How to protect sensitive skin from the sun

If you have sensitive skin, finding the right sun protection can be quite a challenge. You want a product that doesn’t cause your skin to react and that feels good too. Read on to discover everything you need to know about SPF ingredients, so that you can find the best sun protection for sensitive skin.

Mineral vs. synthetic sunscreens for sensitive skin

Mineral sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens (also called physical sunscreens) contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the only actives. Both are very gentle ingredients, which are suitable for sensitive skin. They absorb into the skin’s surface layers where they deflect harmful UV rays. In the past, mineral SPF products were thick and opaque, making it difficult to find one that looked and felt good.

Fortunately, thanks to advances in product development, mineral SPF products have greatly improved in their look and feel. Paula's Choice has made use of these innovations, enabling us to offer these mineral sunscreens for sensitive skin:

  • CALM Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer for normal to dry skin (hydrating, soft texture + soothing plant extracts).
  • CALM Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer for normal to oily skin (lightweight, soothing formula that does not leave skin greasy or shiny).
  • RESIST Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 (the best tinted day cream with SPF for sensitive skin).

Synthetic sunscreens

Synthetic sunscreens (also called chemical sunscreens) also deflect harmful UV rays, but work by converting UV rays into heat, deactivating them before they can damage your skin. Many synthetic sunscreens will contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone.

This type of sunscreen generally feels lighter on the skin and doesn’t leave a white finish, which is why it is a popular choice for SPF products. However, synthetic actives can cause sensitizing reactions in some people. This is why we (and dermatologists around the world) recommend mineral sunscreens for sensitive skin.

To clarify: synthetic sunscreens are fine for most people to use, but if you have sensitive or redness-prone skin, it’s best to avoid using them.

Why fragrance-free sunscreens are better for sensitive skin

It’s also worth pointing out that fragrances are often used to hide the smell of sunscreen ingredients. This is bad news for every skin type, but especially for sensitive skin. The way in which fragrances release their scent almost always causes a skin reaction (whether you see it or not). Research has proven that fragrance in skincare is one of the main causes of skin irritation.

All Paula's Choice products, including our day creams with SPF, are fragrance-free – something we wholeheartedly stand by.


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Combination skin, Oily skin
Combination skin, Oily skin

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