How To Prevent Sunscreen From Stinging Your Eyes

by Gio
What can you do when sunscreen stings your eyes?

“What the heck is wrong with you, Gio?”

It was a hot summer day. Clear blue skies. A light breeze in the air. Warm sunshine kissing your skin. It’s the kind of day you don’t often get in London. So when it comes, you have to make the most of it.

I was walking along Regent’s Canal with a friend, catching up with each other’s lives and making plans for the future. When, all of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks.

Ouch! My eye! It stung like hell. It was so painful, I started crying and rubbing my eyes to ease the pain. But it only made things worse.

My friend caught my face in his hands, keeping it still so he could take a better look at my eyes. Maybe something had accidentally slipped in?

Nothing. There was nothing in my eye. What the heck was going on?!

That’s when it hit me. The day was so hot despite the gentle breeze, my sunscreen had trickled down my forehead and into my eye.


My friend had a bottle of water with him – thankfully! – so we managed to clean up my eye. Eventually. But it got me thinking, how can you prevent sunscreen from stinging your eyes in the first place?

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Mineral Sunscreens Are Less Likely To Irritate Eyes

You know how I always say that I prefer mineral sunscreens? It’s true. If I have a choice, that’s what I use.

But as a skincare blogger, I sometimes get sent stuff I wouldn’t pick off the shelves of SpaceNK. In a way, it’s good – I get to try new products that didn’t catch my eye but turned out to be holy grails.

Other times… That day at Regent’s Canal was one of those other times. I was testing a chemical sunscreen with synthetic UV filters. When they got into my eyes… Ouch!

Mineral UV filters – that’s titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – are gentler so when they get into your eyes, they don’t sting as much. If I’m going for a long walk or know I will sweat, it’s a mineral sunscreen I put on.

FYI, that doesn’t mean that mineral sunscreens don’t sting at all. They tend to be gentler, which alone reduces the chances of irritations. But there’s always the chance there’s another irritant lurking in the product.

My point: check those sunscreen labels carefully – and always bring a bottle of water with you when you go out in the summer. You never know when you may need it!

Does your sunscreen irritate your eyes? Share your experience in the comments below.



Trisha August 14, 2012 - 4:00 pm

Yeah, I prefer physical sunscreens, especially for my face. They don’t irritate my skin like chemical sunscreens do (especially octisalate.)

beautifulwithbrains August 14, 2012 - 7:57 pm

Trisha, I prefer physical sunscreens too. They’re less irritating and I think they offer better protection too.

La Bisbetica August 14, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Yes, I have experienced eye irritation due to sunscreen but luckily only a couple of times. It really stings!

beautifulwithbrains August 14, 2012 - 7:58 pm

La Bisbetica, sorry to hear that. It’s really painful, isn’t it?

Ana August 14, 2012 - 5:37 pm

Yes, my skin, especially on the face, and then especially around the eyes, gets irritated by sunscreen.

Boo! I can’t wait for some milder formulations to hit our market.

beautifulwithbrains August 14, 2012 - 7:59 pm

Ana, I hope they will soon. I hate it how physical sunscreens are much harder to find!

Janessa August 14, 2012 - 6:49 pm

Nope, mine is a physical sunscreen. :] Thanks, Gio. You’re so helpful.

Janessa August 14, 2012 - 6:50 pm

And I couldn’t post a paragraph of text on your Essence post :[. I may just stick to shorter comments. This hasn’t happened to me before, though.

beautifulwithbrains August 14, 2012 - 7:59 pm

Janessa, I hope it was just a glitch and it won’t happen again. I love reading your comments. And you’re welcome. πŸ™‚

Janessa August 14, 2012 - 10:32 pm

Aw thanks πŸ˜€ I love reading your’s too!

beautifulwithbrains August 15, 2012 - 5:54 pm


EyeGraffiti August 14, 2012 - 7:29 pm

Gosh! You have answers for everything!
Love to pop by here because I always learn something new!
Thanks for sharing!

beautifulwithbrains August 14, 2012 - 8:00 pm

Phlox, thanks. You’re making me blush. 😳 I’m glad you enjoy these posts and find them helpful. πŸ™‚

Sherry August 15, 2012 - 12:30 am

Yes my sunscreen sting my eyes too and make them tears out.

beautifulwithbrains August 15, 2012 - 5:54 pm

Sherry, oh no! You should switch to a physical sunscreen then. πŸ™‚

Makeup Morsels August 15, 2012 - 5:57 am

I never knew this! I remember once when I was little Coppertone (I think it was Coppertone) got into my eyes and OH GOD it stung so badly. EyeGraffiti is so right hahaha, you really do have the answers for everything. Thank you for this valuable tip!

beautifulwithbrains August 15, 2012 - 5:56 pm

Makeup Morsels, ouch, that must have been really painful! You’re welcome, I hope this tip will help you pick a sunscreen that won’t sting your eyes. πŸ™‚

And thank you. 😳

Kaido May 18, 2017 - 10:34 pm

Recently I got eye irritation when using Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 which contains 13.0% Zinc Oxide. I can’t wear my contact lenses for days. But now I managed to avoid getting it too near to the waterline and it’s all fine, it’s just technique, anything will irritate the eyes if the stuff got in. Plus I don’t want to give up this PC sunscreen because it’s tinted (no white cast) and great for my combination skin. I’ve been looking for Zinc Oxide sunscreens since you’ve been raving about it, bought and tested some and I finally found one that suits me and I love it! I’ve never used sunscreen before, but after reading your blog, it’s now a must for my day routine.

Gio May 21, 2017 - 9:58 am

Kaido, so glad you’ve found a zinc oxide sunscreen that works for you. It really makes a world of difference.

TL July 29, 2018 - 9:17 pm

I’ve experienced the complete opposite of what you’re describing. My eyes are very irritated by physical/mineral/zinc sunscreens and I’ve tried a number of them based on dermatologists recommendation and my own research. (Elta/Josie Maran etc). Great about no white cast, but all irritate my eyes more than chemical sunscreens.

Gio August 5, 2018 - 10:28 am

TL, sorry to hear that! Is there anything these sunscreens have in common, like a strong fragrance? That can irritate eyes too.


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