, you already know how important it is to wear sunscreen every day to protect your skin from harmful rays. But people with sensitive skin need one that also won't leave it looking and feeling as raw as the worst sunburn. Luckily, the best sunscreens for sensitive skin have all the UVA and UVB protection your skin is begging for, without the irritation.

“Sensitivities to sunscreen can fall under a few categories,” Dr. Erum Ilyas of Schweiger Dermatology Group tells Bustle. “There can be an actual allergy or sensitivity to one of the active ingredients in the sunscreen. There can be an actual allergy or sensitivity to one of the inactive ingredients, i.e., the preservatives or fragrance, in the sunscreen. Some people experience burning in their eyes once they start sweating from the sunscreen product actually running into their eyes.”

Sensitive skin types tend to react more to chemicals in products, so it's easy to see why certain chemicals should be avoided at all costs. The simplest way to address this is to focus your search on sunscreens that use zinc and/or titanium as their active ingredients and avoid preservatives such as parabens, as well as fragrances, dyes, and formaldehyde.

“Zinc and titanium tend to be ‘inert,’ meaning that they are less likely to cause true allergic reactions,” Dr. Ilyas says. “If there are still sensitivities to these sunscreen products, patch testing patients to determine the true cause of the reaction can be helpful. Routinely these results have indicated that the preservatives and/or fragrances added to sunscreen products are often the true cause of the reactions. By seeking products that minimize preservatives and fragrances, the chances of feeling burning or stinging in the eyes with sweating is also less likely.”

The good news is there are more amazing sunscreens for sensitive skin out there than ever before and they aren't all the same goopy, white cream formula from the past. These nine sunscreens are designed for sensitive skin that needs that little bit of extra TLC, including skin that suffers from rosacea or eczema. Plus they offer optimum protection, too.


A Sunscreen Recommended By Dermatologists

Vanicream is a brand that is at the top of Dr. Ilyas’ list of sunscreens for sensitive skin. “This brand has no dyes, fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde and uses zinc and titanium for sun protection.” Not only does this Vanicream sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protect with zinc oxide, but it is specifically recommended for people with sensitive. This everyday formula isn’t water-resistant, but it is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores. It’s formulated with ceramides, so it’s super moisturizing too.

Helpful Review: “It absorbs effortlessly, wears exceptionally well under makeup, and offers really great protection. I'm very minimalistic when it comes to my face care, and I'm beyond thrilled that this is a 2-in-1 product!! I'm in my 30's, I have very dry, acne-prone, sensitive skin, and this is everything my skin has been needing.”


A Vitamin-Rich SPF That Won't Leave White Residue

For those times when you want your sunscreen to come with a side of vitamins and antioxidants, Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion delivers the goods with a formula that's free of oils, parabens, fragrances, and harsh chemicals like Oxybenzone. This SPF 50 can be used on the face and body (hurray for a multitasking sunscreen) and, according to many happy customers, it's lightweight, absorbs in seconds, and — best of all — won't leave a filmy, white residue behind. Reviewers with sensitive skin weighed in to rave about how Supergoop! doesn't irritate skin and can actually provide a smooth canvas for foundation and BB cream. This pick is water-resistant up to 80 minutes and has an impressive 4.7-star rating.

Helpful Review: “A real game changer! Easy on my sensitive skin, and protects for hours. Even on hot humid days! Love it!”


An Affordable Sunscreen With Thousands Of Reviews

You don’t have to invest in a luxury-brand sunscreen to find a product that will protect sensitive skin. This popular Australian mineral sunscreen contains zinc, titanium dioxide, and is completely free of fragrances and parabens. Formulated for sensitive skin, the affordable (and comparatively large) bottle provides up to 40 minutes of water resistance and is known as a “reef-friendly” brand that uses ingredients that are considerate to marine life. This pick has a 4.7-star rating and more than 5,000 reviews.

Helpful Review: “This sunscreen was recommended by our allergist for sensitive, eczema prone skin. It works well, does not cause any flare ups, and provides great sun protection.”


The Mess-Free Brush-On Tinted Mineral Sunscreen

Imagine a sunscreen application experience that eliminates the gooey mess left on your hands, body, and everything else you touch. Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder with SPF 50 is a mess-free powder made with titanium and zinc that has broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is the most portable sunscreen you'll find. This tinted powder comes in four shades (tan, medium, fair, and deep), is simple to apply and reapply throughout the day, and is a one-step product — both the sunscreen and brush come in one convenient applicator. Because it's made with a mineral formula, it's also safe for sensitive skin. This vegan pick is free of parabens, sulfates, and oils, and water-resistant up to 80 minutes.

Be aware that since this is a powder formula, it may not provide enough moisture for dry skin types.

