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The Only Sunscreens You Should Be Using if You Have Sensitive Skin, According to Dermatologists

Alexis Berger

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If you’re someone who skews emotionally sensitive, it’s wise for you to take extra care to protect yourself emotionally. Here’s how that truth relates to sunscreen: While it’s crucial that all people wear sunscreen every day, folks who have sensitive skin benefit from being extra mindful that the products they’re using are effectively protecting (and not harming) them. Some sunscreens are formulated with sensitive skin needs in mind, which helps ensure that the product protects a person’s skin without exacerbating existing skin conditions or introducing new irritations.

Given all the SPF options available, finding the best sunscreen to suit your individual needs could take some trial and error. To help you crown your SPF MVP, we asked dermatologists to name the best sunscreens for sensitive skin.

Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin at a Glance 

Best Mineral Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Murad City Skin Age Defense SPF 50, $69
Best Budget-Friendly Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Garnier SkinActive Clearly Brighter SPF 30 Face Moisturizer, $14
Best Face Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Fluid Sunscreen SPF 50+, $36
Best Drugstore Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Purescreen Mineral Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 30, $16
Best Sunscreen for Dry Sensitive Skin: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44, $34
Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin That Avoids White Cast: Eucerin Tinted Sensitive Mineral SPF 35 Face Sunscreen, $16
Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Combination Skin: SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, $72
Best Spray Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: EltaMD UV AOX Mist Broad-Spectrum SPF 40, $43
Best Tinted Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Alastin HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36, $78
Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin and Acne: Drmtlgy Physical Tinted Moisturizer SPF 44, $29
Best Sunscreen Stick for Sensitive Skin: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick SPF 50, $39
Best Anti-Aging Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: RoC Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Moisturizer SPF 30, $27
Best Sunscreen for Mature Skin: Shaklee Youth Age Defense Mineral Moisturizer SPF 30, $52
Best Splurge-Worthy Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Charlotte Tilbury, Invisible UV Flawless Primer SPF 50, $55
Best Workout-Friendly Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: Beauty Pie Traceless UVA/UVB SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen + Primer, $22 for members
Bonus Editor’s Pick: Saint Jane, Luxury Sun Ritual Pore-Smoothing Sunscreen SPF 30, $38

The 2 Main Types of Sunscreen—And Which Is Best for Sensitive Skin

All sunscreens have the same main core goal: to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. “Sunscreens work by preventing UV light from penetrating into the skin,” says board-certified New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “UV light exposure causes free radical damage that harms the DNA of our skin cells, which ultimately leads to the development of skin cancers.” But, despite having a common goal, not all sunscreens are formulated to work the exact same way. There are two main types of sunscreen, and one is most recommended for people who have sensitive skin. 

What Is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing the UV light and stopping it from penetrating the skin. chemical UV filters. These options tend to rub in more easily than mineral options, and are often less likely to leave a white cast. According to board-certified dermatologist Anna D. Guanche, MD, chemical sunscreen ingredients are also especially effective in waterproof formulas.

What Is Mineral Sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, work as a barrier, physically blocking the sun’s rays from penetrating the surface of the skin. These sunscreens sit atop the skin and are more commonly associated with white cast that can require some elbow grease to fully rub them in. (There are mineral formulations on the market, though, that aim to minimize or eliminate white cast. Dr. Zeichner says tinting helps provide more natural coverage.)

The Best Type of Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using mineral sunscreen if you have sensitive skin—and dermatologists understand why. “Many individuals with sensitive skin have found that using chemical sunscreens leads to irritation that can worsen other skin conditions such as melasma, eczema, acne, and rosacea,” says New York City–based board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD.

Ingredients to Look for in Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

The American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) recommends people with sensitive skin use sunscreens with the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which may be less likely to cause less irritation to the skin than other common ingredients. 

Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is a compound that can help treat skin issues even outside of sunscreen needs. (Hint: zinc oxide is a common ingredient in diaper creams!) “It’s a soother and healer of the skin,” says Dr. Guanche. “It actually helps ease irritated skin, not trigger it.”

Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is another common inorganic filter found in mineral sunscreens that are well-suited for sensitive skin. The AAD recommends only sun-protective products including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for use on children and babies older than six months—which should also signal that these are generally safe options for sensitive skin.

Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

Fragrances, Parabens, Sulfates, Alcohols

According to the AAD, folks with sensitive skin should avoid using products with fragrances, parabens, or the chemical oxybenzone in order to avoid irritation. And if the sunscreen in front of you has an ingredients list as long as a CVS receipt, you might consider that a sign that it’s not the best choice for sensitive skin. “Look for sunscreens with minimal ingredients, especially if you have a history of skin reactions,” says Dr. Guanche.

Testing a Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

Regardless of sunscreen you select—and, yes, that includes products on the list below of best sunscreens for sensitive skin, according to derms—it’s important that you test to make sure it works for your skin. To make sure, test out any new product on a small area of your skin before covering yourself from head to toe. “You can apply a small amount to the inside of the forearm and see if you have any skin reaction,” says Dr. Green. “After a few days, you should be able to tell if the new sunscreen is irritating to your skin.” 

