Your eyes are one of the most important parts of your body. Your eyelids and the skin around your eyes is the thinnest on your face (up to 10% thinner than skin in other areas) and least resilient in general, which means that it is very vulnerable to UV damage.
When you go shopping for sunscreen, you’ll find that many say that the sunscreen should not be applied near or in the eyes. This can make you think that your eyelids and the other skin around your eyes are not meant to be covered, or do not need to be covered with sunscreen.
Like many others, I unknowingly assumed that my eyes and their surrounding skin were being protected from UV rays by my sunglasses. I learned that this is only partially true! The effectiveness of protection against UV rays provided by sunglasses depends on many factors which are not standardized, like the size and shape of the glasses.
While wearing sunglasses may protect your eye area from UV rays to some extent, the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you apply a broad spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen to your eyelids and the exposed skin around your eyes, in addition to wearing sunglasses, hats, and seeking shade when you are outside.
After learning that my sunglasses were not protecting me from UV rays in the way I thought they were, I began researching to understand more about how to properly protect my eyes and the area around them. I realized that the most important thing for me to do was to find an effective sunscreen which will not cause irritation to my sensitive skin and that I can wear around my eyes every day.
After comprehensive research on the skin around the eyes and the requirements for sunscreen to be effective without causing irritation, SimplySunSafe recommends EltaMD SPF 47 UV Pure Broad Spectrum as the best sunscreen for eyes. Keep reading for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and thorough reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for eyes.
To be sure that the skin surrounding your eyes is sufficiently protected, you should search for a few essential features in your sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
The harmful radiation that comes from sunlight is broken down into two types. UVA radiation modifies the DNA of deep skin cells, causing advanced aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin, and higher risk of skin cancer. UVB radiation causes sunburn, the visible skin damage we are all know and try to avoid.
The eyelids and other skin surrounding your eyes is extremely thin and therefore more susceptible to damage from both UVA and UVB rays. In fact, the eyelids are one of the most probable regions for nonmelanoma skin cancers.
While sunglasses may provide some coverage and protection against UVB rays, they are certainly not suitable, on their own, to provide protection to the skin around the eyes against both UVA and UVB radiation.
To ensure the highest level of protection and prevention of UV damage to the eye area, you need to wear a sunscreen that delivers holistic coverage. Broad spectrum sunscreens provide protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. Sunscreens that are not specified as broad spectrum provide defense against only UVB radiation, which is inadequate protection.
Broad spectrum sunscreens are the safest and only logical option!
Best SPF for Eyes
Despite being visually bombarded with sun protection factor (SPF) labels in the sunscreen aisle every summer, it seems that the general understanding of the meaning of SPF is more of a vague idea rather than specific knowledge. In order to make an informed decision about which sunscreen you should buy, it really helps to fully understand SPF. So, what is SPF and what do the different SPF levels mean?
SPF refers to the fraction of sunlight that is allowed to reach your skin while protected. So SPF 15 lets through 1/15 of the sunlight and SPF lets though 1/30th of the sunlight. This, theoretically, allows you to calculate the amount of time a sunscreen will protect you. So SPF 15 sunscreen should protect you for 15 times your normal resistance (how long it takes you to burn without sunscreen).
Did you get that? It’s a bit tricky, I know. Let me give you an example. If you burn without sunscreen in 20 minutes, then an SPF 30 sunscreen is formulated to protect you for 600 minutes.
But be careful not to let the SPF level lull you into a false sense of security. Even sunscreens with SPF 50 must be reapplied at least every two hours in order to ensure you are protected. Remember, if you are sweating or you get wet from swimming or other water activities, then you may need to reapply sunscreen before the two hour mark.
Sun-protective clothing and trying to find shady areas are not things to sacrifice just because you’re wearing sunscreen with a high SPF level. When it comes to exposure to the sun, you want to protect yourself as much as possible!
When relying on SPF as an indicator for sunscreen quality, there are a few issues that you must be aware of:
- SPF is only referring to UVB radiation and does not indicate protection against UVA radiation. You must make sure to find sunscreens with the right active ingredients to ensure sufficient protection against both types of radiation (more below).
- The time ‘protected’ from the sun calculated from the SPF rating is not reliable. The effectiveness of every sunscreen also depends on the thickness of the layer applied and the sunlight’s intensity at any given time. When considering these factors, you realize that you cannot accurately predict the amount of time for which the sunscreen will protect you.
- Although it may be a logical assumption, SPF 30 does not provide twice the amount of protection that is provided by SPF 15 (see the table below).
