You know that sunscreen is an essential step in protecting your skin from skin cancer and sun damage. If you have sensitive skin, however, you may find that some UV-blocking lotions irritate your skin. You may also be allergic to some common ingredients in sunscreens.
While it may be temping to avoid the redness, stinging, and irritation and skip sunscreen altogether, leaving your skin unprotected puts you at risk for more serious skin damage. Fortunately, there are ways to shield your skin without the irritation.
If you’ve had a bad reaction to sunscreen, the following tips can help you find an effective product that you won’t be tempted to avoid—in other words, one that makes your skin feel good and not uncomfortable.
- Baby Yourself: Babies and young children have sensitive skin that can be easily irritated by the chemicals in sunscreen. Common problem ingredients include para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzephenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Look for sunscreens without these chemicals. You may find products for adults, or you can try a kids’ product. Many will use other effective, nonirritating UV-blocking ingredients, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
- Choose Natural: You may be able to avoid irritation or an allergic reaction by finding sunscreens with primarily natural ingredients. This means avoiding things like alcohol, fragrances, or preservatives.
- Experiment: If you know your skin is sensitive, don’t buy a giant tube of sunscreen before you know how your skin will react to it. Try to test products first. Look for travel- or sample-size containers, tester bottles on store shelves, or ask an attendant at the cosmetics counter if you can sample a product. You may want to wait a bit to see how your skin reacts before making your purchase.
- Wash Up: You can help soothe your skin by removing sunscreen, as well as any dirt or sweat, as soon as you come indoors and are safely out of reach of the sun’s rays. Use your favorite gentler cleanser, rinse well, pat dry, and follow up with a sensitive-skin moisturizer.
Remember, your number one priority is to protect your skin. So find a sunscreen that doesn’t irritate your skin, and lather up each time you head outdoors. Reapply sunscreen regularly, especially if you are sweating or in the water, don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing, and try to avoid midday sun exposure when possible.