Sunscreen in eyes

It's essential to wear sunscreen every day of the year, regardless of whether it's summer or the cold, not-so-sunny winter months, and whether you're planning on spending time at the beach, on the lake, or even at the park. 

But watch out for the agonizing sting when sunscreen seeps into your eyes. Even though sunscreen doesn't permanently damage the eyes, it can cause chemical burns on the eye's surface that can cause discomfort for a few days.

Sunscreen in eyes in Olympia

How should I apply sunscreen so that it doesn't get in my eyes?

The best way to prevent sunscreen from entering your eyes is to apply it carefully. Use sunscreen lotion slowly and carefully on your face, avoiding your eyes and eyelids. Mineral-based sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, adhere to the skin better and are therefore less likely to enter the eye. Avoid applying spray-on sunscreen on your face. Be sure to keep sunblock containers out of the reach of children and apply their sunscreen yourself. You should not allow your child to apply sunscreen themselves since they may rub their eyes without washing their hands first.

American Family Vision Clinic

How do I get the sunscreen out of my eyes?

Wipe your eyes

You should wipe around your eyes first to remove any excess sunscreen so that it does not happen repeatedly. If you're wiping your eyes, make sure you don't get sunscreen in them. 

Flush your eyes

The next step is to flush your eyes with clean water to remove any sunscreen from them. Flushing your eyes can be done in several ways, including using a syringe or by cupping water in a clean hand and dipping your eye into it, you can also keep your eye open under a gently flowing tap. It's important to remember that, no matter how you flush out your eyes, you're going to feel some discomfort initially, but once it's out the discomfort will subside.

Applying a cold compress

You can also apply a cold compress to ease the pain. Make sure you use preservative-free artificial tears frequently for a few days. Avoid eye drops that contain preservatives, since the chemicals could irritate your eyes further.

The irritation should disappear completely within a few days, depending on the circumstances. But if you are still experiencing irritation, you should visit us at American Family Vision Clinic for a thorough eye exam.

My sunscreen burns my eyes when I sweat. Which sunscreen should I use?

My sunscreen burns my eyes when I sweat. Which sunscreen should I use?

Fortunately, not all sunscreens burn the eyes. There are two types of sunscreens – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens provide great protection from the sun's harmful UV rays, but many of them can burn if they get near your eyes. The good news is that physical sunscreens also provide great sun protection but do not burn! Don't let the wrong sunscreen spoil your outdoor fun. Look for sunscreens whose only active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. 

My sunscreen burns my eyes when I sweat. Which sunscreen should I use?

Why wear sunscreen?

Besides protecting yourself from sunburn (if your skin type burns), following are other reasons why you need to wear sunscreen:

  • The use of sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer.
  • Wearing sunscreen reduces premature aging.
  • Using sunscreen reduces the risk of hyperpigmentation.
  • Sunscreen helps prevent skin inflammation.
  • Sunscreen helps to prevent sun sensitivity.

Common Questions

In the event your child gets sunscreen in their eyes, please remember the following: Do not panic. While your child may be in pain, this pain will not last and sunscreen on the eyes will not cause lasting damage. When you appear scared, your child will be more afraid as well. By being calm, you will help your child remain calm. Wash your child's face with water. Get them to look up and gently pour water on their eyes with a cup. Our office or any local drugstore carries lubricating eye drops that do not contain any medications. These will help relieve any discomfort for a couple of days. In case your child is still experiencing some discomfort, try placing a cold washcloth over the eyes. If you're concerned for any reason or if you have any questions, you can call us at (360) 491-2121.
There are no reported cases of sunscreen causing permanent damage, however it may cause prolonged discomfort. In the even that sunscreen is causing protracted discomfort please schedule an emergency eye exam with our eye doctors who can reduce discomfort.
Sunscreen in eyes
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Schedule a Medical Eye Exam Immediately

If you have tried all the methods listed above to alleviate the pain in your eyes and flush out the sunscreen, but you are still experiencing pain or burn in your eyes, then you may want to schedule an appointment with us for a medical eye exam. To schedule a medical eye exam, call us at (360) 491-2121 or book an appointment here by clicking this link Book an Appointment .  Patients searching for advanced medical eye care visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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