An easier way to understand SPF ratings is to see how much UVB radiation is obstructed. This way, you have a clearer idea of how protected you are:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
When you look at this table, SPF rating becomes much easier to understand. It shows you that from SPF 30 and beyond you are very well-protected and additional SPF doesn’t offer that much more protection.
Since there is such small advantage to using SPFs beyond 30, the FDA caps SPF ratings at 50+ so that people are not misled to believe that a sunscreen with SPF 100 is far more effective than one with SPF 30. Percentage of UVB protection on sunscreen bottles would be a lot clearer, right?
Now that you understand the meaning of SPF, you can apply the knowledge to your search for the best sunscreen for eyes. Although the Skin Cancer Foundation, asserts that SPF 15+ is sufficient in sunscreen for eyes, most experts recommend sunscreens with at least an SPF 30 rating, for all skin areas. Why not search for a sunscreen for your eyes that gives you that little bit of extra UVB radiation protection? It certainly can’t hurt!
Physical not chemical
Did you know that different sunscreens work in different ways to protect you from UV radiation? Physical sunscreens work like mirrors by reflecting the light away from your skin before harmful radiation reaches its surface. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens work as sponges in the skin, allowing the light into the skin and absorbing the harmful radiation before it can harm you. But let’s be clear, these different defense mechanisms do not result in the same protection!
Research proves that physical sunscreens work better than chemical ones overall because they block more light from reaching the skin and supply protection against more of the UV spectrum. A physical sunscreen will block as much light as possible from the sensitive skin around your eyes.
Other important benefits of using physical sunscreens are that they have a longer shelf life, last longer after you apply them to your skin, and work immediately, meaning no 20-30 minute wait before heading out into the sun.
Another reason why physical sunscreens are the best option for the eye area is because they are less likely to cause irritation, which on such sensitive skin is very important!
Besides the obvious benefits of physical sunscreens, there are also some important reasons to avoid chemical sunscreens. A lot of the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are things called endocrine disruptors. That sounds complicated, doesn’t it? When put simply, it means that these ingredients mess with your hormones when they are absorbed into your skin. You definitely don’t want that!
There is one specific chemical ingredient that you need to add to your blacklist right away, and it’s called oxybenzone. It is known that oxybenzone acts like estrogen in the human body, is associated with endometriosis in women, and alters sperm production in animals.
Despite these facts, it is one of the most common chemical ingredients in sunscreens produced by major manufacturers. EWG, an important human health authority, recommends that products containing oxybenzone be avoided at all costs.
When you are searching for a sunscreen, look for ones that are labeled ‘physical’ or ‘mineral.’ To be extra careful, or if you are having trouble finding specifically labeled sunscreens, check the ingredients for high levels of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. And remember, no oxybenzone!
Zinc oxide preferable to titanium dioxide
Zinc oxide has been proven, through research, to be a more effective active ingredient in physical sunscreens than titanium dioxide. Studies show that the reason for its higher level of effectiveness is that is provides broader protection against the UVA spectrum.
Physical sunscreens with zinc oxide have also proven to cause less breakouts than those with titanium dioxide or chemical sunscreens. This is important to take into consideration when searching for the best sunscreen for under eyes. The face is naturally prone to irritation and breakouts, and because the skin around your eyes is the most sensitive of all, it is important to use the gentlest possible products to protect this area.
Is an SPF-rated moisturizer enough?
When choosing products to be applied to the face, we often head straight for moisturizers, assuming these will cover our facial skincare needs. If your goal is to be protected against dangerous radiation from the sun, however, a moisturizer may not be sufficient.
Before deciding to rely on a moisturizer to protect you against the sun, make sure to check its active ingredients. Although the packaging may boast SPF protection, you need to search for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide in high concentrations. If the combined concentration of these ingredients is under 10% then the product will not provide you with proper broad spectrum protection.
Depending on your daily activities and your natural skin type, you may find that the skin on your face becomes oily or sweaty throughout the day. If this is the case, then you may be interested in trying to find sunscreens for the eyes which also provide water-resistance, in order to avoid loss of protection and possible irritation of the eyes from the product.
You know how your skin changes and reacts throughout your days. When searching for a sunscreen for the eyes, especially if it is intended for everyday use, be sure to think about whether or not water-resistance is important for your eye area throughout your day.
The best sunscreen for sensitive eyes is one that will not run into the eyes. Some of the sunscreens for eyes that I have recommended below are water-resistant to cater to your needs and provide you with options.
