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Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

By now we all know that sunscreen is a must. For years many of us believed that our melanated skin was immune to the effects of sun-damage and that sunscreen was only for pale people. While the idea may have been empowering, unfortunately it was a myth all along. We’re wide-awake now, but this awareness raises questions for people who have never shopped for sunscreen. How much SPF do I need? What’s the best type of sunscreen for me? What if I have eczema and sensitive skin?

My dermatologist explained to me that I needed to use sunscreen regardless of my brown skin, and it was especially important because of the hyperpigmentation on my face. I remember my first time shopping for sunscreen. It was such a process! I didn’t know the answer to any of the above questions. I was a broke college student so I wasn’t trying to break the bank, and it was no secret that I had extra-sensitive skin. I searched and searched and opted for a sunscreen for acne-prone skin that was supposed to help prevent breakouts. It did the exact opposite and I had to deal with that breakout for about a month after using it. I didn’t mention the hives on the rest of my body, did I?

After that experience, I took a break from using sunscreen. The inflammation that the sunscreen caused discouraged me, and I’m not proud of it, but I was no longer willing to continue playing sunscreen roulette. I wasn’t sure why the sunscreen had such a negative effect on my skin, so I went to see an esthetician. I learned a lot from her and that visit actually led me to better self-care practices, but that ‘s another story.

If you have eczema or sensitive skin, chances are sunrays burn you quicker than the average person. Our skin can react to those summertime sunrays, but the ingredients in sunscreen can also induce inflammation. It’s important to find a sunscreen that really works for you because at the end of the day it is important, whether you only step outside to get behind the wheel of your car, or you’re a serial camper.

I found my sunscreen products through trial and error, but through further research I found that the National Eczema Association has a list of products that are included in its Seal of Acceptance Program. In order to be included in the program, products must by mineral based (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide), must be alcohol-free, must be broad-spectrum (protection from UVA A and UVA B rays), and be SPF 30 or greater.

Some of the National Eczema Association (NEA)’s recommended products include:

  • AVEENO® Baby Natural Protection Lotion Sunscreen

  • AVEENO® Baby Natural Protection Face Stick Sunscreen

  • AVEENO® Natural Protection Lotion Sunscreen

  • CeraVe® SPF 50 Sunscreen Body Lotion

  • CeraVe® SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion

  • CeraVe® Baby Sunscreen SPF 45

The NEA also recommends doing a spot test whenever trying a new product. Using a pea-sized amount of your new sunscreen, place it on the wrist or inside of the elbow, leaving it there for 24-48 hours. If your skin reacts in redness, rash, itchiness, flakiness, or pain, this product is not the one for you. I wish I would’ve considered the spot test the first time I used sunscreen, but I won’t dwell on the past.

Once you’ve found a product that works for you, you must practice proper skin-care habits. This means using a generous amount of sunscreen and applying it on all uncovered skin (nose, ears, neck, hands, feet, lips, and head, yes your part is included). Don’t forget to reapply at least every two hours, and never apply to damaged or broken skin. Other summer care practices for eczema and in general, include wearing hats and breathable fabrics, drinking lots of water, and being mindful of the ingredients in you insect repellant and moisturizers.

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