It’s important that you wear sunscreen on your face every single day, regardless of the weather or season. But navigating the vast world of sunscreens when you have acne-prone skin can admittedly be tough. To make things easy, Bustle spoke with board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Marisa Garshick to find out everything there is to know about choosing the right sunscreen when you’re regularly dealing with breakouts. According to Dr. Garshick, the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin typically come in the form of noncomedogenic or oil-free lotions and gels, rather than heavier creams, that use mineral blockers (aka zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to minimize the risk of irritation. “Additionally, sunscreens that contain other active ingredients that can be calming and soothing on the skin, such as niacinamide, can be helpful for those with acne as it can help to calm inflammation,” Dr. Garshick says.
If you’re tempted to only wear sunscreen when you’re out in the sun, Dr. Garshick reminds readers that “It is important for those with acne to use sunscreen daily as one of the concerns for people dealing with breakouts is discoloration or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can occur as the acne spot is resolving, and wearing sunscreen regularly helps to prevent this discoloration from worsening.” Additionally, “Many products designed to treat acne, such as retinoids or salicylic acid, can make the skin more sensitive in the sun, so it is especially important to [wear sunscreen] to prevent the skin from developing a sunburn,” Dr. Garshick cautions.
When it comes to applying your sunscreen properly, Dr. Garshick has a few last words of advice. “Remember to apply sunscreen to a clean face when possible to prevent trapping dirt and bacteria which can lead to breakouts. Similarly, it is important to remember to cleanse the skin at the end of the day to make sure the sunscreen is washed off appropriately.” (Check out this guide to the
best cleansers for acne if you’re in the market for a new one.)
your perfect sunscreen match, keep scrolling.
Derm’s Pick: The Best Face Sunscreen For Acne
Elta MD UV Clear is a great option for those with acne-prone skin as in addition to offering broad-spectrum coverage, it also contains niacinamide, which calms and soothes the skin, reducing inflammation and redness that may be associated with acne flares. It also contains lactic acid which may help to unclog the pores, as well as hyaluronic acid which helps to moisturize the skin. This can be especially important if someone is also using anti-acne active ingredients as these can be drying on the skin, and it is important to avoid drying the skin out too much. It is also oil-free and noncomedogenic, which is especially important when it comes to finding a good sunscreen [for] acne-prone skin,” Dr. Garshick explains.
Relevant review: “LOVE. This is the only facial sunscreen that doesn’t make me break out. I’m on my second bottle. It leaves a nice glow to my combination skin, but doesn’t turn me into an oil slick. It also has a slight “luminescence” to it that I like; I feel like it subtly enhances my complexion. I’ll buy this again for my sensitive acne-prone skin, and I’d definitely recommend it to a friend!”
Derm’s Pick: The Best Face Sunscreen For Acne
oil-free sunscreen is a favorite for all skin types, but is especially good for oily skin as it absorbs easily, leaving a clear, natural finish. It not only offers protection against UVA/UVB rays but also contains red algae that may offer protection against blue light,” Dr. Garshick says.
Relevant review: “OH…MY…GOD. Who knew a facial sunscreen could be like this and not make you look like you’re either dead or have just seen a ghost. This stuff is magical! Seriously. It’s clear and not white. It’s thick as heck and it glides on so smooth. The texture is like a primer and it leaves a beautiful matte finish. I am SO glad I purchased this stuff but I do so wish I had purchased the bigger bottle.”
Derm’s Pick: The Best Face & Body Sunscreen For Acne
easy-to-apply sunscreen absorbs easily and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth, while providing SPF 60 UVA and UVB coverage. It also contains the Cell-Ox Shield technology, [which offers] antioxidant protection as well. It is safe to use on the face and body,” says Dr. Garshick.
Relevant review: “I finally found a sunscreen moisturizer that does not break my face out or leave a shiny/greasy film on my face; no nasty ‘sunblock’ smell and it dries matte so you can pair it with your regular moisturizer.”
new sunscreen from TULA, a brand that was developed by dermatologist Dr. Roshini Raj, may appear to have a tint, but it actually blends into all skin tones invisibly. Mineral blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide SPF 30 protection, while the brand’s signature probiotic blend helps promote stronger, more balanced skin overall. This also contains willowherb to soothe inflammation and red algae to help control excess oil — both major bonuses for acne-prone skin — as well as peach extract for its brightening benefits, and something very exotic called wild butterfly ginger root, which the brand says aids in protecting your skin from blue light and pollution. Overall, a very impressive formula.
Another Great Face Sunscreen With SPF 30
REN’s Clean Screen sunscreen is another great pick for acne-prone skin. In here, 22% zinc oxide provides an SPF of 30, while yellow passionfruit — a source of antioxidants — offers pollution protection as well. This also contains rice starch to soak up oil so your skin stays matte, but it won’t dry you out, since lightweight moisturizers like aloe vera and glycerin provide plenty of hydrating benefits.
Relevant review: “Amazing sunscreen that doesn’t cause my skin to be sticky and doesn’t feel heavy and doesn’t cause acne.”
