Finding the Right Sunscreen for Eczema-Prone Skin

Sunscreen on orange background. Plastic bottle of sun protection and white cream in the form of question mark and numbers SPF. How to choose a sunscreen.

Key Points

  • Millions of people worldwide suffer from the chronic skin condition eczema.

  • The UV rays of sunlight can irritate eczema, making using sunscreen for eczema-prone skin critical.

  • Explore some of the top mineral-based sunscreen options for eczema sufferers.

Millions of people the world over know the irritation, discomfort, and itchiness of eczema (this includes over 31 million in the United States). This condition, sometimes called atopic dermatitis, is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. People with eczema often face unique challenges when it comes to skincare. No one should skimp on protecting their skin from the sun's UV radiation, but it's essential for eczema sufferers.

This article explores the importance of sunscreen for individuals with eczema, provides tips for choosing the right product, discusses different sunscreen formulations, offers guidance on how to apply sunscreen effectively without exacerbating eczema symptoms, and more. If you're seeking the best sunscreen for eczema-prone skin, you've come to the right place.

Why Eczema Sufferers Need Sunscreen

Eczema is a sensitive skin condition requiring careful attention and protection, including from the harmful UV radiation of sunlight. While it's true that some sunscreen ingredients can be potential irritants for those with eczema, the risks associated with unprotected sun exposure outweigh the potential drawbacks, making sunscreen for eczema-prone skin critical. Here are some reasons why individuals with eczema need sunscreen.

Sun exposure exacerbates eczema symptoms, increasing itching, redness, and inflammation. UV radiation also damages the skin's barrier function, leaving it even more vulnerable to irritants and allergens.

Prolonged sun exposure without protection increases the risk of skin cancer in everyone, including eczema sufferers. No evidence suggests that eczema increases the risk of skin cancer, but it can decrease your chances of spotting a cancerous growth on your skin if you're flaring up.

Eczema flare-ups can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, leaving behind dark spots on the skin. Sunscreen helps prevent further skin discoloration. UV radiation comprises UVA and UVB rays, which harm the skin. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, exacerbating eczema symptoms. On the other hand, UVB rays primarily cause sunburn and external damage, exacerbating eczema-related inflammation and dryness.

Choosing the right sunscreen minimizes the risk of allergic reactions. Opting for eczema-friendly sunscreens with suitable ingredients reduces the chances of skin irritation.

Eczema-Friendly Sunscreen Ingredients

Selecting the right sunscreen for eczema-prone skin means scrutinizing the ingredients list. If you're an eczema sufferer, here's a list of eczema-friendly ingredients to look for when shopping for sunscreen.

  • Physical (mineral) filters: Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are often gentler on sensitive skin. Instead of absorbing into the skin like chemical sunscreen and converting UV rays to heat, physical blockers sit on the skin's surface, reflecting UV rays harmlessly away.

  • Broad-spectrum protection: Ensure the sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays for comprehensive coverage.

  • Hypoallergenic: Look for sunscreens labeled hypoallergenic, formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions.

  • Fragrance-free: Fragrances can irritate sensitive skin, especially in eczema sufferers. Opt for fragrance-free sunscreens.

  • Non-comedogenic: Comedogenic ingredients, including many oils, clog pores, which worsens eczema inflammation and contributes to the accrual of dead skin cells. Look for sunscreens with non-comedogenic ingredients to keep eczema-prone skin as clear as possible.

Eczema-Irritant Sunscreen Ingredients

The following list includes ingredients to be wary of if you're an eczema sufferer. They're known to exacerbate eczema inflammation, irritation, and itchiness.

  • Oxybenzone: This chemical UV filter can be irritating for some individuals. It's best to avoid it if you suffer from eczema.

  • Parabens: Parabens have been "on the outs" with many major skincare manufacturers for several years due to their potential for irritation in all users. However, parabens are especially problematic for those with eczema.

  • Fragrance: For many eczema sufferers (and even non-sufferers with sensitive skin), fragrances are a cosmetic no-no. The chemicals that make fragrances "fragrant" trigger skin reactions in many people, especially eczema sufferers. Steer clear of sunscreens with added scents.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol has a drying effect on the skin, which is the last thing you want if you suffer from eczema. It can also cause an allergic reaction, so look for alcohol-free sunscreens.

Sunscreen Formulations To Consider

Choosing the right sunscreen formulation is crucial for individuals with eczema. The following list includes options tailored to different skin types and needs. Not every sunscreen featured here will be suitable for your unique skincare needs. Before using any new skincare product, patch test your skin with the product to gauge for sensitivity or allergic reaction. Also, consider consulting your doctor or other skincare professional.

  • Mineral sunscreens: These products use physical blockers, with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide being the most common in the category. Mineral sunscreens are generally suitable for sensitive skin, including eczema-prone skin.

  • Water-based sunscreens: Water-based sunscreens are often lighter in texture and are a good choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin in addition to eczema.

  • Creams and lotions: These thicker formulations provide added hydration, making them ideal for individuals with dry skin, a common symptom of eczema.

  • Sprays: Sunscreen sprays offer a convenient way to spread sunscreen evenly over your body. To get the application right, be mindful about spraying evenly to every part of the skin. Be cautious when using sprays in windy conditions.

