Summer is here, and we’ve tested numerous sunscreens to find the best fragrance-free sunscreens for sensitive skin. In the past several months, we have slathered on sunscreen after sunscreen and weeded out the bad from the good ones.
Read on to find the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023!
Why use a fragrance-free sunscreen?
The increasing awareness of the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin has led to the widespread use of sunscreens. These protective products shield the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, reducing the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. However, an often overlooked aspect of sunscreen selection is the presence of fragrances in these products.
How sunscreens work
Sunscreens are formulated to block or absorb harmful UV rays, primarily UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburns, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, contributing to premature aging and increasing the risk of skin cancer. Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds that absorb UV radiation. In contrast, physical sunscreens contain minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that act as a physical barrier, reflecting and scattering UV rays.
Why you should choose a fragrance-free sunscreen
While fragranced sunscreens may offer an appealing scent, they hide a darker side. As we have written about extensively, fragrances are both unnecessary and can be harmful even if you do not suffer from perfume allergy (yet). And don’t worry, fragrance-free products do not have to be expensive!
- Skin Sensitivity: Fragrances are a common source of skin irritation and allergies, even in those with no history of skin problems. Sensitive skin types, those with eczema, or individuals prone to contact dermatitis may experience adverse reactions to fragranced sunscreens. These reactions can show as redness, itching, burning sensations, or even hives.
- Photosensitivity: Some fragrance components might cause photosensitivity when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to the sun, these compounds can cause a more severe sunburn-like reaction on the skin. This result is especially troubling because it defeats the preventive advantages of sunscreen and can possibly exacerbate skin damage from UV rays.
- Chemical Interactions: Fragrances in sunscreens may react with other chemical compounds in the composition, affecting their stability and potentially decreasing UV protection efficiency. This may result in inadequate sun protection, leaving the skin prone to sunburn and skin damage.
- Environmental Impact: The fragrances used in sunscreens are frequently produced using synthetic substances that can have negative environmental consequences when rinsed into water systems. Some scent components may not biodegrade easily and may accumulate in aquatic ecosystems, endangering marine life.
Benefits of Fragrance-Free Sunscreens
Given the possible downsides of fragranced sunscreens, opting for fragrance-free alternatives is a no-brainer. Fragrance-free sunscreens provide several advantages for both the skin and the environment.
- Reduced Skin Irritation: Fragrance-free sunscreens are less likely to irritate the skin, making them ideal for people with sensitive skin or who are prone to allergic reactions. Removing fragrance ingredients dramatically reduces the likelihood of unpleasant skin reactions.
- Enhanced Sun Protection: Fragrance-free sunscreens promote UV protection effectiveness. Without odors interfering with the sunscreen’s active ingredients, the product can deliver reliable and consistent protection against UVA and UVB radiation.
- Reduced risk of photosensitivity: Fragrance-free sunscreens are a better option for people who are photosensitive or have disorders that make them more susceptible to sunburns caused by particular chemicals reacting with sunlight.
- Eco-Friendly: Fragrance-free sunscreens contribute to the preservation of water systems, as these products are less likely to release harmful chemicals into bodies of water or sewages.
What is a good fragrance-free sunscreen?
A good fragrance-free sunscreen provides high-level sun protection without containing fragrances. Fragrance-free sunscreens are particularly beneficial for individuals who have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies or skin irritation.
When selecting any sunscreen, go for a fragrance-free sunscreen offering broad-spectrum protection.
American Dermatology Association (ADA) recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, while UVA rays can prematurely age the skin. Both UVA and UVB rays can contribute to skin cancer.
What does SPF mean in sunscreen?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.
SPF is a numerical grade that indicates how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays, which cause sunburn. It compares how long you can stay in the sun without burning to not using sunscreen. Higher SPF numbers provide more protection.
But it’s important to know that no sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation. To minimize exposure to UVB, choose broad-spectrum sunscreens, apply liberally, and reapply frequently for complete protection (especially if you sweat or go for a swim).
Finally, use sunscreen with other sun protection measures for the best resistance against damaging UV rays. This includes avoiding the sun during mid-day, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing.
Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and remember to reapply throughout the day and always after swimming.
What is the difference between a mineral and chemical fragrance-free sunscreen?
Not sure which type of sunscreen to buy? We’ll explain the key differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens.
Mineral (also known as physical) sunscreens contain zinc oxide alone or in combination with titanium dioxide. They block and protect the skin by reflecting away UV rays. Mineral sunscreens tend to be chalkier, and some leave the skin with a white cast.
Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone and work by absorbing UV rays before they can damage your skin. Chemical sunscreens tend to be easier to apply than their mineral counterparts and leave less white residue.
