The sunscreen industry nets around $1 billion per year, but health statistics indicate that people aren't using nearly enough of the stuff. In the past 10 years, the rate of skin cancer diagnoses among Americans has jumped by nearly a third and the melanoma incidence rate is up 159 percent [source: Butler]. A variety of factors has likely contributed to that spike, including tanning fads, poor-quality sunscreens and general skin care laziness.
For people with sensitive skin, adequately protecting themselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays is even more complicated. Thick, greasy lotions may trigger an acne breakout. Fragrances, dyes and alcohol might cause allergic reactions as well. Chemical sun blockers, such as oxybenzone, may also aggravate the skin. The growing sunscreen sector has taken these sensitivity factors into account, and there are now gentler options on the market. Some lotions now use natural physical sun blockers, including zinc oxide and titanium oxide, instead of irritating chemicals. Or, if breakouts are a problem, noncomedogenic sunscreens won't clog pores.
For a sampling of the best sensitive skin sunscreens and certain ingredients to look out for when shopping, these ten options cover a range of price points and applications.
10: Dermalogica Super Sensitive Faceblock
What it is: Dermalogica Super Sensitive Faceblock is an all-natural combination of zinc oxide, titanium oxide and other ingredients, including lavender, green tea and licorice. Fragrance- and color-free, the formula works for everyday facial skin care. It's also lightweight enough to wear under makeup.
SPF: The dermatologist-recommended SPF 30 rating should provide ample protection from UV rays.
How much it costs: Tightwads, beware. A 1.7-ounce (50-milliliter) bottle goes for between $40 and $50.
9: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock
What it is: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock is a lightweight, noncomedogenic lotion for total body protection from UVA and UVB rays. Its active ingredient is the physical blocker titanium oxide. People with extremely sensitive skin may want to take caution with applying this sunblock, especially around the eyes. The butylene glycol and cetyl alcohol in it may irritate the skin [source: Cosmetic Safety Database].
SPF: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock is SPF 30. Neutrogena also offers an SPF 60 sensitive skin sunscreen, although the difference in the amount of radiation it blocks is negligible.
How much it costs: A 4-ounce (118-milliliter) tube runs about $10.
8: Solbar AVO
What it is: Although physical sun blockers like zinc oxide and titanium oxide are often considered better for people with sensitive skin, they might not react well with all skin types. In that case, Solbar AVO protects from UVA rays with the active ingredient avobenzone (hence the AVO). Chemical blockers homosalate, octinoxate and oxybenzone defend against UVB rays. A non-greasy, noncomedogenic lotion, Solbar AVO promises to moisturize without clogging pores.
SPF: In case an SPF 30 doesn't seem strong enough, Solbar AVO adds an extra dash of protection with SPF 32.
How much it costs: A 4-ounce (118-milliliter) container runs about $15.
7: Hawaiian Tropic Oil Free Sensitive Skin Continuous Spray Lotion
What it is: Hawaiian Tropic Oil Free Sensitive Skin Continuous Spray Lotion may be a good option for people who have problems with acne breakouts [source: Suzman]. As a spray-on lotion, its noncomedogenic formula is easy to apply (and reapply if you're swimming or out in the sun for more than two hours). Take note, however, that this product contains the chemical sunblockers avobenzone and oxybenzone, which may irritate especially sensitive skin.
SPF: This Hawaiian Tropic product comes in SPF 50.
How much it costs: One of the more affordable sensitive skin sunscreens, a 6-ounce (177-milliliter) can fetches around $9.
6: Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen -- Sensitive
What it is: Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen is routinely cited by dermatologists as one of the best sunscreen options on the market. Its fragrance-free, sensitive skin formula uses zinc oxide and titanium oxide for nonchemical UV blockage. The Cosmetics Database from the Environmental Working Group also gives it high ratings for UVA, UVB and sunscreen stability. Its thick consistency takes a little more effort to rub in, but it also adheres to the skin more closely.
SPF: Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen for sensitive skin comes with an SPF 30.
How much it costs: A 5-ounce (147-milliliter) tube costs about $15.
5: Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid
What it is: Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen is made with titanium dioxide to defend against UVA rays. Manufacturer La Roche-Posay says this liquid is a special blend made with a patent-pending mineral sun filter and antioxidant complex called Cell-Ox Shield. One of the ingredients in this complex is actually a plant -- Senna Alata -- an evergreen shrub found in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and also in the southern United States. This sunscreen is para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)- and paraben-free and non-comedogenic to prevent skin irritation.
How much it costs: A 1.7-ounce (50-milliliter) container will cost about $30.
4: Vanicream Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 60
What it is: Vanicream Sensitive Skin Sunscreen is designed for those with ultrasensitive skin. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with zinc oxide as the main ingredient for providing extra UVA protection. Vanicream Sensitive Skin is manufactured free of dyes, PABA, oxybenzone, fragrances, lanolin, formaldehyde, parabens and preservatives. This sunscreen is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores and trigger blackheads or pimples in acne-prone skin. Vanicream Sensitive Skin Sunscreen claims to be safe for the entire family.
How much it costs: A 4-ounce (118-milliliter) container costs about $18.
