Best Sun Screens for Oily Skin, Dry Skin, and Sensitive Skin in 2024 According to Research

Brianne Smith, DNP, PhD
Brianne Smith, DNP, PhD22 May 2024
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️

How Your Skin Type Influences Your Choice for Sunscreen
Oily skin: Common

Oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous glands and is prone to acne and shine. Those with oily skin should choose oil-free, non-comedogenic, and lightweight sunscreens. Gel or water-based formulas are ideal as they won't clog pores or exacerbate acne. Matte-finish sunscreens can also help control shine.

Combination skin

Combination skin is characterized by an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dry cheeks. People with combination skin should choose a balanced sunscreen that addresses both oily and dry areas. Lightweight, oil-free formulas work well for the T-zone, while hydrating ingredients can help nourish dry cheeks. A combination of two different sunscreens may be necessary for optimal coverage.

Normal skin

Normal skin is characterized by a balanced moisture level and minimal sensitivity. People with normal skin can usually tolerate a wide range of sunscreen formulas. They can opt for lightweight, non-greasy, and easily absorbed sunscreens with a broad spectrum of protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Dry skin

On the other hand, dry skin lacks natural oils and may appear flaky or rough. Individuals with dry skin should look for sunscreens with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or ceramides. Cream or lotion-based formulas are preferable as they provide extra moisture to the skin. Avoid alcohol-based sunscreens, which can further dry out the skin.

Sensitive skin: least common

Lastly, sensitive skin is easily irritated and may react to certain ingredients. Those with sensitive skin should opt for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and mineral-based sunscreens containing ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These physical sunscreens are less likely to cause irritation compared to chemical sunscreens. It's also essential to avoid sunscreens with alcohol, parabens, or other potential irritants.

Three Types of Sunscreens

There are two main types of sunscreens: chemical and physical (also known as mineral). Each type works differently to protect the skin from UV radiation.

1. Chemical Sunscreens

  • How They Work: Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin.
  • Ingredients: Common ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.
  • Pros and Cons: Chemical sunscreens are often preferred for daily use because they tend to be lighter and less visible on the skin. However, some people with sensitive skin may experience irritation or allergic reactions to these ingredients.

2. Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens

  • How They Work: Physical sunscreens act as a barrier, reflecting and scattering UV rays away from the skin.
  • Ingredients: The primary active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Pros and Cons: Physical sunscreens are less likely to cause skin irritation and are effective immediately upon application. However, they can be thicker and may leave a white cast on the skin, which can be a concern for people with darker skin tones.

3. Newer Types of Sunscreens

  • Hybrid Sunscreens: Combine both chemical and physical filters to offer broad-spectrum protection with a lighter texture and less visible residue.
  • Tinted Sunscreens: Contain iron oxides and other pigments to provide additional protection against visible light and to help even out skin tone, making them popular for people with hyperpigmentation or melasma.
  • Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreens: Include ingredients like vitamins C and E to provide additional protection against free radicals and environmental damage.
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Brianne Smith, DNP, PhD

Brianne Smith, DNP, PhD, is a public health researcher with a focus on improving patient outcomes through evidence-based practices and clinical research. She holds dual doctorates in Nursing Practice and Healthcare Research, and specializes in advanced patient care management and educational advocacy.

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