How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin?


Sun damage is the major cause of skin aging. Perhaps more important to note, sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer. Everybody must know by now that sunscreens are a must every day and it doesn’t matter if it’s a sunny or gloomy weather out there.

Not All Sunscreens are Created Equal

The problem is, while almost everyone has already heard about this golden rule, many people still neglect to put on sunscreen, and for the ones who do, they don’t check the labels at all! Heck, most of them probably don’t even know what SPF is!

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of the level of UVB protection which your sunscreen offers. UVB radiation causes your skin to burn while UVA is responsible for longer term sun damage including wrinkles. Therefore, if you want to get the most out of your sunscreen, choose a product which reads “broad spectrum” that means it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Sun Protection Factors

Sunscreens can be categorized into two: chemical and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are more commonly used than the latter type. In this first type of sunscreen, UV rays are absorbed then converted to heat which classifies it to be non-harmful to the skin. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, act as physical barriers between the UV rays and your skin. What it does is to reflect the UV rays. Based on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Sunscreen Guide, the 9 sunscreen ingredients listed below are often combined into two’s up to six’s in one product. However, also based on the same EWG report, all of these ingredients have toxic and skin irritating effects.

Listed below are 9 sunscreen ingredients in the order of toxicity grade:

  • Oxybenzone, among the most irritating in this list, is also the most toxic
  • Octinoxate, moderately irritating
  • Homosalate, moderately toxic
  • Octisalate, very rarely reported to cause skin allergy
  • Octocrylene, very rarely reported to cause skin allergy
  • Titanium Dioxide, non-irritating with low toxicity
  • Zinc Oxide, non-irritating with low toxicity
  • Avobenzone, highly irritating with low toxicity
  • Mexoryl SX, very rarely reported to cause allergy

From this list, only Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are classified as mineral sunscreens, and only these two sunscreen ingredients are unlikely to cause Only these two ingredients must touch the skin of people with sensitive skin types. Plus, these two ingredients are also broad spectrum sunscreens. Even clinique sunscreen product contains above mentioned ingredients.

Common Problems and Solutions

Sunscreens are essential for skin protection but, these don’t come without drawbacks. Most people with sensitive skin commonly suffer from irritations and allergies as a result of the often harsh ingredients incorporated in sunscreen products.

Sunscreen Causes Pimple and Acne

Below are some of the most common problems faced by people with sensitive skin in relation to sunscreen use:

  • When your sunscreen causes pimple and acne breakouts, check the label to validate that you are not allergic to any of the product’s ingredients. Thoroughly cleanse and scrub skin after using sunscreen, most especially if you used the water-resistant formula as residue can clog pores and start an infection.
  • When your sunscreen causes allergic reactions and severe irritation, check that the product does not contain the highly irritating ingredients, Avobenzone and Oxybenzone.
  • When your sunscreen causes a stinging sensation when you sweat, try shifting to a more lightweight formulation. You may also want to try a sports sun block, the formula of which is more stable than your ordinary suncreens so that the formulation stays in place even when you sweat.

Read Also: Sunscreen – Is it Safe & What can it Do for You?

Other ways by which you can protect sensitive skin and perhaps take it easy on the sunscreen is to follow some following tips:
Stop Squinting

  • Stop squinting. Get your eyes checked for possible correction. Also, wear sunglasses when the sun’s brightness is just simply too harsh for your eyes.
  • Put on that broad brimmed hat. Following this simple tip will readily protect a huge part of your face and body from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Have your windshield and car windows tinted with a darker shade.
  • If you’re expecting to get a lot of soaking under the sun, wear long-sleeved shirt and use an umbrella.
  • If you suspect any reaction happening as a result of getting your sunscreen into contact with another product, immediately discontinue using the other product. Consult with a skincare expert if deemed necessary.
  • DIY your own water resistant sunscreen. Mix your Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide based sunscreen with a dense essential oil or withe shea butter to allow it to stick tightly on your skin.
  • Steer clear of sunscreens that have Retinol Palmitate as one of the ingredients. Retinol Palmitate is a derivative of Vitamin A. It is a highly photosensitizing ingredient, which makes your skin more reactive to sunlight and UV rays.

You may like to read: Why You Need to Wear Sunscreen Every Day?


Sunscreens remain to be essential to your skincare routine. What’s not ordinary is people getting irritated and manifesting allergic reactions to get protected from the sun’s harmful and cell damaging UV rays. If you have sensitive skin and yet want to keep your skin clear, always have a better understanding of what you are putting on. It pays to pay attention.


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