Could I be allergic to Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen?

by Paris B on · 22 comments

in Discussions,Sunscreen

allergic to zinc oxide?

I’d read so much about zinc oxide and how its THE BEST UV blocker out there, blocking both UV-A and UV-B rays effectively. Zinc Oxide is also recommended for people with sensitive skin because its a physical blocker and therefore less likely to irritate skin unlike chemical blockers.

So of course I had to try sunscreens with Zinc Oxide – its supposed to be the best after all!

I tried 3 different types – 2 on my face and 1 only on my arms. The ones I tried were the Australian Cancer Council Ultra sunscreen (only on arms), Diorsnow Sublissime UV Ultimate Whitening SPF50 PA+++ and Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk (both on face).

Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide clogged my pores

To my surprise, within 2 days I found myself getting clogged pores and breaking out from the Sunplay Skin Aqua and DiorSnow sunscreen. I’d actually picked up the DiorSnow sunscreen because it contains a high percentage of zinc oxide – they actually tell you that it contains 19.41%!

I was not sure if it was the sunscreens so I went back to all my usual non-irritating skincare and added back the sunscreens one by one. And true enough, the clogged pores and acne returned, mostly on my chin and along the jawline.

I struggled to get my skin under control and cut out everything including the sunscreen, going back to my Eucerin White Solution Treatment SPF40 with Tinosorb – a chemical sunscreen. Guess what? My skin is now under control and healing and no more clogged pores than usual!

Can Zinc Oxide clog pores?

I wondered if it might be zinc oxide that was causing my clogged pores and acne. I tried doing a search online but there weren’t many results that could help me. Most articles on sunscreen will in fact tell you to try zinc oxide if you have sensitive skin!

However, I saw a small mention on cosmeticscop that said that Zinc Oxide can clog pores in oily skin. I don’t have very oily skin but I started thinking that if it could clog pores in oily skin means it could clog pores, period! I also saw some other articles that said that if you are allergic to zinc then you might want to steer clear of zinc oxide. I have no known allergy to zinc and all it does is give me clogged pores not cause my skin to burn like some people reported. Interestingly I have not had an adverse reaction to Titanium Dioxide so I’m sticking to this as a physical blocker.

Chemical Sunscreens work better for me

I have since realised that my skin works well with chemical sunscreens or chemical combined with Titanium Dioxide. I used to use L’oreal UV Perfect with Mexoryl without problems. Eucerin White Solution has Tinosorb (chemical) and also Titanium Dioxide and I went back to it after nearly 2 months of experimentation. My latest love is La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL which works a treat for me! My skin has less issues and actually looks better now. I thought it was some other creams at first, but I’m now using those creams and still not having problems so my hunch must be right and it must be zinc oxide making life hell for me.

Note: I’m not saying those sunscreens I tried are no good. I know of many who actually love them because they work for them. They just don’t work for me – boo!

This has been educational for me. It reinforces the fact that what works for everyone may not work for just anyone because we are all different and so are our skin tolerances. It also tells me I should just stick to the sunscreen that works for me and I think this time I will… until I stray again 😉

Do you have a sunscreen allergy story to share or how a sunscreen that works for everyone does not work for you? We might all learn a thing or two or use it as a reference :)

Stay beautiful

Paris B

Previous post:

Next post:

[ 20 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

sesame September 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

I do have issues with sunscreens containing high zinc oxide. I’m not so sure about clogged pores but I think it’s more due to the drying effects from zinc oxide that causes skin to secrete more oil.

Anyway, there are several arguments over this one but I believe breakouts might happen for some skin types and it also depends on the formulation. I use two formulations, both containing zinc oxide from the same brand. One works fantastically well for me; the makes my skin a bit more drier even though content of zinc oxide is the same.


ParisB September 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Hi Sesame

Thanks for your input! I’m just guessing about the zinc oxide clogging my pores but 2 products having the same result seems to point in that direction.


aiyu September 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

Was it ok for you when you use Zinc Oxide on your body?
Well, at least you’ve found your culprit!

For me, I think I’m allergic to waterproof sunblock. I would break out in rashes on my neck, arms and face. But it’s only in small patches.
I still haven’t figure out what waterproof sunblock is suitable for me. :(


ParisB September 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Hi Aiyu

Zinc Oxide on the body seemed ok though I do recall some little bumps on my arms too now I think about it. Perhaps what you’re allergic to is not waterproof sunblock but a certain ingredient in that sunblock? Usually the culprit is chemicals whether in the cream or the chemicals that block the sun.


Synaesthesia September 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm

To be frank, I’m totally have no idea what makes my skin became so sensitive, clog pores and having zits from nowhere… I hate that. Tried many ways to remove zits but one gone one comes…I did not try anything new, all products are my regular routine products and they never cause me any problem… Suddenly, large pores and zits…


ParisB September 1, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Hi Synaesthesia

Sometimes its hormonal or environmental changes – haze, weather etc or sometimes although we are using the same products, the manufacturer might have changed some part of the formula without us realizing it. Many factors – hope you find something to help you :)


violet September 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm

i also have the same problem with aiyu.
i am allergic to certain sunblock such as banana boat & nivea sunblock.
My face would be swollen and itchy when i apply it on my face. Not sure whether the zinc oxide or other content that makes me like that.
So as alternative, i always go for foundation with SPF in it.

However my face seem to be fine when i use Sunplay (with the highest SPF one) on my face. i only use it when i know i will be under the sun for a long time.


