5 Skincare Ingredients That Can Make Your Skin More Sensitive to Sunlight

July 19, 2021
Skincare.com by L'Oréal
By: Skincare.com by L'Oréal | skincare.com by L'Oréal
5 Skincare Ingredients That Can Make Your Skin More Sensitive to Sunlight

Broad-spectrum SPF is an everyday skincare must. But did you know that certain ingredients found in your favorite products can cause photosensitivity and make you more prone to burning? To keep your skin safe from sun damage, lather on an extra layer of sunscreen in the AM and keep reading. Here, we’re sharing which ingredients can cause sensitivity to the sun. 

What Is Photosensitivity?

According to the FDA, “Photosensitivity makes a person sensitive to sunlight and can cause sunburn-like symptoms, a rash or other unwanted side effects. It can be triggered by products applied to the skin or medicines taken by mouth or injected.” Photosensitivity doesn’t just mean sunburns, either. It can also increase your chances of developing signs of skin aging, including dark spots, skin discoloration and wrinkles. 


Typically, ingredients that cause sensitivity to the sun are those that also help to exfoliate away dead surface cells or treat acne. The active ingredients reveal fresher skin that is more prone to reacting to the sun’s rays. In addition to using products that contain these ingredients at night, it’s always recommended to apply sunscreen in the morning to help protect skin from sun sensitivity and damage.

Skincare Ingredients That Can Cause Sun Sensitivity

Fruit Enzymes

Fruit enzymes are commonly found in in-office and at-home chemical peels. These are wonderful for gentle exfoliation, which can reveal brighter-looking skin, but they also can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. “Peels should be avoided during periods of intense sun exposure because they can make a person more vulnerable to the effects of the sun,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey Hartman. “Skin is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation, irritation and photosensitivity while peeling.”

Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids (AHAs)

Used primarily for chemical exfoliation, try to use products that contain alpha-hydroxy-acids, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum, in your nighttime routine. While glycolic acid and lactic acid are great for helping to brighten the appearance of the skin, thanks to their exfoliating abilities, they leave new skin cells vulnerable to sun damage. 

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum


A gold-standard anti-aging ingredient, retinol can be found in a multitude of products formulated to fight wrinkles and the signs of aging. Retinol exfoliates the skin’s surface, ridding it of dead skin cells and creates a younger-looking appearance. That’s why it’s important not to reverse its effects with sun damage. If you’re looking for a retinol to incorporate into your anti-aging routine, try the SkinCeuticals 0.3 Retinol. Just make sure to use it at night and apply sunscreen in the morning. 

SkinCeuticals 0.3 Retinol

Salicylic Acid

Check the ingredients list on your cleansers, spot treatments and scrubs for salicylic acid, which is a common ingredient found in over-the-counter acne-fighting products. While we love products like the Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleaning Gel for unclogging pores, removing dead skin cells and fighting acne, be aware that it can also increase your chances of burning. 

Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleaning Gel

Benzoyl Peroxide

If you have a benzoyl peroxide face wash, like the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser, we suggest using it at night and a gentler cleanser come morning. “Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial made of benzoic acid and oxygen,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Peter Schmid. “It penetrates the pores or follicles of the skin and kills the bacteria that lives there and contributes to inflammation that results in acne.”

CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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