Having sensitive skin can be tough at times, there’s no doubt about it!
You likely already know if you have sensitive skin – just one application of a clearance lotion can result in acne break outs and red, irritated patches all over!
Those with sensitive skin who often suffer from irritation may simply have sensitive skin, or they might also have an allergy or intolerance to certain ingredients.
If you have sensitive skin, then you need sunscreen that will not cause irritation or an allergic reaction – you want sunscreen that will protect your skin, not upset it!
We’re going to review some of the best sunscreens for people with sensitive skin and tell you what features to look for to give you your best shot at finding a sunscreen that’ll work will for your ultra-picky skin!
Why Do Some Sunscreens Irritate My Skin?
It’s not unusual for some people to experience irritation from certain sunscreens due to an allergy associated with certain ingredients.
The most common offenders are fragrances and various forms of alcohol which can both cause redness and skin inflammation.
Products with those types of ingredients should be avoided for those with sensitive skin, so look for sunscreens that specifically note being fragrance-free and alcohol-free.
In some cases, the irritation is caused by a sensitivity to one of the active ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreen – such as oxybenzone. If it’s not unusual for your to break out into hives or have acne flare-ups when using chemical sunscreens, you may want to consider trying a mineral sunscreen as opposed to a chemical sunscreen (or, at the very least, a sunscreen with no oxybenzone in it).
What to Look For When Choosing a Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin
Here are 9 things to look for when buying a sunscreen for sensitive skin types:
- SPF Factor. Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended for sensitive skin types. Sensitive skin generally tends to burn easily, so it’s important to make sure you use a high enough SPF. And of course, make sure to reapply that sunscreen regularly!
- Broad Spectrum. Sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays are recommended for those with sensitive skin as well as those with regular ol’ average skin. Always choose broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against skin cancer as well as premature aging.
- Fragrance-free. Fragrances in general tend to irritate sensitive skin, so opt for sunscreens labeled “fragrance-free” to avoid extra risk of irritation.
- Alcohol-free. Alcohol is another ingredient commonly found in sunscreen which can cause irritation. Look for a sunscreen without alcohol listed as an active ingredient or look for sunscreens labeled as alcohol-free.
- Dermatologist-tested. While anyone with ultra sensitive skin is advised to seek out a dermatologists opinion, if you do have sensitive skin, you might want to specifically seek out sunscreens that are dermatologist-tested.
- Allergy-tested. Sensitive skin is often associated with allergies, so opt for sunscreens that are allergy-tested too.
- Non-cosmogenic. If your sensitive skin is also acne-prone, you’ll want to make sure the sunscreen you choose has non-cosmogenic in it. When a sunscreen is labeled as non-cosmogenic, it means the sunscreen will not clog pores.
- Oxybenzone-free. Many chemical sunscreens are now leaving out known irritating chemical ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these ingredients have been reported to cause hormone disruption, skin irritation, and the breakdown of coral reefs. Since these ingredients are known to be potentially irritating, choosing an oxybenzone-free sunscreen is a good place to start. Just remember that there are still plenty of other chemical ingredients such as avobenzone present in many sunscreens that may (or may not) upset your skin.
- Tinted Formula. Some individuals who frequently struggle with allergies and irritate skin will want a sunscreen that includes a tint to it. Tinted formulas can help provide better coverage and can even out blotchy skin. Plus, a tinted mineral sunscreen can often resolve the issue of white cast commonly associated with mineral sunscreens.
Other Things to Consider for Sensitive Skin Sunscreen
- Mineral vs Chemical Ingredients. As mentioned earlier, some people experience an allergic reaction to chemical sunscreen ingredients. If you’ve experienced irritation from chemical sunscreens, it may be time to try a mineral sunscreen as opposed to a chemical sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens tend to not irritate skin as much as their chemical counterparts. Look for products which list non-irritating, mineral active ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Compatibility with Makeup. If you like to put on a full face each day, it’s important to make sure the sunscreen you choose is compatible with your makeup. Ideally, you’ll want to look for sunscreens that specifically state that they are compatible with makeup – which is a sign that it will not pill or cause your makeup to flake off.
Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin
1. EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
The EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is truly a fan-favorite choice for people with sensitive skin.