ParisB September 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Hi Violet

Wow that’s quite a severe reaction. Glad you worked it out – at least you know what to avoid. I don’t go with Banana Boat because I believe it contains avobenzone or oxybenzone which I found did not work for me too – I don’t believe they contain physical blockers. Also I dislike the texture and scents. Experts tell us that sunscreen in foundations isn’t quite sufficient so it might be better finding a sunscreen that works and using it under foundation :)


September 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm

So far I’ve not experienced any allergies with natural and chemical sunscreens. I don’t mind using either, but would prefer chemical sunscreens if I could, as too much titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide tend to create a grey cast on my skin.


ParisB September 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Hey Tine

Ah you’re right about the grey cast too. That or white and you always look like a ghost in photos because of the reflection off physical blockers! LOL…


September 1, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Could I be sensitive to them too? When I was in Langkawi I used the Sunplay one on my face and after a few days, I had a MAJOR breakout all over my face. I’m still waiting for the scars to go =(
Any good ointments or special treatments for scar ??


ParisB September 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Hi Yuki

So sorry that happened to you! I’m sensitive to Sunplay too. I always recommend Vitamin E for scars – its slow but it does its job. Best for any spots to heal first then go with the Vitamin E treatment.


Nella October 2, 2009 at 11:52 pm

I have been using clinique for about 6 years and noticed that i would get little break outs here and there. mostly around my nose and forehead. Recently i decided to change to Lancome (the moisturizer and foundation and all that good stuff). THinking that Lancome would make it better, it made everything worse. Im not sure if it’s because the lotion has like a 30SPF in it, could I be allergic to that??? You would figure dropping 200$ on a facewash, moisturizer and foundation would do the trick but I guess this time price has nothing to do with quality of the product. I switched back to Clinique just to see if it’s the ingredients in the Lancome that I’m allergic to. :( grrr.


ali November 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

My doctor said that I should use nothing but sunblock. I live in London and my skin gets dry, and my skin hates sunblock!!! They make it even dryer and clog my pores I ve tried: avene, prozone, etaphil, even creme de la mer. I dont know if its oxide zinc, dioide titanium or the chemical sunblocks. You know of sunblocks that have these ingredients separetly to test what is exactly that doesnt suit me?
I would love the help from a sunblock expert!!!!


Sue December 26, 2009 at 10:36 am

I’ve just recently discovered a zinc allergy. I was having allergic reactions to my insulin (I have type 1 diabetes). Hives all over my head – big ones! My lip swelled and my throat would close up. I was taking more than 10 Benadryl a day. Problem was, I couldn’t avoid what I was reacting to because it keeps me alive!

When I finally figured it out I was using an insulin without zinc – the previous two brands I was on contain zinc! I took a zinc lozenge because I felt a cold coming on and Shazam! Figured it out because my throat started to close up almost immediately. :)

I didn’t even know it was possible to be allergic to zinc… There’s not much info out there.


Hannah May 23, 2011 at 1:18 am

I’m allergic to zinc oxide and every time I’ve come into contact with it (be is sunscreen, acne wash, diaper rash meds) my skin always blisters.


Carmine November 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I just spent like $30 on “Invisible Zinc- Body Sunscreen SPF 30+” I normally get any other sunscreen that is like nearly half the price, but I thought, because I am very fair and live in the harsh Australian climate, I might try the Zinc oxide. I put some on and got the white caste they warned about, but not too bad and didn’t last long. Then I got red swelling at my wrist and thought I might be having a reaction. Either I have a reaction to my gold bangles or it is the zinc oxide, I am not sure. Occasionally I do get swelling at my wrists like this before, usually when I apply something on my skin. I wear the gold everyday for a couple of years with occasional swelling so it may just be a coincidence. It isn’t itchy or burning just red swelling and blotchy like I scratched it or something but only on the gold bangled wrist and my ring finger (I have had my ring off for a week now for this rash and try patch to go away. And I have worn this ring everyday for 11 years with little problem before). I am a little concerned to try it on my face.
Is it possible to develop a gold allergy, or any allergy later in life like that, I wonder?


Carmine November 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

*dry patch (rather) – not try patch


Kitty July 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I know this post is quite old but it certainly assured me I’m not crazy! I was told to switch to zinc sunscreen by a well meaning doctor (previously a different doctor had misdiagnosed a minor patch of dermatitis on my face as Rosacea + after 5wks of antibiotics and metrogel my face was a horrid mess). Since the new doctor restored my face I obediently switched to zinc sunscreen. However despite trying multiple brands, all with different base ingredients, the result was the same: very unhappy skin flaring up with red itchy patches and bumps wherever I have applied the sunscreen eg face, hands, arms. I double cleanse so that should not be the problem. After repeated trials I have come to the conclusion that my skin just does not agree with zinc oxide. But common opinion seems to laud zinc sunscreen while chemical sunscreens are demonised. Annoyingly it also seems that the typical response to suggestions of allergy to zinc sunscreen is a dismissive ‘you must be reacting to one of the other ingredients’. I wish there was more balanced discussion out there. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me because I keep reacting adversely to physical sunscreens.


Gray July 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

I found this discussion during a search on ‘zinc oxide allergy’ and like Kitty, I’m glad to see I’m not crazy! While I don’t think I’m allergic to zinc oxide (I can use it on my body just fine), it does NOT agree with my face. I get red, rashy-looking bumps and clogged pores all over my face after only 1 or 2 uses. I wanted to switch to a more natural facial sunscreen and I’ve tried multiple brands (plain zinc oxide, zinc oxide/titanium dioxide, zinc oxide with some chemical sunscreens, etc.). Initially I just assumed it was my picky skin until I purchased some PURE zinc oxide and mixed it with a moisturizer I’ve been using for years with no problems. Sure enough, same break-outs and rash after the zinc was added!!


Let's Talk ~ Share your view

No SEO names, rude comments or advertising in comments. Please read the comment policy if new.

Share your latest blog post

Previous post:

Next post: