We always say SPF is your BFF, but what if you have acne and breakout-prone skin? It’s not very friendly when SPFs sting your blemishes or causes breakouts. Well, Cassandra has acne-prone skin too, but luckily, she has tested hundreds of sunscreens so that she could give you the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin.
While Cassandra has not found the perfect sunscreen for those who are blemish-prone, she has certainly found some that come pretty close. Before we get into our favorite picks, let's talk about what “a sunscreen for blemish-prone skin” means. Firstly, we don’t want a sunscreen for acne-prone skin to sting blemishes. We don’t want the formula to cause irritation or redness. As for comedogenicity, the term comedogenicity is questionable, but there are certain textures like greasiness or ingredients like coconut oils that not all skin types get along with. If you are acne-prone, coconut oil could be really great, but for some people, it’s not the friendliest. So, for this list, Cassandra has primarily picked gentle formulas that don’t feel greasy on the skin.
#1 CARE:NEL No Sebum Perfect UV Shield - $14.50
For our first pick, this SPF is “milky and brightening.” Cassandra has never come across a mattified
sunscreen, but this one does come close. Whether you’re oily and acne-prone or dry and acne-prone, it is a gentle formula. It’s a mineral formula. So, it’s less likely to sting the eyes and the open blemishes. It takes a little bit of rubbing, but eventually, it goes in very sheer. On top of that, this has tea tree oil in it. Tea tree is antimicrobial and antibacterial. So, although this isn’t going to erase acne off of your skin, this is an excellent choice for someone who is acne-prone. If you’re worried about sunscreen making you look oily or greasy, it’s not mattified, but it does look a little less shiny than something like the newGlow Recipe Watermelon Sunscreen.
#2 Zitsticka Megashade SPF 50 - $26
But, what if you have acne-prone skin and actually want something that gives a little glow? In that case, this one works great for acne-prone skin. And although it’s worth 40 to 50 bucks, it is worth every cent While there’s nothing in this formula that actively fights acne, it has niacinamide, tea tree, and ceramides. Zitsticka has truly created a beautifully elegant formula made for acne-prone skin. Zitsticka has some of Cassandra’s favorite acne products on the market, and they are a very acne-focused brand.
Now, the Megashade does contain chemical filters, but it won’t sting intensely. Perhaps if you have an open pimple or a sensitive area, you might want to avoid that. You can also test it out a bit before rubbing it all over. This formula is very liquidy, it’s a serum texture, and it’s great for reapplying your sunscreen. You can also use it on a beauty blender or a sponge and tap it on during the day. This would be a fantastic way to reapply. Although it’s not mattified and gives you a dew, Cassandra has found that it doesn’t irritate, clog pores, feel greasy, or make one look greasy.
(This does go on sale!)
#3 Apostrophe 'Screen SPF 43 - $27
Apostrophe offers ingredients like spironolactone, tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and tretinoin inside of their prescription products. Likewise, Apostrophe’s sunscreen goes along great with all of these ingredients. Apostrophe says it’s a hydrating formula that’s made for acne-prone and sensitive skin. While there’s nothing in the formula that’s truly going to fight breakouts, it’s a moisturizing sunscreen. The formula also contains iron oxide which is the best sunscreen ingredient for preventing hyperpigmentation. And even though it has chemical filters, it doesn’t sting. However, avoid putting it on open lesions or sensitive skin. Naturally, this may cause a bit of irritation. Overall, the formula is gorgeous, formulated to work well with prescription products, and it doesn’t have a thick, greasy feel.
#4 EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 - $39
This sunscreen is an oil-free, non-greasy product created by doctors. It’s a cruelty-free formula that’s specifically made for acne-prone skin. Elta MD says the sunscreen “calms and protects” acne-prone skin. This formula has high purity niacinamide, transparent zinc oxide, UVA, and UVB protection. If you are someone who struggles with acne and hyperpigmentation, this niacinamide makes it fantastic!
