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Why Does Sunscreen Burn My Eyes?

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A woman applying sunscreen lotion on her face at the beach while looking directly at the camera and smiling.

Sunscreen is an essential part of our daily skincare routine, especially during the warmer months when we spend more time outdoors to enjoy the sun. But have you ever experienced a stinging sensation in your eyes after applying sunscreen? This unpleasant feeling can be irritating and may discourage some people from using sunscreen.

The main culprits behind the burning sensation in your eyes after applying sunscreen may include:

  • Chemical ingredients
  • Fragrances
  • Sweat and oils
  • Improper application

In the sections ahead, we’ll walk you through each of these culprits and the various reasons they cause a burning sensation in the eyes. We’ll also explain how to protect your skin while minimizing the risk of eye burning, as well as treatment tips to try out should you accidentally experience it again. 

Let’s first uncover the different ingredients found within sunscreen that can lead to eye burning.

Chemical Ingredients

Most sunscreens contain chemical ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate. While these ingredients protect our skin from harmful UV rays, they can also irritate and sting the eyes. 

These chemicals may enter our eyes through sweat or by rubbing sunscreen on our faces. Once in contact with the eyes, they can irritate and cause a burning sensation. Some people may be more sensitive to these ingredients than others, leading to a more severe reaction.


Many sunscreens also contain fragrances to make them more appealing and mask the strong smell of the chemicals. Unfortunately, these fragrances can also irritate and sting the eyes. 

Fragrances are known irritants, especially for those with sensitive skin and eyes. Choosing fragrance-free or hypoallergenic sunscreen is always recommended if you experience stinging in your eyes.

Sweat & Oils

As we sweat, our body’s natural oils can mix with the sunscreen on our face, creating a film that can easily enter our eyes. This can also happen during activities such as swimming or exercising, where the sunscreen can be washed or rubbed off into our eyes. 

The combination of sweat and oils with chemical ingredients and fragrances can intensify the stinging sensation, causing discomfort.

Improper Application

The way we apply sunscreen can also contribute to stinging in our eyes. If we are not careful, we may rub sunscreen on our face too aggressively, causing it to spread to our eyes. It is essential to apply sunscreen gently and avoid getting it too close to the eye area. 

Additionally, using too much sunscreen or not allowing enough time for it to absorb into the skin before going out in the sun can also lead to stinging in the eyes.


To prevent stinging in the eyes from sunscreen, there are a few steps you can take. These can include:

  • Choose a sunscreen specifically designed for sensitive skin or labeled as hypoallergenic. These sunscreens are typically free of fragrances and harsh chemicals that can cause irritation.
  • Apply sunscreen carefully, avoiding the eye area. Consider using a separate sunscreen specifically for your face or one labeled “eye-safe.”
  • Allow enough time for the sunscreen to absorb into your skin before going out in the sun or engaging in physical activities.
  • Reapply sunscreen as needed, but be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face again.
  • Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses to protect sensitive areas around the eyes from direct sun exposure.


If you do experience stinging in your eyes after applying sunscreen, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the discomfort. These include:

  • Rinse your eyes with cool water to help flush out any sunscreen that may have gotten into them.
  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack over closed eyes to reduce inflammation and soothe irritation.
  • If the stinging sensation persists, consider using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to help flush out any remaining sunscreen and provide relief.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can further irritate them and potentially spread sunscreen residue onto the sensitive skin around the eye area.
A female optometrist using a medical device to examine the eyes of a female patient and look for potential eye problems.

Protect Your Eyes with Total Vision Pasadena

Stinging in the eyes after applying sunscreen can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but thankfully, it’s a common issue that can be prevented easily. By choosing a suitable sunscreen for your skin type and being mindful of application techniques, you can enjoy the sun and protect your skin without experiencing any stinging in your eyes. 

If you do encounter this issue, don’t panic. Try out some of the tips provided above to alleviate the discomfort and continue enjoying your time outside. At Total Vision Pasadena, we care about your eye health and are here to provide any further guidance or advice. 

Get in touch with us if you have any concerns or questions about eye irritation caused by sunscreen or any other eye issues you encounter.

Written by Total Vision

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