How to Protect Your Eyes from Sunscreen

Can you feel that warm summer breeze rolling in? We sure can! After a long winter, everyone is about ready for some fun days in the sun. But before we can have any fun, we need to make sure that we have all we need to protect ourselves.

What’s the first thing we think to pack in our bag when we hit the beach or the park? Sunscreen, of course! It’s the only thing standing between your sensitive skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays.

That being said, should we actually be using it all over, including the face? Sure, there are special sunscreens for facial use. But are they really protecting us or are they just a marketing ploy?

Should You Wear Sunscreen on Your Face?

The answer here is plain and simple: yes, always. The truth is sunscreen made specifically for your face isn’t just a way for companies to make more money. You really do need different lotions for your body and face.

The reason for this is that the skin on your face is different than the skin on your body. Our faces tend to be more sensitive than the rest of our skin. Our pores hold on to the oils in the sunscreen which can cause some nasty acne breakouts. That’s the last thing you want in all your family vacation photos.

For those reasons, you need a different type of sunblock for the face. Sunblock for the body is heavy on oils and chemicals that can be too harsh on the face. Look for oil-free and water-based sunscreens for your face. Non-cosmogenic sunscreens are recommended for those prone to acne as it won’t clog your pores.

When looking for an appropriate SPF, higher SPF doesn’t always mean more protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends choosing nothing below SPF 30 and nothing higher than SPF 50.

Sunscreen Around the Eyes

Ideally, you’d want to put sunscreen all over your face, neck, and ears. But when it comes to the sensitive tissues of your eyelids, you may want to hold off. Sunscreen should never be applied near the eyes.

When you apply sunscreen directly onto your eyelids, you risk getting sunscreen in the eye. That’s a burn worse than shampoo in the eyes. Even if you’re very careful, you still risk getting it into your eyes. Some face sunscreens come with a gentle applicator, but that’s not careful enough.

It’s hot outside and you’re moving around and sweating. That sweat could cause the sunscreen on your eyelids to leak into the eyes. If it’s not from sweat, then it’s the pool water or maybe you accidentally rubbed your eye. All these things can cause sunscreen to get in your eye.

A good way to know how close you should be putting the sunscreen to your eyes is to use your own face as a marker. Feel the bones around your eyes. You’ll feel your brow bone at the top and your temples on the sides. Then your cheekbones at the bottom and the bridge of your nose in the center.

When applying sunscreen, you want to apply right up to these various points but no further. Don’t apply the sunblock to that sensitive tissue below the eye, your top eyelids, or to the corners of your eyes. Stop when you feel you are getting too close.

If you’re using a spray sunscreen, never ever spray it directly to your face. I know the whole point of the spray sunscreen is the convenience. But there’s nothing convenient about sunburnt skin and infected eyes.

Spray the sunscreen into your hand first and then apply it to the face. Again, do not apply it around the eyes.

How Should You Protect Your Eyes?

If not with sunscreen, how should you be protecting your eyes in the summer? Wear a pair of sunglasses and a nicely brimmed hat.

Just because you can’t use sunscreen, that doesn’t mean you there’s no protection available for your eyes. Get a pair of sunglasses that offer UV ray protection.

Baseball caps or wide-brimmed beach hats will give you even more coverage from the sun. And, significantly reduce your risk of sunburn.

If you’re planning on going swimming, there’s no need to sacrifice eye protection. Many water goggles come equipped with UV protection built into the lenses. Spare no expense when it comes to protective eyewear.

Sunscreen in the Eye

Sometimes, accidents happen. So, what do you do if you accidentally get sunscreen in your eye? The first thing you need to do is stay calm and do not touch your eye. If you rub your eye, you risk getting more sunscreen in the eye.

What you need to do is wash out your eyes immediately with water (not salt water). Let the water bathe your eyes. This will remove most of the sunscreen, but not all of it. Certain eye drops can be used to flush out the rest of the sunscreen.

After washing the sunscreen out, your eyes will be very sensitive. To relieve the burning sensation, use either a warm or cold compress. Both methods will work but it’s up to you to figure out if warmth or coldness is more comforting.

If you don’t wash the sunscreen out of your eyes right away, you risk infection which can lead to pink eye. Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can be caused by chemical exposure.

Your vision may seem blurry for a few days following the incident, but it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you experience pain and continued blurred vision for more than a week, speak to your doctor immediately.

Sunscreen is great for protecting our skin from sun damage and skin cancer. Our eyes especially need protection from the UV rays. But, when it comes to our eyes, sunscreen can do more harm than good. Skip the eye area when applying sunscreen. Opt for UV repelling sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and sports goggles instead!

About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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One response to “How to Protect Your Eyes from Sunscreen”

  1. Avatar for ELSIE ELSIE says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with using sunscreen…it is full of dangerous CHEMICALS, the body doesn’t need. Take 15 -30 minutes of sunshine before noon, and don’t lie and fry in the sun. That way, you’ll be safe enough.
    My source of,this is Dr. MErcola…he says eyes need a certain amount of sunshine, but wear a wide brimmed hat, and avoid wearing sunglasses!!

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