Suitable for the face and daily use
Sunscreens that are meant for the eye area must be designed to protect the sensitive skin without damaging or irritating it. As the skin around the eyes is more susceptible to UV damage, you will want to protect it from the sun every day. In order to do that, you need a sunscreen that will be gentle on the sensitive area skin, even when applied daily.
The products I have recommended address the need for sun protection while still being gentle. They have been carefully considered based on their ingredients and should not cause irritation when used daily, even on people with the most sensitive skin. They are also suitable for use as a sunscreen for under makeup.
Best Sunscreen for Eyes Comparison
|EltaMD UV Pure||Juice Beauty Mineral Moisturizer||Blue Lizard Sensitive||California Baby Super Sensitive||Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Titanium Dioxide (12%)||Titanium Dioxide (7%) & Zinc Oxide (6%)|
|Invisible finish||Yes||Tinted (3 tones)||Yes||Yes (when applied properly)||Yes|
|Water resistant||80 minutes||No||No||80 minutes||No|
5 Best Sunscreens for Eyes
After in-depth research which included discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for eyes. Each of these sunscreens provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater. They do not contain oxybenzone and all 5 are suitable for daily use.
EltaMD SPF 47 UV Pure Broad Spectrum Sunscreen is exactly what we want and need in a sunscreen meant for our eyes. This physical sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through the combination of active ingredients zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%). It is purposely designed to be used effectively on all skin types.
The formula of this sunscreen is gentle, lightweight, lightly-scented, and water-resistant (80 minutes). This combination makes it the ideal sunscreen to be applied on a daily basis. The formula can leave a whitish cast on your skin, but only if not rubbed in properly.
Irritation will definitely not be a problem when you use this sunscreen because it is non-comedogenic and free from parabens, fragrances, oils, dyes, hormones, and gluten.
When you want to protect your eye area from harmful UV radiation, you want a product that will fit into your daily routine and life. EltaMD UV Pure is absorbed quickly after application, provides 80 minute water-resistance for use in your daily exercise routine, does not leave a white residue when rubbed in, and will not run from sweat and irritate your eyes and the skin around them.
Not only is this product very reasonably priced, but it covers all the categories considered when searching for a sunscreen for eyes which is suitable for daily use. This product is the winner when it comes to the best sunscreen for under eyes!
It also takes the cake as the best sunscreen for nose, so it offer awesome protection for more than one area of the face.
- High SPF
- 80-minute water resistance
- Lightweight formula
- Lower levels of active ingredients
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer is a physical moisturizer which provides broad spectrum sun protection using a high concentration (20%) of Zinc Oxide. Its main purpose as a facial moisturizer means that it is the perfect product to use to ensure that your eyes are properly protected from harmful UV radiation.
This product feels slightly heavy in your hands, as it has a high concentration of zinc oxide, but blends in effortlessly to your skin, leaving you with light and hydrating coverage. The tint in the moisturizer works well to counter the whitish color that can often be left by zinc oxide products.
Juice Beauty Mineral Moisturizer is available in 3 tints (Ivory, Sand, and Tan). You can check out the swatches below to pick the one that will best match the shade of your skin. This will allow this moisturizer to seamlessly integrate with your daily beauty routine as it forms a flawless base for other cosmetics.
This product has a slight earthy fragrance, which will be inconsequential to the experience of wearing the product, as it fades quickly after application.
You will not have to worry about irritation of the sensitive skin around the eyes because Juice Beauty Mineral Moisturizer is formulated without parabens, petroleum, pesticides, artificial dyes, or synthetic fragrances.
This product also includes sunflower oil, aloe leaf juice, resveratrol grape juice, apple juice, and malic acid. All of these ingredients provide moisture and promote beautiful, radiant skin, while the active ingredients simultaneously provide you with broad spectrum sun protection.
Juice Beauty Mineral Moisturizer is slightly pricey, but it will give you peace of mind, knowing that you have a product that is ideal for everyday use, which will provide your sensitive eye area and the rest of your face with gentle, yet effective broad spectrum protection. Not to mention you will be left looking glowingly radiant all day!
- 3 tint options
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Moisturizing ingredients
- Slightly expensive
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 30+ is comprised of all the necessary features to make it a nearly ideal sunscreen for eyes. It is a physical sunscreen, providing broad spectrum protection, whose main active ingredients are zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5%). Its purposeful design for sensitive skin means that you will be able to wear it daily without experiencing irritation.
