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6th May 2021

Sun care for sensitive skin

We all know how important it is to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays, but what do you do if common sunscreen ingredients irritate your skin?

Around 50% of women and 38% of men in the UK have self-described sensitive skin,[1] which can involve symptoms including tingling, itching, tightness in the skin, stinging and burning.[2] For some people, this can be brought on by certain skincare ingredients, including UV filters found in sunscreens.

The difference between physical and chemical sunscreens

When it comes to sunscreen active ingredients, there are two main classes—chemical absorbers and physical blockers—and each help to protect you from UV radiation differently.

Physical blockers are chemically inactive and work by scattering and reflecting UV radiation before it reaches the skin. Chemical absorbers, as the name suggests, absorb the radiation, which excites the molecules to a ‘high energy’ state. The radiation is then transformed and released as a non-harmful form or energy, like heat.[3] Unfortunately, this high energy state can cause skin reactions in some people,[4] so physical blockers, which don’t react to UV light, are better tolerated by people with skin sensitivities. SunSense Sensitive SPF 50+ contains only the physical blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

The added benefits of Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide, is an essential nutrient in the body where it is involved in a number of biochemical reactions.[5] When used on the skin, niacinamide helps improve several skin characteristics, including the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and skin texture, making it an ideal inclusion for sunscreens.[6] It also helps maintain moisture levels in the outer layer of the skin, supporting barrier function, and may help counteract some of the harmful effects of UV radiation through its antioxidant properties.[6] Of course, it’s also great for sensitive skin, being extremely well-tolerated and non-irritating to facial skin.[7] To learn more about Vitamin B3, check out this article.

Free from common irritants

While it’s important to know the ingredients a sunscreen contains, it’s arguably more important to know the ingredients it doesn’t contain, especially if you have sensitive skin. SunSense Sensitive SPF 50+ is free from common irritants, like fragrance,[8] colour,[9] propylene glycol,[10] lanolin[11] and chemical absorbers,[12] reducing the likelihood of skin irritation.

Know your skin

Just because a product is designed for sensitive skin doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed not to cause any irritation on your skin. We’re all different, so it’s important to always test new products on a small patch of skin before applying them to your whole body. If you frequently experience sensitivity reactions, talk to a dermatologist who can organise patch testing, allowing you to pinpoint exactly which ingredient, or group of ingredients, is causing you issues.

SunSense Sensitive not only provides very high broad-spectrum UV protection, with SPF 50+ and 4 hours water resistance, it is dermatologically tested on sensitive skin and paediatrician tested, making it an ideal choice for delicate or sensitive skin.




  1. Willis CM, Shaw S, De Lacharrière O, Baverel M, Reiche L, Jourdain R, et al. Sensitive skin: an epidemiological study. Br J Dermatol 2001;145(2):258–63.
  2. Farage MA. The prevalence of sensitive skin. Front Med 2019;6:Article 98.
  3. Egambaram OP, Pillai SK, Ray SS. Materials science challenges in skin UV protection: a review. Photochem Photobiol 2020;96(4):779–97.
  4. Young AR. Chromophores in human skin. Phys Med Biol 1997;42(5):789–802.
  5. Matts PJ, Oblong JE, Bissett DL. A review of the range of effects of niacinamide in human skin. IFSCC 2002;5(4):285–9.
  6. Berson DS, Osborne R, Oblong JE, Hakozaki T, Johnson MB, Bissett DL. Niacinamide: a topical vitamin with wide-ranging skin appearance benefits. In: Farris PK, editor. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2014. page 103–12.
  7. Bissett DL, Oblong JE, Berge CA. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al 2005;31(7 Pt 2):860–5; discussion 865.
  8. Johansen J. Fragrance contact allergy: A clinical review. Am J Clin Dermatol 2003;4(11):789–98.
  9. Mayer RL. Aromatic amines and azo-dyes in allergy and cancer. J Invest Dermatol 1948;10(5):389–96.
  10. Trancik R, HI M. Propylene glycol: irritation or sensitization? Contact Dermatitis 1982;8:185–9.
  11. Sulzberger MB, Lazar MP. A study of the allergenic constituents of lanolin. J Invest Dermatol 1950;15:453–8.
  12. Schauder S, Ippen H. Contact and photocontact sensitivity to sunscreens. Contact Dermatitis 1997;37(5):221–32.



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