Another Great Face Sunscreen With SPF 50
If SPF 50 is your preferred protection level, try
MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme. It checks off all the right boxes when it comes to sunscreens for acne-prone skin — it’s oil-free, lightweight, and noncomedogenic, and leaves skin looking matte. As an added bonus, this unscented sunscreen contains antioxidants like vitamin C to give the formula a protective boost.
Relevant review: “This is my favorite mineral sunscreen after trying quite a few. I have acne prone skin and not only does this not aggregate blemishes, it seems to help clear them up. It’s super light and dries matte. The overall health of my skin has improved since I started using it 6 months ago.As for its effectiveness, I wore it in the summer on the beach in Florida and it worked as well as the chemical sunscreen I used on my body.”
Best Tinted Sunscreen
If you like a bit of a tint with your sunscreen, consider this
BB cream with SPF 50 from Australian Gold’s Botanical line. It uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection, while a blend of antioxidants — like red algae, kakadu plum, and eucalyptus — offer further skin-protecting benefits. Sold in three shades, this fragrance-free, non-greasy sunscreen leaves behind a matte finish while it simultaneously helps even out your complexion thanks to its tinted formula.
Relevant review: “100% recommend. I use a lot of this everyday and it blends very well just using my fingers. Blurs my acne scars and looks like a light natural looking foundation. I was looking for a cruelty free inexpensive sunscreen, that didn’t come in a tiny container. This has exceeded my expectations! It also dries matte and stays like that all day! I have oily acne prone skin and this hasn’t broken me out. I’ve been using it for almost 2 months and I haven’t finished the bottle yet. Definitely getting this again!”
Best Sunscreen Stick
For easy SPF reapplication throughout the day, keep a sunscreen stick in your bag.
Cetaphil’s sunscreen stick — a relatively new launch from the brand — is a great choice for acne-prone skin since it uses mineral blockers to protect your skin from the sun, and has a non-greasy, noncomedogenic formula that blends in sheer. Other highlights include SPF 50 protection, water resistance for up to 80 minutes, and vitamin E to leave your skin soothed and soft. And to top it all off, it rings up at just $10 on Amazon.
Relevant review: “This sunscreen stick is wonderful! It is so easy to apply (glides on skin) and goes on clear. I thought it would leave a white sheen but it doesn’t. You can’t really tell that I’ve applied anything on my face. I really like this formula and it also feels gentle. The one I got is SPF 50, which is great sun protection for 80 minutes. Very happy with this Cetaphil product and will be using this all summer (if it’ll last that long).”
Best Powder Sunscreen
Powder sunscreens don’t provide enough protection to be used as your primary form of sunscreen, but they’re still convenient for touchups throughout the day and/or layering on top of your makeup for added sun protection. This one, from Colorescience, was specifically designed for oily, acne-prone skin, as it contains mattifying ingredients that help soak up excess oil and reduce the appearance of congested pores. Like most of the sunscreens on this list, this relies on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to help shield skin from the sun, per Dr. Garshick’s guidance.
Best Gel Sunscreen For Your Face & Body
As Dr. Garshick noted, gel sunscreens may be preferable for people with acne-prone skin since they’re known for being exceptionally lightweight and breathable.
Sonrei’s Clearly Zinq Mineral Gel Sunscreen is an amazing, under-the-radar find from the new-ish brand (they only launched in 2019). It’s the rare mineral sunscreen gel out there — most gels use chemical sun blockers — and it goes on clear, doesn’t suffocate your skin, and can be used on both your face and body. The fragrance-free formula is enriched with aloe vera and shea butter to nourish your skin without clogging it or making it feel greasy, while a water-resistant rating of up to 80 minutes tops everything off.
Best Face & Body Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
Vanicream is a brand that dermatologists often recommend for people with highly sensitive or allergy-prone skin, since they steer clear of using common irritants in their formulas. Their
SPF 50 sunscreen is no exception: It’s a super-gentle, zinc oxide-based sunscreen that’s noncomedogenic and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. You can use this on both your face and body, but expect a slight white cast (as is the cast with most zinc oxide sunscreens). This also contains soothing allantoin to help keep sensitive, irritated skin feeling comfortable throughout the day.
Relevant review: “Excellent for anyone using acne medication that dries out your face. Super product.”
Best Spray-On Body Sunscreen
If you’re prone to breakouts on your body, try
Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen for neck-to-toe use. Like all zinc oxide-based sunscreens, it may leave behind a white cast, so be sure to blend it in well. Formulated with sensitive, delicate skin in mind, this SPF 30 sunscreen feels lightweight and non-greasy once absorbed, and offers up to 80 minutes of water resistance. It’s so gentle that even babies can use it safely.
Relevant review: “This product is one of the most pleasing textures for sunscreen I have experienced, and it blends in incredibly well, you wouldn’t even know that it’s a mineral sunscreen. There is no scent and my husband who hates sunscreen is a fan.”
Best Face Moisturizer With Sunscreen
If you prefer to apply your moisturizer and sunscreen in one step, you’ll love
PanOxyl’s Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30. The formula does three things simultaneously: hydrates skin sans grease with hyaluronic acid; protects skin from the sun via zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; and soaks up oil to leave your face looking matte for hours. It’s the perfect two-in-product to help you get out of the door quickly in the morning.
Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D. F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.