What sun screen will not make my face hot?
November 13, 2020 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I spend lots of time in the sun. Most of my body tans but my face turns bright red with just a bit of sun exposure. It's uncomfortable and it's embarrassing to be constantly sunburnt even when it's winter or cloudy, (just a little sun exposure burns my face). The only problem is if I use sunscreen for some reason my face is uncomfortably hot that evening, every time. Is there a sunscreen I can use that won't make my face hot? Is there any other ideas? Hat and sunglasses isn't enough. Thanks
posted by maxexam to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first guess would be there's something in the sunscreen that your face is having a mild reaction to. What kind of sunscreen do you use? Do you use the same one all the time? Is it a chemical or mineral sunscreen?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:09 PM on November 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

The Reddit skincare wiki page on sunscreens might help. I don’t think anyone on the internet can tell you what will work, but trying their recommendations until you find the l one that is least irritating is worth a try.
posted by caek at 4:10 PM on November 13, 2020

I’m not sure why you’re having a reaction, though it could potentially be a reaction to a specific chemical sunscreen. I’d try mineral sunscreen (no specific recommendation) and see if that works better for you.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 4:18 PM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Try a very simple ingredient physical sunscreen designed for babies. If you are sensitive to an ingredient, dialing it back to a very uncomplicated formula can help you narrow down what it is.
posted by phunniemee at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

The two things you mention - bright red face with just a little sun exposure and hot face after using sunscreen - make me wonder if you have ever looked into the possibility that you have rosacea. If not, it might be worth taking five minutes to read about it.
posted by Redstart at 4:39 PM on November 13, 2020 [9 favorites]

Try to find one without propylene glycol. A lot of people are sensitive to that. I think I ended up using a Neutrogena sunscreen, but be careful -- some Neutrogena products (including their soap) do include propylene glycol.
posted by amtho at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding the mild reaction theory. I get the same sensation when particular kinds of beer (likely indicating a yeast sensitivity) but only when the weather is hot or my body is heated from activity-- hot face (like I used to get whenever super embarrassed or outraged as a kid) and sometimes itchy arms. Then it goes away.

I wish I had better advice; I stay out of the sun for a reason-- just see my username.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:23 PM on November 13, 2020

Does anyone in your family have rosacea? I'm thinking the redness you see that fast isn't just a sunburn, but possibly connected to rosacea brought on by being the sun. And your face hurts when you wear sunscreen perhaps because an ingredient or possibly because you are wearing sunscreen when you spend more time in the sun. So, it might not be the sunscreen, but the sun or the heat. This is also why the hat isn't protecting your face, because you aren't getting burned.

I haven't fully looked into all of this, but my face goes beet red when I get even a little bit warm, more likely to happen in the sun. And it stays flushed and warm sometimes, even if I'm not sunburnt. It's only in the past few years that I've found out that this happens to my dad and sister too and is connected to rosacea.

Temperature extremes and sunlight can trigger flares, as can exercise. If the rest of your body doesn't burn, I don't think this is simply a sunburn. The rosacea pictures online on reputable websites are pretty extreme cases and might not look like what you have, so it might be worth talking to a doctor or dermatologist.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:32 PM on November 13, 2020

Here's a source on rosacea.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2020

Okay, sorry for my third post in a row, but the dermatologists have some advice on sunscreens (I'm reading this for myself, too!):

How to choose rosacea friendly sunscreen
Finding a sunscreen that won’t irritate your sensitive skin can be a challenge. Dermatologists recommend that you look for a sunscreen with:
Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both
Silicone (may be listed as dimethicone, orcyclomethicone, or cyclomethicone)
No fragrance (label may say “fragrance free,” but if it says “unscented” choose another sunscreen)
Broad-spectrum protection
SPF 30 or higher

posted by bluedaisy at 5:38 PM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

My #1 suggestion is an umbrella with UV lining, #2 granny visor, #3 Biore UV Kids Milk. My skin hates everything (thanks rosacea), but I've been okay with Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Cream as well. However, the umbrella is the most powerful anti-sun weapon.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:04 PM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

This happens to me and my rosacea face. I have tried US, European, and Asian sunscreens bought around the world and the best for me is Elta MD UV Clear that my dermatologist recommended. The niacinamide and zinc combo really calms my skin. It’s pricey if you’re used to buying it in the drugstore, but Dermstore has it for 20-30% off a few times a year (they usually have good Black Friday sales which should be coming up).
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:20 PM on November 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Thanks for all the suggestions. After looking at pics online and reading about it, it seems highly likely that I have rosacea. What can I do next to start without seeing a doc? I don't have health insurance and dermatologists are expensive. I found this Reddit post, but I'm overwhelmed with info:
posted by maxexam at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2020

I've got a very red face. When it comes to sunscreen, Anessa brand is the least annoying thing I've found yet. It certainly feels very different and much less annoying (to me) than most others.
posted by eotvos at 9:54 PM on November 13, 2020

I have mild rosacea and my face reacts badly to many sunscreens too. Mine gets both hot and itchy. I've had good luck sticking with mineral sunscreens that are fragrance-free and alcohol-free. A really inexpensive one that I love is The Ordinary Mineral UV Filters. It comes in different SPFs and is as non-irritating as I've ever found. The Ordinary also has an incredibly generous return policy that lets you try products without risk. You can get it at Sephora too, which has a similarly amazing return policy.

