How To Choose A Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin

How To Choose A Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is challenging on its own.

When you mix in environmental stressors like allergens, sun exposure, and heat stress on a golf course, staying comfortable while using sunscreen can be demanding. 

Sorting through every sunscreen ingredient that may cause irritation, redness, or breakouts is a daunting task. The last thing a golf athlete wants is to feel uncomfortable in his or her skin while trying to close out a tournament.

However, defending against the harmful effects of cumulative UV exposure doesn't have to come at the expense of player comfort. 

In this article, we'll guide you through the essential factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen for sensitive skin.

So What Is Sensitive Skin?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) definition, sensitive skin is skin that is more prone to react to various factors, including environmental changes, personal care products, and stress. 

People with sensitive skin often experience symptoms such as redness, itching, burning, dryness, and discomfort more readily than those with less sensitive skin.

Unfortunately, individuals typically discover their skin sensitivities after experiencing irritating reactions. When it comes to sun exposure, it's crucial to take a proactive approach to sunscreen selection to minimize the risks of UV damage and skin sensitivities.

As always, please consult a board-certified dermatologist for personalized advice on managing skin conditions.

Let's dive in.

Ingredients To Know

When it comes to sensitive skin, the ingredients in your sunscreen matter–a lot. The wrong ingredients can trigger irritation, allergic reactions, and breakouts while the right mix can keep you feeling confident in healthy skin.

The Good:


Antioxidants such as vitamin C & E, and organic extracts like Green Tea can help neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from environmental damage. The antioxidant properties found in these vitamins protect against irritation and hydrate the skin.

Soothing Agents

Aloe vera and chamomile are excellent for calming and hydrating sensitive skin. 

Aloe extract provides deep hydration and promotes healing, reducing redness and irritation caused by sun exposure.

Chamomile offers powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help calm and soothe sensitive skin, minimizing the risk of reactions and enhancing overall skin comfort.


Niacinamide, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to strengthen the skin barrier. It helps to prevent acne and calm breakout-prone skin.

Ceramide Production

Ceramides help restore the skin barrier and retain moisture, which is crucial for sensitive skin.

For example, niacinamide and vitamin E help to improve the skin's barrier function and increase ceramide synthesis. Further, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride is a fatty acid derived from coconut oil that helps to replenish and strengthen the skin barrier.

The Bad:

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two common active UV blockers that can cause irritation and allergic reactions in sensitive skin. Recent research has shown they are known to cause other harmful side effects. Learn more here.


Fragrance can cause skin issues by triggering allergic reactions, irritation, and photosensitivity. It can also disrupt the skin's natural barrier, leading to dryness and increased susceptibility to other irritants.


Parabens are a group of synthetic chemicals commonly used as preservatives in personal care products. 

Studies show parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, disrupting hormone function. Additionally, some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to parabens.


No, not the kind from the halfway house. That is for another article. However, alcohol is often used to make sunscreen formulas feel lighter, but it can dry out and irritate sensitive skin.

Certain Preservatives 

Methylisothiazolinone is a known allergen that can cause contact dermatitis. Many big box and “brand name” sunscreens contain this preservative.

Choosing a sunscreen with the right ingredients can make a significant difference in how your skin reacts. Always check the label and opt for a product that caters to sensitive skin.

What Is Non-Comedogenic?

Non-comedogenic products are formulated with properties that prevent acne and blackheads by not clogging pores.

Youth and collegiate golf athletes may be more prone to breakouts, so choosing a non-comedogenic sunscreen is essential.

Clogged pores can lead to breakouts, which are especially troublesome for those with sensitive skin. Non-comedogenic products are usually lighter and less greasy, which means they are less likely to cause irritation. Additionally, they help maintain the skin’s natural oil balance, preventing dryness and that greasy feeling.

Using a non-comedogenic sunscreen helps keep your skin clear and healthy, allowing you to enjoy the sun (and your round) without worrying about acne flare-ups.

Find The Right Texture

The texture of your sunscreen can significantly impact your comfort and willingness to use it daily. 

We’ve all experienced the hassle and mess traditional sunscreens can create.

For sensitive skin, a balanced texture is essential to ensure it feels good on your skin without causing irritation.

Focus on lightweight and hydrating formulations. Sunscreen with Isododecane is less likely to feel heavy or greasy. It is a hydrocarbon solvent that dries and evaporates quickly without leaving any residue. It also reduces shine, leaving a matte finish, ideal for those with oily or combination skin.

Additionally, moisturizers, creams and lotions versus gels and sprays tend to offer improved hydration. They help lock in moisture keeping your skin healthy and protected for longer.

A sunscreen with a balanced texture ensures that it blends well into your skin, feels comfortable, and encourages regular use.

Sweat and Water Resistance 

Practicing and playing in the sun for hours at a time will have any golf athlete working up a sweat.

For those with sensitive skin in particular, choosing a sweat and water-resistant sunscreen is essential. It ensures continuous protection without having to reapply frequently.

Sweat and water-resistant formulas stay effective for longer, reducing the need for frequent reapplication, which may be irritating for sensitive skin. 

Further it provides enhanced durability even in humid or wet conditions, providing consistent protection.

All sunscreen products claiming to be sweat or water-resistant undergo water immersion tests to assess before and after effects of its Sun Protection Factor (SPF). In the United States, The Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to provide either a 40 minute or 80 minute effectiveness disclosure on its sunscreen label.

Choosing a sweat and water-resistant sunscreen is crucial for maintaining protection during golf, ensuring sensitive skin remains shielded from harmful UV rays.

What SPF Is Best For Sensitive Skin?

SPF is the critical factor of any sunscreen. It measures the level of protection against UVB rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. 

But what SPF is right for golf athletes' sensitive skin? A quick refresh on the SPF scale will provide guidance:

  • SPF 15: Moderate protection, blocking 93.3% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30: High protection, blocking 96.7% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50: Very high protection, blocking 98% of UVB rays

SPF 15 is adequate for short periods of sun exposure, while SPF 30 is recommended for daily use by dermatologists.

However, if you are going to be exposed to the sun on the golf course for 2-5 hours during a round then SPF 50 sunscreen is ideal for extended use and those with fair or sensitive skin.

Additionally, look for a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, covering both UVA and UVB rays. Its the component to ensure full coverage across the entire UV spectrum.