Wearing sunscreen everyday is basically a cardinal rule of skincare. It's one of the best things you can do for anti-aging, and needless to say, to prevent skin cancer, but if you have sensitive skin, finding a sunscreen can be challenging. Some sunscreens can feel too chalky, others can cause breakouts, and some can dry out your skin. Before you give up for good, we talked to dermatologists and skincare professionals to get their recommendations on the best sunscreens for sensitive skin.
You've probably seen this brand popping up all over social media, and there's a reason why it's so popular. "Formulated to act as a blurring agent for large pores and blemishes, this product also acts as a tinted primer under makeup," says Ted Lain, MD, of Sanova Dermatology. "The Supergoop! commitment to natural broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredients ensures excellent protection along with the cosmetic benefits of this unique product."
2. La Roche-Posay
This SPF has a smooth feel and lightweight consistency. It's a pure physical blocker (not a chemical) with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. "The elegant formulation allows this product to be used alone or under makeup, and the lack of perfumes, parabens, or other chemicals makes it suitable for the most sensitive skin," explains Lain.
You probably used ProactivMD as a teen, but it's time to revisit it. "Formulated to work within the ProactivMD three-piece system for mild-to-moderate acne, this product is much more than a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It contains technology to reduce oil and shine, all while moisturizing and calming the skin with soothing ingredients," says Lain.
4. Elta MD
If you prefer tinted sunscreens, this ones for you. This chemical-free product "has a smooth and matte feel, possibly replacing a primer," says Lain. "The lack of chemical blockers and fragrances make it suitable for sensitive skin. In fact, this product was formulated to be used even post-procedure when the skin barrier could be compromised."
5. Elizabeth Arden
Another tinted SPF, this Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart sunscreen has an anti-pollution shield to protect against any environmental irritants. "The DNA Enzyme Complex helps support the skin's natural repair process, resulting in healthier, more resilient skin," recommends Dendy Engelman, MD, of Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Centers.
Many ingredients can irritate sensitive skin, so opt for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free SPFs. "Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 20 is a great option because it is a mineral-based sunscreen that provides UVA/UVB protection, without irritating sensitive skin," says Engelman.
7. ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica
This sunscreen not only provides the physical UV protection of zinc oxide in an absorbable formula, but it also has a DNA repair enzyme. "[This enzyme] helps correct damage caused by UV exposure," explains Engelman.
8. Skin Laundry
This SPF from Skin Laundry offers more than just sun protection. "This moisturizer is made with sodium hyaluronate, a water-binding agent that keeps skin hydrated and supple, vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that relieves dryness and promotes skin health, and arnica montana flower extract, which helps to soothe and heal sensitive skin," advises Elyse Shelger, RN, Skin Laundry director of medical operations.
This sunscreen is perfect for when you're on-the-go— you can carry it in your purse or beach bag during the summer and spray it on your face throughout the day. "Zinc oxide is the main ingredient in this sunscreen, which is also known for its anti-aging and hydrating benefits. The product also sets makeup, giving you a fresh and natural, airbrushed look," says Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, of Le Jolie Medi Spa. "For those concerned about chemicals, this sunscreen is all-natural, making it a no-brainer choice for sun protection."
10. iS Clinical
This sunscreen protects your skin not only from the sun, but also from aging. "I like how this is a three-in-one product," says Rafaeloff. "It contains antioxidants, and it's a moisturizer as well as a sunscreen. It is truly an anti-aging sunscreen that makes your skin feel really protected." It also contains plant enzymes that help protect the DNA of your skin from inflammation and aging.
11. G.M. Collin
"This is a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen. Designed for daily wear, this sunscreen is super easy to apply," says Rafaeloff. The sunscreen has a lightweight feel and doesn't leave any white residue on the skin. It's also hypoallergenic, paraben-free, and water-resistant for 80 minutes.
This sunscreen helps minimize irritation and inflammation in the skin by reducing solar radiation. "The antioxidants help decrease DNA repair enzymes to help the skin repair itself," explains Lisa Airan, MD.
Not only is this sunscreen lightweight, but it also has a universal tint. "[It's] a good choice for individuals who usually break out from using sunscreen and want to avoid it," says Airan.
If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, swimming, or skiing, reach for this sport sunscreen. "Verra is geared toward active individuals with its sport-specific qualities," explains Airan. "It's non-greasy and water and sweat-resistant."
15. Control Corrective
If you're prone to acne, you'll love this oil-free sunscreen. "It's matte, effective, smells nice, and doesn't cause breakouts. I sell this sunblock in my skincare studio," says Athena Hewett, esthetician and founder of the holistic skincare brand, Monastery.
This sunblock can work for babies or adults. "I love that it's not too chalky, even though it's a physical block," says Hewett.
This natural sunblock is super easy to re-apply. "Since reapplication is such an important but often ignored step, this one gets extra points," says Hewett.
18. It Cosmetics
This product from It Cosmetics does double duty as SPF and makeup. "For people who are susceptible to hyperpigmentation from the sun, I highly recommend products that are true concealers because they have so much iron oxide they're really makeup with SPF instead of just SPF," recommends Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD.
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Strauss DG, Michele TM. Skin cancer prevention and sunscreen safety: Commentary on American Society of Clinical Oncology policy statement on skin cancer prevention. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020;16(8):436-438. doi:10.1200/OP.20.00425