One downside is that mineral sunscreens often result in some whitecast, especially in higher SPFs, but I've found that the whitecast from The Ordinary sunscreen goes away as long as I spread it evenly and give it a few minutes to absorb and settle.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:37 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try Dr Dray on YouTube for evidence based rosacea treatments. (She is controversial for her weight, so I guess trigger warning for eating disorders.)
posted by stoneandstar at 2:48 AM on November 14, 2020

Rosacea.org has a lot of relevant info broken up into small, easy-to-read sections and DermNetNZ has a concise basic rundown. The best first step is to keep a diary of flare-ups and see if you can identify any common triggers/trigger factors and then work toward eliminating or mitigating them.

Chemical sunscreens aren't recommended for rosacea, and since you know sun exposure and/or your current sunscreen are a major triggers for you finding a mineral/physical sunscreen should help immensely. r/SkincareAddition has a decent sunscreen breakdown with recommendations. Some well-reviewed, inexpensive drugstore brands are Aussie Gold, Vanicream, and Alba Botanica.

Clinical treatments for rosacea are prescription only, and usually involve topical Azelaic Acid and/or micro doses of oral antibiotics (for their anti-inflammatory effect). There's a few OTC options for Azelaic Acid like The Ordinary's Azelaic Acid 10% and Melazepam 20%.
posted by givennamesurname at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have mild rosacea, though sun doesn’t seem to be a major trigger for me. My main trigger is dry air, usually heated dry air inside or wind and cold dry air outside. It helps a little to put a thick layer of an emollient cream on my face if I know I’m going to be outside, to help protect my face. Drinking alcohol exacerbates a flare, but doesn’t usually cause one on it’s own for me. I am very familiar with hot face, it’s so uncomfortable!

If seeing a doctor / dermatologist would be a financial hardship for you, I wouldn’t bother - there really isn’t that much they can do. I did see a dermatologist tried a couple prescription topicals (sulfur based and antibiotic). Neither helped at all. I got a laser treatment a few years ago that did help, but it was expensive and not covered by insurance so I haven’t gone back for another one yet though I do want to eventually.

The rosacea basics are:
- try to identify your triggers and avoid them if possible (difficult to do with environmental triggers!)
- stick to gentle products; nothing drying, and only the gentlest exfoliation. If something seems to irritate your skin, stop using it

For sun protection, using hats and uv protective clothing to the extent possible is great, but you’ll still need face sunscreen. I agree with the advice to try a mineral based one (so the active ingredients are only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide). You could also try a Japanese or Korean sunscreen - they (along with a bunch of European and Australian sunscreens) have newer UV filters that aren’t approved in the US yet. A lot of people (including me) find that those newer filters are less irritating than the ones you find in US sunscreens. Make sure you wash the sunscreen off thoroughly - I like using an emulsifying oil cleanser, because it removes sunscreen really well and isn’t drying.

Do you use moisturizer at night / in the morning? If not, using something with soothing and anti inflammatory ingredients may help some, though it won’t get rid of the rosacea.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't have Rosacea, but I had a horrible allergic reaction to the Elta MD sunscreen. It actually made my skin more photosensitive so be careful. I use the Cerve Baby sunscreen now and have had no problems with it.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2020

I've got rosacea (as does my mother and grandmother). My Mom did a long course of antibiotics for hers and absolutely wrecked her gut biome in a way that has been persistent for many years. This was in the late 80's - early 90's when standard treatment was a year or more of antibiotics. So, I've always stayed away from that approach.

I have tried Azelaic Acid (Rx strength) and the cream does create a stinging/burning sensation on the face that can last for 30-60 min. It does improve texture and reduces redness very effectively, but every time I've improved enough to get off it, the rosacea starts up again.

The thing that has helped me the most and also has a semi-permanent effect after a course of treatment is the non-Rx Zhong Zhu (ZZ) Cream. It treats the rosacea by killing off the Demodex mite overgrowth that is present in a significant number of rosacea sufferers. From the research I've read, it appears that people with rosacea have abnormally high populations of Demodex mites living in their skin. These are microscopic mites that are normally found in most people's skin, just in much lower numbers. In people with rosacea, the mite population grows out of control and the body's immune system responds to them with major inflammation. If you kill the mites, the body reduces inflammation in response. This cream uses sulfur (so it's a no-go if you're allergic to sulfur) and it's also got boric acid, menthol and some herbal ingredients. It's been very effective for me and after a course of treatment (daily use for 3 months), my rosacea went away. I occasionally need to do a tune-up for a few weeks, or I repeat the course, but the effects have been stable for me for 5 years now. I have almost no redness, no itching, no papules, smooth texture, and no burning. I think that there's a hereditary immune system component that allows for the overgrowth, so I expect I'll have to monitor this continually, but having long periods where it goes away completely has been fantastic.
posted by quince at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

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