My mother blessed me with her good skin. I don’t smoke, I drink tons of water and I rarely fall asleep with makeup on. I am obsessed with my skincare routine. And I always wear sunscreen. I’ve never had acne or any type of major skin issues.

But that all changed in 2009.

I will never forget the day I first started having an issue with my skin. For the first time I understood what it was like for people with acne. You can’t cover your face. Your face is exposed for the world to see. And as a professional makeup artist & esthetician, how can I teach folks about skin care and beauty when my own skin looked horrible?

For the next 4 years I kept seeing my dermatologist. He kept saying it was rosacea and to watch my lifestyle a little more.

Every time I left the dermatologist office with another lecture, I won't lie, I left pretty pissed off. I knew what he was telling me was not the complete picture. Even with his treatments, I wasn't getting better. Who am I to argue with a medical professional?

What the hell was causing this mysterious breakout on my skin?

Finally it was time to take matters in my own hands.

Since I was diagnosed with rosacea, I started journaling everything I used and everything I ate. While I hate self diagnosis, my journal told me I was experiencing some sort of allergic reaction to product.


Because of the pattern of my breakouts I would see on my skin.

My breakouts were happening all over my face. My forehead, my chin. The pattern was very distinct. I was breaking out in areas where I applied makeup or some sort of facial product.

So what was causing all of this?

Chemical Sunscreen.

I would wake up looking like this. My entire face always burned. And itched. Common symptoms of rosacea yes, but the pattern of breakouts was very distinct on where I applied makeup.

I also was experiencing horrible red eyes. Not both, but one or the other.

There were days I would go to work without makeup. I couldn't stand to put on makeup. It made my already irritated skin even more irritated and my eyes burn.

Why? Because I my FOUNDATION also contained chemical sunscreens.

I was bathing in chemical sunscreen. It was in my face lotion and in my foundation. The combination of all of this was irritating my sensitive rosacea prone skin. No wonder my face was in so much pain!

Chemical sunscreen can burn the eyes. Chemical sunscreen is also more irritating to skin, especially sensitive skin.

But we need sunscreen! So what's a gal to do? Choose a Physical Sunscreen.

There are two types of sunscreens. Chemical and Physical.

  • Physical sunscreen protects you by BLOCKING the sun’s rays from your skin.
  • Chemical sunscreen protects you by ABSORBING the sun’s rays.
  • A physical sunscreen is labeled Titanium Dioxide & Zinc.
  • Chemical sunscreens are labeled: Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Helioplex, 4-MBC, Mexoryl SX and XL, Tinosorb S and M, Uvinul T 150, Uvinul A Plus.

Phew. That was a mouthful.

This is the easiest way to remember the difference between UVA & UVB.

  • UVA- The "A" means aging. These rays cause our skin to age prematurely. (Did you know that the sun causes almost 90% of your aging? UVA protection is crucial for those of you who don’t want to look older before your time.)
  • UVB- The "B" means burning. These are the rays that cause our skin to burn. Ouch!

Do we need both? Yes.

In 2011, the FDA requires cosmetic companies that manufacture products labeled with sunscreen protection labeled "Broad Spectrum"-meaning it has to protect against UVA & UVB rays.

Physical Sunscreen

  • Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays but not the full spectrum of those dreaded UVA rays. Bummer.
  • Zinc protects against all UVA and UVB rays. Oh zinc. How I love you so.
  • You can find sunscreens that combine both Titanium Dioxide & Zinc. Having both will give you a full range of protection against UVA & UVB.
  • Physical sunscreens start protecting you as soon as you apply. Nifty!
  • You must reapply frequently.

Chemical Sunscreen

  • Experts say that chemical sunscreens offer more protection against physical sunscreens by absorbing all the UV rays.
  • You must wait 20 minutes before you can go out in the sun for adequate protection.
  • You must reapply as well.

I try to be a responsible blogger. I have many personal opinions about chemical sunscreen but none that aren't relevant to this article.

I will, however, let you read a wikipedia article and let you make your own informed decisions about chemical sunscreen.

See this article on the Potential Risks of Sunscreen.

As a professional makeup artist, I am seeing more and more women walk through my front door to my makeup studio with breakouts they can't explain. Once I start talking to them and hearing their stories, I offer advice and find I have helped a lot of women discover their own allergy to chemical sunscreen.

I hope this post has shed some light and perhaps maybe answered some of your mysterious questions about your own skin.

NOTE: I recently did do a full patch test to cosmetic ingredients with my ALLERGIST doctor and sure enough, several chemical sunscreens were on that list. Is it because of my rosacea? Perhaps.

These days, it's almost impossible to escape chemical sunscreens. So when I do use something with chemical sunscreen, I keep a tube of hydrocortisone handy to take care of an allergic reaction. This stuff is a miracle in a bottle itself if you have any type of cosmetic allergies. Great to keep in your emergency bag when you travel.

How to Treat Cosmetic Allergies
How to Treat Cosmetic Allergies

Hope this post helps you discover if chemical sunscreen is the cause of your face breakouts.

I will put up my favorite physical sunscreens for you to try.

If this post helps you, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your story!

Stay Smart, XO, Sonia

Skinceuticals has one of the better physical sunscreens on the market for the face. I seem to have good success when using this manufacturer. Here are my 2 favorites of all times. I personally use the Skinceuticals SPF 50.

I will update this post more as I try new ones. I will never give you a recommendation without personally trying anything. :)

*Sunscreen helps protects you against skin cancer.