A sun allergy (or ‘photosensitivity’) can put a damper on your ability to enjoy the sun. If you’re allergic to sunlight, effective sun protection is a must to ensure you can live life on your own terms.
There are two main types of photosensitive reaction that your skin may experience:
- Phototoxic reactions occur within minutes or hours of sun exposure
- Photoallergic reactions are observed as long as 1-3 days after the exposure
Regardless of the reaction type – it’s unpleasant. However, these reaction don’t mean you have to spend your life hiding away from the sun. You just need to be picky and vigilant with your sun protection. This will include products like UV clothing, hats, and sunglasses along with behaviours like seeking shade when possible and avoiding peak UV times (like the middle of the day).
But some skin will still be exposed. This requires serious research to find an effective and durable sunscreens that will provide your skin with immense protection it needs to prevent an allergic reaction to the sun.
Don’t worry, the task isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Let me help you in your search!
After extensive research into how to properly protect skin with sun allergies, SimplySunSafe recommends thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best sunscreen for sun allergy. Please read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for sun allergy.
Your photosensitive skin shouldn’t be made to suffer in the sun. To be sure that you’re receiving the optimal protection, search for these must-have features in your sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
What does broad spectrum protection mean? It means that you are receiving balanced protection against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. This is important because each type of ray works differently.
UVB rays are the ones you’re most likely aware of. They cause burning or tanning by damaging the outer layer of your skin.
UVA rays are the more dangerous rays, which cause premature aging by altering DNA in the deepest layer of your skin (the dermis).
The bad news is that exposure to both types of rays increases your risk of skin cancer. The good news is that you can take measures to prevent unnecessary exposure by using a broad spectrum sunscreen!
It’s a no-brainer with your extra vulnerable, photosensitive skin!
Finding a broad spectrum sunscreen is easy as it should be labeled as such (‘Broad Spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB Protection’). If you don’t see this on the packaging, look at the ingredients list for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to make sure you’ll get the protection you’ll need.
Alternatively, just pick one of the SimplySunSafe recommendations below – these sunscreens have all of the necessary features to protect those with sun allergies.
Best SPF for Sun Allergy
It’s time for you to be let in on the secret workings of the Sun Protection Factor (SPF).
The SPF is one of those notoriously elusive concepts that everyone seems to rely on despite a lack of full understanding. You do not need to stay in the dark (or the shade) anymore!
The SPF tells you what fraction of the sun’s rays will reach your skin if you have properly applied the product. Simple enough, right? If you’re wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, then only 1/50th of the sun’s rays will reach your skin.
The catch is that there are many factors which influence the effectiveness of SPF, including time of day, amount of properly applied sunscreen, and even reflections from surfaces like sand and water.
So needless to say, you must still be careful. Be sure not to get confused, especially with your sun allergy. Wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 does not mean that you can stay in the sun 50 times longer than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.
Check out this table below. Now that you know how SPF works, take a look to see how much protection you get with different ratings:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Asking yourself what all the hype was about? You can see that there really is very little difference between an SPF of 30 and one of 100.
When it comes to your sun allergy, however, it may be wiser to stick with slightly higher SPFs, just to provide your skin with a little extra protection.
Generally, SimplySunSafe agrees with the American Association of Dermatologists who assert that you should choose sunscreens with SPFs no lower than 30 and no higher than 50.
So sunscreens with SPFs closer to 50 will be good choices for your sun allergy.
Whatever SPF you decide to go with, be sure that you are on top of reapplying your sunscreen at least every two hours for prime and proper protection!
Physical is better than chemical
The debate between chemical and physical products extends to sunscreen, as well.
The differences between these sunscreen categories lie in their active ingredients and in the ways they work to protect your skin.
Simply put, chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays as they reach your skin. While physical sunscreens reflect UV rays before they reach your skin. Which method sounds like a better choice for your photosensitive skin?
There are many other reasons to choose physical sunscreens over chemical ones. Physical sunscreens:
- Work immediately upon application
- Last longer
- Are less likely to cause irritation (ideal for sun allergy)
- Have a longer shelf life
Do these reasons have you convinced? If not, consider this:
Chemical sunscreens often contain ingredients that mess with your hormones. Just think what that could mean for your sun allergy, not to mention the rest of your body, in general!
Stay away from the worst of these chemicals, oxybenzone. Although the FDA has expressed concerns, it is still legal. Make sure you check ingredients lists and avoid this one!
Zinc oxide as active ingredient
Zinc oxide is somewhat of a superstar when it comes to sun protection. It is the active ingredient that you can depend on the most. It provides protection against the full range of UVA/B rays so you know you’re properly covered.
The reason to consider having it as an active ingredient in your sun allergy sunscreen is that it is an extremely gentle substance. Not only will you be receiving the best possible sun protection, but you will rest assured that your already sensitive skin will not be furthered inflamed.
Suitable for daily use
If you have sun allergy, then you know that it simply is not possible to spend time in the sun without using sufficient protection. Wearing hats and UV protective clothing is great, but skipping sunscreen will leave the exposed areas of your skin suffering.
That’s why you need to search for a sunscreen that will fit well into your daily skincare routine. It will need to be effective yet gentle enough to be used daily on your face and body.
Since you’ll be using it everyday, you may want to consider whether or not you plan to use it under makeup, or if you want to find one sunscreen to use all over your face and body.
Like I mentioned before, you need to consider what your daily routine is. Do you want to find a product that you’ll be able to wear without having traces left on your skin?
If that’s the case for you, then you want to spend some time searching for sunscreens that provide an invisible finish. That way you’ll be able to protect your skin properly without feeling burdened by a white cast on your skin.
