a woman suffering from eye irritation is scratching her eyes

Possible Side Effects of Using Sunscreen

What is sunscreen cream?

Sunscreen is an important step in your daily skincare routine that no one would want to skip for anything. It is so crucial to shield your skin from sun damage. Now the question arises that all the available sunscreens are safe to use? Many studies now reveal the possible side effects that your sunscreen has. Many sunscreens like the one which contains sulfa drugs or tetracyclines can cause much more harm than the good one expects from them. It is very essential you test out the best sunscreen for your face in order to minimise the risk of dangerous side effects. The sunscreen creams are used to protect your skin against sunburn and skin cancer. 

Therefore, it is very important to read the label to have knowledge of what your sunscreen contains and how these ingredients are going to affect your skin.

    Some Side Effects of Sunscreen

    Sunscreen cream is an external application product, therefore, initial side effects are possible, especially when you use a product that isn’t suitable for your skin. Some common side effects are:

    • Acne
    • Itching, burning or stinging sensation in the skin
    • The appearance of redness or swelling
    • Extreme pain in areas covered with hair
    • Pus in the hair follicles
    • Acne is caused due to the chemicals present in sunscreen. The chemicals infused in the formula could greatly affect certain skin conditions and alleviate any skin disorders.
    • The appearance of redness and burning of skin also occurs due to the use of improper sunscreen. This could also lead to the onset of skin-related conditions such as eczema. 

    These side effects do not often require medical attention, however, it is always safer to seek medical advice before you begin using any product. 

     Let's have a look at some of the not-so-common side effects of sunscreen which are:

    1. Allergic Reactions

    There are some chemicals present in the sunscreen which can cause your skin to become swollen, red, itchy, and irritated which leads to a broad spectrum of allergic reactions with high allergic itching and severe redness. Most of the time this redness and other skin disorders are due to the presence of preservatives and certain fragrances. For example, PABA, which is a major constituent in many sunscreens, is the main cause of high allergic reactions. That is the reason that many products avoid this constituent in their sunscreen.

    In order to avoid any such reaction to your skin, you need to do a small patch test that can give you an idea about the constituent reaction to your skin. Yes, you can use sunscreen that contains zinc oxide as they are very less allergic to even sensitive skin.

    2. Sunscreens Can Aggravate Your Acne 

    Some chemicals in the sunscreen can make your acne skin much worse. So in order to avoid any such acne breakout, you can have a sunscreen that is non-oily and non-comedogenic sunscreen. So the best way to avoid any side effects is to choose your sunscreen based on your skin type.  Also do not apply sunscreen that is made specifically for the body on your face as they have ingredients that will be very heavy for your face.

    3. Eye Irritation

    It can cause eye irritation and severe pain when sunscreen gets into your eye. This irritation can cause a burning sensation in your eye and also can add a temporary sensitivity towards light. In some cases, it is found to lead to blindness due to some harmful chemicals in your sunscreen. Also if the burning does not stop after some time on its own then you must consult a doctor for professional advice.

    4. The Risk Of Breast Cancer

    There are also cases where it is seen that the ingredients found in sunscreen can fluctuate the estrogen level and can have an effect on breast cancer cells. So be very careful while using chemical sunscreen on the children's bodies as their skin is a perfect absorber for harmful chemicals.

    5. Pain in some Areas of the skin

    You can now see in the market a variety of sunscreens that are very confusing to pick one among them that suits you best. Also, the forms in which these sunscreens are available vary a lot like some found in creams, gels, lotions, ointments, sprays, and wax sticks. So you can choose any based on your skin type. For areas like the male chest or the scalp, gels are the best option to choose. As with various effects of these sunscreens like drying of your skin or tightening it can cause severe pain in the hairy parts of your body.

    How To Get Away With The Side Effects?

    • If your sunscreen cream causes irritation or redness then immediately wash it off thoroughly.
    • Always use prescribed sunscreen. So seek professional advice in choosing the right sunscreen that will cope perfectly with your skin type.
    • Do apply sunscreen at alternate hours even if you are at home.
    • If it is the lip balm sunscreen specifically for your lip area then apply it on the given part only to get benefitted completely.
    • Always make a smart choice while selecting sunscreen for your children.
    • Do not use sunscreen on children under six years of age.
    • If you have oily skin then always buy a sunscreen that is non-comedogenic and it should not contain any oil. 
    • Ensure you choose the best sunscreen for your face, ie, ensure it suits your skin type and if you have any skin-related issues. 

    Sunscreen for oily skin

    Just like other skin products, sunscreen also varies depending on the skin type. Finding the right sunscreen cream for oily skin could be tough, especially when you have oily skin, as it leaves behind an oily and sticky residue on the skin and aggravates skin issues. But this does not mean you avoid using sunscreen altogether. Test out what works the best for you. Often sunscreen with UVA and UVB works the best. It is recommended that you use sunscreen of SPF 50 for safe and maximum results. 

    What is the Best Way To Use Sunscreen?

    • Apply an even layer of sunscreen on the parts of the skin that need to be protected. Always reapply sunscreen at regular intervals too. 
    • Make use of your sunscreen on the exposed area before you leave the comfort of your home.
    • Don't forget to apply sunscreen again after you sweat or come out after your swimming session. Wear protective clothing. 
    • Don't stop applying it at alternate hours even when you are inside your home.

    Take Away

    As we have discussed thoroughly in the above article, apart from sunscreen benefits there are certain side effects that it carries along with it. So the best way to deal with such an allergic reaction is to make a wise choice of selecting a chemical-free natural product. The best way to get rid of such problems is to use natural products that are chemical-free and do not harm your skin even if you have sensitive skin.  As advised in many studies people should go for buying sunscreen that has zinc oxide or titanium oxide as its ingredients. Such ingredients constitute the best sunscreen to help you with keeping the estrogenic effects and other allergic symptoms within stable limits. However, if the symptoms pertain, seek a healthcare professional for help. 

    Frequently asked questions

  • Is it ok to apply sunscreen directly on the face?

  • Apply two ounces of sunscreen to your body and a tablespoon to your face, with an SPF of at least 25. 2. Apply sunscreen in little dots to your face rather than squeezing a big lump onto your palms and applying it that way, as you'll likely only get an SPF 10 out of your SPF 30.

  • Is SPF harmful to the skin?

  • There is no proof that using sunscreen is unhealthy. Although a short FDA research conducted in 2020 discovered that the body can absorb some chemicals from various sunscreens, no negative health impacts have been established.

  • Is sunscreen safe to use every day?

  • In general, sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, particularly after swimming or perspiring. You might not need a second programme if you work inside and are seated away from the windows. But be careful how often you go outside.


    1. Dermatologist Anna Chien

    Sun protection factor (SPF) represents a sunscreen’s ability to protect against a specific portion of ultraviolet (UV) light called UVB.

    2.  Maria Robinson, MD

    Should I Wear Sunscreen Every Day? and Other Questions, Answered