Sunscreen is arguably one of the most fundamental skin care items that every single person should be using. However, it can also be one of the trickiest skincare items when it comes to finding one that works for your skin. Aside from having to think about things like white cast, irritating ingredients, and even the type of SPF, you also have to take into consideration if the SPF will work for sensitive skin. When it comes to a product as important as sunscreen, you want to make sure you find one that will be enjoyable to use because you will be using it daily. Sunscreen protects your skin from sun damage and skin cancer, which is now the most common of all cancers.
When looking for a sunscreen that will work for you, its important to know that the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that we use SPF that is water-resistant, offers broad-spectrum protection (this protects you against both UVB and UVA rays), and is SPF 30 or higher. It’s also important to note that most organic sunscreens will absorb the UV radiation and turn it into heat while inorganic sunscreens will reflect and scatter UV radiation. But there are many sunscreens that combine organic and inorganic filters.
Knowing what your skin is sensitive to is really the big key. You will want to avoid any ingredient or formulation that you are aware causes irritation or sensitivity to your skin. There are many types of sunscreen formulations to choose from including: creams, lotions, gels, stick, sprays, etc. So, if you are sensitive to aerosols you will want to avoid a sunscreen that comes in the form of a spray in a can. There are also a lot of brands that now offer powder forms of SPF, which a lot of people find useful for re-applying throughout the day. This could be a great option for those who have a hard time finding an SPF that is not irritating to their skin.
Two common ingredients that seem to be safe for a lot of sensitive skin users and children are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Although safe, many people tend to avoid these two ingredients in SPF because of white cast, the ashy appearance of skin due to product. But, new formulations have improved the blending ability of the specific ingredients that cause white cast. [Note: For these formulations, be sure to work the SPF into skin until it is not visible any longer.]
There has been some evidence pointing to a common ingredient, Oxybenzone, as the cause for allergic reactions and skin irritation. For some, this ingredient is known to have a hormone-like effect on the body , triggering itchy, eczema-like reactions in those with sensitive skin. Just like Oxybenzone, SPF containing Vitamin A (retinol, retinyl palmitate etc) can also negatively impact sensitive skin.
Probably the biggest cause of sensitivity in most cosmetics is fragrance. Sunscreen is not excluded from having fragrance added to it by most cosmetic companies. It is always safe to do a patch test when using a new product, especially if it contains fragrance/parfum high up on the ingredient list. I’ve found that if the product contains fragrance but it is mid level-end of the ingredient list it is usually okay to use for me personally. There are so many great SPF options out there today. You are sure to find something that will suit your needs and allow you to get proper sun protection sans irritation/sensitivity. Sensitive skin and SPF may be a tricky situation, but it is not an impossible combination.