Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the body — basically, it’s a real bad time.
One of the best ways to manage lupus is to avoid trigger factors. And one of those major trigger factors? You guessed it: exposure to sunlight.
While avoiding sunlight altogether isn’t realistic or desirable, using sunscreen can help protect your skin from damage and prevent flares.
There’s no denying that due to increased sensitivity to the sun, sunscreens are an important part of any lupus sufferer’s daily routine. But, here in lies the rub — not all sunscreens are created equal.
In this guide, we’ll review some of the best sunscreens for lupus patients, taking into account important factors like SPF rating and ease of application,
Lupus and Photosensitivity: Why Sunscreen is Essential for Those With Lupus
Not all individuals with lupus suffer from photosensitivity, but it is quite common – 40% to 70% of people with lupus experience increased sensitivity to UV rays (source).
This photosensitvity can cause rashes and even physical pain for those with lupus. UV light can cause lupus flares, triggering symptoms like fatigue, tingling, numbness, and joint pain. Some even report experiencing flares that last days to weeks after UV exposure — yikes, that’s no fun at all.
This heightened UV sensitivity doesn’t just apply to the sun – artificial lights can cause symptoms as well.
Even if you don’t get a rash after UV exposure, that exposure could result in an increase in auto-antibody production, which can exacerbate lupus (source).
This is because, while the body’s immune system clears cells that are damaged from UV radiation, the process is slower in individuals with lupus. Since those damaged cells stay in the body longer for a lupus-sufferer, they end up triggering an immune system attach.
So, you can see why sunscreen is not a possibility but a must for anyone with lupus.
Important Factors When Choosing a Sunscreen for Lupus
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a sunscreen for lupus:
- Skin sensitivity. You won’t want to irritate skin that’s already inflamed. Consider choosing a sunscreen with “sensitive skin” on the label.
- Mineral sunscreens. “Physical sunscreens” or “mineral sunscreens” use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect the sun’s rays. They provide broad-spectrum protection and are less likely to irritate sensitive skin. Many individuals with lupus prefer physical mineral sunscreens due to their thickness and reliability.
- Choose a High SPF Rating. While it’s generally recommended all sun-goers opt for a 30 SPF sunscreen, lupus sufferers may want to choose a 50 or even 70+ SPF, since lupus causes increased sensitivity to UV (source).
- Broad Spectrum. You’ll want to choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. This is true for all sunscreen users, but especially those with lupus. Luckily, most sunscreens today are broad spectrum (and all those highlighted in this article are as well).
- Added antioxidants. Formulas with antioxidants can provide additional hydration that can better support the skin.
- Tinted formula to cover rashes. Butterfly rashes that spread across the face are a common symptom of lupus, so a tinted sunscreen can help camouflage rashes while also protecting skin. Tinted sunscreens also don’t have a white cast, which is a common complain of most standard non-tinted physical mineral sunscreens.
- Works well under makeup. Depending on the severity of your rashes, you may plan on using makeup to cover any redness or irritation you are suffering from. In this case, you’ll want to make sure your sunscreen doesn’t pill under makeup, so you’ll want a formula that works well under makeup or double functions as a makeup primer.
- Ease of application. Ease of application is important for any sunscreen, but especially for those with lupus, who may have joint pain or other issues that make applying sunscreen more difficult. A spray formula can be easier to apply than a lotion. However, it’s much more common for users to miss spots using sprays, so consider double coverage if you go with a spray.
Best Sunscreen Product Reviews
1. EltaMD UV Daily SPF 40 Tinted Sunscreen
EltaMD Daily SPF 40 Tinted Sunscreen is a fan-favorite physical mineral for sensitive skin folks. A high-quality and well-regarded brand, EltaMD products provide reliable, non-irritating coverage.
This Elta MD sunscreen is designed to be ultra lightweight while still providing SPF 40 and UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection. Made with clear zinc oxide, it provides fantastic protection without leaving a white cast.
Since this sunscreen is designed to be ultra gentle on facial skin, it’s fragrance-free and paraben-free too. Plus, the formula’s tint makes it easy to cover up any redness or discoloration.
Some even choose to forgo makeup when using this tinted sunscreen (although it works great under makeup too). The Elta MD sunscreen even provides added hydration via the inclusion of hyaluronic acid.
The airless pump ensures you get every drop of product out of the container.