If, lo and behold, you end up irritated in any way, you should stop using the product. “If it is a chemical sunscreen, try switching to a physical sunscreen containing ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” says Dr. Green. “If it is a physical sunscreen, make sure that its formulation does not include any irritating ingredients such as fragrance, parabens, sulfates, or alcohol.” If reactions persist, your best course of action is to seek treatment with a dermatologist who can check out what’s going on and potentially conduct allergy patch testing. 

And after you’ve found a winning option that agrees with your skin? Lather up—every single day. “The most common mistake is to skip sunscreen altogether,” says Dr. Guanche.

The Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

best mineral

Murad, City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50

In addition to containing both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen includes ingredients to protect you from light beyond just UV. It “includes lutein, an antioxidant carotenoid, for extra protection against blue light and a polymer matrix to block toxic pollutants from penetrating the skin,” says Dr. Green. “This product also contains iron oxides to create a soft peach tint on the skin for color correction.”

Multitasking protection from UV, pollution, and blue light
Suitable for multiple skin types

Not everyone is looking for blue light protection from their sunscreen

best for face

Avene, Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Fluid Sunscreen SPF 50+

According to Dr. Guanche, Avene Solaire is an excellent facial sunscreen option for people who have sensitive skin and deal with certain specific skin-barrier issues, like rosacea. It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Furthermore, “it’s ultra-lightweight and oil-free formulation makes this product excellent for those with oily, sensitive skin,” says Dr. Green. The vegan mineral sunscreen is free of fragrance, silicone, and parabens also includes niacinamide (in addition to zinc oxide). Since niacinamide can help calm and soothe redness, you can expect this hard-working, lightweight sunscreen to help your face look its freshest. 

Approved by the National Eczema Association
Includes niacinamide

Some may not like the thinner consistency

best drugstore pick

Neutrogena, Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

There’s a reason why this is a drugstore tried-and-true pick. Thanks to its sheer, gentle formulation, you can use this lotion all over without worry of irritation. Plus, you can’t beat the price. This mineral formula “allows for easy spreadability without leaving behind a white cast,” says Dr. Zeichner. And with a water resistance time of over two hours, it’s a must-pack item for any family beach trip. (We’d still recommend a separate baby formula for your littlest ones, as infants have the most sensitive skin.)

Free of parabens and fragrance
Water resistant for 80 minutes

For folks looking for additional benefits of a multi-tasking sunscreen, this might not be the best choice

best for combo skin

Skinceuticals, Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

According to Dr. Green, the Sheer Physical UV Defense sunscreen from SkinCeuticals is an excellent sheer formulation for those with sensitive, combination skin because it is paraben-free and non-comedogenic, which means it is designed to not clog pores.



best for dry skin

EltaMD, UV Elements Tinted Sunscreen Moisturizer, SPF 44

EltaMD Elements is the sunscreen that Dr. Guanche recommends to her patients who have dry, sensitive skin. By including hyaluronic acid in its formulation, this tinted mineral sunscreen offers moisturizing and fine-line-reducing properties. Designed for daily use, you can wear it on its own or underneath makeup, making it an easy addition to your routine.

Can take the place of makeup

Might not be suitable for all skin tones

best tinted

Alastin, HydraTint Pro Mineral Sunscreen SPF 36

While folks of all skin types can benefit from this sunscreen from Alastin, Dr. Guanche recommends Alastin HydraTint for folks with sensitive skin who are looking for a tinted option. It offers broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Antioxidants in formulation aim to protect skin from pollution

Might not work well for all skin tones

best spray sunscreen

EltaMD, UV AOX Mist Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 40

There’s no denying that sunscreen is important, but the constant need to rub it in and feel lotion remnants on your hands, and stuck between your fingers is perhaps something you could do without. In that case, a spray sunscreen might be just what the derm ordered. EltaMD UV AOX Mist Broad-Spectrum SPF40 is a celeb-beloved mineral sunscreen spray, and Dr. Green also likes it for sensitive skin, in particular. In addition to protecting against UVA and UVB rays, and including antioxidant ingredients like vitamins C and E, it “also contains aloe vera and glycerin to replenish moisture on the skin,” she says.

Includes vitamins C and E
Includes moisturizing aloe vera and glycerin

Spray sunscreens require extra care to ensure coverage area

best for acne

Drmtlgy, Anti-Aging Tinted Moisturizer SPF 46

Formulated with 10 percent zinc oxide and 5.5 percent titanium dioxide, Drmtlgy’s physical tinted moisturizer protects from UVA and UVB light, in addition to blue light. The fact that it’s also free of sulfates, parabens, fragrances, gluten, and oil, is why Dr. Green says it’s “excellent for those with sensitive, acne-prone skin.”

Free of sulfates, parabens, fragrances, gluten, and oil
Protects from blue light
Up to 80 minutes water-resistant

Not for people uninterested in tinted sunscreen

best for no white cast

Eucerin, Sensitive Tinted Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 35

A great way to avoid white cast from mineral sunscreen? Use a tinted option. According to Dr. Zeichner, this sunscreen from Eucerin “universally blends into most skin types because it uses a proprietary blend of five different iron oxide pigments that provide natural coverage.” The moisturizing formula also includes antioxidants. 

