Personal website of Martin Halford

Sunscreen Advice if you suffer from Stinging Watery Eyes

tl:dr If you suffer from sunscreen finding its way into your eyes making them sting and become watery, try switching to a zinc oxide or mineral based sunscreen. It may change your life.

After years of suffering stinging watery eyes due to sunscreen and sweat on my face running into my eyes, I embarked on a search for products that did not cause the problem. This post is for anyone having this issue. The solution has significantly improved my enjoyment of outdoor activities whilst still having SPF50 protection.

It was at a pharmacy in Singapore that the assistant suggested an Australian product called Invisible Zinc. I used this in New Zealand, just on my face, over the following six weeks, and had no problems whatsoever. I bought further supplies before returning to the UK, but eventually these ran out.

Invisible Zinc did not seem to be available in the UK, other than from International sellers, so I looked for alternatives, settling on an Avène SPF 50+ Mineral Fluid. This too has been very successful and I've had no problems with stinging watery eyes whilst using it. I've not tried other brands but I suspect most may have equally effective zinc oxide or mineral based products.

The products below are just what I happen to have used successfully.

Invisible Zinc Mineral Sunscreen SPF50. A physical sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide as the only active ingredient, providing a barrier to reflect harmful UVA + UVB radiation away.

Avène SPF 50+ Mineral Fluid. Very high sun protection, 100% mineral, fluid and light texture for skin most intolerant to chemical filters and fragrances.

There are a few downsides:

  • These are expensive products, but when only used on the face, they last a long time and for me at least are very effective, improving my quality of life.
  • There is a tendency to whiten the face, particularly if too much of the product is used. Putting some first on fingertips and dabbing on the face before massaging-in helps to reduce this. The Invisible Zinc perhaps had less of a tendency to leave the skin whitened. For me, a bit of embarrassment due to the whitening is worth the benefit of avoiding stinging watery eyes.
  • If using non mineral sunscreens on other areas of the body, it is a good idea to apply these after protecting your face and to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. Even then, be careful not to touch your eyes afterwards, particularly if you are very sensitive to non-mineral sunscreens.

Happy holidays!