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25th June 2018

How to avoid skin irritations when picking sunscreen?

A guide to picking sun protection for sensitive skin.

People with sensitive skin may find that sunscreen irritates their skin. It can make eczema and dermatitis flare up and cause 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.1

If you 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.


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. 2

As children’s skin is more delicate, young kids are more likely to have a reaction like this than adults. It may prove worthwhile to invest in a sunscreen that has been specially formulated for young skin like SunSense Kids.

Chemical Allergy

Sunscreens work because they contain chemicals which soak into the skin and absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation before it can cause damage.3 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.4

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 photo allergy. 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.

Our range of sunscreens are manufactured with sensitive skin in mind. We can provide small samples of our range to let you test which product suits you best.


  2. Grosick TL, Hollis V. Making sensitive skin less sensitive. J Am Acad Dermatol (poster)
  3. Hiom S (2006) Public awareness regarding UV risks and vitamin D – the challenges for UK skin cancer prevention campaigns. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 92: 161-6

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