Face sunscreen for acne-prone skin

The best face sunscreens that won’t clog pores.

The importance of wearing sunscreen year-round

 

If there’s one step you never want to skip in your morning routine, it’s sunscreen application. Sunscreen is like a personal bodyguard that fends off the sun’s rays, protects your skin from damage and the signs of aging, and reduces your risk for skin cancer—as long as you reapply as needed so it can do its job properly. No matter what the weather outside is like, no matter the season or temperature—if you haven’t been wearing sunscreen everyday, now’s a good time to start. The sun’s damaging rays can still damage your skin on a cloudy day!

Make sunscreen a non-negotiable part of getting ready to go outside, and you’ll be thanking yourself later. To make it easier on you, we’ve decoded the technical language and researched some of the best sunscreens for each skin type. (Reminder: we aren’t associated with any brands. Our product recommendations are based on the ingredients and how well they actually work!)

What you need to know about sunscreen

  • How to find out if any sunscreen will break out or irritate your skin

  • Product recommendations of the sunscreens that’ll work for your skin type

  • How to layer sunscreen under makeup (without it pilling or flaking off!)

  • What to do if you think you’re allergic to sunscreen

  • How to protect your skin while swimming or sweating

But first, here’s a quick crash-course in the need-to-know basics.

What is SPF?

 

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a number that measures a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. The number is based on how quickly redness forms on sunscreen-protected skin compared to unprotected skin. Although sunscreens with an SPF of 15 protect fairly well against UVB, we recommend choosing a broad-spectrum (protecting from both UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, choose a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

What exactly are UVA and UVB? The sun’s UV (ultraviolet) light rays are classified into UVA, which are a longer wavelength, and UVB, which are shorter. It’s important to protect your skin from both. Sunscreens that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays are typically called broad-spectrum.

UVA

  • Main cause of aging and wrinkling — photoaging

  • Contributes to the development of skin cancer

  • Penetrates through clouds and glass — think of the sun exposure in your car!

  • Penetrates deeper into the skin compared to UVB

  • Major contributor to tanning (skin darkening is a response to sun damage and injury to the skin’s DNA — there is no such thing as a healthy tan!)

UVB

  • Main cause of redness and sunburn

  • Contributes to the development of skin cancer

  • Penetrates through glass, but less than UVA

Physical vs. Chemical

 

Sunscreens can be classified as physical, chemical, or both, depending on their ingredients.

TIP: If you’re using a chemical sunscreen, remember to apply half an hour before going outside.

Physical sunscreen

  • Contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which may help soothe irritation.

  • Physically reflects or “bounce” sunlight away from the skin

  • Certain kinds of physical sunscreen may leave a white cast on the skin (unless rubbed in well, micronized, or tinted)

  • Starts protecting immediately upon application

Chemical sunscreen

  • Contains ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone*

  • Absorbs UV light so that it can’t penetrate the skin

  • May irritate or cause an allergic reaction in certain people’s skin

  • Must be applied 20–30 minutes before sun exposure to get full protection

*Important your chemical sunscreen does not contain: Octisalate, Avobenzone, Octocrylene. These ingredients degrade in the sun which results in harmful free radicals being released into the body. These free radicals can accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of illness including cancer.

 

How to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type

Physical sunscreen is the best bet for acne-prone and/or sensitive skin. Certain physical sunscreen ingredients such as zinc oxide can even help against acne! Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, can irritate sensitive skin (and irritation can lead to breakouts). As always, look for products labeled “non-comedogenic” (translation: won’t clog pores). We’ll delve deeper into which ingredients to avoid a little later on in this guide—but, as a rule of thumb, avoid alcohol in skincare products (alcohol denat., aka denatured alcohol—other versions, such as coconut alcohol and cetearyl alcohol, are actually fine to use). And be on the lookout for pore-clogging ingredients such as coconut oil, octyl stearate, and isopropyl palmitate.

Best face sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Sunscreen is essential, but finding the right one isn’t always easy – especially when you’ve got acne to deal with. But protecting your skin from the sun is an essential step in preventing acne, age spots or sun spots, post-acne spots, redness, premature aging, and of course, skin cancer.

If you get breakouts, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in any product you use on your skin. We know it’s a lot to remember what all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients really are, though. Here are some products whose ingredients we’ve reviewed to make sure they’re non-comedogenic.

Drunk Elephant Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Ultra-gentle

  • Lightly hydrating

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

  • Leaves no white film on the skin

  • Specializes is being medical grade sun care with micronized zinc

  • Has hyaluronic acid and niacinamide in it for added skincare

  • Paraben, fragrance, dye free, non-comedonegenic

  • Recognized by the dermatology association

  • Excellent for sensitive, acne-prone, and normal skin types

The top 2 sellers are UV clear (which is on back order right new) and UV daily. However the UV daily tinted and the UV physical tinted are also super top sellers!

Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20

  • Long-lasting hydration without oiliness or heaviness

  • Blue algae extract keeps skin supple and fights inflammation

  • Naturally occurring vitamins A and C to improve skin’s appearance and provide antioxidant protection

  • SPF 20 is good and all, but you need more sun protection than that! We recommend topping it off with a powder sunscreen like, which will also set your makeup and reduce oiliness.


Best tinted sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Care for a side of coverage with your sun protection? A tinted sunscreen or tinted moisturizer with SPF is a great two-in-one product: it does double-duty as a lightweight foundation. All you need for a fresh-faced, glowy, effortless daytime look (complete with sun protection) is a tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. The tint evens out the appearance of your skin tone, and makes things like redness, acne, and pores a little less visible (just add some well-placed concealer, if needed). For more coverage, you can layer foundation makeup on top of tinted sunscreen, then follow it up with concealer on any spots you’d like to hide.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

Supergoop! CC Cream Daily Correct Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen

  • 100% mineral-based SPF 35

  • Corrects uneven pigmentation and softens the look of fine lines and pores

  • Contains hyaluronic acid to maintain long-lasting hydration

  • Includes vitamins and minerals to protect skin from free radical damage

  • Provides lightweight color coverage and correction, while protecting against UVA and UVB rays

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

How to reapply sunscreen over makeup

Powder sunscreens like ILIA Radiant Translucent Powder SPF 20 are a great, easy way to re-up your sun protection throughout the day without messing up your makeup. Bonus: a little powder will also get rid of any oiliness that’s accumulated on your skin, making your makeup look refreshed while you’re at it.

How to check for Pore Clogging Ingredients in your Sunscreen

There is a website dedicated to helping you dissect the ingredients in your sunscreen for pore clogging ingredients. You simply put the product name into the search input field on CosDNA.com, and if it isn’t listed there, you go to a tab that says Customized Ingredients and copy and paste product ingredients.

The results from that search will show up as a grid. Look under the Acne or Irritant column and if the number is higher than a 3 it may not agree with acne-prone or sensitive skin

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