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Sunscreen 101: A Sensitive Skin Guide

With the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, sunscreen is an essential part of daily life in Australia. But what if your skin flares up every time you reach for the Factor 50? How do you choose the right sun protection for sensitive skin?

To help you enjoy some (responsible!) fun in the sun, La Roche-Posay’s skin care expert Rachel McAdam has tackled all your burning questions about sunscreen for sensitive skin.

Make this your essential summer reading!

What are the signs of a sunscreen reaction?

Redness, itching and general irritation can be signs – this can happen quite quickly after the application, or it can be delayed. Blocked pores and breakouts can also be a sign the texture is not right for your skin type.

If the reaction causes any concerns, seek medical advice from your pharmacist or dermatologist.

Which sunscreen ingredients can irritate sensitive skin?



Certain UV filters, fragrances and preservatives can be sensitisers. Generally, avoid fragrance and UV filters if you have a history of reacting to.

Could something else be causing redness?

Yes, there is a type of reaction that is caused by the sun, called polymorphic light eruption. This can easily be mistaken for a sunscreen reaction. PME occurs more often in women and commonly on the chest. It can take the form of a rash or even hives.

A background and history discussion with a healthcare professional is the best way to determine if the reaction is PME.

What else should you look for in a sunscreen for sensitive skin?

Firstly, look for the words ‘broad spectrum’. A broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both forms of UV radiation, UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are those responsible for premature ageing, including wrinkles and sun spots, while UVB rays are the rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. The SPF (sun protection factor) of a sunscreen refers to its ability to filter UVB rays only, so it’s important to go broad spectrum for total protection.

For the highest level of sun protection, always choose a SPF 50+ sunscreen. A SPF 50+ sunscreen filters out 98% of UVB radiation, and is the highest SPF available in Australia.

Your sunscreen should also always be dermatologically tested, as well as hypoallergenic. This means a product has a reduced risk of triggering a reaction in sensitive skin.

What about sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts?

Acne prone skins should always choose a non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) sunscreen, that also has a light and non-greasy texture. It’s vital not to skip sunscreen in an attempt to ‘dry out’ pimples by exposure to the sun.

This is not just risky behaviour, but can in fact trigger excess oil production.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF 50+ range for face and body offers the highest* UVA and UVB protection for all skin types, particularly sensitive and allergic skins.

All Anthelios products are dermatologically tested, with formulas for oily, dry and normal skin. The hypoallergenic formulas have been tested on the most sensitive skin, and contain La Roche-Posay’s soothing, mineral-rich thermal spring water.

For children, the Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ comes in a convenient spray that contains no fragrance or parabens, ensuring maximum tolerance for sensitive young skins.



*AS/NZS 2604:2012 “very high”
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