That said, true sensitive skin—as defined by dermatologists—is usually related to an underlying condition such as eczema (approximately 10% of the population has it) or rosacea.
“Many people think they have sensitive skin, but they are actually sensitized by the overuse of aggressive products,” adds Suneel Chilukuri, MD, of Refresh Dermatology in Houston. “Either way, those with a genetic predisposition or those with external causes have a skin barrier that isn’t functioning properly. In these patients, we want to repair the skin barrier while using products aren’t going to further damage their epidermal barrier.”
So back to the sunscreen debate. Bearing all the above in mind, dermatologists typically recommend opting for mineral (also known as physical) sunscreen formulas versus chemical ones, as sensitive skin is more reactionary when it comes to potentially irritating ingredients. Mineral formulas usually have fewer ingredients, and their trademark sun blockers—namely, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—are less inflammatory than avobenzone or oxybenzone, both of which are found in chemical sunscreens.
Curious to know more? We asked three leading dermatologists for the specific sunscreen formulas they recommend on their clients with sensitive skin. Keep scrolling for their nine expert picks!