Often recommended by dermatologists, it’s known for being ultra-gentle and great for folks with acne prone skin.
With a 46 SPF rating and broad spectrum protection, it isn’t pulling any punches against the sun’s harmful UV rays!
The EltaMD UV formula contains zinc oxide, which is a gentle ingredient, and it’s unscented, making it ideal for those with allergies or sensitivities to fragrances. However, it’s worth nothing this is not a pure mineral sunscreen – EltaMD does contain octinoxate, but it doesn’t seem to cause issues for many people who have tried it.
2. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Mineral Face Sunscreen
If you’re looking for an affordable option for protecting your skin from the sun, Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Mineral Face Sunscreen is a great choice.
This broad spectrum formula, 50 SPF sunscreen is made with 100% naturally-sourced zinc oxide and features Neutrogena’s “Dry-Touch technology” to ensure that it dries with a non-greasy finish. It’s a super lightweight and sheer formula, so it won’t weigh down your makeup even while blocking UV rays!
Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and oil-free, making it a popular option for those with oily skin. And it doesn’t contain fragrances, parabens, phthalates, dyes, or other irritating chemicals.
This formula can usually be found at drugstores, so you don’t need to hunt all over to find this one!
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid is a great pick for those who want to wear sunscreen that offers sun protection against harmful rays without the greasy feeling.
This mineral formula sunscreen uses mineral ingredient titanium dioxide as the active ingredient, ensuring that the sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection with an SPF 50 rating.
It has a light matte finish that leaves you with a subtle glow, along with a tint that’s said to be just the right amount to even out skin without looking off. This formula is fragrance free, allergy tested, dermatologist tested, oil free, and does not contain irritating chemicals, making it an easy pick for anyone who has suffered from skin irritation from lesser sunscreens.
4. DERMA E Sun Protection Mineral Powder SPF 30
DERMA E Sun Protection Mineral Powder SPF 30 is a top pick if you have sensitive skin and are looking for a powder sunscreen. The powder-form sunscreen is made with zinc oxide but is translucent, which means it won’t leave that dreaded white cast on your skin!
The powder is also designed to absorb excess oils, leaving your skin looking fresh and grease-free.
The formula’s antioxidant-rich ingredients like green tea and chamomile flower extract help moisturize skin – there’s vitamin E to improve your skin’s health too!
Not only is Derma E Mineral Sunscreen Powder paraben, sulfate, and mineral oil-free, but it’s also 100% vegan and cruelty-free too! It even comes in recyclable eco-friendly packing.
The downside is that powders are notoriously easy to under-apply, so be diligent about covering your entire face and reapply frequently if you go with a powder type of sunscreen!
5. CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Having sensitive skin can often mean difficulty finding a sunscreen that doesn’t cause you to break out in a rash or itch. But CeraVe is here to save the day!
The CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen is a 50 SPF mineral-based sunscreen that’s ideal for reactive skin types.
Why? Well, this sunscreen is oil-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, and chemical-filter free to start with, making it ideal for people with allergies.
It also includes ceramides to help retain moisture and soothe skin, which is essential for keeping your skin hydrated during sun exposure. The best part? This hydrating sunscreen is oxybenzone and octinoxate-free too, making it compliant for use in Hawaii for when you’re traveling.
This sunscreen has even been allergy-tested and is a noncomedogenic sunscreen , meaning your risk for skin irritation is ridiculously low. It’s an easy win and can even be found at drugstores!
6. Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face BB Cream
Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face BB Cream is a mineral sunscreen for face use that straddles the fence between sunscreen and BB cream!
Using titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for its mineral composition, this sunscreen provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 sun protection.
But wait… it also doubles as a BB cream or foundation! Yup, the gentle tint in this formula is perfect for providing a makeup base or even to use alone when you don’t feel like putting on a full face of makeup.
The product is lightweight with a lovely matte finish, and is even said to help hide fine lines and wrinkles!
With kakadu plum, eucalyptus, red algae, and vitamin it offers an added boost of antioxidants and moisture too.
This formula is hypoallergenic as well as dermatologist and pediatrician tested. It doesn’t have any oxybenzone, alcohol, dye, or oil, so it’s safe to say this will be an easy win for sensitive skin. However, the oil-free composition means it can be drying for some, so consider that if you already struggle with retaining moisture.
