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Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so sunscreen is an essential part of daily life Down Under. But what if your skin reacts 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 tackles questions about sunscreen for sensitive skin.

What Are The Signs of a Sunscreen Reaction?

Some people may have a reaction to a fragrance, preservative, UV absorber or another component of the sunscreen. 

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can look like a skin rash or a heat rash with red itchy, irritated skin, often with other concerns such as bumps or scaly skin. 

A reaction to sunscreen could be triggered quickly after applying it, or it may delayed and appear days later. 

If you experience a skin reaction you believe may be caused by sunscreen, seek medical advice preferably from a dermatologist who will be able to test and provide you with recommendations.
If your skin reaction is blocked pores and breakouts, then it could be that the sunscreen formula, consistency and texture you are using is not suitable for your skin type.


Which Sunscreen Ingredients Can Irritate Sensitive Skin?

Certain UV filters, fragrances and preservative ingredients can irritate sensitive skin. Avoid specific sunscreens UV filters if you have a history of reacting to them.

Skin sensitivity is unique to each individual. What causes one person with sensitive skin to react may have no effect on other person with allergy prone skin.

If you have sensitive skin you should choose a sunscreen without fragrance or alcohol.

Seek medical advice from a dermatologist if you would like an assessment of your sensitive skin and the ingredients it reacts to.


Could I Have an Allergy to the Sun?

Yes, there is a type of reaction that is caused by the sun, called polymorphic light eruption (PME), a form of photosensitivity which can be easily be mistaken for a sunscreen reaction. This skin condition is triggered by exposure to ultraviolet (UV light) and results in a skin rash or hives.

PME occurs more often in women and commonly on the chest.

There's currently no cure for polymorphic light eruption, however it can be easily managed with sun protection and responsible sun care.

A background and history discussion with a doctor or dermatologist is the best way to determine if the reaction is PME.


How Do I Choose 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 overall 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


What's the Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin?

Sensitive 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 further oil production.


Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

The most important factor in using sunscreen to protect your sensitive skin from UV rays, is regularly applying your sunscreen.  That means you need you need to feel comfortable wearing it, like the texture, and you also need to use a formula made for your skin type. La Roche-Posay has a range of sunscreens specifically designed for sensitive skin that might be oily, normal or dry. 

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF 50+ range for face and body offers very high UVA and UVB protection for all skin types, particularly sensitive 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 mineral-rich thermal spring water.

For children, the Anthelios Spray Sunscreen comes in a convenient pump spray bottle. This gentle sunscreen is fast absorbing, and contains no fragrance, ensuring maximum tolerance for sensitive young skins.


ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.