Niacinamide stops your skin cells from sharing melanin, pigments that are created after a blemish or from sun exposure. It stops pigment from traveling to the keratinocytes, which are skin cells that help cause some of the discoloration on those blemishes. This is fantastic for anyone who has post-breakout hyperpigmentation or PIH. The formula stings open blemishes less than the Zitsticka or the Apostrophe one, that’s primarily because it’s got zinc oxide and octanoate.
However, niacinamide does tend to pill. Given that, this sunscreen can pill a little bit depending on how much of it you use. This formula has sodium hyaluronate which acts as a form of moisture. It also has lactic acid, but it doesn’t as an exfoliant; it’s mainly a pH adjuster.
#5 Averr Aglow Pure Protection Face Sunscreen SPF 30 - $42
This is nourishing to acne-prone skin, and it’s a completely mineral formula. So, it takes a little bit to rub in. It’s one of the most non-sting formulas. If you have super sensitive skin, you're going to love this. It’s a very nice and silky formula that has nourishing oils like sea buckthorn, antioxidants, and vitamin C that can help with wound healing.
So, if you have open wounds, it doesn’t sting, it helps them heal, and the SPF 50 keeps them protected. It’s more of a milky formula, and it takes a little more time to rub in than the other ones to rub in. Given that, it might not be best for Fitzpatrick types 5 or 6, but overalk. Additionally, there is pomegranate oil and grape seed oil which are also amazing for antioxidants and skin support. While this is “dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic,” in reality, this term doesn’t have a ton of merit, however, it’s still a great choice for acne-prone skin. And despite the oils, Cassandra doesn’t think this is a very oily formula and actually finds it to be more mattifying than the Zitsticka or Apostrophe sunscreen.
#6 Murad Oil and Pore Control Mattifier Broad Spectrum SPF 45 - $48
If you are oily and greasy, this is a fantastic formula. The sunscreen comes out as a pillowy, non-peeling, texture, and it is amazing. This one probably stings the less. The formula has zinc oxide, but it also has some of those organic/chemical filters. The sunscreen goes onto the skin nicely, blends in nicely, and again, it’s not mattifying the way a powder would be, but at the same time, it does help to control oil and mattify the skin.
Cassandra’s biggest pet peeve is that it’s only an SPF 12 so you do have to apply it more liberally. This is a product that Cassandra always keeps in her arsenal of sunscreens. If she knows that she’s going somewhere that she’s going to be sweaty or if there’s an occasion where she needs oil control under makeup, this is wonderful, especially for the T-zone. This feels very lightweight, and it’s almost completely matte.
#7 SLMD Skincare UV Bounce SPF 30 -$39.99
This one looks similar to the Colorscience, but it’s available at target and is much less expensive. It also comes in many different shades.
Colorescience Sunforgettable® Brush-On SPF 50 - $69
#8 Jane iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen - $50
This combines makeup and sunscreen, and it’s probably one of the most skin-friendly choices that Cassandra has ever made. If you’re really into makeup, and you want something that looks and feels similar to makeup on skin, Jane Iredale does not disappoint. This is next level! You have refillable powder cartridges on the bottom of the brush, making it more eco-friendly. You can pop the makeup brush up and down. The brush is very luxurious, tapered, offers really good coverage, and it’s much easier to clean thoroughly.
#9 Colorescience Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50 - $36
Although this sunscreen’s brush has a downfall, Colorscience makes up for it with creating a sunscreen that comes in foundation form. This is the thickest of the bunch, and it is definitely great for someone who deals with redness. It covers it up like nothing else, it’s tinted, fragrance-free, and made for rosacea. So, the sunscreen prevents the sun from irritating the rosacea, and it’s literally an SPF that is made for the most sensitive skin. In Cassandra’s experience, this doesn’t burn the skin, blemishes, or the eyes, and this also doesn’t break the skin out. If you are looking for a full coverage foundation that doubles as a velvety sunscreen, this one is it!
Coverphoto cred: Realself