The 11 Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin
You know how crucial sun protection is, but if you have sensitive skin, you might have a hard time finding a formula that does its job without making your skin freak out.
As Dr. Orit Markowitz, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin explains: "The biggest challenge for someone with sensitive skin is finding a sunscreen that is free from the synthetic ingredients and preservatives that are commonly found in sunscreens. For people with sensitive skin, any product with preservatives or synthetic ingredients can lead to irritation."
What ingredients should people with sensitive skin look for?
"I tell my sensitive skin patients to look for a sunscreen that is formulated with zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the the key ingredient," says Markowitz. "These are the active natural ingredients found in mineral and physical sunscreens that provide UV protection. Zinc oxide works by reflecting light off the surface of the skin and back into the environment wherever the sunscreen is applied and titanium oxide works by blocking absorption of the sun’s UV rays," she explains.
What ingredients should people with sensitive skin avoid?
"Chemical sunscreens contain carbon-containing molecules that absorb light, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, and these are things you will want to avoid if you have sensitive skin. Next, I advise my patients to select a sunscreen that has a limited amount of other ingredients. Studies have shown that ingredients like propylene glycol, lanolin, fragrance mix, and even aloe are ingredients that can cause hypersensitivity in sensitive skin patients so you will want to avoid these as well," adds Markowitz.
Are there any misleading terms to be aware of when reading sunscreen labels?
"This is something that everyone should be cognizant of when shopping for sunscreen, but I recommend avoiding anything labeled with a SPF greater than 70. SPF 70 and above is typically found in chemical sunscreens and provide less protection than mineral sunscreens and lower SPFs in the 30-70 range," says Markowitz.
Also important to note is the mode of application. As Markowitz explains: "You can reapply a SPF 100 aerosol every 15 minutes and will likely get less protection than if you were to apply a thick mineral sunscreen every two hours. This is because a lotion tends to stick to the skin and last longer than something that comes in a spray format."
Final takeaways when shopping for sunscreen when you have sensitive skin:
"My number one tip for people with sensitive skin is to stick to mineral sunscreens. These are traditionally made with more natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium and won't irritate your skin like many of the synthetic ingredients used in chemical formulas. I would then advise patients to take things a step further because not all mineral sunscreens are 100 percent safe for sensitive skin as some do contain other ingredients like propylene glycol, lanolin and fragrances that can be irritating. I think it's smart to always read the ingredients listed on the back to make sure," says Markowitz.
Shop some of the highest-rated sensitive-skin sunscreens (and Dr. Markowitz approved picks) ahead.