The 9 Best Sunscreens For Sensitive Skin That Won’t Cause Irritation In 2021


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 and the simplest way to address this is to focus your search on brands that use zinc and/or titanium as their active ingredients and avoid preservatives, 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 are designed for sensitive skin that needs that little bit of extra TLC, plus they offer optimum protection.

1

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 Vanicream Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protect with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, but it is recommended for people with eczema and rosacea. This sports formula is water-resistant up to 80 minutes and is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores. It is slightly greasy and can leave a shiny finish, so if you have normal to oily skin you might want to have a skin primer or oil-blotting papers on hand to use after your application.

As someone whose sensitive skin can err on the side of normal/oily, I’ve got to say: this product is worth an extra blotting paper or two.

Helpful Review: “This sunscreen is perfect for sensitive skin, be that your natural state or if you have minor irritation from use of retinol products. I have never experienced stinging with this product as I have with so many others, and there is no “sunscreen smell” which I abhor. Will be a lifelong user of this product for sure.”

2

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: “I love this product. I bought it for sun protection because I am using a product that has alpha hydroxy acid on my body. This moisturizer is lightweight yet it is very rich. It gives a beautiful sheen to the skin and without a white cast.”

3

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 4,000 reviews.

Helpful Review: “This stuff is amazing! I’ve been suffering from a photosensitivity allergy since last summer. If I went out in the sun for more than 15 minutes (with or without sunscreen on) I’d develop a severe allergic reaction that would last for days. Itchy rash, swelling, trouble breathing, the whole 9 yards. I read that for some people using a physical (mineral) sunscreen like this one vs a chemical sunscreen actually helped. […] And it worked! […] I can go outside now without worrying that I’ll end up a red, swollen mess for 3 days.”

4

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: “This is my go to sunscreen for my nose and extra protection. Improves my complexion instantly without looking like makeup. I tried a “clear” version (different brand) and I couldn’t tell if I was applying anything. The color is extremely helpful in this case.”

5

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 percent 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 5,000 reviews.

Helpful Review: “I have fair, oily prone to acne skin. No matter what I do my face is a shiny mess by noon on a good day, not to even speak of a hot humid NYC summer day. […] This product has a really nice, smooth, rich texture. […] Honestly most weekends days I end up going out with just this and no makeup, that’s how good it looks.”

6

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: “Love this sunscreen! I have combination (more oily) and sensitive skin, and this does not irritate at all. It’s very runny (which I prefer) and doesn’t leave a white cast. There is a light baby powder scent, which doesn’t bother me. It’s true – it seems to be water/sweat proof because I use it when i exercise outside and nothing runs into my eyes when I sweat.”

7

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: “I’m in my late 30s and in the last year developed rosacea. My skin would be not only red but would itch and burn and nothing would soothe it. […] My dermatologist gave me a prescription for some topical gel and told me to try this. […] When I added this, my life changed. My face changed. It puts out the fire on my face instantly. And if I go even one day without it, I know it. The tint is an added bonus — it gives the skin a nice even tone without the cakey makeup look. The SPF is perfect as well — I wore only this all summer and never got a sunburn. I’ll never use anything else.”

8

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 been using this sunscreen for over two weeks now and I totally love it. I suffer from Rosacea so I have to be really careful with what I put on my face and your sunscreen doesn’t irritate my skin. It even helps reduce my redness and it is not greasy at all. It takes a little bit of time to rub it all in, in order to avoid a white cast but lately I have found that adding an oil with it makes it so much easier to apply and my face has been really happy about it.”

9

A Moisturizer With SPF 40 For Dry, Sensitive Skin

If you have dry, sensitive skin, you may find some physical sunscreens mattify your skin so much that they leave you looking a little flaky. More a moisturizer with broad-spectrum protection than a straight-up sunscreen, Clinique Super City Block with SPF 40 is a lightly tinted moisturizing formula made with zinc and titanium that will give your skin a fresh, dewy look and won’t clog pores or irritate sensitive skin. This sunscreen is free of fragrance and parabens, boasts antioxidants, and is allergy-tested. It has an impressive 4.8-star rating.

Helpful Review: “Holy moly do I love this product! I run pink/red (not rosacea, just fair and sensitive) and going out in the sun just makes everything worse. I tried this and it has made a HUGE difference in my skin. There’s a very slight tint to it that greatly reduces my skin’s redness and provides a more even overall appearance. I apply it with a foundation brush, after moisturizing and before foundation, though on many days, Super City Block is enough and I don’t even need foundation.”

Experts:

Dr. Erum Ilyas of Schweiger Dermatology Group



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