Chief among those sunscreen complaints that are often used as an excuse to skip it entirely are the telltale smell or the white cast it leaves behind. But there's also the uncomfortable (and unfortunately, all too common) sensation of stinging and watering eyes. Whether you notice it upon initial application, or it only really starts bothering you once the sweat beads start rolling down your face, the discomfort is enough to deter many people from wearing sunscreen altogether. But there are sunscreens that don't burn your eyes out there; you just can't pick any old formula you see on the shelf. Ahead, a handy guide to the best non-irritating sunscreens on the market.
Like any form of irritation caused by topical products, everyone is different, and there's an array of ingredients that can cause your skin and eyes to react. However, there are some common culprits in sunscreen that contribute to burning and watering eyes that you can avoid, such as fragrance and chemical filters (stick to mineral active ingredients, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, if you notice chemical actives causing irritation).
Another simple way to ensure your sunscreen doesn't burn your eyes is to look for labeling like "tear-free" on the packaging. If you notice eye irritation only when you sweat or swim, choosing a water-resistant formula is an easy fix for preventing sunscreen from burning your eyes, too. And formulas that are created for babies and kids (or note that they're suitable for sensitive skin) are also good bets when it comes to being tear-free and sting-free, as they tend to include fewer irritants.
To help avoid any tearful trips to the beach, here are six of the best sunscreens that don't burn your eyes.
1. The Overall Best Sunscreen That Doesn't Burn Eyes
This mineral sunscreen uses zinc oxide for a gentle form of sun protection that doesn't cause irritation or stinging. Kōkua Sun Care's Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen SPF 50 is full of natural ingredients that protect and nourish skin, like coconut oil, apricot fruit extract, and Hawaiian noni honey. The formula is also a favorite because the water-resistant lotion goes on clear and doesn't leave skin feeling greasy or sticky; feel free to put it on your body and face. Kōkua Sun Care is also dedicated to the environment, with its 100 percent recyclable packaging, coral reef-safe zinc formula, and its commitment to supporting local Hawaiian businesses, agriculture, and nonprofit organizations.
"I sweat allot [sic] (I wear this for outdoor activities like running) and it doesn't sting my eyes," reports one reviewer, while another says, "Good smell & doesn't burn into [eyes] when sweating. Stays put on skin."
2. Best Face-Specific Sunscreen That Doesn't Burn Eyes
If you can feel your pores clogging just at the thought of rubbing a thick cream over your face, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen's lightweight water-gel formula is for you. With a mix of mineral and chemical filters that protects skin from UVA and UVB rays, Blue Lizard takes skin care into consideration with nourishing and protecting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, green tea, caffeine, and vitamin E. The SPF is also paraben-free and fragrance-free, and it comes Amazon-recommended, with more than 500 five-star reviews.
"I like that it's very light and doesn't sting when sweat gets in my eyes," says one reviewer who adds, "I also have sensitive skin that's prone to acne, [and] I haven't had any problems while using it." Several reviewers even declare that it's "the only sunscreen that doesn't irritate my eyes."
3. The Best Tear-Free Sunscreen For Babies
Aveeno is already known for being gentle on skin, and the Aveeno Kids Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 has sensitive skin covered whether you're using it on a child or yourself. The broad spectrum sunscreen uses 100 percent naturally sourced zinc oxide to keep skin protected from the sun in a tear-free, sweat-resistant formula that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-free. The sunscreen provides up to 80 minutes of water-resistant coverage, and it's formulated with colloidal oatmeal to soothe and moisturize skin.
"I have sensitive skin and my eyes are often bothered by chemical sunscreens. This product works well, rubs in fairly well, and does not cause any skin or eye irritation," shares one reviewer.
Another fan of the sunscreen says, "I appreciate how well it rubs onto the skin and stays in place. It is water resistant and sweat resistant, so it does not run into their eyes."
4. The Best Sunscreen For Travel That Doesn't Burn Eyes
Another non-irritating sunscreen designed for your face, Ocean Potion's Face Zinc SPF 50 scores extra points because it comes in a small, spill-proof tub. The cream uses a chemical and mineral filter to provide UVA and UVB protection, and and its oil-free, fragrance-free formula promises to mattify skin once it has been absorbed. The brand promises it won't run into your eyes, with multiple reviewers backing up the claim.
"Best sunscreen out there!! Works wonderfully and doesn't sting your eyes! This is the only sunscreen that our kids do not fuss about when we use it on them," writes one reviewer, while another says, "Great for running, thin lotion goes on and rubs in easy. Stays on and no run off into eyes."
Ocean Potion even included good-for-skin ingredients like seaweed extract, algae extract, deep sea minerals, and vitamins B, C, and E to help nourish the skin on your face and further protect it from the sun.
5. The Best Spray Sunscreen That Doesn't Burn Eyes
If you have kids who won't stop running around long enough to apply a cream formula, this spray formula will be your go-to. Like its name says, Banana Boat's Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free Continuous Lotion Spray won't irritate or sting eyes. Despite using chemical filters to provide UVA and UVB protection, this Banana Boat spray is hypoallergenic and pediatrician-tested. It's also a water-resistant formula that can handle up to 80 minutes of pool or ocean play, and it sprays on white to ensure you haven't missed any spots (something that commonly happens with spray sunscreens).
Amazon users also confirm that it's tear-free, with one grown-up user sharing, "I wear contacts and many other sunscreens burn my eyes when I apply to the facial area — this one does not." Another reviewer whose school students used the sunscreen, writes, "They loved the smell of it, and I loved that it didn't burn anyone's eyes."
6. The Best Stick Sunscreen That Doesn't Burn Eyes
Stick formulas tend to be free of common irritating ingredients because they are often specifically designed to be used on the face. CeraVe Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 uses mineral filters to offer broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays, and it was also developed with dermatologists to be non-irritating. Not only is the on-the-go stick fragrance-free and water-resistant, but it's also oil-free and noncomedogenic, so it won't clog your pores and cause breakouts. The stick formula lets you swipe the sunscreen directly under your eyes and across your lids without worrying about burning or stinging. It even contains ceramides to help keep your skin moisturized and help restore its natural barrier for protection against environmental aggressors, in addition to the sun.
"I use it around my eyes almost every day. It doesn't sting and it never runs into my eyes," shares one reviewer. Another says, "Unlike other sunscreens, it does not cause allergic reactions in the eyes."
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