Sensitive Skin

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Whether you’re looking after your own skin or protecting your children, we all know that wearing sunscreen every day is your best line of defence against the potentially damaging effects of the sun’s rays[1]. When you have sensitive skin, however, finding a sunscreen that will protect you without irritating your skin can be a real challenge. This is particularly true of young children, whose skin is more delicate and prone to reacting to certain ingredients.

At SunSense, we believe that everyone should be able to find effective sun protection they can rely on, no matter what their skin type. From which ingredients to watch out for to how to pick a sunscreen that suits your skin, our guide to sunscreen for sensitive skin has everything you need to protect yourself and your family as you enjoy the sun. 

Sensitive Skin and Sunscreen

People with sensitive skin may find that sunscreen irritates their skin, making issues such as eczema and dermatitis flare up, or just causing the skin to be red and itchy. Others may be allergic to one or more of the ingredients in many sunscreens, which can cause the skin to develop an itchy, blistering rash. This reaction is called contact dermatitis, although similar symptoms known as a phototoxic reaction can occur from the combination of the sunscreen and UV exposure for some people[2]

If you or your child have sensitive skin, you should patch test sunscreens on a small area of skin to make sure that it does not have a reaction to the product before applying it to a larger area.

Irritation 

If you have sensitive skin, you may find you can’t use skincare products with fragrance or colour in your daily routine. Many sunscreens also contain fragrance and colour that could irritate sensitive skin, so you should choose a product that has been formulated to be fragrance and colour free if you struggle with this problem. 

As children’s skin is more delicate, young kids are more likely to have a reaction like this than adults, so consider investing in a sunscreen that has been specially formulated for young skin. Always check the label for ingredients you know you or your child are allergic to prior to purchasing a new sunscreen. 

Chemical Allergy

Sunscreens work because they contain chemicals which soak into the skin and absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation before it can cause damage. Some of these chemicals have been known to cause allergic reactions in some people with known sensitivities. Known allergens include: oxybenzone, 4-isopropyl-dibenzoylmethane, para-aminobenzoic acid, esters, avobenzone, cinnamates, and others[3]

If you apply sunscreen and get a rash where the product has been applied, you may have a contact allergy to one of the chemical ingredients. If you develop a rash after going out in the sun wearing the product, you may have a photoallergy. You could also experience symptoms such as swelling, redness, and blisters that are filled with fluid. 

If you are worried that you have an allergy to one of the chemicals in sunscreen, then choosing a specially developed sensitive sunscreen without chemical blockers will help you stay protected without irritating your skin.

Paraben Myths 

Parabens are an ingredient that are often thought to irritate the skin, but allergic reactions to parabens are actually incredibly rare[4]. Added to sunscreen to help to protect them from microbial contamination, parabens have been used in the pharmaceutical industry for many years and exhibit low toxicity. One study on preservatives tested 6,845 people and found that parabens were among the least frequent sensitizers. Whilst reactions to parabens can happen, it is unlikely that this is the ingredient in sunscreen that causes your skin to become irritated.

Kids’ Skin

Children have more delicate skin than adults, so it is important to choose a sunscreen that has been specially formulated to protect without irritating the skin. SunSense Kids range is tested by paediatricians to make sure that it is suitable for all children aged six months and above, including those with sensitive skin. It is especially important to protect your child from the sun because sunburn instances in childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life[5]. Choosing a factor 50/50+ sunscreen that offers broad range UVA and UVB protection every day is the best way to protect your child’s sensitive skin.

Super Sensitive 

If you have very sensitive skin or a skin condition that is easily irritated by sunscreens you may find that a sunscreen with no chemical absorbers suits you best. Sunscreens often use chemicals to absorb the sun’s rays, but these chemicals can cause irritation or allergic reactions if you have sensitive skin.

SunSense’s Sensitive range has been specially designed for use by people with exceptionally sensitive skin and uses titanium dioxide and aluminium stearate to block the sun’s rays rather than chemical absorbers. It is also free from fragrance and colour, as well as lanolin which can sometimes cause allergic reactions. With an SPF 50/50+ and broad spectrum UV cover, it is suitable for protecting even the most sensitive skin types from sun damage.


[1] Cancer Research UK. UV, the sun and skin cancer. [Internet] [updated 2014 Feb 17; cited 2017 May 15]. Available from: http://sunsmart.org.uk/UV-the-sun-and-skin-cancer/

[2] CBS News. Some Sunscreen Ingredients Can Cause Allergies. [Internet] [Updated 2015 July 1; cited 2017 May 15]. Available from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/some-sunscreen-ingredients-can-cause-allergies/

[3] Everyday Health. Are you Allergic to Sunscreen? [internet] [Updated 2012 June 6; cited 2017 May 15] Available from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/are-you-allergic-to-sunscreen.aspx

[4] Chow ET, Avolio AM, Lee A, Nixon R. Frequency of positive patch test reactions to preservatives: the Australian experience. Australais J Dermatol.

[5] NHS. Sunscreen and Sun Safety. [Internet] [Updated 2016 June 14; cited 2017 May 15] Availably from: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/skin/pages/sunsafe.aspx