Originally posted May 29, 2019
Applying sunscreen is a great way to protect yourself from cancer-causing ultraviolet light. However, applying it to your face does come with the risk accidentally getting it in your eyes. Today, we’re going to discuss how sunscreen in your eyes affects your vision and what you can do to fix it.
Common sunscreen and sunblock products that you can find in the market contain an ingredient called avobenzone. This compound helps filter UV rays into heat energy to protect the skin. It also has the unfortunate side effect of causing irritation on the surface of the eye. As a result, getting sunscreen in your eyes can cause a burning, stinging sensation along with watering. The good news is that getting a small amount in your eyes won't cause permanent damage.
The best way to keep your eyes sunscreen-free is through careful application. Using manageable portions, apply lotion sunscreen gently and slowly to your face, taking care to avoid your eyes and eyelids. "Mineral-based sunscreens, such as ones with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, are best since they stick to your skin better and are less likely to run into your eyes," CEENTA Ophthalmologist Rachel Sabo, MD, said.
If you are using spray-on sunscreen, avoid spraying it directly onto your face. Instead, spray the mist into your hands and rub it on your face in a similar manner to lotion sunscreen. You should also be aware of your surroundings and the direction of the wind to avoid accidentally spraying someone else in the face. Your ideal solution is to apply the sunscreen indoors on windy days.
Keep sunblock containers away from children and be sure to apply their sunscreen for them. Don’t let your child apply sunscreen themselves since they might rub their eyes without fully cleaning their hands.
To protect the delicate skin of the eyelids, wear UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses.
If you or your child get sunscreen in the eyes, your first step is to immediately flush them with water. Sinks, showers, and water bottles can be useful, but distilled water is the safer option. Flush your eyes for 15-20 minutes, blinking your eyes regularly while you do. If you wear contacts, make sure to remove them first prior to flushing your eyes.
Your eye may still be a bit irritated and red once you’ve completed the flushing process. Don't be alarmed as this is likely due to previous irritation from the sunscreen or excessive flushing. Wait another 15-30 minutes to see if your eye completely recovers. You can also soothe the pain with a cold compress. Use preservative-free artificial tears frequently for the next few days, as their counterparts contain chemicals that could cause further irritation.
In many cases, the irritation will disappear completely after a few days. However, if your eye is still irritated, make an appointment with a CEENTA eye doctor for a complete examination.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Dr. Sabo practices in our Statesville office. To make an appointment with an eye doctor near you, schedule online, through myCEENTAchart, or by calling 704-295-3000.
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