SPF Ingredients To Avoid If You Have Eczema

Though eczema is not a dangerous skin condition, it can be pretty annoying to deal with. Officially known as atopic dermatitis, eczema presents as severely dry skin (via National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). The most common symptom is intense itchiness, which tends to leave those with the condition more prone to infection, simply because they're more likely to scratch and break the skin.

Several factors can cause eczema to flare, including hot weather and ingredients that come into contact with the skin. Therefore, wearing SPF can be problematic for people with this condition, as certain formulas lead to a reaction that irritates eczema further and causes more inflammation.

However, the answer isn't to go without SPF altogether, as sun protection is especially important for those with eczema. The sun itself is not thought to cause eczema, and some exposure to the sun may actually relieve the condition, per Healthline. However, too much time in the sun can be a trigger for symptoms, as the sun has a drying effect which makes the skin itchier and flakier. Additionally, SPF guards against an increased risk of skin cancer and premature signs of aging, so eczema aside, it's vital for everyone.

Rather than going cold turkey on the SPF front, you can avoid aggravating your eczema by steering clear of sunscreens with chemicals and fragrances that enflame your already sensitive skin.

Avoid fragrances and chemical sunscreens

When you're choosing the right sunscreen for eczema, you'll need to look out for ingredients that people with dry or sensitive skin avoid on a regular basis. Speaking to Who What Wear, board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, MD, revealed that looking for "fragrance-free formulas" and avoiding "chemical sunscreens" is important.

While fragrances can make SPF smell better than the white heavy sunscreen you remember from your childhood, they aren't great for sensitive skin. Iren Shizen explains that even natural fragrances can lead to contact allergies and worsen conditions like eczema.

In simple terms, avoiding chemical sunscreens means staying away from SPF products that use chemicals to provide a defense against the sun. These products typically contain ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone, which have both been connected to contact dermatitis (via Everyday Health). To be safe, opt for physical sunscreens instead of chemical formulas. These products use minute fragments of ingredients such as zinc oxide to defend against the sun rather than allergenic chemicals that may upset your skin, per La Roche-Posay.

How to avoid irritating eczema in the summer

Along with avoiding SPF products that contain fragrances and harsh chemicals, it's also important to take other precautions during summer to improve your eczema symptoms. Be sure to keep your skin cool, since any heat source can increase your symptoms. Though sitting in the sun may feel nice, make sure you're regularly giving yourself breaks and sitting in the shade, or by a fan. You can also use a cool wash cloth on areas of your skin where eczema tends to appear the most.

It's a good idea to wear breathable clothing if you experience eczema. Fabrics like polyester trap sweat against the skin, which causes more heat (and can even lead to heat rash). Instead, go for summer garments made out of cotton, which will keep your skin cool.

If you find that your eczema is worse in the hot weather, it's worth speaking to a medical professional who may be able to guide you to stronger forms of relief. Oral antihistamines can help to ease the itching that comes with eczema, as can prescription steroid cream. As eczema is a dry skin condition, it's important to apply plenty of moisturizer, particularly after you've spent time in the sun. Just make sure your moisturizer (and any other product you put on your skin) is also free from fragrances and chemicals, otherwise you'll be back to square one.