Best Sunscreens for Atopic Dermatitis: A Detailed Guide

If you’re living with atopic dermatitis, reading ingredient labels is absolutely crucial. More important than what to look for in a sunscreen — or any cosmetic product, for that matter — is what to avoid. There are specific ingredients known to cause flare-ups.


If you have eczema, try to avoid fragrance, says Jeffrey Cohen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Fragrance is a relatively common allergen that can be irritating for anyone with sensitive skin.

This goes for natural fragrances, including essential oils. Why? Many people have an inflammatory reaction to fragrance. “Many sunscreens have fragrances in them, so it is important to look out for this and choose products without any fragrances,” he says.


Dr. Cohen also suggests avoiding any sunscreens that use chemical products to block the sun, “as chemical sunscreens can be irritating,” he explains. Indeed, the NEA awards its Seal of Acceptance only to physical sunscreen products containing titanium, zinc oxide, and iron, and does not give the seal to any chemical UV absorbers such as chemical-based sunscreens.

Chemical sunscreens typically include active ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate.

Oxybenzone and avobenzone in particular are two common allergens in sunscreen that have been linked to allergic contact dermatitis, so to be on the safe side, avoid products containing these ingredients.

Among chemical UV filters found in sunscreen, oxybenzone is the leading allergen and photoallergen, research shows.

One study analyzed 52 bestselling sunscreens for allergenic ingredients, and found the most common low-prevalence allergens were chemical sunscreen ingredients avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone, and the most common high-prevalence allergen was fragrance.

If you suspect you have an allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient in your sunscreen, ask your dermatologist about performing a patch test.


As mentioned, alcohol, which is common in sunscreen sprays, can be irritating. “They can sting and cause irritation.” There are several ways alcohol can be listed on skin-care products. Some of the most common include ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl, or lanolin alcohol.

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