Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin That Offers Protection Without the Irritation

Find out how to find choose a sunblock for sensitive skin, then peruse eight of the best options.

Woman in bikini and glowing skin using lotion sunscreen
Photo: Ohlamour Studio / Stocksy

Hopefully you already know that wearing sunscreen every single day is an absolute non-negotiable. But if you have sensitive skin — perhaps you're dealing with a condition such as eczema or psoriasis — donning SPF daily can feel like a somewhat self-destructive behavior.

Unfortunately, many sunscreens contain ingredients that can be irritating if you have temperamental skin. "It's well known that chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating and can cause allergic or irritant contact dermatitis, especially in those who have sensitive skin," explains Sheila Farhang, M.D., a dermatologist in Tucson, Arizona. The good news: There's still an entire category of sunscreen to shop from if you have particularly sensitive skin.

As a quick reminder, there are two kinds of sunscreens: chemical formulas and mineral (aka physical) formulas. While both types protect skin by absorbing UV rays, mineral filters additionally reflect a fraction of the rays. If you have sensitive skin, mineral formulations, which have zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide in their ingredient lists, are the way to go. "I generally steer patients with sensitive skin towards zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens," says Susan Chon, M.D., professor of dermatology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. "These are inorganic molecules that sit on the skin and are much less reactive." (If you need a refresher, organic compounds contain carbon atoms, inorganic compounds generally don't.)

That being said, if you have sensitive skin and prefer chemical formulations (which are less likely to leave behind a white cast), look for options that don't contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, suggests Dr. Farhang. These are two of the chemical sunscreen filters that most commonly cause irritation, she explains. (

Narrowing your search based on the filters is a start, but there are a few more things to keep in mind when selecting an SPF for sensitive skin. In addition to the active ingredients in chemical sunscreen, irritation can also result from other components of both types of formulas, such as fragrance, notes Dr. Chon. To that point, seeking out a fragrance-free sunscreen is paramount if you have sensitive skin, adds Dr. Farhang.

But the easiest way to choose the best sunscreen for sensitive skin? By consulting this list of eight of the top contenders.

The Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

01 of 08

Best Overall: Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

yellow bottle of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Consider this a sunscreen for the sunscreen haters. It truly is undetectable, though still packs a punch of protection from zinc oxide. Antioxidants in the formula offer additional reinforcement against free radical formation from UV rays as well as blue light. (Over time, exposure to free radicals can cause dark spots and premature signs of aging.) As if you needed another reason to consider this the best face sunscreen for sensitive skin, know that it's fragrance-free.

02 of 08

Best Value: Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50

Aveeno Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen - SPF 50 - 3oz

You can pick up one of the top sensitive skin sunscreens during your next drugstore run. Not only does it win points for its super affordable price, but it also relies entirely on zinc oxide for broad-spectrum sun protection — a plus, according to Dr. Farhang. "It's formulated with nourishing oat extract, which is very calming for the skin," she adds.

03 of 08

Best for Those with Eczema: Tower28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation

purple bottle of Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation

As the name suggests, this product is a true hybrid between skin care and makeup. This sunscreen for sensitive skin offers that oh-so important sun protection (thanks to zinc oxide) as well as a beautiful tint that imparts just the right amount of coverage. It also comes in an array of 14 shades, a major improvement over the many tinted sunscreens available in one to two shades. The brand, Tower28, is all about catering to sensitive skin, and this product is no different: It's the only complexion makeup product that's earned the National Eczema Association (NEA)'s Seal of Approval, which denotes that it doesn't contain ingredients included in the NEA's list of known common irritants.

04 of 08

Best for Oily Skin: Nuria Defend Matte Finish Daily Moisturizer with All-Mineral SPF 30

Nuria - Defend Matte Finish Moisturizer with SPF 30, Mineral Matte Sunscreen Moisturizer

A nice choice for those with oily skin and who want to layer makeup over their sunscreen, this SPF for sensitive skin delivers a beautiful matte finish just seconds after application. Still, it contains hydrating glycerin so it doesn't feel in the least bit drying.

05 of 08

Best Tinted Sunscreen: Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen

white and yellow bottle of Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen

Another pick from Dr. Farhang, this 100-percent mineral option is true to its name: lightweight and sheer. The SPF 30 formula is tinted and contains a blend of antioxidant-rich blueberry, acai, and green tea extracts for an additional boost of protection.

06 of 08

Best Chemical Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30

Bottle of La Roche-Posay Double Repair Face Moisturizer

If you've tried countless mineral sunscreens only to be left with a greasy, white residue, you probably can't bring yourself to invest in another. Considered one of the (if not the) best chemical sunscreen for sensitive skin, this product from La Roche-Posay's Toleraine range for sensitive skin is free of oxybenzone or octinoxate (the aforementioned chemical filters that tend to be irritating). What's more, the SPF moisturizer incorporates ceramides and niacinamide to support your skin barrier.

07 of 08

Best High-SPF Sunscreen: Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

white bottle of Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 - 3 fl oz

Life hack: Many of the sunscreens labeled for kids or babies tend to be mineral-based, says Dr. Chon. And this option from Baby Bum is no different. Considered one of the best sunscreens for sensitive skin by Dr. Farhang, it relies entirely on mineral protection and is lightweight, non-greasy, and fragrance-free.

08 of 08

Best Anti-Aging Formula: Alastin SilkShield All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

white bottle of SilkSHIELD All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Alastin Skincare

Sunscreen is in and of itself one of the best anti-aging ingredients you can use, but this formula takes things one step further. It boasts the brand's proprietary TriHex technology, which is designed to clear out damaged collagen and elastin and rebuild new, healthy versions of the proteins — something that's essential for youthful skin. The sunblock for sensitive skin also has a silky finish and doesn't leave behind a white cast, despite the fact that it's a mineral formula. (Related: The Best Sunscreen for Dark Skin Tones)

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles