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Summer is almost here! That means more time spent hiking, at the beach, or wherever you go when the weather’s nice. Whatever you’re doing though, it’s important to always use sun protection.
When you have sensitive and acne-prone skin, choosing the right sunscreen brand and knowing which ingredients are safe and which to avoid can be difficult. The FDA has confirmed that certain ingredients found in sunscreen can permeate the skin and absorb into the bloodstream, making it especially important to take care when selecting a sunscreen.
What Ingredients Should I Avoid When Choosing Sunscreen?
Octinoxate & Oxybenzone – These organic compounds are commonly found in sunscreen. They have been banned in several travel destinations such as Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of the damage they cause to marine ecosystems. Both are common allergens and have been known to cause contact dermatitis and to worsen eczema. If you’re struggling with acne and skin irritation of any kind, choosing sunscreen that is labeled as “reef-safe” or “eco-friendly” can help both the environment and your skin!
Nanoparticled Titanium Dioxide – While titanium dioxide (TiO2) is safe to use, according to the National Library of Medicine, “TiO2 nanoparticles predominantly cause adverse effects via induction of oxidative stress resulting in cell damage, genotoxicity, inflammation, immune response etc.” If titanium dioxide is listed as an ingredient in your sunscreen, be sure that it does not say “nanoparticles” next to it and you are good to go!
Avobenzone – Avobenzone is another commonly used ingredient in sunscreen that has been known to cause contact dermatitis. It is also known to cause pimples on acne-prone and sensitive skin.
What Ingredients Are OK?
Phenoxyethanol (in concentrations greater than 1%) – This preservative is often used in sunscreens and other cosmetic products. In small concentrations it is considered a safe ingredient, but it can cause skin irritation. If you have acne-prone skin, it is best to avoid using sunscreen that contains phenoxyethanol directly on your face.
Zinc Oxide – Studies have shown that Zinc Oxide is safe and that ZnO nanoparticles do not penetrate the skin.
The Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin
Best Face Sunscreen: MyChelle Dermaceuticals SPF 28
This mineral-based sunscreen from MyChelle Dermaceuticals provides a nice matte finish and is free of harmful ingredients and potential irritants. I like to use it on my face because it does not clog pores like most sunscreens do. It works well for both body and face, but please note that it is not water resistant, so if you’re a swimmer it may not be the best choice for you.
Best Spray Sunscreen: Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
This highly-rated spray sunscreen from Neutrogena is water resistant and goes on clean without an oily residue. If you’re a fan of water activities or are planning a beach vacation, this sunscreen is a must!
Best High SPF Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Sunscreen SPF 100
If you have a fair complexion and need a high SPF for maximum sun coverage, then this sunscreen from La Roche-Posay is for you! I recently used this sunscreen and was impressed to see that it actually did “melt” in pretty well. However, if you have sensitive skin you should avoid using this product on your face because it contains a small amount of phenoxyethanol.