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It’s challenging when you want to spend time outdoors, but your skin breaks out in a rash because of the sunscreen.
Unless you’ve been to a dermatologist to do allergy testing, you may not know which ingredient is causing the problem.
That’s why choosing the best sunscreen for sensitive skin is difficult.
But I’ll attempt to simplify shopping for you today. I’ll review both dermatologist-recommended sunscreens plus organic and natural sunscreens made for sensitive skin.
That’s because, contrary to your past experience, sunscreen is good for sensitive skin. You need protection from sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.
- Which ingredients in sunscreen cause allergic reactions?
- How to choose a sunscreen that’s safe for sensitive skin
- Top Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin
- All Good Mineral Sunscreen Butter – SPF 50+
- Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+
- COOLA Mineral Face Matte Tint Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face Mineral Lotion SPF 50
- Cotz SPF 40 UVB/UVA Sunscreen
- Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30+
- Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen
- CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
- Badger – SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream
- EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Sun Bum Baby Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray
- Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen SPF 100
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 50
- Coppertone Defend & Care Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50
- Sun Bum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm
Which ingredients in sunscreen cause allergic reactions?
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, you might develop a rash from sunlight (1).
It’s called photo contact dermatitis, and it’s often caused by oxybenzone. This chemical sunscreen filter absorbs UV radiation to prevent it from penetrating into the skin.
Other similar ingredients like cinnamates and dibenzoyl methanes function similarly and may cause the same unfortunate result.
When you have sensitive skin, it’s smart to use mineral sunscreens only. They reflect harmful rays.
Mineral sunscreens are based on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both minerals provide broad-spectrum protection against UVB (sunburn) and UVA (aging).
But it’s not just the filters that can cause an allergic reaction. Sometimes it’s the artificial fragrance or the preservatives (2).
So, how can you defend yourself from bad experiences with sunscreen?
How to choose a sunscreen that’s safe for sensitive skin
The easiest way to select the best sunscreen is to start with recommendations from your doctor or dermatologist.
If you’ve already had allergy testing done, then you have a decent starting place.
Next, even if the sunscreen says it’s “hypoallergenic,” it doesn’t guarantee anything. The FDA does not regulate what hypoallergenic means when it’s on a skincare product label.
To protect yourself, stick to reputable brands and mainstream products. Choose mineral sunscreens, not once with chemical filters, if possible.
But also take into account your skin type. Oily skin will benefit from lightweight, non-comedogenic, oil-free products.
Choose a product you will use willingly, whether it’s a stick, spray, gel, or cream.
Finally, stay away from artificial fragrances, dyes, and essential oils.
You may end up with boring sun cream, but your skin will be healthier because of it.
Top Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin
Now, let’s begin the reviews with the sunscreens for sensitive skin.
All Good Mineral Sunscreen Butter – SPF 50+
All Good makes some of the best natural sunscreens for sensitive skin. They have a sport version, a stick, one for kids, and this one, which is a cream in a metal tin.
The buttery consistency is rich and thick. It stands up to 80 minutes in the water, as well as high humidity, rain, and sweat.
Moreover, there are only 7 ingredients: 25% zinc oxide, soothing calendula, organic coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and jojoba oil. The simplicity makes it one of the Environmental Working Group’s top-rated sunscreens.
Yes, you’ll need to rub it in thoroughly to make it disappear. But it’s worth it for this level of protection.
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+
Thinksport’s sunscreen also rates a “1” for safety on the EWG Skin Deep Database. It also meets the Whole Foods Premium Care standards.
It has no harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, parabens, or phthalates. Even the 20% zinc oxide is non-nano.
The water-based formula contains aloe, vegetable glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and several plant oils to keep the skin well-conditioned. It doesn’t feel greasy or have a strong odor.
It may leave a white cast, however, if you don’t massage it in well enough.
Also, the same manufacturer makes a baby version of the sunscreen. Some adults with sensitive skin prefer the children’s sunscreens as they tend to be mild and very effective.