No white cast

Not suitable for people who don’t want want a tinted product

best sunscreen stick

Colorescience, Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick SPF 50

A stick sunscreen can be a convenient option for on-the-go or active purposes, since it’s quick to apply and rub in. (Keep in mind that the AAD specifies that applying stick sunscreen correctly, requires passing over the skin four times.) For the best stick sunscreen for sensitive skin, Dr. Green likes this option from Colorescience—a balm formulated with zinc oxide, squalane, and jojoba esters, which she says are nourishing and hydrating for the skin. “This sunscreen stick glides effortlessly onto the skin and can be reapplied as needed throughout the day for maximum protection while playing sports or being active outside,” says Dr. Green.

Easy to swipe on
Water resistant up to 80 minutes
Hydrating ingredients

Might leave a white cast
Must ensure correct application in order to be fully protected

best anti-aging

RoC, Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Face Moisturizer SPF 30

In addition to providing broad-spectrum UV protection, this sunscreen includes vitamin C in its formulation. “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes free radical damage and can help even skin tone,” says Dr. Zeichner.

Includes vitamin C
No white cast

Might not be advised for skin that’s sensitive to chemical sunscreens

best for mature skin

Shaklee, YOUTH® Age Defense Mineral Moisturizer SPF 30

Dr. Zeichner recommends this broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen to patients with mature skin. “This sunscreen contains a blend of botanicals that provide hydrating and antioxidant effects,” he says.

Vegan and cruelty-free
Free-radical protection
Skin-supporting cocktail of vitamins, antioxidants, and botanicals


best splurge-worthy

Charlotte Tilbury, Invisible UV Flawless Primer SPF 50

Charlotte Tilbury’s Invisible UV Flawless Primer is a great example of the way skincare can multitask as makeup. It’s the option that Dr. Zeichner recommends as his favorite splurge-worthy sunscreen for sensitive skin, thanks to its pore-minimizing, hydrating formulation. Serving as a protective barrier of the skin from not just the sun but also ingredients in makeup, this sunscreen includes hyaluronic acid and vitamins C and E, helping to moisturize, brighten, and firm up the appearance of skin. This weightless sunscreen provides both protection against the sun and cosmetic benefits, helping to hydrate with how ionic acid and blur the pours for a smooth skin foundation.

Includes hyaluronic acid
Includes vitamins C and E


best budget-friendly

Garnier, SkinActive Clearly Brighter SPF 30 Face Moisturizer

$13.97 $14.99 7% off

Garnier’s SkinActive sunscreen is an affordable winner, according to Dr. Zeichner. “This ultra-gentle sunscreen can be used across all skin types, even in people who are sensitive,” he says. In addition to its broad-spectrum UV protection, this sunscreen’s formulation includes antioxidants that may help brighten and even skin.

Skin-brightening and -evening antioxidants

Might not be advised for skin that’s sensitive to chemical sunscreens

best workout-friendly

Beauty Pie, Traceless UVA/UVB SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen + Primer

According to Dr. Zeichner, this mineral sunscreen option from Beauty Pie is non-greasy and helps “minimize shine and protect the skin barrier with argan oil and niacinamide.” And when you’re working out, minimizing excess grease is a winning property of your sunscreen. It’s worth noting that Beauty Pie is membership-based, and for non-members the prices shift quite drastically. This sunscreen is $60 for non-members and $20 for members. New Beauty Pie members are eligible for a two-month free trial, then membership costs either $5 per month for an annual commitment or $10 on a per-month basis. Beauty Pie is known for creating “dupes” of expensive, luxury skincare and makeup for less — you just need a membership to reap all the benefits.

Includes niacinamide
Includes argan oil

Expensive without membership

editor’s pick

Saint Jane, Luxury Sun Ritual Pore Smoothing SPF 30

“I’ve been religiously using Saint Jane Luxury Sun Ritual SPF for about a year now, even though I probably have two dozen other sunscreen options (shopping editor life). I keep boomeranging back to it because of how effectively it blurs my pores and effectively doubles as a primer, leaving my skin dewy and healthy-looking, whether or not I choose to wear foundation. I have acne-prone skin with some rosacea, and this gentle mineral formula has never left me broken out or irritated — in fact, it makes my complexion feel more nourished at the end of the day.

Its star, botanical-forward ingredients include jasmine (this balances out sensitive skin prone to redness and inflammation), green tea (calming and fights free radicals), hibiscus (chock-full of anti-aging benefits), desert rose (for ultra hydration), and 10 percent zinc oxide (a derm-loving sunscreen ingredient that sensitive skin slurps right up).

It’s sheer, gives my complexion a filter-like finish, and rejuvenates skin even on the most dreary, dry, winter days. And, of course, it keeps my face protected. Oh, and bonus? The packaging is gorgeous.” -Gina Vaynshteyn, Senior Commerce Director

Experts in This Article

Joshua Zeichner, MD: Board-certified New York City dermatologist
Anna D. Guanche, MD: Board-certified dermatologist
Michele Green, MD: New York City–based board-certified cosmetic dermatologist

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