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How To Choose a Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

Plus, discover four of our faves.
  • Cat Matta
May 03, 2024

You’re likely aware that wearing sunscreen every day is among the most important things you can do for your skin’s health and appearance. But if you have sensitive skin, finding a formula that feels comfortable can, admittedly, be a challenge. The best sunscreens for sensitive skin offer protection against harmful UV rays while remaining gentle enough to slather on every day (winter included). Some even help address skin concerns like dryness and dullness—you just need to know how to pick the right formula for your needs.

Here, we’ll offer a handful of tips and explain what you should look for when buying a sunscreen for sensitive skin. Plus, we’ll introduce you to some of our best face sunscreens for sensitive skin worth adding to your lineup. Keep reading for the details.

Why Is Sunscreen Important for Sensitive Skin?

Whether your skin is sensitive, dry, oily, or combination (or light-, medium-, or dark-toned), there’s one skincare product that’s non-negotiable in any daily routine: sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen helps protect against skin cancer—which affects roughly one in five Americans—and helps defend against premature skin aging, which can manifest as fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots (a.k.a. hyperpigmentation).

And when we say you should wear sunscreen every day, we mean it. Clouds only block about 20% of the sun’s UV rays, while windows block about half. Keep in mind, too, that if you’re around water, sand, or even snow, you have to be extra careful—UV rays can reflect back at you, potentially increasing your chance of developing a sunburn.

Of course, not all sunscreens are created equally—some are suitable for sensitive skin while others, well, aren’t. One of our favorite sunscreens for sensitive skin is the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion. The lightweight, broad-spectrum formula is free of common irritants, including fragrances, parabens, dyes, and mineral oil. It’s also dermatologist- and allergy-tested and designed to play well with all skin types, including sensitive skin. Plus, the antioxidant—infused formula helps protect against environmental damage caused by free radicals. With daily use, you’ll notice brighter, smoother, more even-looking skin.

What To Look for When Choosing a Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

Inarticle Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin Brightreveal

Managing sensitive skin—or even identifying that you have it—can be tricky. This is because it can feel irritated without displaying any visible signs. The sensation of sensitive skin can be different for everyone, but it’s generally described as an unpleasant feeling—like stinging, pain, burning, dryness, or tingling—that occurs after coming into contact with an irritant. Facial skin is especially susceptible to sensitivity, since it’s rife with nerve endings and has a thinner protective barrier than skin on other parts of your body.

Figuring out what the best sunscreen for sensitive skin is can feel challenging, but there are some best practices the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends. So be on the lookout for the below.

Editor’s note: Not all sensitive skin is the same. If you suspect you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to speak with your dermatologist—they can help identify the best sensitive skin sunscreen for you.

Broad-spectrum sunscreen

When looking for a body or face sunscreen for sensitive skin, make sure that the label states that it’s “broad-spectrum,” like the aforementioned L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion. This means that it protects against both types of the sun’s harmful rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are known for contributing to skin aging, like wrinkles and dark spots, while UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburns. That’s why the AAD recommends using only broad-spectrum sunscreen to help protect against both.

SPF 30 or higher

The AAD advises using a sunscreen with an SPF (or sun protection factor) of at least 30. The higher the SPF number, the more protection from UV rays you’ll have. For instance, an SPF 30 blocks about 97% of the sun’s rays, while higher SPFs offer slightly more protection. We should also note, however, that a higher SPF doesn’t translate into a sunscreen for sensitive skin lasting longer; it just indicates the amount of coverage it provides.

Fragrance-free, allergy-tested, dermatologist-tested

The best sunscreens for sensitive skin are free of irritants, such as fragrances (for many, artificial fragrances can contribute to skin sensitivity). We also recommend scanning the label of any product(s) you try to be sure they’re allergy-tested and—even better—tested and approved by dermatologists. You’ll check off all of the above boxes with L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion.

Made with beneficial ingredients

Now that you’ve got your basics down on sunscreens for sensitive skin, it’s time to give your skin some love. Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, can help fight free radicals that contribute to skin aging. Another ingredient to look for is niacinamide (a B vitamin), which can help nourish your skin, making it appear stronger, smoother, and brighter.

You can find this skin-friendly ingredient in the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum, which is made to pair with our sunscreen. This gentle daily serum helps reduce the appearance of dark spots—even stubborn ones—within just one week. And, like the sunscreen, it boasts a lightweight, non-greasy texture that feels nice on all skin types.

Our Best Sunscreen Products for Sensitive Skin

L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion

No surprise here that this formula tops the list of our best sunscreens for sensitive skin. It helps provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, as well as free radicals, while improving the look of all skin tones. The lightweight formula blends well with all skin tones and boasts an invisible finish. Plus, it even helps prime the skin for makeup—so you can protect your skin and ensure your base looks smooth and moisturized.

L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30

This anti-aging lotion with SPF 30 leaves your skin feeling smoother, softer, and refreshed while providing broad-spectrum sun protection. The dermatologist-tested formula contains Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, and is suitable for all skin types—including sensitive skin. We suggest applying it in the morning to help firm and brighten your skin (just remember that, as with any sunscreen product, you’ll want to reapply it every two hours or after sweating or swimming for lasting protection).

L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Collagen Expert Day Moisturizer with SPF 30

If your sensitivity coincides with dryness, consider adding this anti-aging face cream to your routine. It contains a blend of collagen peptides and niacinamide and helps rehydrate, retighten, and redensify maturing skin while protecting it from UV rays. Your skin will immediately feel nourished and hydrated. Stick with it, and after about a month, you should notice your skin feeling stronger and denser—plus, it’ll look brighter, healthier, and more radiant.

L’Oréal Paris Wrinkle Expert 55+ Age Defense Lotion SPF 30

For mature skin, we recommend this moisturizing lotion with SPF 30. The unique formula helps strengthen, smooth, and protect thinning skin while helping to shield it against UVA and UVB rays. The allergy-tested formula is mineral oil-free and paraben-free and boasts a lightweight texture that leaves skin feeling hydrated—not greasy.

Editor note: No matter which face sunscreen for sensitive skin you choose, it’s important to protect the skin on your body with an SPF of at least 30, too, and seek shade—especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. You may also want to wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that also provide UV protection.

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