There’s no reason to panic if you get sunscreen in your eyes and you can probably just flush your eyes with cool water to fix the problem. For the most part, sunscreen will not immediately damage your eyes if some accidentally finds its way in there. However, the chemicals can cause an irritation or even a burning sensation. You’ll want to get your eyes cleaned out as soon as you can to prevent any additional pain or irritation.

Flush Your Eyes with Water

A firm, steady stream of cool water is ideal for clearing sunscreen from your eyes. If you can, just pop in the shower and use a removable shower head to get the job done. Direct the stream at your eyes, keep the pressure low enough that it won’t cause any further damage, and let the water run until you’re not longer feeling any burning sensation. It should only take a minute or two of constant flushing.

If a shower isn’t a viable option, any free running water will get the job done, such as under the kitchen sap. In a pinch you can also use bottled water poured directly into your eyes with your head tilted. Failing that, if need be, try cupping water in clean hands and splashing it into your eyes to flush them. This will probably take several minutes to accomplish properly and you may notice increased irritation at first.

Make Sure Your Rub Sunscreen in Completely

This is actually one of the easiest ways to prevent sunscreen from getting in your eyes. Most people are a little hesitant when it comes to using sunscreen around their eyes. Ironically, this is because you’re trying to avoid getting it in your eyes. The result is that it’s often not rubbed in well. It can then easily get into your eyes more easily by running down your face with sweat or just because it’s still in a heavy layer that hasn’t been absorbed.

Other Preventative Tips for Keeping Sunscreen Out of Your Eyes

Don’t spray sunblock right in your own face. If you spray sunscreen directly on your face it can be hard to control where it goes. You should be using sunscreen on any exposed skin so you do want it around your eyes, just not in them. When spraying your face, do the area around your eyes one at a time. You can cover your eyes with your free hand and spray your cheeks and forehead. Spraying sunscreen on your eyes, even if they’re closed, isn’t really recommended. The force of the aerosol blast will likely get some in your eyes anyway.

Make sure you’re using a reliable, waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen. This will help ensure that it doesn’t start running down your face when you get too hot or when you come out of the water.

If you have kids, put their sunscreen on yourself rather than letting them do it. Try using sunscreen sticks or mineral based sunscreens with kids or if you have sensitive skin.

One of your best options for sun safety around your eyes is to use large sunglasses. You should be wearing these in the bright sun anyway as your eyes are just as susceptible to uv rays as your skin, but obviously you can’t protect them with sunscreen. A good pair of polarized sunglasses should protect your eyes and eyelids from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. That way you don’t need to worry about getting sunscreen close enough to be a danger.

Mineral Sunscreen In Your Yes

Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a little harder to get in your eyes since the formula is generally thicker. That said, they can still get in there if something goes wrong. In most cases, mineral sunscreens will actually sting less than chemical sunscreens. There are fewer irritants in mineral sunscreens and zinc and titanium are fairly non-reactive. But you’ll still want to use the same method to flush them out.

Do Not Use Eye Drops

You may be tempted to try to use eye drops to help clean your eyes or relieve the pain and irritation. This is generally not a good idea, especially if they are drops that have some kind of preservative. The chemicals in the drops may actually interact with those in the sunscreen. This could potentially make the situation worse.

After you have flushed your eyes you may want to use a simple moisturizing eye drop, like some kind of fake tears. But even then there’s a good chance this will just increase the irritation that you feel. The best thing, once you have used water to clear your eyes, is to just give it time.

Wet cloths as a cold compress may make you feel comfortable as well.

The Bottom Line

Flushing your eyes with clean, cool water is the best way to deal with sunscreen in your eyes. Use a shower or hose if you have access. Bottled water or water splashed from a sink can work in a pinch as well if you have no other options. Avoid rubbing your eyes or adding other compounds which could make it worse. Then all you can do is wait for the stinging to go away, which shouldn’t take too long. As always, stay safe and have fun.