In short, we love this sunscreen for its lightweight feel, it’s compatibility with sensitive skin, and the tint that provides a smooth shade of coverage. The only downside is that it’s pretty pricey, so you won’t want to use it anywhere besides your face.
- Feels lightweight
- Tinted formula covers up rashes and redness
- Expensive, so best for face use only
2. Australian Gold Botanical Tinted Face BB Cream Sunscreen
Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face BB Cream
- Mineral, non-chemical SPF 50 formula with titanium dioxide and non-nano zinc oxide
- Oil-free sunscreen with mattifying effect that doubles as a BB cream or light foundation
- Weightless tinted sunscreen blends easily
- Gentle for sensitive skin
- Includes soothing ingredients and antioxidants like kakadu plum, vitamin C, eucalyptus, and red algae.
- No octinoxate, oxybenzone, alcohol, dye, PABAs, or parabens.
If you’re looking for a face sunscreen that does it all, look no further than Australian Gold Botanical Tinted Face BB Cream Sunscreen. This physical sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 50 protection with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – two mineral ingredients that are safe for sensitive skin types. The tint is gentle and subtle, and it works to smooth out your skin tone while hiding any fine lines.
Plus, this sunscreen is packed with bonus ingredients like kakadu plum for Vitamin C, eucalyptus, and red algae. It’s also oil-free, chemical filter-free, and hypoallergenic. And it’s vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty free too!
The only downside is that the tint might be too pale or heavy for very dark-skinned people. But for light and medium-tone skin types, this sunscreen provides the perfect amount of coverage.
- Great tint that smooths out skin
- Very pale or heavy dark-skinned people might not like the tint
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Sunscreen
- Broad spectrum SPF 50 protection
- Ultra lightweight 100% mineral tinted face sunscreen (with titanium dioxide)
- Developed specifically for sensitive skin
- Non-greasy, fast-absorbing texture leaves a tinted matte finish
- Fragrance free, paraben free and water resistant (40 minutes)
We love La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Sunscreen for its lightweight feel, easy application, and beautiful finish — it’s a real all-in-one!
This physical mineral sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 50 protection with titanium dioxide. The tinted formula is fast absorbing and leaves a matte finish that’s perfect alone or for prior to makeup application.
Oil-free and fragrance-free, this sunscreen is good for sensitive skin types. And it’s allergy-tested too!
The unique “cell-ox shield” provides added antioxidants, while hyaluronic acid adds an extra boost of hydration. The only downside is that it’s pretty pricey, so you wouldn’t want to use it on your entire body. But for your face, this sunscreen is definitely worth the splurge!
- Lightweight, tinted, and great finish
- Fairly pricey, so you wouldn’t want to use it on your body
4. Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Lotion
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Lotion is a great choice for those looking for a high-SPF, water resistant sunscreen for body application.
This physical mineral sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 50 protection with its zinc oxide formula, using no chemical filters like oxybenzone (which has been associated with the destruction of coral reefs).
Despite being primarily for the body, it’s designed to work well for sensitive skin, as it’s fragrance-free and hypoallergenic, so there’s a decent chance it’ll be fine for your face too, as long as your not super ultra-sensitive. And it’s gluten and cruelty free too!
It’s lightweight and goes on smoothly, leaving behind a silky finish. And it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it perfect for a dip in the pool.
The only downside is that due to the mineral composition with non-tinted zinc oxide, it leaves a white cast. But if you don’t mind that, this sunscreen is definitely worth a try!
- Solid, reliable, high-SPF sunscreen that’s water resistant, so it’s great for a dip in the pool
- Due to the mineral composition with non-tinted zinc oxide, it leaves a white cast
5. CeraVe 100% Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 50
CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
- 100% Mineral-based sunscreen with broad spectrum UVA/UVB coverage
- Can often leave a white cast - apply evenly in thin layers and thoroughly massage into skin
- Suitable for use under foundation and face makeup
- Oxybenzone free, avobenzone free, and benzene free, making it Hawaii-compliant
- Includes three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) to help restore the skin’s natural barrier
- Oil free, fragrance-free, noncomedogenic, and suitable for sensitive skin
CeraVe 100% Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 50 is a great choice for those who want a high-SPF, mineral sunscreen for the face that doesn’t contain an added tint.
This physical sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 50 protection with its zinc oxide and titanium dioxide formula, using no oxybenzone or avobenzone chemical filters.
