I Finally Found The Perfect Sunscreen For My Sensitive, Brown, Acne-Prone Skin

My skin is so picky, I nearly gave up on my sunscreen search out of frustration.
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My skin is so picky, I nearly gave up on my sunscreen search out of frustration.

Perhaps the most important skincare item you put on your face is your daily sunscreen, but you already knew that. That makes it extra-frustrating, though, because it’s also one of the trickiest products to find the right fit for your special snowflake skin. Being that everyone’s skin reacts differently to different products, and there are so many different formulations and filters that make sunscreen actually work, trying to find the right match for your own skin can seem like a total crapshoot.

Finding the right sunscreen for me has been especially difficult, because one type of filter is out right away. Chemical filters--your avobenzones, octocrylenes, and tinosorbs and such--are awesome for a lot of people; they can provide good, broad-spectrum protection, and they often come without the chalky whitening effect of physical sunscreens. But for sensitive skin like mine, there’s a major drawback: they can sting like hell. When I slap on a chemical filter sunscreen, within minutes, I have horrible burning lobster face, which, I can assure you, is not a good look. (Always remember to patch test, dudes.)

Since I can’t handle chemical filters, my options are narrowed to physical/mineral filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These filters are awesome for sensitive skin as they can be soothing and healing for acne and redness issues. They’re also tenacious, making them less likely to rub or sweat off during the day. The drawbacks, though, are that you’re not going to find as much protection against UVA rays as in chemical formulas, and they can be somewhat drying, so you will likely have to wear a separate moisturizer underneath. 

So, physical formulas are the ones for me; from there, it should be easy for me to choose among popular physical formulas like BurnOut Eco-Sensitive, Replenix Sheer Physical, or EltaMD UV Clear, right? 

Well let’s add another layer of complication: I’m brown. 

Many physical sunscreens are known for leaving that whitish tint to the skin (Faz talked about it here). On paler skin, it can be imperceptible, but on me, they end up giving my skin a nasty purplish-gray corpse look. Yummy. And since you should be using about ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen on your face and neck to get the advertised SPF protection (measure it out--it’s way more than you think), it’s damn near impossible to avoid sunscreen ghostface. 

Avoiding. Wu Tang puns. Must. Resist.

Avoiding. Wu Tang puns. Must. Resist.

Now my options are narrowed down to the sheerest and clearest of physical sunscreens--but I’m not done yet. Most formulas contain plenty of silicones, known for giving moisturizers a smooth and silky finish, and they work brilliantly on many people’s skin. On me though? Cystic acne for days. 

With all those limitations, I nearly gave up on my sunscreen search out of frustration--that is until I discovered a small Ayurvedic spa via Facebook called Pratima. 

Their skincare line includes the Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 30. I’ve been using it for over four months now, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve finally found the sunsunscreen for me. 

It’s got a whopping 18.6% zinc oxide, which is more than you’ll find in many physical formulas. It also contains neem extract, which is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so it helps to heal my acne while protecting me from sun damage. Best of all, it doesn’t make my face look like a pasty mess. The texture is the most cosmetically elegant I’ve tried in a physical block; although silicone-containing formulas probably feel even better, it is light and silky rather than sticky and heavy. Plus it has a very subtle rose scent that I’m obsessed with.

What it looks like when first applied.

What it looks like when first applied.

After I blend it in.

What it looks like when blended in.

I’m so happy to have found a sunscreen that I’m don’t dread applying in the morning. While it's not as UVA-protective as chemical filters, I can tell it is working based on the way my hyperpigmentation is fading and how I didn’t tan at all even though I spent last week in sunny Austin. (I miss you, Austin, with your abundant truffle fries and your not-snow). 

It fits in with my philosophy on sunscreen: wear it, but do the best you can. The most protective of all sunscreens won’t do you any good if it messes up your skin too much to wear it on the daily. Use whatever your skin can deal with every day (and maybe some antioxidant serum for extra protection), and don’t worry ‘bout it, baby. 

Have you found the right sunscreen for you yet?