Helpful Review: “I've used this for several years now. It's the only thing that works, no sun, no change in my freckles and doesn't irritate extremely sensitive skin. Miracle product for me!”


A Mattifying SPF For Oily, Sensitive Skin

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, you might dread using sunscreen, but the moment you find the right one your life outdoors will improve greatly. Even though La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dry Touch Face Sunscreen for Oily Skin is a chemical sunscreen that relies on avobenzone instead of zinc or titanium, it is tested on sensitive skin and is free of so many irritants like fragrance, parabens, and oils. It contains broad-spectrum SPF 60, but it's also formulated with advanced technology and perlite plus silica that absorbs up to 250% of its weight in sweat and oil for a dry, matte finish.

This sunscreen is made with soothing thermal spring water, is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and has also been tested on sensitive skin — so feel confident about giving it a try. This popular pick has more than 8,000 reviews.

Helpful Review: “It's super light. Although it comes out thick, once absorbed it completely disappears. It's so light, your skin feels completely naked. This is important for sensitive, oily skin. It keeps your face matte all day without looking dull (some of you may know what I mean). My skin is actually reactive to mattefying products, they actually make my skin more oily and itchy. Not so with this. I was really blown away, I wasn't expecting it to work so great. I recently had an allergic reaction to another product, so I have active acne on my face. This sunscreen did not aggravate it at all. It also wears great under makeup, although I did not initially buy it to wear under makeup. I highly recommend it for sensitive and oily skin.”


The Cooling Sunscreen Milk With Eucalyptus

Live in a hot, humid climate that feels like torture on your sensitive skin? MISSHA All Around Safe Block Sun Milk is formulated with zinc, titanium, and eucalyptus extract to provide sun protection and help control oil production while providing a refreshingly cool feeling. The addition of skin-calming Helios Chrysos flower water is another plus in this formula. The SPF 50+ milk is water-resistant, though the manufacturer doesn’t state how many hours its protection lasts.

According to several reviewers, this Korean sunscreen is lightweight, absorbent, and the perfect product to use alone or under foundation.

Helpful Review: “Lightweight sunscreen that won't burn your eyes or cause skin redness. In fact wearing this made my skin feel softer. Great under make-up.”


A Tinted Sunscreen With Hyaluronic Acid

If you prefer to stick to skincare brands that are most likely to be sold at your dermatologist's office, EltaMD is the one for you — and this tinted sunscreen with SPF 40 protection is a favorite among reviewers with sensitive skin. Its active ingredient is zinc and it is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, has been tested on sensitive skin, and contains no parabens. It is also rich in hyaluronic acid to hydrate dry skin. And, if that's not enough, it provides the slightest hint of color to make you look as if you're glowing (you can also snag the untinted formula).

Helpful Review: “If I was shipwrecked on a desert island and had only one product with me for the rest of my life, it would be this one. I have very oily skin and live in a sunny climate and this product is a miracle for me. I use it as my moisturizer every single day - it offers serious sun protection without breaking out my sensitive, acne prone skin. The tint is very sheer and it is perfect on its own for those ‘no makeup’ days. For daily wear, it goes on beautifully as a moisturizer under makeup or blended with my favorite bb cream or foundation for more coverage.”


An Organic Mineral Sunscreen For All Skin Types

The Beauty by Earth Facial Sunscreen with SPF 20 is made with zinc and organic ingredients like hydrating aloe vera and sunflower oil. It contains no GMOs, gluten, or soy. It's a combination mineral sunscreen and moisturizer, so unless you have very dry skin, most skin types can get away with using this to serve both purposes. Reviews say this lotion never leaves them feeling or looking greasy, gives skin a "matte" finish, and that it may feel "thick," but doesn't make sensitive skin types break out.

Depending on your skin needs, you may find you need a higher SPF than this product offers — adding a BB or CC cream for higher sun protection is one way to achieve that. Be aware that this one does contain a light fragrance, but many reviewers report that it isn’t overwhelming.

Helpful Review: “I have a sensitive skin and I have to be very selective with my facial sunscreen. Beauty by earth is gentle, soft, leaves my skin moisturized and I can apply make up one and still look super natural.”


A Sunscreen For Sensitive Or Post-Procedure Skin

If you have sensitive skin or have just had an irritating procedure, this sunscreen from SkinMedica is gentle enough to meet your needs. The sheer, lightweight formula has SPF 35 sun protection, thanks to active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work together to shield your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen is unscented and hypoallergenic, and it uses ingredients like dimethicone and and green tea leaf extract to better absorb into the skin and ease inflammation.

Helpful Review: “I have incredibly sensitive skin and buying an everyday sunscreen is a nightmare. This lotion is amazing. It didn’t burn, it wasn’t oily, and it even gave a little matte finish!”


Dr. Erum Ilyas of Schweiger Dermatology Group

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