Chemical sunscreens can sometimes cause irritation if you’re prone to sensitivity, and dermatologists advise that mineral sunscreens are often better for those with sensitive skin.
Which are the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023?
We have spent months testing fragrance-free sunscreens to find the best in 2023. Our testing methodology includes scent and allergy-friendliness, sun protection, staying power, ease of use, affordability, packaging, and more.
We’ve tested all sunscreens against the hot southern California sun of San Diego throughout the day (and even tested in neighboring and hotter Arizona). Keep reading to learn which of the many sunscreens we tested made it onto the list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023!
Please note that you should always review the ingredient list and conduct a patch test before using a new sunscreen, especially if you have specific allergies or sensitivities (we’re not liable for any advice, sorry).
When you have found a sunscreen that does not irritate your skin, make sure to apply it liberally and reapply (including after going in the water).
Keep reading if you’re searching for a fragrance-free sunscreen that is gentle on sensitive skin. Below we present the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023 that will protect your skin from harmful UV rays without upsetting sensitive noses.
This fragrance-free mineral-based SPF 50+ sunscreen from Blue Lizard provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and is made with the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It is free of fragrance, paraben, oxybenzone, and octinoxate.
Despite being a mineral sunscreen, it’s easy to rub in and doesn’t feel greasy on the skin. Compared to most mineral sunscreens, Blue Lizard sunscreen is not as thick and absorbs much more easily. It only leaves a slight white cast and protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays for 80 minutes after application.
We really like that it doesn’t feel drying, which some mineral-based sunscreens tend to do. A fun gimmick is that the bottle changes color when exposed to UV light.
It’s affordable, and even though it’s not the very cheapest fragrance-free sunscreen per ounce, it is the best!
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen is our pick for the best fragrance-free sunscreen in 2023.
Type: Mineral | SPF: 50+ | Active ingredients: zinc oxide 10% and titanium dioxide 8% | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
Our runner-up is Coppertone’s fragrance-free mineral sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection with zinc oxide. The formula doesn’t contain fragrance, dyes, parabens, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), octinoxate, or oxybenzone (making it reef-safe).
The sunscreen is easy to rub in, its ‘silky’ texture feels great on the skin, and in comparison to chalkier, mineral-based sunscreens, this one doesn’t leave a white film after application.
It’s slightly cheaper than the Blue Lizard, and it’s one of the best fragrance-free sunscreens we’ve tested. Coppertone’s perfume-free sunscreen easily earns a spot on our list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023.
Type: Mineral | SPF: 50+ | Active ingredients: zinc oxide 24.08% | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
Next on our list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens is Vanicream’s Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+Mineral Sunscreen. It offers broad-spectrum protection (protects against both UVA and UVB radiation) and contains zinc oxide to reflect harmful UV rays.
Vanicream is one of the top dermatologist-recommended brands for those with sensitive skin. Just like all of Vanicream’s other products, this sunscreen is designed for people with sensitive skin in mind and is free of fragrance, masking fragrance, dyes, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde releasers, so you can be sure that the sunscreen is gentle on even the most sensitive skin. In addition, Vanicream’s mineral sunscreen is non-comedogenic, which means it is less likely to clog pores.
Upon application, Vanicream’s fragrance-free sunscreen absorbs well. It’s not as smooth to apply as Blue Lizard and Coppertone and has a matte finish, but it’s much better than most other mineral sunscreens.
We recommend Vanicream’s fragrance-free sunscreen as the best if you have very sensitive skin and are looking for a completely fragrance-free sunscreen.
Type: Mineral | SPF: 50+ | Active ingredients: zinc oxide 12% | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
Neutrogena’s fragrance-free invisible daily defense lotion provides broad spectrum SPF 60+ UVA/UVB protection. It has a silky texture, absorbs well with little effort, is quick-drying, and doesn’t leave a white cast.
It’s not the cheapest on our list, but it offers the highest SPF and premium quality, which is why Neutrogena’s fragrance-free sunscreen lotion easily earns a place on our list of the best sunscreens in 2023.
Type: Mineral | SPF: 60+ | Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (13.5%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (10%) | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30 is developed to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays with zinc oxide. It is formulated without synthetic fragrances, but it does contain botanical extracts. This sunscreen is a bit thicker than the others in the test, but it is still easy to apply and doesn’t rub off on fabric – just give it a minute to absorb.
Like many of our other picks, this one is also oxybenzone and octinoxate free and is water and sweat resistant for 80 minutes. As a plus, Babo Botanicals is B Corp Certified, while the sunscreen is EWG-certified. That helps Babo Botanicals make it onto our list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens of 2023 (but note the presence of botanical extracts).