3: Cotz Face Cotz Sensitive Skin Sunscreen
What it is: Cotz Face Cotz Sensitive Skin Sunscreen is a lotion made solely with multiple particle sizes of micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It has no parabens, oils, PABA or fragrances. Another benefit is that Cotz Face is reported to be very water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes [source: Lovely Skin]. The product is recommended especially for anyone who has had chemical peels or microdermabrasion [source: CosmeU].
How much it costs: A 1.5-ounce (44.3-milliliter) tube costs about $25.
2: Banana Boat Baby Tear-free Sunblock
What it is: Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Sunblock is made especially for a baby's delicate skin. It provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is hypoallergenic, PABA- and fragrance-free and waterproof. Importantly, the manufacturer says that if it gets in a child's eyes, it won't sting. This lotion is highly water resistant and is white in color, so parents can easily see if any skin is left unprotected. The active ingredients are Homosalate (15.0 percent), Octinoxate (7.5 percent), Octisalate (5.0 percent), Titanium Dioxide (2.4 percent) [source: EWG]. Banana Boat also makes a children's version. Be sure to ask a doctor before using this or any product on a child of six months or younger.
How much it costs: Eight ounces (236 milliliters) is just $10.
1: Cleure Natural Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
What it is: Cleure Natural Zinc Oxide Sunscreen is made with 100 percent pure shea butter, non-micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. To make sure it doesn't irritate sensitive skin, Cleure made this lotion free of parabens, gluten, salicylate, sulfates and fragrances. In fact, it's so gentle that it's not as effective at protecting the wearer from the sun's rays: The company recommends Cleure users wear a hat or shelter themselves with an umbrella and apply the sunscreen often. Cleure Natural is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. The lower SPF and overall protection may make this product best-suited for everyday, under-makeup wear rather than for a full day at the beach.
How much it costs: A 6-ounce (about 177.5-milliliter) tube costs $22.
Lots More Information
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- Amazon.com. "Cleure Sunscreen: Natural Mineral, Sensitive Skin, Sunscreen 6oz." http://www.amazon.com/Cleure-Sunscreen-Natural-Mineral-Sensitive/dp/B005F9XWFG
- Banana Boat. "Baby Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50 Lotion." (Jan. 17, 2012) http://www.bananaboat.com/products/10866.aspx?cat=2&curBrowseBy=Usage
- Banana Boat. "Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50 Lotion." (Jan. 17, 2012) http://www.bananaboat.com/products/10705.aspx?cat=2&curBrowseBy=Usage
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen.http://www.crownlaboratories.com/bluelizard/
- Butler, Kiera. "Sunscreen's Shady Business." Mother Jones. July/August 2009. (Aug. 4, 2009) http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/07/sunscreens-shady-business
- Cleure. "Cleure Natural Zinc Oxide Sunscreen." http://www.cleure.com/Natural-Sunscreen-p/ski10.htm?Click=6825
- Cosmetic Safety Database. " Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30." Environmental Working Group. (Aug. 4, 2009) http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/sunproduct.php?prod_id=218073¬hanks=1
- Cosmetic Safety Database. "Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen - Sensitive, SPF 30. Environmental Working Group. (Aug. 4, 2009) http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/sunproduct.php?prod_id=260583
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- Dermalogica. "Super Sensitive Faceblock SPF 30." (Aug. 4, 2009) http://www.dermalogica.com/us/products.html#/products/product-use/daylight-defense/super-sensitive-faceblock-spf30
- Drugstore.com. "Banana Boat Baby Sunblock, Tear Free SPF 50." (Jan. 14, 2012) http://www.drugstore.com/banana-boat-baby-sunblock-tear-free-spf-50/qxp169563
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- EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. "Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50." (Jan. 10, 2012) http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/384891/Banana_Boat_Baby_Tear-Free_Sunscreen_Lotion,_SPF_50/
- EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. "Fallene Cotz Face Cotz Sensitive Skin Sunscreen, SPF 40." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/388249/Fallene_Cotz_Face_Cotz_Sensitive_Skin_Sunscreen,_SPF_40/
- Fallene Skin Care. "Face Cotz SPF 40." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.falleneskincare.com/displayProducts.asp?criteria=27966
- InStyle Magazine. "Best 2009 Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin, Vanicream Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 60." (Jan. 15, 2012) http://www.instyle.com/instyle/best-beauty-buys/product/0,,20360920_20356420,00.html
- La Roche-Posay. "Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid." (Jan. 12, 2012) http://www.laroche-posay.us/_us/_en/consumer/catalog/ByType/Aging/anthelios-50-mineral-ultra-light-sunscreen-fluid.htm
- LovelySkin. "Fallene Face CoTZ SPF 40." http://www.lovelyskin.com/details.asp?PID=119289
- Merriam-Webster. "Comedogenic." (Jan. 12, 2012) http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/comedogenic
- SkinCareRX. "Solbar AVO SPF 32." (Aug. 4, 2009) http://skincarerx.com/Solbar-AVO-SPF-32.html
- Suzman, Leesa. "Match Your Sunscreen to Your Skin Type." San Francisco Chronicle. July 30, 2009. (Aug. 4, 2009) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/07/30/hearstmagbeauty476667.DTL
- United States Department of Agriculture. "PLANTS Profile -- Senna alata (L.) Roxb. Emperor's Candlesticks." (Jan. 10, 2012) http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SEAL4
- Walgreens. "Vanicream Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 60." (Jan. 7, 2012) http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/vanicream-sensitive-skin-sunscreen-spf-60/ID=prod5935977-product