This product is a thick lotion which blends in well with your skin. The lotion is white, but becomes clear once you blend it into your skin. It may leave your skin looking a bit shiny, but if it bothers you, it’s nothing that a little makeup can’t balance!
The thin and sensitive skin around the eyes will be protected from UV radiation and irritation with this product. It is free from chemicals, parabens, fragrances, and PABA. Blue Lizard Sensitive is purposely designed to provide you with gentle yet excellent broad spectrum protection. People with sensitive skin are satisfied with this product because it does not irritate their skin or burn their eyes when applied in the sensitive, yet crucial eye area.
An extra feature of this product is that the bottle turns blue when there are harmful UV rays present. What a great alert and reminder! The bottle will turn to deeper and deeper blue depending on the strength of the dangerous UV rays. You definitely won’t forget to reapply when your bottle starts turning dark blue!
This dermatologist recommended product is reasonably priced due to its prime broad spectrum protection for sensitive skin. Based on customer feedback, it’s gentle yet effective formula and cosmetic feel make it a favorite!
- Formulated for sensitive skin
- Smooth, cosmetic texture
- Bottle turns blue in UV light
- Lower levels of active ingredients
California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ Sunscreen is a great option for protecting the sensitive areas around your eyes. This physical sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through the active ingredient titanium dioxide (12%). Experts highly regard this product for broad spectrum protection of sensitive skin, which makes it a solid choice for the thin and sensitive skin around your eyes.
This product, crafted to protect even super sensitive skin, is hypoallergenic, mineral-based, unfragranced and PABA-free. The formula is very gentle on your skin and also will not sting your eyes, if you rub some in by accident.
The super sensitive, unscented formula is a thicker lotion which may leave a whitish cast on your skin. Just be sure to take your time rubbing it in! California Baby Super Sensitive is water resistant (80 minutes) so daily sweating or oiliness won’t cause the product to run into your eyes. This formula is really great for everyday use because it is non-greasy and can be used as a base for makeup. This means it won’t interfere with your daily face routine!
Though this product is a little pricey, customers are highly satisfied due to its protection effectiveness, daily usability, and protection of super sensitive skin. I have listed this product towards the bottom of my list only due to its main ingredient being titanium dioxide rather than zinc oxide. However, this is also an excellent choice as a sunscreen for your eyes!
- Designed for sensitive skin
- 80-minute water resistance
- No zinc oxide
- Less durable water resistance
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector SPF 50 is another excellent option when searching for sunscreen for your eyes. This physical formula provides broad spectrum protection with the main active ingredients titanium dioxide (7%) and zinc oxide (6%).
This product is a lightweight formula comprised not only of high quality physical ingredients for proper broad spectrum sun protection, but also of multi-antioxidants which help to neutralize the environmental damage to your skin.
This formula will not irritate the sensitive areas around your eyes because it is fragrance-free, oil-free, non-comedogenic, and non-acnegenic. Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector was developed by dermatologists and contains other ingredients including vitamin E and green tea which promote healthy skin.
User feedback on this sunscreen is very positive. Some people suggest it is the only product you need to use on your face based on its effective it is on their skin. This is obviously amazing, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a perfect fit for you.
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector is great in terms of not irritating the thin skin around your eyes. One thing to note about this product is that it blends into your skin much better with a makeup brush than with your fingers.
Although it sounds perfect, customers do note that because it is not water-resistant, this product may run if you are doing activities that cause you to sweat. For that reason, in the summer, you must be sure to reapply this product often to the sensitive skin around your eyes and to your whole face.
Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector SPF 50 is reasonably priced if you use it as an all-in-one face solution, especially considering its natural, skin-enhancing ingredients. However, as just a sunscreen, it’s a little on the expensive side. If it’s a little out of your price range, using it exclusively around your eyes will make a small bottle last for a considerable period.
- Transparent finish
- Lightweight formula
- Not water resistant
This guide was written for all who are searching for the best sunscreen for eyes. Hopefully, by reading this guide you’ve learned what to look for and have found a sunscreen that will fit your needs!
SimplySunSafe recommends EltaMD SPF 47 UV Pure Broad Spectrum, however, all 5 of our listed sunscreens will provide sufficient protection for the skin around your eyes. It is always a good idea to test a few products in order to find the one that works the best for your specific skin. Once you test a few, you’ll be able to choose one to keep as your day-to-day sunscreen and feel confident about the protection of your eye area.
I always love to hear tips and learn new things from others. So if you use or know of any other sunscreens that are great for the sensitive skin around our eyes, please let me know in the comments so I can check it out and maybe add it to this list!