It’s good for sensitive skin, as it’s oil-free, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic. And it’s also formulated with three essential ceramides to help restore and maintain the skin’s natural barrier, so it’s a great sunscreen for dry skin too.
The sunscreen goes on smoothly and has a good chance of leaving a slight white cast. But if you don’t mind that, this sunscreen is a great gentle face sunscreen pick.
- Trusted mineral sunscreen that’s gentle on the face
- Good likelihood that it will leave a slight white cast
6. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
A super popular lightweight sunscreen that's invisible on skin
- SPF 40 broad spectrum chemical sunscreen
- Weightless, scentless, oil-free formula
- Controls shine with velvety finish that plays nice with makeup
- Oxybenzone and octinoxate-free formula
- Water-resistant up to 40 minutes
- Antioxidant-rich ingredients like frankincense and hydrating meadowfoam seed
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen is a super popular sunscreen, and it’s no surprise why. This “invisible” sunscreen is rich in antioxidants while providing broad spectrum SPF 45 protection.
It’s oil-free, lightweight, reef-friendly, and scent-free. Plus, it can be used as a makeup primer or under makeup for an invisible finish (in fact, fans rave about its ultra smooth and velvety finish). And it’s also beard-friendly for those with facial hair.
Keep in mind that this sunscreen is made with chemical filters. However, it doesn’t use oxybenzone or octinoxate, which tend to be the most irritating chemical filters. Still, some folks may experience irritation, although that doesn’t seem to be very common with Supergoop.
One major downside is that Supergoop is on the pricey side. But if you’re looking for an invisible sunscreen that feels amazing on the skin, Supergoop is definitely worth the price-point. And we can attest, it really does feel great!
- Ultra lightweight, feels “invisible”
- Irritation uncommon, goes on smooth and easy
- Pretty pricey
7. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt In Milk Body & Face Sunscreen
La Roche-Posay Melt-In Milk Body & Face Sunscreen
A smooth, velvety sunscreen that absorbs quickly for face and body use
- Broad spectrum SPF 60 protection
- Fast-absorbing, velvety texture
- Formulated with Cell-OX technology for antioxidants
- Designed to be gentle on even sensitive skin
- Octinoxate and oxybenzone-free
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt In Milk Body & Face Sunscreen is a great choice for those who want an all-in-one sunscreen for both the face and body. This chemical sunscreen is formulated with La Roche-Posay’s patented “Cell-Ox Shield Technology”, which provides broad spectrum SPF 60 protection, as well as antioxidants to help protect the skin.
The sunscreen has a lightweight, milky texture that melts into the skin for a fast-absorbing finish. And it doesn’t leave a white cast, making it a great choice for those with darker skin tones.
Keep in mind that this sunscreen does contain the chemical filter avobenzone. However, avobenzone is generally much less irritating than oxybenzone. It’s also oil-free and fragrance-free, making it a solid pick for those with sensitive skin.
Overall, this is an excellent sunscreen for both the face and body. And it’s a great choice for those who want high SPF protection without the heavy, greasy feel.
- High SPF
- Smooth, milky texture
- Works great for face and body use
- Contain the avobenzone, which may irritate some ultra-sensitive skin types (although it tends to be much less irritating than oxybenzone for most).
8. Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sunscreen Spray
Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sunscreen Spray is a popular choice for those who need a high-performing spray-style sunscreen that can keep up with their active lifestyle.
This chemical sunscreen has an SPF of 100 and is water- & sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s also invisible and clear, so you don’t have to worry about it leaving a white cast. And the spray makes it easy and quick to apply, which is ideal when you’re on-the-go.
Despite being a chemical filter sunscreen, there’s no oxybenzone or octinoxate in this formula. However, some folks find that it has a sticky after-feel. And spray formulas don’t always provide as much reliable coverage as lotions.
Truthfully, this wouldn’t be our first pick for a lupus patient — we’d suggestion lotions over aerosol sprays, which tend to have more chemicals and can make you more prone to irritation.
But, there’s no denying sprays are a breeze to apply, so if ease of application if what you’re after, this is a great choice with an ultra high SPF.
- Easy to apply without needing to take a long break – ideal for sports and activities.
- A hearty sunscreen spray that’ll keep up through the sweat and provide plenty of protection.
- Spray doesn’t always provide as much reliable coverage.
- Can feel sticky.
