Various kinds of sunscreen containers on a beach with blue skies and water in the background

Sunscreen is essential protection from the sun and you should never go outside in summer without applying it on uncovered skin. Before you buy sunscreen, first read the label carefully and look for brands that are fragrance-free and contain recommended non-allergic ingredients.

Choose sunscreens with only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, says Rajani Katta, MD, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. Studies show these ingredients do not penetrate the skin or enter the bloodstream, unlike chemical-based sunscreens.

Sunblock using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide tends to be thicker and goes on white, although new formulations are less noticeable, Dr. Katta says.

Contact dermatitis – a red, itchy rash – can occur as a result of an allergic reaction to sunscreen containing active, chemical ingredients or fragrances and preservatives. Chemical ingredients to watch for include benzophenones, cinnamates, salicylates and dibenzoylmethanes.

Irritation or stinging typically occurs right after application and the rash may not show until 2-3 days after use, according to Dr. Katta.

If you’re uncertain whether a sunscreen will cause a reaction, try putting a dab on a small area of your skin before slathering it on your body.

Sunscreen for Infants?

Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Babies’ skin is much thinner than adults, and it absorbs the active chemical ingredients in sunscreen more easily, increasing the risk of an allergic reaction or inflammation.

If there’s no way to keep your baby out of the sun, make sure the baby is covered at all times and wearing a hat, then apply a small amount of sunscreen – with an SPF of at least 15 – to small areas such as the cheeks or back of hands. Test your baby’s sensitivity to sunscreen by first applying a small amount on the inner wrist.