Oh and we can’t forget – it’s vegan and cruelty-free too!
7. Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++
If you’re looking for a a good Korean sunscreen for sensitive skin, Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk is a great option!
It contains mineral-based physical UV blockers (including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), meaning it’ll play nice with sensitive skin and work for those who are intolerant of chemical blockers. Plus, it also includes several natural plant ingredients like acai berry and aloe vera, as well as hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Fans love how light and silky this sun milk feels – while some report an initial white cast upon the first application, it fades quickly, leaving behind a lovely matte finish.
The downside? This formula does contain some silicones and oils that might irritate some folks, although most sensitive skin users don’t have an issue with this formula. We’ve also received mixed reviews from those with a darker skin tone. Some say it absorbs fine, while others report an ashy complexion.
It’s also reportedly a bit of a trial to add a second application, which can make the sunscreen feel much heavier, so it’s best when to use when you won’t be out in the sun all day.
8. Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen
The Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen is another great Korean sunscreen for those with irritation-prone skin.
It’s made with gentle mineral ingredients, such as non-nano zinc oxide, which gives is broad spectrum SPF 30 protection.
Users report this sunscreen to be incredibly sheer, as well as deeply hydrating due to the inclusion of squalane and water lily extract.
It also doesn’t contain any parabens and markets itself as formulated specifically designed for sensitive skin types.
While most report that this sunscreen blends easily without leaving any kind of trace, some of those with darker skin tones did report a white cast (although others reported no problem).
9. Supergoop! Mattescreen
Supergoop!’s Mattescreen is a mineral sunscreen, offering a physical mineral alternative to their popular Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen that’s more geared towards those who want a physical formula.
This matteifying sunscreen provides a smoothing effect to minimizes the look of pores without negotiating that broad spectrum SPF 40 protection.
The formula’s translucent tint helps to mask any white cast and allows it to blend across a broader range of skin tones (although, as Supergoop! notes, it may still not work for all skin tones). This Supergoop! sunscreen also includes a plant-powered antioxidant blend to lessen free radical damage with resveratrol and peptides, and is oxybenzone and octinoxate-free to boot!
Sunscreens are a must-have for anyone who wants to protect their skin from the sun. If you have sensitive skin, it’s especially important that your sunscreen is gentle enough for use on areas of your body with chronic conditions or allergies. Ideally, it’ll be hypoallergenic and fragrance free so as not to aggravate any existing sensitivities.
Mineral formulas may be your best bet for avoiding irritating ingredients, but some gentle chemical formulas might work too.
Do you have sensitive skin? Do you have any favorite sunscreens for sensitive skin that we missed? Let us know your top picks in the comments!
Sensitive Skin Sunscreen FAQ
How do I choose sunscreen for sensitive skin?
Though many sunscreen lotions can be irritating to sensitive skin, there are some great ones out there. Mineral physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to be gentler on most people with sensitivities.
Chemical sunscreens can put your at a higher risk for irritation, since they are more likely to contain harsh chemical UV blockers. However, chemical formulas that are oxybenzone-free might be doable, so long as they are also hypoallergenic and fragrance free.
Always look for a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Some sunscreens will protect against blue light too!
What is the difference between a mineral and chemical sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreens use physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to deflect UV radiation, while chemical sunscreens use organic ingredients like oxybenzone to absorb UV radiation.
Are mineral sunscreens gentle enough for sensitive skin?
Generally yes – mineral physical sunscreens tend to be much more gentle for sensitive skin since they don’t contain chemical irritants.
However, some mineral sunscreens may still contain harsh alcohols or fragrances that can irritate sensitive skin, so always check ingredients or look for a sunscreen that is specifically marketed as being gentle enough for sensitive SPF wearers.
What ingredients should I avoid in a sunscreen for sensitive skin?
Some common allergens and irritants that you may want to avoid in your sunscreen include fragrances, parabens, and alcohol.
Which sunscreen ingredients safe for sensitive skin?
Some sunscreen ingredients that are generally considered safe for sensitive skin include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Is SPF 50 good for sensitive skin?
Yes, SPF 50 is a great rating for a sunscreen designed to protect sensitive skin. You’ll usually want a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and 50 is even better.