Sunscreen for Eczema: a Detailed Guide

The Benefits of Sunscreen for People With Eczema

Your quest to find an eczema-friendly sunscreen is worthwhile. After all, excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn in anyone, including people with eczema-prone skin.

Sun Exposure and Eczema

The last time you were out in the sun, you may have found that your skin improved. This makes sense, Cohen explains, because sun exposure may decrease the inflammatory mechanism behind eczema flare-ups. Phototherapy or light therapy is used for this very purpose. “Phototherapy, a commonly used treatment for eczema, involves exposure to certain safe wavelengths of light that are emitted by the sun,” Cohen says.

What to Avoid in a Sunscreen for Eczema

If you’re living with eczema, reading ingredient labels is absolutely crucial. More important than what to look for in a sunscreen — or any cosmetic product, for that matter — is what to avoid. There are specific ingredients known to cause flare-ups, which the NEA details on its website.


If you have eczema, try to avoid fragrance, Cohen says. The NEA explains that fragrances are a well-known allergen that can be irritating for anyone with sensitive skin. This goes for natural fragrances, including essential oils. Why? Many people have an inflammatory reaction to fragrance. “Many sunscreens have fragrances in them, so it is important to look out for this and choose products without any fragrances,” he says.


Cohen also suggests avoiding any sunscreens that use chemical products to block the sun, “as chemical sunscreens can be irritating,” he explains. Only mineral- based sunscreen ingredients formulated with the active ingredients titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are approved for use by people with eczema by the NEA. Per the AAD, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate are the most common chemicals in chemical-based sunscreens.


Alcohol, which is common in sunscreen sprays, can be irritating, explains Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “They can sting and cause irritation.” There are several ways alcohol can be listed on skin-care products. Some of the most common per the FDA include ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, methyl alcohol or methanol, benzyl alcohol, cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl or lanolin alcohol.

What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Eczema

It's fairly easy to find an effective and nonirritating sunscreen if you can identify a few key terms on the packaging. Here are some to look for.

Mineral-Based UV Filters

When it comes to choosing an eczema-friendly sunscreen, Saedi says that those containing mineral-based UV filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the best options, as they are nonirritating. Why? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that chemical sunscreens allow UV rays to absorb into the skin, where a chemical reaction converts the light into heat, thereby dissipating it. Saedi says that an allergic reaction can occur at the point where the chemical sunscreen penetrates the skin. Alternatively, mineral sunscreen prevents the rays from penetrating the skin, thus preventing eczema flare-ups caused by allergic reactions to sunscreen chemicals.

Broad-Spectrum Protection

Both UVA and UVB rays are damaging to the skin, so it’s important to look for a sunscreen that is labeled as providing broad spectrum protection, Saedi urges.

An SPF of at Least 30

Most healthcare professionals, as well as the AAD, advise using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen protects skin against UVB rays, which cause sunburn, damage skin, and can contribute to skin cancer.


As Saedi mentioned, alcohol has a drying effect on skin, and can be particularly irritating for those with sensitive skin issues, including eczema. For the least irritating experience, steer clear of sunscreens that contain alcohol.

NEA’s Seal of Acceptance

The National Eczema Association has a Seal of Acceptance program that evaluates product ingredients and testing data to determine if a product is suitable for use by those living with eczema. This helps ensure products are less likely to cause a reaction in those with eczema or other sensitive skin conditions.

Tips on How to Apply Sunscreen

Cohen suggests applying a generous coat of sunscreen evenly to all exposed areas. The AAD notes that the majority of people apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount; most adults will need about an ounce, or “enough to fill a shot glass” to completely cover their body. “It is important to remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, including the ears, which are often missed,” Cohen points out. Also, the AAD suggests applying sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes prior to exposure. And Saedi emphasizes the importance of reapplying every two hours, “but sooner if you are in the water,” she says.

How to Take Your Sun Protection Up a Notch

Sunscreen is not the only way to guard your skin from the sun, Cohen points out. “Sun-protective clothing is readily available for adults and children, and for people who find sunscreens irritating, this is a great option,” he explains. “More and more brands are offering high quality sun-protective clothing, but Coolibar specializes in these products.”

CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Face Lotion

Saedi is a big fan of all CeraVe products for those who are living with eczema, especially this high-SPF sunscreen. Specially formulated to provide effective UV protection on sensitive facial skin, CeraVe sunscreen features a lightweight and oil-free formula that is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. It contains three essential ceramides, the lipid or fat molecules that form a bond and help restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective barrier, and dries to a clear finish.


Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Face Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Saedi recommends this mineral sunscreen for people with eczema, as it is specially formulated for those with sensitive skin. It boasts a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula that’s waterproof and sweatproof for long-lasting wear. Its oil-free, PABA-free formula won't clog pores or cause breakouts, and it bears the NEA’s Seal of Acceptance. It dries to a matte finish that makes it ideal for use alone or under makeup.


EltaMD Skincare UV Aero Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 45

This spray-on sunscreen works at any angle, and boasts a zinc-based formula that provides up to 80 minutes of water-resistant coverage. Its oil-free formula works to rehydrate and gently nourish skin while strengthening its natural moisture barrier. Dermatologist-recommended, it goes on white, but dries clear so that you can easily see any spots you may have missed.


Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 60+

Suitable for use on even the littlest people managing eczema (Saedi uses this on her own children), this sunscreen stick provides broad spectrum SPF 60 sun protection and is made with 100 percent naturally sourced ingredients to be gentle on the most sensitive skin. It provides up to 80 minutes of water- resistant coverage, and bears the NEA’s Seal of Acceptance.


Vanicream Sunscreen Sport Broad Spectrum SPF 35

Cohen recommends this nongreasy lotion for those with extremely sensitive skin. It is free of most irritants — dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, other preservatives, oil, odor, and gluten — and offers broad spectrum protection for up to 80 minutes.


Additional reporting by Caitlin McCormack.

FDA Approves a First-of-Its-Kind Eczema Cream, Opzelura (Ruxolitinib)

The medication, which belongs to a class of drugs called JAK inhibitors, may help people with mild or moderate atopic dermatitis who aren’t getting enough...

Is It Time to Change Your Atopic Dermatitis Treatment?

When to check in with your doctor and how to get your symptoms back under control.

6 Tips for Safe Hair Removal With Atopic Dermatitis

Shaving and hair removal can be challenging when you have eczema. Follow these tips to make it easier.

5 Home Remedies for Managing the Itch of Atopic Dermatitis

Try these alternative therapies as a complement to your treatment plan for eczema.

Designing a Vibrant Life With Atopic Dermatitis: Joanne’s Story

Frustrated by severe eczema, the fashion designer hopes that newer treatments can offer safe, sustainable relief.

Read more on: sunscreen, eczema