Rosacea Review - Newsletter of the National Rosacea SocietyRosacea Review - Newsletter of the National Rosacea Society

Picking The Right Sunscreen for Rosacea and the Environment

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 3.5 million Americans were diagnosed with skin cancer in 2019, making this risk associated with sun exposure a very compelling reason for protecting yourself from the sun. Yet for rosacea patients there is even more reason for sun protection, as sun exposure is one of the most common triggers for rosacea flare-ups.

Unfortunately, recent research has found that the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens may be absorbed into the bloodstream, while a recent article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology described some of the environmental concerns posed by sunscreen use. Some states and communities have even banned the sale of certain types of sunscreen because of environmental concerns. So what should rosacea sufferers do?

“The risk of worsening rosacea signs and symptoms — not to mention skin cancer — is reduced by careful sunscreen selection,” said Dr. Zoe Draelos, president of Dermatology Consulting Services, PLLC. “Rosacea patients should limit exposure to direct sunlight whenever possible to avoid flare-ups.”

Dr. Draelos recommends that rosacea sufferers adopt a comprehensive sun protection plan that includes seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and regularly applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to the face and any other exposed skin.

In light of the recent news, the American Academy of Dermatology released a statement urging patients to continue using sunscreen. It noted that no firm conclusions have been drawn about the environmental impact of chemicals found in sunscreen, while the public health hazard posed by skin cancer is well established.

“Rosacea patients should use a sunscreen that contains physical barriers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which reflect rather than absorb UVA and UVB radiation, and prevent the skin from becoming warm,” said Dr. Draelos. “Be sure to reapply regularly, as even physical sunblocks can wear off from activity or perspiration.”

The easiest way to determine if a particular product contains physical blockers is to check the active ingredients listed on the label. Look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide before purchasing it. Also, those with sensitive skin may find that powder formulations are less irritating.

If you are vacationing this summer in a location with a sunscreen ban in place, be sure to check lists of recommended sunscreen brands before you leave.


Matta MK, Florian J, Zusterzeel R, et al. Effect of sunscreen application on plasma concentration of sunscreen active ingredients: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2020;323(3):256–267. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.20747