- Aerosol and chemical composition may cause irritation for sensitive skin
9. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF70
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 70 is a popular choice for those who want high SPF protection without the heavy, greasy feel. Designed for face and body use, this chemical sunscreen is lightweight and fast absorbing, with a non-greasy matte finish.
While it does use chemical filters oxybenzone and avobenzone, it’s PABA-free and non-comedogenic.
Not a fan of lotion? It’s available in a stick and spray form too!
We love that this formula packs such a high SPF, but it’s worth considering that oxybenzone can be irritating for some folks, although it may be fine for body use for many individuals. However, you won’t be able to swim in any reef-protected areas, as oxybenzone is not considered reef-friendly.
- Super high SPF coverage
- No white cast
- Contains oxybenzone, which can irritate sensitive skin (although it may be fine for body use for many folks).
10. Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Moisturizing Daily Sunscreen
Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Moisturizing Daily Sunscreen
A super moisturizing sunscreen made with antioxidant oat
- Broad spectrum SPF 70 protection
- Made with antioxidant oat to moisturize and nourish skin
- Lightweight formula that's fast-absorbing, oil-free, and non-comedogenic
- Sweat-resistant and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes
Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Moisturizing Daily Sunscreen is another solid high SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen lotion. It boasts the added benefits of antioxidant oat, providing additional moisturizing properties.
Lightweight and fast absorbing, this formula is also oil-free and non-comedogenic. It’s water-resisant too!
Like the Neutrogena sunscreen above, this one also uses chemical filters oxybenzone and avobenzone. And as such, it’s not reef-safe and may irritate those with sensitive skin. Still, most users find this sunscreen quite gentle. To be safe, we’d suggest only using it on your body to start!
- No white cast and pretty high SPF
- Great for face or body use
- Ultra moisturizing
- Contains oxybenzone, which can be irritating for sensitive skin folks — especially when used on the face
11. Neutrogena Beach Defense Spray Sunscreen
Neutrogena’s Beach Defense Spray Sunscreen is a great choice for those who want an invisible, clear, high SPF sunscreen spray that’s easy to apply on the go. This water- and sweat-resistant sunscreen provides up to 80 minutes of protection, and is PABA-free and non-greasy.
Formulated with avobenzone, it’s a great choice for those who want to avoid oxybenzone altogether. However, do note that sprays don’t always provide as much coverage as lotions, so consider double layering your spray sunscreen for extra protection!
- Spray form is great for reaching those tough-to-get-to spots like your back
- Designed to be less sticky than most sunscreen sprays
- Comes in a lotion form too
- Sprays aren’t always ideal for getting full coverage — it can be difficult to really get your skin adequately covered
- Chemical format can be irritating for some — we’d suggest body use only
Other Tips for Lupus
- Use other sun gear too. In addition to sunscreen, make sure to use other sun protection gear like a wide-brimmed hat, UPF clothing, and sunglasses. This will ensure you always have full coverage and will dramatically decrease your risk of flare-ups.
- Reapply often. No matter what sunscreen you choose, it’s important to reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.
- Choose a lupus-friendly skincare routine. In addition to sunscreen, you’ll want to make sure the rest of your skincare routine is gentle and non-irritating. This means avoiding harsh cleansers, exfoliants, and other products that could further irritate your skin.
- Consider lotions over sprays. While sprays can be easier to apply, it’s common for spray users to not achieve full skin coverage. Sunscreen lotion can be much more reliable when it comes to getting every inch of your body covered.
- Choose your lightbulbs carefully. If you have lupus and experience photosensitivity, try to opt for light bulbs that have the lowest possible irradiance. Cover any fluorescent and halogen bulbs with light shields as well.
- Use UV-blocking window shades. Certain shades are designed to prevent sunlight from steaming in, offering added protection from UV rays.
- Be aware of medications that can make lupus worse. Certain medications can make lupus symptoms worse, so it’s important to be aware of these before starting any new medication.
- Consider tinting your car windows. If you spend a lot of time driving, consider investing in UV-blocking window tinting for your car. State laws can vary on this, but a doctor’s note should allow you to tint a car, regardless of where you live.
Sunscreens are an important part of any skincare routine, but they are especially important for those with lupus. If you have lupus, choosing the right sunscreen is important for keeping your skin healthy and flare-ups at bay.
What are your favorite sunscreens for lupus? Let us know in the comments below!