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Ask any dermatologist for their best skin care advice, and they’ll likely say that it’s to wear sunscreen every single day — regardless of the weather. By protecting your skin against harmful UV rays, you’ll both reduce your risk of skin cancer and prevent premature wrinkles. Talk about a win-win.
While the benefits of wearing sunscreen are clearly paramount for ensuring healthy skin, it can still be hard to find one that’s right for you, especially for those with sensitive skin. “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,” says New York City dermatologist, Dr. Orit Markowitz.
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. Here, we’ve gathered all the best SPFs on the market to keep you both protected and free of irritation.
Best sunscreens 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 Dr. 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.”
This specific SPF uses zinc oxide — which helps fight the signs of photoaging — and a blend of peptides and antioxidants, to repair existing sun damage and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
This option is loved by many dermatologists. “The EltaMD products offer double duty benefits because they are 100% mineral sunscreens, but also include other great skin-restoring ingredients like squalane to combat things like skin smoothness and dark spots,” says Dr. Markowitz. “This sunscreen is also dye-free, fragrance-fee [and] oil-free.”
Looking for a more hydrating sunscreen? This 100% mineral SPF 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.
“This is one of my favorite mineral sunscreen lines, and I find it to be at a great price point,” says Dr. Markowitz. “This one is formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients and contains no parabens or fragrance.”
This option is also water-resistant, which is another great thing to look out for when purchasing a sunscreen.
Not only does this product protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but it’s also incredibly refreshing. The cooling mist contains calming witch hazel to help relieve skin irritations and soothe sensitive skin. It’s perfect to toss in your bag and spritz on your face throughout the day for continued skin protection.
“Another great mineral option formulated with zinc and titanium, this is paraben-free, hypoallergenic, oil-free and fragrance-free,” says Dr. Markowitz. “And it has been shown to not clog pores.”
Formulated specifically for sensitive skin, this option 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.
Aloe vera and chamomile within this product nourish and soften the skin while zinc oxide protects against UV rays. This sunscreen is also reef-friendly, so those concerned with being environmentally conscious can rest easy when slathering on this formula.
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.
Created without dyes, fragrances, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde or other preservatives, this sunscreen is ultra-gentle on the skin. Since this sunscreen is sweat- and water-resistant, it’s also a great option for those who like to spend a lot of time outdoors.
For more stories like this, check out:
- 15 of the best sunscreens for kids, according to safety experts
- Your lips need sun protection, too — a dermatologist tells us why
- 9 SPF moisturizers dermatologists actually recommend, from CeraVe to Supergoop!
- These derm-approved sunscreens are perfect for darker skin tones
- This K-beauty sunscreen sold out in a week — and now I get the hype