  • Stick sunscreens: These products are convenient for on-the-go touch-ups and are easy to apply to specific areas, such as the face and neck.

Applying Sunscreen Without Exacerbating Eczema

Buying the right sunscreen for your eczema-prone skin is only part of the battle. The other, often more challenging, part is proper application to ensure you reap the maximum benefit and don't irritate or trigger your eczema.

To apply sunscreen effectively, start with clean, dry skin. Applying sunscreen over moisturized skin enhances the product's effectiveness and reduces potential irritation. Use a generous amount of sunscreen to ensure adequate coverage. A general guideline is about a teaspoon for the face and a shot glass-sized amount for the body.

When applying sunscreen anywhere on your body, use gentle patting motions rather than rubbing. Rubbing generates friction against the skin, creating irritation that can trigger or exacerbate eczema symptoms. Allow the sunscreen to absorb into your skin for at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors. Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you're swimming or sweating.

It's best to avoid high SPF values. Contrary to popular belief, high SPF values don't offer significantly better protection. SPF 30-50 is generally sufficient for most people.

Eczema and Outdoor Best Practices

In addition to using sunscreen, individuals with eczema should adopt sun protection habits for outdoor activities and sun exposure. Stay in the shade whenever possible, especially during peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses to shield your skin and eyes from the sun.

Be aware of the UV index in your area. Higher values indicate increased UV radiation, requiring more intensive sun protection. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from within. If you're active and sweating, consider a low-sugar electrolyte drink.

Tanning beds can be particularly harmful to individuals with eczema. If you're an eczema sufferer, steer clear of tanning beds. Perform regular skin self-examinations to monitor any changes or unusual moles. Consult a dermatologist immediately if you notice anything concerning.

Top Sunscreen Picks for Eczema Sufferers

Now that you know the importance of sunscreen and how to choose the right one, explore some of the top sunscreen picks for eczema-prone skin. Individual preferences may vary, so it's essential to patch-test any new product and consult with a dermatologist if you have specific concerns.

UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

by EltaMD

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EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient, offering broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. The gentle, non-comedogenic formulation sets it apart, making this sunscreen less likely to irritate or exacerbate eczema symptoms. The spray application makes it suitable for individuals with eczema who want adequate sun protection without the need for extensive rubbing or manipulation of the skin.

Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30

by Paula's Choice

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Paula's Choice Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30

Paula's Choice Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 combines mineral-based, broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays with skin-loving ingredients like antioxidants and soothing agents. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, a significant benefit for eczema sufferers. Moreover, the lightweight, non-comedogenic formula is suitable for sensitive skin, reducing the risk of irritation or pore blockage. Including gentle mineral sunscreen actives, such as zinc oxide, enhances its compatibility with eczema-prone skin.

The Silk Sunscreen SPF 50

by Tatcha

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Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen SPF 50

Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen SPF 50 combines mineral-based, broad-spectrum protection with skincare elements inspired by traditional Japanese beauty rituals. It features silk extract, which soothes and hydrates sensitive skin. The lightweight, non-comedogenic texture makes this sunscreen suitable for daily use without clogging pores or causing irritation.

Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

by Skinceuticals

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SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 is another mineral-based sunscreen formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, delivering reliable, broad-spectrum defense against harmful UVA and UVB rays. The lightweight, non-comedogenic formula minimizes the risk of pore-clogging and skin irritation, which is essential for sensitive individuals.

Environmental Shield City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
$69.00 ($40.59 / Fl Oz)

by Murad 

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02/24/2024 08:42 pm GMT

Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 boasts broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection. Its unique, mineral-based formula includes a potent antioxidant complex. These antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, soothe and protect sensitive skin while reducing inflammation, a crucial consideration for eczema. The lightweight, non-comedogenic texture won't exacerbate skin issues, and its added skin-brightening properties from vitamin C minimize the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a common concern for those with eczema.

Another Reason To Wear Your Sunscreen

In August 2023, researchers in the UK published a study that found sun exposure causes an imbalance in the skin's microbiome — the colonies of bacteria that live synergistically on the skin. This imbalance, the research suggests, could lead to or contribute to eczema or psoriasis.

Although no firm conclusions can be drawn from these results, the chief of the Division of Dermatology at The University of Kansas Health System, Dr. Adela Rambi G. Cardone, who was not involved with the study, stressed that the findings merit further research: "This study suggests that increased sun exposure, or at least tanning, during a sunny holiday, is associated with short-term shifts in the skin microbiome. Further studies need to be done to determine the underlying cause of this shift and the ultimate health implications."

Protect Your Skin, Protect Your Health

Protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays is essential, especially if you have eczema. While finding the right sunscreen for eczema-prone skin requires trial and error, the benefits far outweigh the potential drawbacks. You can enjoy outdoor activities without exacerbating your eczema by choosing the right sunscreen ingredients and formulations and applying them effectively.

Incorporate sun protection habits into your daily routine and consult a dermatologist for personalized advice. With the right approach, you can maintain healthy, beautiful skin and enjoy your time in the sun while managing your eczema effectively.

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