Sensitive skin or baby formula
It is safe to say that your skin is particularly sensitive if you experience sun allergy. For that reason, you want to find sunscreens that provide specialized protection.
There are two main categories to spend your time testing. There are many sunscreens designed specifically for sensitive skin and also specifically for babies. While sensitive skin formulas may seem like the obvious choice, don’t rule out the baby formula option.
Sunscreens designed specifically for babies are often even more gentle than sensitive skin formulas, while providing sufficient protection.
Best Sunscreen for Sun Allergy Comparison
|thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen||Vanicream Sunscreen||Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral||Blue Lizard Sensitive||California Baby Super Sensitive|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) & Titanium Dioxide (3.4%)||Zinc Oxide (14.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (2%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Titanium Dioxide (12%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes||None||80 minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens for Sun Allergy
After thorough consideration and research into what is needed to accommodate your sun allergy which included discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has compiled a list of the 5 best sunscreens for sun allergy.
Each sunscreen provides physical, broad spectrum protection with an SPF rating of 30 or greater. They are all suitable for daily use with options with invisible finish, as well!
SimplySunSafe’s first choice for protection of your skin with sun allergy is thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+. With this sunscreen, you receive broad spectrum protection with a high concentration of active ingredient zinc oxide (20%).
If you’re looking for the safest choice for your skin, then thinkbaby may be the one. It was the first sunscreen to pass the Whole Foods premium care requirements. The formula is thick and will require some rubbing in, leaving a slight white cast.
This may be a drawback for you, or you can just consider it a reminder of excellent protection!
Thinkbaby sunscreen is a great option that can be used if you take part in outdoor exercise or plan to spend a lot of time outside in the hotter months, as it provides 80 minutes of water resistance!
The higher SPF rating also provides a bit of extra cushioning for your skin, especially if you’re of a paler tone.
You will find that using this sunscreen daily on your face and body will protect your skin without further irritating your sun allergy.
- High concentration of zinc oxide
- Suitable for daily use
- 80 minutes of water resistance
- Slight white cast
Vanicream Sunscreen is another awesome option for sun allergy. This sunscreen doesn’t have such a high concentration of zinc oxide (6%), but it combines its protection with another strong ingredient titanium dioxide (3.4%).
Vanicream is ideal for use on sensitive skin, which will serve you well as you try to protect your skin against sun allergy flare-ups. The formula is very thick and works wonders for dry skin!
Vanicream doesn’t work so well under makeup because it’s so thick, however, you will not be left with a white cast. So weigh the good and the bad before you decide.
Another helpful thing about Vanicream is that it also provides 80 minutes of water resistance, making it usable in various climates and throughout the year!
- No white cast
- 80 minutes of water resistance
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Not good under makeup
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral is worth working into your test trial run. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection with a combination of a high level of zinc oxide (14.5%) and titanium dioxide (2%).
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral was designed with extreme sensitivity in mind and is fragrance free. The formula is quite thick, will need effort to rub in well, and leaves a slight white cast.
However, it does sit well under makeup so you can cover up the white cast, if you’d like.
Another option to last you throughout the year, Alba Botanica provides 80 minutes of durable water resistance. This is a great layer of extra insurance protection just in case you find yourself sweating in the sun.
Your skin and sun allergy will thank you for using this gentle and nourishing formula on your face and body everyday!
- High concentration of zinc oxide
- 80 minutes of water resistance
- Great for daily use
- Will leave white cast (can be covered with makeup)
Blue Lizard Sensitive is a SimplySunSafe favorite, and for good reason! This formula provides broad spectrum protection with a reasonable concentration of zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5%).
Blue Lizard Sensitive may be the best option for you if you have extremely sensitive skin. This formula is so gentle that you will forgot that you applied it! Just be sure to stay on top of reapplication because Blue Lizard does not provide water resistance.
Using this product every day on your face and body will not cause any extra irritation to your sun allergy, in fact its formula may actually help in conditioning your sensitive skin.
Blue Lizard is an excellent option for you if you’re interested in an invisible finish!
- No white cast
- Safe for face and body
- No water resistance
SimplySunSafe’s final recommendation is California Baby Super Sensitive. This sunscreen does not contain zinc oxide, but provides strong broad spectrum protection with its active ingredient titanium dioxide (12%).
You can take one look at this sunscreen’s name and guess just how gentle it must be! A baby sunscreen specifically for sensitive skin. Your sun allergy is safe with California Baby Super Sensitive.
You can spend time swimming or exercising outdoors, protected by 80 minutes of water resistance with California Baby Super Sensitive. It works well under makeup, and you may find that you need it because this product does leave a bit of a white cast, if you don’t rub it in properly!
California Baby is a great option for you or for the children in your life experiencing sun allergy!
- Extremely sensitive
- 80 minutes of water resistance
- Designed for children
- May leave white cast
- No zinc oxide
This guide was written to help you find the best sunscreen for sun allergy. Hopefully, by reading this guide, you learned more about how to manage your sun allergy, and found a product that fits your specific needs.
SimplySunSafe recommends thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+, but all 5 listed products will provide you with sufficient and gentle protection.
Now is the time that you want to start testing different formulas to learn how your skin will react. Then you will be able to make the most informed decision about which sunscreen is the right fit for your skin and lifestyle.
I’m always interested in learning and hearing about different products from my peers. If you use or know of another sunscreen that works well for sun allergy, share it in the comments. I’ll be sure to check it out and it might even make it to the list!
If you’d like sunscreen recommendations for other skin conditions, SimplySunSafe has a range of guides including sunscreen for allergies, PMLE sunscreen, and lupus sunscreen. Just go to the top of this page and search for a condition to find the recommendations you’re looking for.