I hate sunscreens.
They make my face and body feel sticky and heavy.
They go on with a white cast.
They have that characteristic sunscreen smell. Which I hate.
Worst of all, sometimes they clog my pores and give me outbreaks.
Unfortunately, sunscreen is also super important when it comes to protecting your skin barrier, preventing aging and preventing skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is especially important when you have a seb derm flare.
Because during a seb derm flare, your skin barrier is broken down and inflammed. You have no protection against the environment, and UV rays in particular, can cause irreversible damage. I learnt this the hard way in my early days of dealing with seb derm.
I read that sunlight was good for seb derm. Being the genius that I am, I ventured out into the sun and bathed my face in the sun’s warm glow. Guess what happened?
Even though I was only out in the sun for about 15 minutes, and I don’t usually burn easily, my face got badly sunburned. It took me more than a week to recover from that.
Since then, I’ve dug deep into the world of sunscreens and am now a self-professed sunscreen expert for seb derm. While I can’t tell you which sunscreen is best for you (because everyone’s skin is different), I can tell you what to look out for when choosing a sunscreen. I also list a few of my favorite sunscreens to start you on your sunscreen journey.
- How to choose a safe sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis
- Best sunscreen overall for seborrheic dermatitis: Babo Botanicals Mineral Sunscreen SPF50+
- Best physical sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Raw Elements Sunscreen SPF 30+
- Best tinted sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Babo Botanicals Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF30
- Best chemical sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen spf 60+
- Best natural sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Thrive Natural Mineral Face Sunscreen
- Bonus tip
- What SPF should I use for seborrheic dermatitis?
- Does sunscreen help prevent flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis?
How to choose a safe sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis
There are a ton of sunscreens out there, all claiming to be safe, non-toxic, and can give you an amazing feel on your skin. After lots of research, I realized that most of what is being claimed is bullshit. You really need to read the label yourself to figure out whether a sunscreen contains what you want, or what you don’t want.
In short, choose sunscreens with these characteristics:
- Choose natural sunscreens. Due to the breakdown in your skin barrier, chemical sunscreens have an increased risk of absorbing into your blood stream and causing skin irritation.
- Choose zinc oxide sunscreens. Zinc oxide has some anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activity and is natural.
- Choose ones with oils that have low/no long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). LCFA feed Malasezzia and irritate your skin.
- Extra points: Contains skin-loving ingredients. While not a deal-breaker, if you can find a natural zinc oxide sunscreen that also contains anti-oxidants, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacimide etc. buy it.
For the most part, sunscreens contain way too many chemicals for comfort. Your skin barrier is severely impaired, especially during a seb derm flare. The last thing you want is to put potentially toxic chemicals on your skin that have an increased risk of being absorbed into your blood stream.
Before I bore the less-nerdy of you to death, let’s get cracking on my favorite sunscreens:
Best sunscreen overall for seborrheic dermatitis: Babo Botanicals Mineral Sunscreen SPF50+
The Babo Botanicals Sunscreen wins on all fronts – cleanliness of ingredient list, safety for seb derm, and price. This lotion is made for sensitive skin and is even safe for babies.
Other than zinc oxide, it also contains skin-loving ingredients like chamomile extract, hyaluronic acid, cocoa seed butter and Vitamin E.
This suncreen contains low amounts of sunflower oil, coconut oil and safflower oil. While these oils do contain LCFA, they are not high up on the ingredient list. I actually found it almost impossible to find a natural sunscreen without LCFA. The alternative was silicones and other chemicals. Between the two, I would rather take my chances with a small amount of LCFAs.
As with most natural non-nano zinc sunscreen, it goes on sticky and gives you that initial white cast that takes a while to disappear. If you have darker skin, they have a tinted version of the sunscreen as well.
Best physical sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Raw Elements Sunscreen SPF 30+
This cool sunscreen has a EWG #1 rating and has one of the cleanest ingredient lists I’ve ever seen.
The Raw Elements Sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide. It also contains skin-loving ingredients like organic green tea, black tea, coffee, rosemary oil extract and vitamin E.
Unfortunately, this sunscreen contains sunflower oil and hemp seed oil which has LCFAs. The other issue is that it’s only rated at SPF 30. I generally prefer a sunscreen with a higher SPF when I’m out, especially when my skin barrier is impaired.
Best tinted sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Babo Botanicals Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF30
There is nothing worse than a white cast on your face except a seb derm rash. For those of us with darker skin, mineral sunscreen is a pain to use. Thank God for tinted sunscreen.
The Babo Botanicals Sunscreen wins in this department as it’s safe for seb derm, not too pricey and goes on pretty smoothly for a sunscreen.
It also contains lovely ingredients to soothe the skin like calendula, shea butter, chamomile, coffee seed extract, and cocoa seed butter.
Sadly, it also contains a blend of natural oils like almond, sunflower and avocado oil that contain LCFAs. And if you need higher SPF protection, this suncreen might not make the cut. Check out Babo’s Tinted Stick Sunscreen that provides SPF50+ coverage instead.
Best chemical sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen spf 60+
I’m generally not a fan of chemical sunscreens as there are concerns about them being harmful to health. However, I can see why they are the easier sunscreen to use, especially if you have darker skin or just can’t stand the gooey feeling that physical sunscreen has.
In short, physical sunscreen is better for you than chemical sunscreen but chemical sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.
The La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen is one of the ‘cleaner’ chemical sunscreens around. It uses Cell-Ox Shield Technology, combining photostable UVA/UVB filters like avobenzone, octisalate etc. for sunprotection.
The product also contains Vitamin E, the famous La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water and by all accounts, easily absorbed into the skin, leaving no greasy residue and no white cast.
Unfortunately, as with most chemical sunscreens, it also contains silicones and various other chemicals. It has an EWG rating of 3 (1 being the best, and 10 being the worst).
Best natural sunscreen for seborrheic dermatitis: Thrive Natural Mineral Face Sunscreen
This little bottle of sun protection is amazing for daily use. It goes on easily, blends in well with the rest of your skincare and actually moisturizes your skin.
Thrive uses non-nano zinc oxide and contains skin goodies like superplant extracts, coralillo, fierrillo, wakame kelp and tazman pepper. It even has pentavitin which can strengthen the skin barrier with regular use.
It’s a bit pricey but a little goes a long way.
The only thing that give you more sun protection than a broad spectrum sunscreen is sun-protective clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat with UPF50+, get some sun-protective clothes and most importantly, avoid the sun in the middle of the day, seeking shade when able.
Your skin will thank you.
What SPF should I use for seborrheic dermatitis?
There is no specific SPF for seb derm. The general recommendation for sunscreen is to use one with SPF30 and above. This applies even if you’re working inside. The only time you can get away with those pissy moisturizers or foundation with SPF15 is if you work inside the bowels of a building and you’re nowhere near a window. Even then, you need to brave the sunlight to get to work, don’t you?
When you have seb derm, especially during a flare, I recommend a sunscreen with higher SPF, at least 50+, to block out more harmful UV rays as your skin barrier is already damaged.
Does sunscreen help prevent flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis?
There is no evidence that sunscreen prevents seb derm flares. In fact, if you use the wrong one, it may cause seb derm flares. However, mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide may have mild anti-bacterial activity and may help balance the skin microbiome. Unlike zinc pyrithione or zinc sulphate, zinc oxide has no anti-fungal activity against Malassezia.
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