The 8 Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin of 2022

Australian Gold’s Botanical Sunscreen will keep you protected without irritation

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People with sensitive skin need to protect themselves from the sun just as much as everyone else (if not more than everyone else), but need to be a little more careful when shopping for sunscreen.

Reviewed & Approved

Our top choice Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotion SPF 50 can be used on face and body, has an SPF 50, and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 50+ Spray is convenient and made with an earth-friendly propellant.

If you have sensitive skin, says Melanie Palm, MD, board certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD, you should be using mineral or physical sunscreen, not chemical sunscreen: “Look for a mineral sunscreen formulated with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, [not] a chemical sunscreen with ingredients like benzophenone, oxybenzone, and dibenzoylmethane, which are more likely to cause irritation.” She adds that non-irritating active ingredients like colloidal oatmeal or niacinamide are also beneficial and can help soothe the skin.

“For sensitive skin, I recommend seeking sunscreen products with fewer preservatives and fragrance-free products,” says dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology in Pennsylvania. “[You should also consider that] the tendency to develop contact dermatitis to sunscreen may not be from the active ingredients but from the inactive ingredients.” Based on this information, we researched dozens of sunscreens for sensitive skin and evaluated them for key ingredients, form, application frequency, and price. 

Here are the best sunscreens for sensitive skin on the market today.

Best Overall: Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

4.8
Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Lotion

Courtesy of Ulta

Pros
  • Matte finish

  • Includes antioxidants

  • Reef friendly and cruelty free

Cons
  • Hard to remove

  • Untinted can leave a white cast

At minimum, your sunscreen should provide reliable SPF protection. But we won’t argue with a sunscreen that also boosts your skin’s overall health, like this Australian Gold Botanical Mineral Lotion–which is why it’s our favorite overall pick.

A combination of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide provides SPF 50 protection while plum extract, vitamin C, and eucalyptus provide a nourishing antioxidant blend that keeps skin looking and feeling healthy. The sunscreen is also water resistant up to 80 minutes, the maximum amount available, and offers a matte—not greasy-looking—finish. Of course, we also love that Australian Gold sunscreen is made totally with reef friendly ingredients and is never tested on animals, so look no further if your goal is to find a mineral sunscreen that works well and makes the environment happy.

Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 4%, Zinc Oxide 4% | Dosage: Standard (2 Tbsp. / 1 oz. for body, ½ tsp. for face) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best Budget: Coppertone Pure and Simple SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen

Coppertone Pure and Simple SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen

Amazon

Pros
  • Large bottle

  • Hypoallergenic

  • Easy to apply

Cons
  • Hard to remove

Mineral sunscreens can be pricier than their chemical sunscreen counterparts, but this SPF 50 by Coppertone is both effective and budget-friendly. We also like that it packs a high concentration of zinc oxide into its formula, includes soothing tea leaf and sea kelp, and is water resistant up to 80 minutes. Basically, you get a lot of bang for your buck here.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 24% | Dosage: Standard (2 Tbsp. / 1 oz. for body, ½ tsp. for face) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best for Face: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch SPF 50 Face Sunscreen

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch SPF 50 Face Sunscreen

Amazon

Pros
  • Non-greasy

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Can be applied under makeup

Cons
  • Leaves a white cast

There are several things about the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen that make this sunscreen a good choice for your face: it’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t cause breakouts, and it’s designed to go on dry, not greasy, for even more elimination of irritation, oiliness, and acne. It contains plenty of zinc oxide to protect your sensitive face from the sun, and is water resistant for all your wet and wild summertime activities.

It may, however, leave a white cast after application, so you’ll want to make sure you’re thoroughly rubbing in the lotion to prevent any streaks.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 21.6% | Dosage: Standard for face (½ tsp.) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best Body Spray: Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 50+ Spray

Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 50+ Spray

Amazon

Pros
  • Includes antioxidants

  • No airborne release of chemicals

  • Water resistant for 80 mins

Cons
  • Needs to be rubbed in after spraying

Let’s face it: sometimes you need to be able to spray yourself quickly with sunscreen and get on your way. The good news is that spray sunscreens don’t need to be less effective than other types of sunscreen—but you have to know what you’re doing.

“Spray sunscreens can have the same protection offered by traditional lotion- or cream-based sunscreens if they are applied correctly,” says Dr. Ilyas, “but the real challenge with most sunscreens is that it’s not common to find mineral sunscreen-based aerosol sprays.”

That’s why we chose the Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Spray for sensitive skin as our pick for best body spray: it’s a mineral sunscreen, and it comes in an easy-to-apply spray formulation, checking off two very important boxes for people with sensitive skin. What’s more, it’s unscented, making it even more sensitive skin-friendly thanks to having fewer irritating fragrances. It also features an “earth-friendly propellant,” eliminating some of the common concerns associated with aerosol sprays.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, 24% | Dosage: Standard for spray (apply until skin is shiny, then rub in) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Vanicream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+

Vanicream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+

Amazon

Pros
  • Non-comedogenic

  • Non-greasy

  • Free of irritating ingredients

Cons
  • Lower amount of zinc oxide

  • White cast

If you have acne-prone, sensitive skin, one of the biggest concerns you should have is added ingredients in your skin products. In some cases, say our experts, these added, inactive ingredients can be just as irritating (if not more so) than the active ingredients in products like sunscreen. 

