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Sunscreen options for Sensitive Skin!

Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new blog on sensitive skin!


My pseudonym for this blog is Sensitisma, a play on the word sensitive and the Spanish suffix -isimo (turning any adverb or adjective into very). Hence, my name means very sensitive, my skin's most aggravating quality. This blog's intent is to help other sensitive-skinned people navigate through the giant sea of skincare and makeup to find products we can feel good about wearing!


Since summer lurks just over the horizon, it's a great time to discuss sunscreen. In addition to having very sensitive skin, I am also extremely pale, so sunscreen is vitally important to me. I have done tons of research on sunscreens and their active ingredients to find the ones that will work well for me without making my skin explode in acne, red splotches, or whatever else it can dream up.


Let's talk about ingredients, shall we?


For Sensitismas like me, it is best to stick with the most gentle products we can find. Unfortunately, that eliminates a massive percentage of the available products out there. If you are very sensitive, you should stick with mineral based sunscreens only: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.


Titanium Dioxide


This mineral appears in many makeup products, but at concentrations too low to be considered a sunscreen. When used as an active ingredient for sun protection, Titanium Dioxide protects against UVB and UVA2 rays (Skin Cancer Foundation).


Zinc Oxide


Some of you may have experienced the lovely white cast of older formulations of sunscreen made with Zinc Oxide, but keep in mind that new technology has made this mineral nearly invisible in many products. Zinc Oxide protects against UVB, UVA1, and UVA2 rays, making it my favorite sunscreen ingredient (Skin Cancer Foundation).  Zinc Oxide also helps to soothe the skin, making it ideal for irritable skin, such as those of us with acne or rosacea.



These ingredients protect the skin by forming a barrier on top of it. I have read that Titanium Dioxide may aggravate acne for some people, but I have not personally experienced that side effect. I have a long history of acne trouble and recently completed a course of Accutane (Isotretinoin) to resolve it. Since my skin is irritable and reactive, I have found that the chemical sunscreens break me out, but these mineral ones helped to soothe my skin and allow it to heal.


The Skin Cancer Foundation has a very helpful discussion on UVA and UVB radiation, as well as a super handy chart that shows what UV type sunscreen active ingredients protect the skin from (where I found the information above):



You will need to scroll down a bit to view the chart, and I highly recommend you check you sun protection against this chart to ensure you are protected against all UV rays. I will not go over the chemical sunscreens here because there are lots of them and many can irritate overly sensitive skin.


To really simplify your sunscreen search, take a look at http://www.beautypedia.com/BestProducts.aspx. This site reviews tons of skincare and makeup products. You should be able to find some excellent sunscreen options here. I check everything I use on my skin on this site before I purchase it and have had some great results. For user reviews, I love www.sephora.com and www.makeupalley.com.


If you are like me, you have days where your skin is more sensitive than others. Sometimes, I am able to tolerate one or two chemical sunscreen ingredients; other days, even my gentle facial cleanser stings.


Here are the sunscreens I have tried and liked:


Clinique City Block Sheer SPF 25 (Clinique.com, Sephora.com)


 (This sunscreen also comes in SPF40, but that one irritates my skin). This product is my daily SPF because it is soothing and moisturizing. It is tinted to eliminate the white cast, but the tint is too dark for me, so I must wear foundation over it.  

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide.


If you have oily skin, you will not like this sunscreen. I have used it off and on for years because I cannot use it when I'm oily, but I adore it at any other time.


Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer SPF15 (Hourglasscosmetics.com, Sephora.com)


I love this primer and it is perfect for oily skin. Because of my skin color, I mix this primer with the Clinique sunscreen to lighten it up if I don't want to wear foundation, or when my skin is creeping towards oiliness. This product is absolutely perfect for the summer because it stays in place all day and keeps your makeup looking lovely. It is quite expensive, so I would not recommend using it as your sole sunscreen. If you wear another sunscreen and use this product as a primer, you will only need 1-2 pumps. I love to mix it with my foundation and apply both products at once. This makes the application smoother and allows me to rub my face less, keeping it from reddening.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide



For less sensitive days, when I can tolerate 1 chemical sunscreen, here are a couple of great options:


Olay Complete SPF 15 for Sensitive Skin (any drugstore)


This moisturizer works best for me when I need some moisture, but not too much. If you are in a bind or on a budget, this moisturizer is a pretty good option, but only if you can tolerate a little bit of chemical sunscreen.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate (a chemical UVB suncreen)


Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Daily Face Shield SPF 40 (www.sephora.com, www.lauramercier.com)


Although this product is a bit expensive for a daily sunscreen, I absolutely adore it for the summer time because of its fluid texture and invisible finish. This stuff wears beautifully under makeup. Since this product does not contain Zinc Oxide, my favorite sunscreen agent, I typically supplement it with a little Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, Laura Mercier Mineral Foundation SPF 15, or Smashbox Photo Set Finishing Powder SPF 15. All of these products contain Zinc Oxide, wear well in the summer, don't irritate my skin, and look lovely.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Octyl Methoxycinnamate


EtaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 (www.eltamd.com, www.amazon.com)


I have not tried this sunscreen yet, but I have an order pending on Amazon.com for a bottle to try. This sunscreen claims to be excellent for sensitive, acne prone skin.  It also contains niacinamide, and claims to be very lightweight. I'm really excited to try it and I will post an update after I have tested this one out!

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate


Heliocare (http://www.heliocare.com/index.htm)


I recently learned that there is a product out on the market that works as an oral sunscreen: http://www.heliocare.com/index.htm. I have not tried it and Consumer Lab has not reviewed it yet. I emailed them to request a review of this product because I would just love it if I could take my sunscreen as a pill! I hope they will review it, but I am not ready to try something like Heliocare until I know that it is safe and effective. If you decide to try it out, please continue to wear your topical sunscreens because nothing can protect your skin 100%. This supplement would be an adjunct, not a replacement.



Well, that's about all I have to say about sunscreen options for sensitive skin today. Please feel free to ask me any questions that come to you and be sure to do your research to keep that sensitive skin glowing, beautiful and protected!


Recommended resources for further research:




Begoun, Paula. The Original Beauty Bible (get the newest edition)


Jaliman, Debra. Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist (I have the Kindle edition and read the whole thing in about an hour. It's concise, but very informative.)



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