Sunscreen in Eyes – What Should You Do?

Published on: January 28, 2023 (Last modified on: January 27, 2023)
Young woman on the snow slope applying sunscreen on her face.

Sunscreen should always be on your skin when you are outside to protect against skin damage and cancer. Your face especially needs sunscreen due to its constant sun exposure, but there is a risk of getting sunscreen in your eyes when you apply it – here’s what to do if you get sunscreen in your eyes.

Sunscreens tend to have many different chemicals that are used to block the UV rays from damaging your skin. They also may contain perfumes and other substances that can irritate sensitive tissue, especially the eyes. If you get sunscreen in eyes, burning and irritation is bound to occur.

Sunscreen-in-Eyes Remedy

If you accidentally get sunscreen in your eyes, do not panic. In most cases, it will not damage your eyes if you act quickly. The best sunscreen-in-eyes remedy is to remove the substance as quickly as possible. Here is how to get sunscreen out of eyes to relieve burning and prevent eye damage.

  • Find a water source. If you are outside, you need to find some fresh, clean water. Get to a sink, fountain or anywhere with running water. In a pinch, you could use a bottle of water but running water is best.
  • Wash your hands. Most likely, your hands are covered with sunscreen if you have sunscreen in your eyes. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to get any sunscreen residue off your fingers before you begin to attempt to flush your eyes.
  • Remove contacts. If you wear contact lenses, you need to remove them from your eyes. They will need to be cleaned to remove any sunscreen from their surfaces.
  • How to flush your eye. You need to flush your eye continuously with water for several minutes or more. If possible, put your head under a low-pressure stream of water and allow the water to wash in and over the eyes. Otherwise, use your hand to deliver water to the eye, splashing it constantly for 10 or more minutes.

Once your eyes are thoroughly flushed, your eyes should begin to feel better. They may be irritated from the sunscreen and the flushing process. You can use a cold compress to provide relief from the irritation. Artificial tears can also be used to relieve irritation over the next 24-48 hours.

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Preventing Sunscreen-in-Eyes Scenarios

The best sunscreen-in-eye remedy is preventing it from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you and your family avoid getting sunscreen in the eyes.

  • Do not use spray-on sunscreen. When putting sunscreen on your face, avoid spraying it on your face. It is too easy to accidentally have spray blow into your eyes. You can spray it onto your hands and apply it if that is the only sunscreen you have, but cream is better for facial applications.
  • Keep your eyes closed. Keep your eyes closed while you apply sunscreen to your face. A mineral oil or cream base sticks better to the skin and is less likely to drip, which can help avoid eye exposure.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly. Once you have applied sunscreen to your face, wash your hands. Your face should be the last place you apply sunscreen, then wash your hands to avoid touching your eyes with sunscreen on your fingers.
  • Do not let children apply sunscreen. Small children should not apply sunscreen without adult supervision. They are likely to rub or touch their eyes and get sunscreen in eyes. An adult should apply the cream or make sure that children wash their hands after they apply their sunscreen.

It is easy to forget to be careful with sunscreen, especially if you are applying it often. However, if you get it in your eyes, you will realize how important it is to avoid this. You can also buy sunscreens that are made with ingredients that do not irritate the eyes.

When to See a Doctor for Sunscreen-in-Eyes Burning

If you completely flush your eyes for 15-20 minutes and you still have pain and burning after an hour or more, it may be time to see a doctor. Some irritation is normal, and may last a few days, but if you are in pain or your eyesight is affected, there may be damage to the eyes.

You can go to an urgent medical care center if the pain is significant. Otherwise, you can call an eye doctor to schedule an appointment if you still have eye irritation or pain after a few days. An ophthalmologist can perform a thorough eye exam to determine if you need treatment.
A hand holding a bottle of sunscreen lotion.
If you get sunscreen in your eyes, it is usually not a serious concern. If you know how to flush your eye or how to get sunscreen out of eyes with water, your eyes should heal on their own. In the future, be careful applying sunscreen or use brands that are made to not irritate the eyes.

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