A Doctor's Guide To Choosing The Right Sunscreen When You Have Sensitive Eyes

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Wearing sunscreen everyday is non-negotiable, but for people with sensitive eyes, it can cause discomfort in the form of stinging, burning, and itching. To find the best sunscreens for sensitive eyes, Bustle spoke with optometrist Dr. Kenneth Daniels, O.D., F.A.A.O., who advises using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 on your face instead of one with a higher SPF, because the higher the SPF, the higher the concentration of active ingredients that can cause irritation to the ocular surface. In turn, he also suggests more frequent reapplication and washing your hands after applying so you don't accidentally rub your eyes with sunscreen-covered fingers.

Unfortunately, Dr. Daniels says there is "a diverse response by individuals based on their chemical sensitivity profile" — in other words, any ingredient has the potential to sting someone, so there's a bit of trial and error involved in choosing a sunscreen that won't burn your eyes. But typically, gentle formulas designed specifically for the face tend to be less irritating, as are sunscreens made for babies and children.

To prevent your sunscreen from running into your eyes, try to find a sweat-proof formula, Dr. Daniels advises. Sunscreens in balm, stick, or powder form are also good choices, since they don't drip as easily.

With those tips in mind, scroll on to shop six of the best sunscreens that won't sting your eyes, all for $25 or less on Amazon

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The Best Sunscreen Stick For Sensitive Eyes

There are a lot of things to like about this reef-safe, SPF 30 stick sunscreen, starting with its zinc oxide-based formula that only contains three other gentle ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Water resistant up to 80 minutes, it'll stay put on your face without running into your eyes, even when you're splashing around in the waves.

As with most zinc-based sunscreens, this does run the risk of leaving behind a white cast, so it might not be the best choice for everyday wear — keep it in your tote for days at the pool or beach.

The Best Sunscreen For Athletes With Sensitive Eyes

This travel-friendly tub of self-described "performance-driven" sunscreen uses 23% non-nano zinc for sun protection, while ingredients like green tea, hemp seed oil, rosemary, and cocoa butter provide moisturizing and antioxidant benefits. It was specifically designed so as not to sting or burn your eyes, making it a great choice for people with active lifestyles. Other highlights: It's water resistant up to 80 minutes, sensitive skin-friendly, reef-safe, biodegradable, Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free, and housed in recyclable, reusable packaging.

Another bonus: Despite its thick, zinc-based formula, Amazon reviewers report that it doesn't leave behind a chalky white residue when rubbed into skin properly.

The Best Sunscreen For People With Sensitive Eyes & Skin

Fragrance-free, oil-free, and super gentle, this mineral sunscreen by Blue Lizard is a great choice for people with sensitive eyes and skin. The soothing formula contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and antioxidants like green tea and caffeine, while the bottle's cap turns blue when exposed to harmful UV light — a cool (and useful) feature. All in all, this formula works to nourish sensitive skin as it protects it from the sun, and the gentle formulation shouldn't irritate sensitive eyes, either. In fact, over 40 Amazon reviewers specifically noted that this sunscreen didn't sting their eyes, with one writing, "Only brand I have found that doesn't burn my eyes when sweating."

The Best Sunscreen For People With Sensitive Eyes & Acne-Prone Skin

Another great, gentle mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30, this Everyday Humans Rosé S'il Vous Plait sunscreen is ideal for sensitive skin that's oily or acne-prone. According to the brand, it works to regulate sebum production in oily areas while soothing inflammation, thanks to ingredients like rose extract and aloe. Some other key highlights: It has a lightweight consistency and matte finish, it won't clog pores, and it's cruelty-free and vegan.

And as I've personally been using this sunscreen for a few weeks now, I can attest to the fact that it doesn't sting my sensitive eyes, as it doesn't get runny. It also has a nice, dry feeling that I really like.

The Best Sunscreen For Babies & Kids With Sensitive Eyes

As you can imagine, if it's designed for babies, it's probably one of the gentlest, most non-irritating sunscreens adults can get their hands on, too. Badger Baby SPF 30 is a mineral-based sunscreen made with gentle botanicals like sunflower oil, chamomile, and calendula, as well as zinc oxide for sun protection. It's also reef-safe, hypoallergenic, 98% organic, and water resistant for up to 40 minutes.

"Great product. I went through 4 different brands trying to get one that my 2 yr old son would not break out with swollen eyes," reported one Amazon reviewer. Another wrote, "Best sunscreen for my very sensitive baby. We have tried all of the sunscreens out there and this is the ONLY one that does not irritate my sons eyes."

The Best Powder Sunscreen For Sensitive Eyes

Though a bit unorthodox, powder sunscreens are another great choice for people with sensitive eyes, since they pose no risk of dripping or running into your eyes. This silky translucent powder from Japan, which has an SPF of 50, can be dusted on top of makeup, and can also be used on your scalp and hairline to protect these oft-neglected areas from sun damage.


Dr. Kenneth Daniels, O.D., F.A.A.O., an optometrist based in Hopewell, NJ.