Type: Mineral | SPF: 30 | Active ingredients: zinc oxide 16% | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
Babyganics mineral sunscreen is formulated without PABA, phthalates, parabens, or nanoparticles. It also doesn’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. It is made without synthetic fragrances but contains a seed oil blend, meaning it is not completely fragrance-free as, for instance, Vanicreams sunscreen.
But, Babyganics sunscreen spray doesn’t have a scent and is gentle, and its steadfastness is very impressive! That’s why we still include it on our list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens.
Type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Active ingredients: titanium dioxide 3.5%, zinc oxide 7.25% | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
If you’re looking for a hybrid sunscreen formula combining mineral and chemical sun filters, we recommend this fragrance-free Broad Spectrum SPF 30’s sunscreen from CeraVe.
The fragrance-free sunscreen not only reflects and absorbs UVA-UVB rays but is developed without fragrance or parabens, and it is non-comedogenic (which means it’s less likely to clog pores). It is also free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, and just like all CeraVe products, this sunscreen is infused with ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) to help restore and moisturize the skin.
This sunscreen from CeraVe is very lightweight and easy to rub in. It absorbs well and doesn’t leave any white residue after application. We also like that it leaves our skin feeling hydrated, and it’s our pick for the best sunscreen for everyday use.
Type: Mineral and Chemical | SPF: 30 | Active ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
If you prefer chemical sunscreen, this fragrance-free sunscreen from Bondi Sands is a great choice. This fragrance-free sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 50 UVA & UVB protection and is formulated with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E to keep the skin protected and hydrated. It is also free of parabens, sulfate, and reef friendly as it is formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate.
We appreciate that this sunscreen quickly absorbs and doesn’t leave a greasy residue. It has a more liquid consistency compared to mineral sunscreens we’ve tried, making it easier to apply and rub in. Additionally, it doesn’t leave any white marks and remains water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Looking for a facial sunscreen? Try the fragrance-free Bondi Sands sunscreen face lotion.
Type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 8% | Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
This fragrance-free sunscreen spray SPF 50 from Alba Botanica is free of synthetic fragrances and parabens but contains botanical ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, fruit extracts, and avocado oil. Usually, we only recommend products completely free of fragrances and botanicals, but we occasionally make exceptions.
This sunscreen spray doesn’t have a scent, and after having tested it for several months, we didn’t react to having very sensitive skin. That’s why we made an exception and have included Alba Botanica’s sunscreen spray on the list of the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023.
We like that the sunscreen spray doesn’t contain any oxybenzone or octinoxate and that it is also Leaping Bunny Certified (an internationally recognized symbol for cruelty-free products).
The spray is easy to apply, very quick-drying, and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling behind. You simply apply the sunscreen, and you’re good to go (note experts recommend using sprays as a supplement to a sunscreen lotion). However, we did encounter a minor issue with the packaging – the spray nozzle tends to get stuck, making it challenging to spray. This problem was consistent across several sprays that we tested.
Finally, the Alba Botanica Fragrance-Free Sunscreen is one of the cheapest per ounce and longest-lasting.
Type: Chemical | SPF: 50 | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 2.9%, Homosalate 14.7%, Octocrylene 4.9%, Octyl salicylate 7.6%| Water-resistant: up to 80 minutes
Summary of the best fragrance-free sunscreen of 2023
Fragrance-free sunscreens provide a safer and more effective alternative to perfumed sunscreens, offering sun protection without sacrificing product quality. Fragrance-free sunscreens can protect our skin, reduce bad skin responses, and improve environmental preservation by avoiding synthetic and unnecessary additives.
In our test of the best fragrance-free sunscreens in 2023, we found numerous outstanding products of at least as good or even better quality than any perfumed sunscreens. And many of them are sold at very affordable prices.
Our favorite is the Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Fragrance-Free Sunscreen, but we found that all of the above fragrance-free sunscreens were excellent, and we recommend buying any of them.
At WithoutFragrance.com, we strongly advise using fragrance-free sunscreens to ensure the best protection and care for our skin against dangerous UV radiation. Always test any product before using them. Even if a product is labeled fragrance-free or hypoallergenic, you cannot trust either the labels or that you might not suffer a reaction.
More fragrance-free sunscreen reviews at withoutfragrance.com
If you’re looking for fragrance-free sunscreens for the face or fragrance-free sunscreens for kids, check out our below reviews.
We review all types of fragrance-free products at withoutfragrance.com. See other popular fragrance-free product reviews, such as:
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