How to pick the right sunscreen for sensitive skin

Is sunscreen with SPF 100 good for sensitive skin? Here's how to choose the right sunscreen for sensitive skin.
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Are you using the right sunscreen for sensitive skin? Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 2 Mar 2024, 13:30 pm IST
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Summer, monsoon or winter, a sunscreen is a must. It should be part of your skin care as it forms a barrier on the skin. It helps to shield your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation and reduce the risk of sunburn as well as premature ageing. It is important to choose the right sunscreen for each skin type. But finding the best sunscreen for sensitive skin can be a task. Women with sensitive skin tend to experience redness or an itching sensation if they don’t use the right sunscreen. Then there are also doubts about the sun protection factor or SPF. Don’t worry, we tell you how to choose the best sunscreen for sensitive skin.

What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin refers to a skin type that is more prone to adverse reactions such as redness, itching, burning, or dryness when exposed to various stimuli, including environmental factors like sunlight, harsh chemicals, or certain skincare products. It can be characterised by a heightened response of the skin’s barrier function to these triggers, leading to discomfort or irritation, explains dermatologist Dr Rashmi Aderao.

Woman applying sunscreen on legs
Sunscreen is important for sensitive skin. Image courtesy: Freepik

Why is sunscreen important for people with sensitive skin?

Sunscreen is crucial for people with sensitive skin because it helps protect their delicate skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. UV rays can exacerbate sensitivity issues, leading to inflammation, redness, and other adverse reactions.

What are the different types of sunscreen?

There are two main types of sunscreen — chemical and physical (mineral). Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them into heat, while physical sunscreens create a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV rays away from the skin, says the expert.

How to choose the best sunscreen for sensitive skin?

When choosing sunscreen for sensitive skin, opt for products that are labelled “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic,” and “dermatologist-tested.” Look for mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as they are less likely to cause irritation. Avoid products with harsh chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, or fragrances, which can trigger sensitivity reactions.

Is SPF 100 good for sensitive skin?

People generally think that sunscreen with a higher SPF can provide more protection. In fact, sunscreen with SPF 100 was found to be much more effective in shielding against UV radiation-induced sunburn than the one with SPF 50 when used in a beach vacation setting, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

But Dr Aderao says SPF 100 may not necessarily be better for sensitive skin. The SPF number primarily indicates the level of protection against UVB rays, not necessarily the degree of sensitivity. SPF 30 is generally considered sufficient if applied correctly and reapplied as and when needed. Higher SPFs offer only marginally increased protection and may contain more potentially irritating chemicals. It is more important to focus on finding a sunscreen that is gentle and suitable for sensitive skin rather than solely relying on a high SPF number.

Woman applying sunscreen on shoulder
Steps to apply sunscreen. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to apply sunscreen for sensitive skin?

  • To apply sunscreen for sensitive skin, start by cleansing the skin gently and patting it dry.
  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure to ensure adequate absorption.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after sweating it out in a gym or swimming.
  • Be gentle when applying and avoid rubbing the skin vigorously, as this can exacerbate sensitivity.

Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30, and choose water-resistant formulas if you are going to engage in water-related activities.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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