Finding a sunscreen that’s effective at blocking the sun’s damaging rays without causing irritation to your sensitive skin doesn’t have to be complicated if you follow a few simple guidelines. To start, the best sunscreens for sensitive skin are typically mineral-based, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse tells Bustle, so look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are the main active ingredients in mineral (also known as physical) sunscreens.
Other tips: Avoid products with added fragrance, steer clear of overly drying alcohols, and when in doubt, try formulas designed with the sensitive skin of babies and children in mind, because they’re typically much more gentle. Finally, whenever you add a new product to your skin care regimen, do a spot test on your inner arm to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation.
Bustle also spoke with dermatologist Dr. Emanuel Loucas, who says a good sunscreen should always offer both UVA and UVB protection ("look for the term ‘broad spectrum," he advises) and have an SPF of at least 30. Even with that, though, you’ll need to reapply your sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently when you’ve been swimming or sweating heavily.
Below are eight of the best sunscreens for for sensitive skin, for both your face and body. Scroll on to see them all.
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1. The Overall Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
Dr. Loucas is a fan of EltaMD UV 47, which is a fragrance-free, oil-free, noncomedogenic mineral sunscreen that’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes (it’s even gluten-free, if you care about that sort of thing). 10% zinc oxide and 5.5% titanium dioxide offer sun protection here, while the addition of antioxidants helps keep skin protected from free radical damage. It goes on clear, which is a bonus since many mineral sunscreens tend to leave behind a chalky white cast.
2. Another Excellent Choice
Another derm-favorite sunscreen (it’s also beloved by beauty editors), La Roche-Posay Anthelios has a matte finish, so it’s an especially good choice for people who hate that greasy, shiny residue many sunscreens leave behind. Made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection, it’s water resistant for up to 40 minutes, as well as oil-free, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic, making it a great choice for sensitive and/or breakout-prone skin types.
3. The Best Korean Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
This cult-favorite Korean sunscreen is beloved in the beauty community by dry, sensitive skin types. Infused with a blend of skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, soothing centella asiatica, and four different essences, it can double as moisturizer, too. Full disclosure: This is a chemical sunscreen, not a physical sunscreen, which means it absorbs UV rays rather than blocks them. But it’s totally free of the ingredients that tend to irritate sensitive skin the most, like artificial fragrance, essential oils, and oxybenzone. This also means it blends into skin better and doesn’t leave behind a white cast — one of chemical sunscreens’ key selling points. Other highlights: it’s non-sticky and feels comfortable on skin, and even provides some calming benefits courtesy of the centella asiatica.
4. The Best Drugstore Facial Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
Blue Lizard’s mineral facial sunscreen has an almost completely perfect, 4.8-star rating on Amazon — something you rarely see in skin care products. Using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection, it’s fragrance-free and water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Fans of this sunscreen love that it doesn’t irritate eyes, so it’s a good choice for kids as well as sensitive skin types. The bottle itself has a cool extra feature, too; it turns blue in the sunlight to remind you to apply — or reapply— your sunscreen.
5. The Best Drugstore Body Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
As far as drugstore-brand sunscreens go, Dr. Shainhouse suggests Coppertone Pure & Simple, a budget-friendly mineral sunscreen that’s tear-free and hypoallergenic. In addition to zinc oxide, it’s made with botanically derived ingredients like tea tree and sea kelp, and contains no added fragrance, parabens, oxybenzone, or alcohol. Some users find it leaves a bit of white cast behind, so it’s best for active, outdoorsy days.
6. The Best Sunscreen Stick For Sensitive Skin
Sunscreen sticks are so handy! They’re small and lightweight enough to tote around wherever you go, mess- and drip-free, easy to apply without having to use your fingers, have thicker, less drippy formulas that tend not to seep into eyes, and are great for travel. This hypoallergenic Aveeno Sunscreen Stick (a suggestion from Dr. Loucas) is fragrance-free and made with zinc oxide and oat extract to further pamper delicate skin. It’s also water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
7. The Best Spray Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
It’s gotten easier in recent years to find a spray sunscreen that’s mineral-based, and Babo Botanicals Continuous Spray Sunscreen is a winner in that category because it goes on sheer and is designed for the delicate skin of babies and kids in mind — making it ideal for adults with sensitive skin, too. The formula is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and enriched with good-for-skin ingredients like aloe, avocado, jojoba oil, and watercress (in addition to the zinc oxide).
Spray sunscreens are super convenient, but be sure to apply them properly to thoroughly protect your skin.
8. The Best Lip Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
Yes, lips can get sun damage, too — in fact, since the skin on your lips is so delicate, they might be even more susceptible to sun damage — so use a sunscreen specifically formulated for your lips before heading out into the sun. This Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen contains zinc oxide as well as dimethicone to prevent dryness and make your lips feel smooth. It has no added fragrance, flavoring, dyes, lanolin, parabens, or other common irritants, and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., FA.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and pediatrician at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care in Beverly Hills, CA.
Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York, NY.
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