That’s one of the reasons why Dr. Ilyas recommends Vanicream products to her patients with sensitive skin: the products are free of all common irritants, like dyes, fragrances, and parabens, and are even gluten-free for people with gluten sensitivities. Vanicream’s Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ is also non-comedogenic to prevent breakouts, plus it applies smoothly and easily and is reef friendly. Win-win for everyone.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 12% | Dosage: Standard for face (½ tsp.) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best for Kids: Banana Boat Kids Vanishing Color Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Foam SPF 40

Banana Boat Kids Vanishing Color Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Foam SPF 40

Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to see application results

  • Fun scents for kids

  • Goes on smoothly

Cons
  • Small packaging

  • Lower sun protection

One of the biggest challenges in protecting kids against the sun is application, says Dr. Palm: “I prefer SPF lotions or creams over sprays for kids, since this helps ensure you’re applying enough SPF coverage on their face and their entire body.”

While a spray is efficient, it may not offer the most reliable protection, but rubbing a lotion or cream into a sand-covered, wiggling small child is no picnic, either. That’s one of the reasons why we love the Vanishing Color Broad Spectrum foam by Banana Boat: not only is it uber kid-friendly, with apple and blueberry scents, it goes on the skin in colorful shades then rubs in clear, ensuring that you’ve actually covered the exposed skin on your active kiddo before you send them running back to the pool again. It also offers an SPF of 50 and 80 minutes of water resistance, making it an easy-to-use and effective option for your child.

Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 4.9%, Zinc Oxide 7.1% | Dosage: Standard (2 Tbsp. / 1 oz. for body, ½ tsp. for face) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best Tinted: EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Tinted Face Sunscreen

EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Tinted Face Sunscreen

Dermstore

Pros
  • Good for sensitive and acne-prone skin

  • Easy pump application

  • Includes niacinamide and hyaluronic acid

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Contains one chemical sunscreen ingredient

Hands down, the most annoying thing about mineral sunscreen is the white cast it leaves behind (often whether you rub it in for long enough or not). The EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Tinted Face Sunscreen solves that problem while still providing plenty of sun protection; with a lightly tinted formulation, it doesn’t go on with a white cast but does provide UVA and UVB protection, all while smoothing out pores and being safe for skin issues such as eczema and rosacea. Plus, it includes calming niacinamide and wrinkle-reducing niacinamide, making it a stellar choice to wear alone or as a base for foundation.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 9.0%, Octinoxate 7.5% | Dosage: Standard for face (½ tsp.) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Best for Swimming: Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

Amazon

Pros
  • Can be used on face and body

  • Water resistant for 80 minutes

  • Non-greasy

Cons
  • Long and heavy application process

  • Hard to remove

According to Dr. Palm, if you have sensitive skin and are planning to be sweating or swimming outdoors, you need to find a sweat- and water-resistant mineral sunscreen for maximum staying power. This SPF 50+ mineral sunscreen by Thinksport is designed for athletes, formulated with 20 percent zinc oxide and made to be ultra-resistant to water for all your hot weather activities. 

As a total bonus, this Thinksport sunscreen is also broad spectrum, vegan, and free of common irritating ingredients like parabens and phthalates. It can be difficult to wash off, but that’s kind of what you want when shopping for the ultimate water resistant sunscreen.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20% | Dosage: Standard (2 Tbsp. / 1 oz. for body, ½ tsp. for face) | Application Frequency: Every 2 hours, or every 80 minutes if swimming or sweating

Final Verdict

For an all-around reliable mineral sunscreen that can be used on your face or your body, we recommend fan favorite Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotion SPF 50. It has an SPF of 50 and is easy to apply, water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and boosted with antioxidants that are good for your skin.
If spray sunscreen is more convenient for you, we like the Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 50+ Spray. It’s easy to apply and rub in, plus it’s made with an earth-friendly propellant with ultra-low global warming potential.

How We Selected the Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

To find the best sunscreens for sensitive skin, we asked two dermatologists to tell us what to look for and avoid when choosing an effective—but gentle—SPF for your face and body. They strongly suggested choosing a mineral or physical sunscreen over a chemical one, noting that mineral sunscreens are made of larger particles that don’t absorb into your skin (which means they don’t cause as much irritation as chemical sunscreens). They also suggested looking for sunscreens with fewer inactive ingredients to reduce the potential for contact dermatitis—or opting for sunscreens with healthy inactive ingredients to improve the overall quality of your skin during use.

We scoured the internet for crowd-favorite mineral sunscreens designed to protect your skin from the sun with minimal irritation. We prioritized sunscreens labeled for use on sensitive skin, as well as sunscreens labeled non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and oil-free. 

What to Look for in Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

Mineral Sunscreen Ingredients

First things first: unless you have a good reason not to use a mineral sunscreen, you should swap all your chemical sunscreens out for products with zinc or titanium oxide, says Dr. Ilyas—in general, these are not only gentler but also safer, blocking the sun’s rays rather than absorbing and diffusing them. 

“Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing light [so] once the sunscreen maxes out its ability to absorb light, the rest flows over to your skin,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “Physical sunscreens block light by shielding the skin directly.”

Most mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide, titanium oxide, or a combination of both, so those are the ingredients you should be checking for when shopping. 

Application Type

For the most part, how you choose to apply sunscreen is less important than applying it thoroughly and regularly, and you have three basic choices when it comes to getting that SPF onto your body.

Lotion, cream, or stick: You’re going to rub this sunscreen onto your body in some way, whether it’s with your hands or an applicator. This method is good for your face and for targeting specific areas of your body. 

It can be tedious to use this type of application if you need to cover large parts of your body, though, and you have to be careful to really rub the sunscreen into all exposed areas. 

Aerosol spray: According to Dr. Ilyas, one of the benefits of aerosol sprays is that you get even application and coverage. It’s also easy to cover large parts of your body quickly, and aerosol sprays can make reapplication at the beach—when your skin is covered with sand—much simpler.

“Applying until the skin glistens is the visual cue to know when enough has been applied,” Dr. Ilyas explains. 

That said, there are a lot of caveats to using aerosol spray sunscreen. You can lose a lot of product to your environment on windy days, or even get a blast of spray to the face (and you really shouldn’t inhale it). If you do need to use a spray sunscreen on your face, spray it into your hands first and then rub it into your face. And remember, says Dr. Ilyas, that aerosols are flammable and should not be applied near an open flame.

Pump spray: With a pump spray sunscreen, you don’t run the same risks with an aerosol spray but you get a similar ease of application…except for the fact that you do have to rub them in, which reduces their convenience: “The process is so similar to regular sunscreen applications that it is difficult to say if there is a practical advantage to using these,” Dr. Ilyas notes.  

One advantage to a pump spray? Dr. Ilyas says it’s easier to find mineral sunscreen in a pump spray because the nozzle can accommodate the thicker product without clogging.

SPF 30 or Higher

Dr. Ilyas says she always recommends that her patients use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, but keep in mind that when it comes to mineral sunscreen, the higher the concentration of zinc or titanium oxide, the better. Some experts believe that mineral sunscreen is generally less effective than chemical sunscreen, but obviously, if you have sensitive skin or frequently react to the ingredients in chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreen may be your best bet for sun protection.

If you’re not planning to layer your sunscreen under makeup with SPF or wear it in conjunction with other forms of sun protection, such as SPF clothing, aim for a product with a zinc or titanium oxide concentration of at least 10 percent or a product with a combination of both, since they boost one another’s effectiveness in blocking UVA and UVB rays when combined.

Finally, make sure your sunscreen is labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, providing maximum protection against sun damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What ingredients in sunscreen can cause allergic reactions?

    There are two categories of sunscreen ingredients that are likely to cause allergic reactions, says Dr. Palm: the ingredients found in chemical sunscreens (such as benzophenone, oxybenzone, and dibenzoylmethane) and fragrances or preservatives.
    “If you have sensitive skin and you’re concerned about a potential allergic reaction, I recommend opting for physical or mineral sunscreens instead; these are formulated with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, ingredients that are incapable of causing allergic reactions, but are just as effective in blocking UVA/UVB rays,” Dr. Palm explains.
    If you’re already using mineral sunscreen and still experiencing an allergic reaction, Dr. Palm says you might have a sensitivity to the fragrances or preservatives used in the formulation. You can try switching brands to a mineral sunscreen without those same fragrances or preservatives, but if you don’t want to practice trial and error with your sunscreen, Dr. Palm recommends seeing a dermatologist. They might perform patch skin testing to identify the exact cause of your contact allergy, eliminating the guesswork.

  • How often should you reapply sunscreen if you have sensitive skin?

    The rules of sunscreen application aren’t different for people with sensitive skin unless you, personally, have found you need to apply sunscreen more frequently than recommended. There’s not much harm in overapplying sunscreen except for clogging your pores, but obviously underapplying can have pretty painful consequences.
    The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests applying sunscreen every two hours at minimum, with more frequent applications when you’re swimming or sweating. Water resistant sunscreen should include the amount of time it will protect you for when wet; it’s typically 40 or 80 minutes, so make sure you know how long yours will last and reapply after that amount of time, not after two hours.

  • Why can applying sunscreen make your face burn?

    If you’re using a chemical sunscreen, your skin may be reacting to the ingredients. Chemical sunscreen ingredients are more likely to cause irritation than mineral sunscreens, per Dr. Ilyas, since they are only providing a physical barrier to the sun’s rays rather than absorbing into your skin.
    But even mineral sunscreens can cause irritation if they have a lot of added fragrances or inactive ingredients, so look for sunscreens with fewer allergy-causing ingredients. It could also be the method of application that’s irritating you; if you’ve been out in the sun for a while already, rubbing more product onto your face could be causing some discomfort. You might want to try a stick sunscreen, which glides over your skin, rather than a cream that has to be vigorously rubbed in.

Why Trust Verywell Health

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

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