COOLA Mineral Face Matte Tint Sunscreen, SPF 30
What if the best sunscreen for sensitive faces came with a little color? The light tint takes the edge off winter-pale skin.
It’s good enough that New Beauty Magazine awarded it Best Natural Sunscreen two years in a row.
Wear it every day to brighten your complexion, or enjoy it at the pool. It’s water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
The unscented formula is based on non-nano zinc oxide. It’s packed with antioxidants to prevent premature aging, plus soothing moisturizers.
What’s more, it helps renew the skin with plankton, gamma-linoleic acid, and omega-3.
Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face Mineral Lotion SPF 50
Australian Gold offers both tanning lotions and sunscreens. Surprisingly, their sunscreens appear on the safe list of the National Eczema Association.
This one is available in three shades: light, medium, and deep.
It has significant advantages over the typical facial sunscreen.
First, it doesn’t have artificial fragrances, oxybenzone, parabens, phthalates, or petroleum derivatives.
Second, it’s also eco-conscious to protect the environment.
And third, it’s packed with nutrients from Australian botanicals like eucalyptus, red algae, and kakadu plum.
The mineral components include 4% zinc oxide and 4% titanium dioxide.
Cotz SPF 40 UVB/UVA Sunscreen
About two decades ago, a plastic surgeon developed this daily wear sunscreen for patients with sensitive skin. It’s perfect if you’ve had cosmetic surgery, microdermabrasion, or laser treatment.
It has no oil, chemical filters, fragrances, preservatives, phthalates, or gluten.
The non-greasy texture is silicone-based so that it absorbs quickly and doesn’t sting. It’s also photo-stable.
The key ingredients are 3.8% zinc oxide and 8% titanium dioxide.
Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30+
Blue Lizard has a nifty way to remind you to apply more sunscreen. The bottle cap turns blue in bright sunlight.
I selected the mineral face sunscreen for review, but they also make a sport version, a kids’ version, and baby sunscreen.
The face sunscreen utilizes 7.8% zinc oxide and 1% titanium dioxide to reflect UV radiation. With SPF30, it blocks 97% of the harmful rays.
That leftover 3% is the exact reason why a good sunscreen like this one always contains antioxidants. They neutralize the damage caused by free radicals created by sun exposure and pollution.
Plus, there are other benefits to this dermatologist-recommended sunscreen.
It’s reef-safe as it contains no octinoxate or oxybenzone. You can swim with it in natural waterways and not poison the wildlife.
Furthermore, it’s non-comedogenic yet moisturizing. It has hyaluronic acid to draw water into the skin and counteract the drying effects of sun exposure.
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Alba Botanica makes a variety of sunscreens. This is their sensitive skin version, which has a light natural fragrance from the ingredients.
It contains botanicals like aloe and chamomile to soothe the skin and keep it healthy.
It’s also very conditioning, although not greasy once it absorbs.
The reef-safe formula protects you with 2% titanium dioxide and 14.5% zinc oxide.
Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen
Aveeno is in the running for best drugstore sunscreen for sensitive skin.
The active ingredient is 21.6% zinc oxide, which provides SPF 50 protection. It’s sheer enough to disappear entirely on most skin tones.
When you apply it, it absorbs quickly, then lasts for up to 80 minutes of sweating or time in the water.
Oat extract in the soothing formula keeps the skin calm and comfortable.
It’s mild enough to use on the face as it’s oil-free. It doesn’t have an artificial fragrance, parabens, dyes, or phthalates, either.
CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
CeraVe’s gentle sunscreen is suitable for the face and body. It doesn’t clog pores, nor does it have harsh chemicals.
It’s free from chemical filters, parabens, fragrances, and oil.
The blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer broad-spectrum protection against UV rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb the rays and release them as heat, this sunscreen helps you feel cooler.
It reflects the sun without leaving a white residue on most skin tones.
It’s also reef-safe and Hawaii-compliant.
Like other products from CeraVe, it has ceramides to fortify the skin’s natural barrier against moisture loss and infection.
Badger – SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream
Badger’s sunscreen protects you and the environment.
It’s reef-safe to avoid endangering marine life. Plus, it’s biodegradable.
When you wear it, it’s water-resistant for 40 minutes.
There are only 5 ingredients: clear zinc oxide, vitamin E, and organic beeswax, sunflower oil, and sea buckthorn.
As you might imagine, it takes a bit of effort to rub into the skin. But it’s naturally moisturizing.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin, you need to try this face sunscreen.
It uses 9% zinc oxide to defend your complexion from sunburn and premature aging.
It has niacinamide to reduce redness. Meanwhile, hyaluronic and lactic acid attract moisture and rejuvenate the skin at a cellular level.
The sunscreen is oil-free and has no synthetic fragrance or parabens.
Sun Bum Baby Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray
One of the best sunscreen sprays for sensitive skin is made for babies.
It has no scent, no parabens, no silicone, and no phthalates. There’s no gluten or artificial color, either.
Instead, it’s plant-based and mild. It uses shea butter and coconut oil to protect against dryness and irritation.
The formula has been tested by pediatricians and dermatologists, too.
If you prefer, the same product comes in a stick format.
Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
Neutrogena makes more than one type of sunscreen. I selected the mineral version that’s mild enough for the face, yet potent enough for the body.
Instead of chemical filters, it relies on 4.7% zinc oxide and 4.9% titanium dioxide to block UV rays. They exist in a blend called Purescreen Technology that looks sheer on the skin.
It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. But you don’t have to reserve it for the beach. Wear it every day underneath makeup if you wish.
It has no synthetic dyes, fragrances, or oil.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen SPF 100
If you want maximum protection from the sun, try a sunscreen with SPF 100. It filters out 99% of UV rays.
But there’s a price.
It’s not a mineral sunscreen. It’s based on a proprietary formula called Cell-Ox Shield Technology.
It combines antioxidants with avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene. Together, these chemical filters defend against UVA and UVB radiation.
As the manufacturer points out, there’s no oxybenzone in the formula. That lowers the chance of photo contact dermatitis.
It’s also free of oil, parabens, and artificial fragrances.
One of the nice touches is how velvety smooth the skin feels when you apply the sunscreen. It never leaves a residue.
It’s also reportedly mild enough to use on children as young as 6 months old.
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 50
How about a sunscreen that’s safe for eczema-prone skin?
This one from Neutrogena is on the National Eczema Association’s approved list.
Of course, it’s made with zinc oxide, plus it has a tear-free formula. It won’t sting your eyes if you sweat!
Furthermore, it lacks harsh ingredients like artificial colors, fragrances, parabens, and phthalates.
Coppertone Defend & Care Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50
How does Coppertone’s sensitive skin sunscreen perform?
As the label points out, it doesn’t contain dyes, alcohol, or oil. Therefore, it shouldn’t cause acne breakouts.
But I was disappointed that the “mineral-based” formula lists chemical sunscreen filters like octinoxate and octisalate as well as parabens.
Sun Bum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm
Please don’t forget the lip balm. It’s important to apply sunscreen on your lips as they burn easily and get chapped.
This balm is based on 8% zinc oxide, sweet almond oil, and beeswax. It has other natural ingredients, but no harsh chemicals.
It only takes a minute to apply sunscreen, and the payoff is worth the effort.
Not only will you avoid sunburn, but you’ll also keep your skin younger-looking and healthier in the years to come.
It’s a small investment of money and effort, plus it allows you to enjoy being outdoors.
I hope you found your new favorite sunscreen here today. If so, please come back and tell us about your experience. Then, we can help other users with sensitive skin get what they need.
1. https://acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/red-itchy-bumps-wearing-sunscreen-outside accessed July 25, 2020
2. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/sunscreen-allergy/ accessed July 25, 2020
3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/best-sunscreen/art-20045110 published May 21, 2019, accessed July 25, 2020