Ask any dermatologist for their best skin care advice, and the first thing they're likely to mention is wearing sunscreen every single day, regardless of whether it's sunny or cloudy outside. By protecting your skin against harmful UV rays wherever you are, you’ll both reduce your risk of skin cancer and prevent premature wrinkles. Talk about a win-win.
Since certain sunscreens can cause dryness, itchiness and breakouts, it’s important to choose options that are gentle enough for even the most reactive skin. We've compiled some of the best SPFs on the market to keep you both irritation-free and protected throughout the day.
What to look for in sunscreen for sensitive skin
“When shopping for sunscreen, I tell my sensitive skin patients to look for mineral or physical sunscreens that are formulated with zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the key ingredient,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz. “These are active natural ingredients found in physical sunscreens that provide UV protection by reflecting light off the surface of the skin where the sunscreen is applied, and then back into the environment.”
The FDA recommends that you use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
“If someone has irritant dermatitis or allergic dermatitis — [which are conditions in which the skin develops a reaction to a foreign substance] — sunscreen has the potential to irritate the skin, the same way any other skin care product would irritate the skin of someone with irritant dermatitis or allergic dermatitis,” Markowitz notes.
Best sunscreens for sensitive skin, according to shoppers
Aveeno's sheer mineral sunscreen is not only formulated with hypoallergenic ingredients and nourishing oat, it's also travel-friendly — this bottle is small enough to get through TSA!
This mineral sunscreen brand also comes at a great price point. This option is not only paraben- and fragrance-free, it's also also water-resistant, which is another great thing to look out for when purchasing a sunscreen.
"My toddler has extremely sensitive skin and had horrible allergic reactions to every sunscreen except this one! This product saved our summer!" raved one Amazon shopper. "We love that the bottle turns pink when the UV rays are strong enough that you need to apply it."
Currently a bestselling sunscreen with more than 30,000+ verified five-star ratings, CeraVe's tinted sunscreen is clearly a crowd-pleaser. Along with ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to shield yourself against UVA/UVB rays, it also features calming niacinamide and three types of ceramides to maintain a healthy skin barrier.
"If I could get a gallon-sized tub of this sunscreen, I would," one verified shopper with sensitive skin said about Cocokind's skin-friendly SPF. The lightweight, reef-safe formulation utilizes a unique blend of plant extracts (blue phytoplankton, microalgae and rice starch), carriers (aloe leaf juice) and emollients (coconut alkanes) to fortify your skin barrier and secure it from premature aging, pollution damage and oxidative stress.
Earning seals of approval from the Skin Cancer Foundation and the National Eczema Association, Avène's 100 percent mineral sunscreen equally soothes your skin while protecting it from UV, pollution and blue light damage.
"I have trouble with sunscreen irritating and drying my sensitive skin, but this is perfect," one verified reviewer who gave this five stars said. "Makeup applies flawlessly over it as well."
Not only does Sun Bum's cooling facial mist protect your skin from UV rays, but it’s also incredibly refreshing. It contains calming witch hazel to help relieve skin irritations and soothe sensitive skin. It’s also small enough to toss in your bag and spritz on your face throughout the day for continued skin protection.
Botanicals like kakadu plum, eucalyptus and red algae make this sunscreen option suitable for sensitive skin. It’s also free of known irritants — like parabens and sulfates — and has a matte finish so those with oily skin won’t appear greasy while using this formula.
Formulated specifically for sensitive skin, this Neutrogena sunscreen has a super high SPF to prevent sunburns for up to 80 minutes. It’s also oil-free, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, making it less likely to irritate reactive skin.
Looking for a more hydrating sunscreen? This 100 percent mineral SPF from La Roche-Posay offers protection from UVA and UVB rays, while also moisturizing the skin. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, glycerin and vitamin B5 — all of which soothe dry and sensitive skin types.
Loved by many dermatologists, EltaMD's broad-spectrum physical sunscreens are loaded with skin-friendly ingredients like squalane (which adds extra suppleness to your skin) and vitamin E (which doubles as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant). The best news for your sensitive skin is that it's also fragrance-, oil- and dye-free.
Our sensitive skin sunscreen picks
"This has been my family's go-to ever since I can remember because of its vegan and vitamin ingredients," says SEO editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger. "It's never once irritated my skin and also comes in a miniature version to apply to your face...can also vouch that their face sunscreen doesn't make my skin breakout, nor does make my face feel more oily/greasy."
Senior SEO editor Jess Bender says her mom has been trying this sunscreen since she has irritation-prone skin and is a fan of how dewy it leaves her skin looking. She also likes to use it as a tinted moisturizer.
According to the brand, it's suitable for those dealing with fine lines and wrinkles, breakouts, anti-aging and uneven skin tone and roughness. It's also fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic.
Meet the expert
Dr. Orit Markowitz, MD, is a New York City-based dermatologist that specializes in skin cancer and is the CEO and founder of Markowitz Medical.