But the fact remains that up to 80% of the visible signs of aging are due to sun damage. Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is the simplest, most affordable, and most effective way to keep your skin looking great for decades.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, daily sunscreen is even more important, but can pose special challenges.
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For some people, sun exposure can trigger breakouts. Many acne treatments make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Acne-prone skin can also react poorly to thick, heavy sunblocks that clog pores and make your skin look greasy.
However, skin problems don’t excuse you from needing protection from the sun. If you have acne-prone skin that tends to have breakouts, you still need daily sunscreen. You just have to be more careful about ingredients.
How to Choose a Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
If you have problems with acne or struggle with breakouts, here are some of the things to look for in a sunscreen:
Look for a physical sunscreen
Physical sunscreens have minerals (like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) that lie on top of the skin like a shield, physically blocking UV rays from reaching the skin. This physical “blocking” effect is why products that do this are usually called “sun blocks”.
Chemical sunscreens create a chemical reaction that converts UV rays into heat before releasing them from the body. While chemical sunscreens can feel lighter and thinner during application, they are more prone to irritating skin and clogging pores.
We know that mineral makeup can be great for acne-prone skin, and the same thing applies to sunscreen.
Look for non-comedogenic sunscreen
Instead of relying on “oil-free” on the label, look for “non-comedogenic.” These products are specifically formulated to not clog pores.
Use a vitamin C&E serum. Studies show that just vitamin C alone can help to protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays, but it’s most effective when combined with vitamin E and a potent antioxidant. Using a vitamin C&E serum beneath sunscreen provides up to four times the protection of sunscreen alone.
Look for natural ingredients without a lot of additives, chemicals, and fragrances. If you want to layer sunscreen with a serum or base makeup (such as foundation or concealer), you need a sunscreen that is as simple and natural as possible.
Keeping it natural is also healthier for your skin. It reduces the chances that different ingredients will interact and make your skin more sensitive or prone to breakouts.
Top Picks for Best Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
As mentioned above, vitamin C provides protection from sun damage, as well as helps to repair and restore already damaged skin.
This vitamin C serum from Dr. Brenner also contains vitamin E and ferulic and hyaluronic acids. These work to firm and brighten skin while reducing the appearance of dark spots, lines, and wrinkles. They help to calm irritation, and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
This serum is formulated for all skin types. Using this kind of serum beneath a physical sunscreen helps make the sunscreen more effective.
For those with sensitive, acne-prone skin, the DermaQuest SheerZinc Soothing Sunscreen is a must-have.
This broad spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 sunscreen uses micro-ionized zinc for better coverage and protection.
It contains vitamins C and E, along with date fruit and plankton extracts and a proprietary triglyceride formula. All these support collagen production, ease hyperpigmentation, and help repair acne scarring.
Iron oxide minerals provide light, non-clogging coverage that evens skin tone and blurs imperfections, so this lightly-tinted sunscreen can be worn alone or under makeup.
It’s safe for all skin types, but best for oily, sensitive, or acne-prone skin.
This sunscreen is available in three shades, but it also comes without tint if you want a simple sunscreen with no coverage. This product is also backed by a manufacturer’s warranty.
The Bare Republic Mineral Sport is a great choice for two reasons:
- it’s a sporty sunscreen with great sun protection and water resistance
- it has a mineral formula that won’t turn your skin white or cause breakouts
The lightweight formula isn’t oily or greasy, and the finish is smooth.
It provides an SPF of 50, with 80 minutes of water resistance, so it’s great for use outdoors.
It’s free of synthetic fragrances, petroleum, and parabens, and it’s cruelty-free and reef-safe. It’s a mineral sunscreen that feels natural and comfortable.
The light coconut vanilla scent goes perfectly with a beach vacation!
This ultra-lightweight daily sunscreen from Physician’s Care Alliance has been recognized by the Skin Cancer Foundation, earning their seal of recommendation.
It uses ultra-sheer zinc oxide to provide physical sun protection, along with octinoxate for chemical protection.
This sunscreen also has an SPF of 45, with antioxidants that protect from sun damage and help to even out skin tone.
It contains no dyes or irritants, no fragrances, and has not been tested on animals.
The light, quick-absorbing formula will not clog pores, and won’t weigh down oily skin. It can be worn alone or beneath makeup when you want more coverage.
While it’s no secret that we prefer sunscreens with antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients, they also can get fairly expensive.
The Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen comes in SPF of 30 or 55, and is an oil-free, non-greasy formula that doesn’t clog pores. It is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and has a price that can’t be beaten.
Neutrogena is a trusted brand with dermatologists, and, although this sunscreen is a chemical (rather than a physical) formula, many people love how it offers simple, non-greasy sun protection without causing breakouts.
Pairing it with an antioxidant serum might be a great way to get the best of both worlds, at a more affordable price.
Quick Recap of the Best Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
- Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum
- DermaQuest SheerZinc Soothing Sunscreen
- Bare Republic Mineral Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen
- PCA SKIN Weightless Protection Ultra Lightweight Daily Sunscreen
- Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid-Lotion Sunscreen
Even oily, acne-prone skin needs daily sun protection. There are a lot of great products that provide that protection without causing breakouts or irritating skin.
Some sunscreens also have beneficial ingredients that help to reduce the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation, so you can heal your skin while you protect it.