Is Sunscreen Bad for Acne?

Is Sunscreen Bad for Acne?
Worrying about a thick sunscreen congesting your pores and causing pimples is definitely a legitimate concern. However, it’s still super important to wear sunscreen every day despite having acne. Did you know that the sun can cause the skin to dry out, and likewise, cause excess oil production? When the skin is overexposed to the sun, it dries out, and the sebaceous glands go into overdrive. This is known as seborrhea, one of the key stages in the formation of blemishes. Another result of skin drying out is cornification or keratinization. This is when skin cells on the surface begin to harden and interfere with the natural process of dead skin cells shedding. When this happens, sebum cannot drain from the pores well, and as a result, comedones can develop.


This is why precautions have to be taken when tanning. A lot of people like to tan because it makes blemishes less visible, and some even say that it decreases acne. On the other hand, sweat production increases in warm weather. Sweat creates an environment in which P. acnes, an acne-causing bacteria, thrives and spreads. While sunscreen cannot decrease sweating, overexposure to the sun is already an additional irritant (along with sweat) to acne-prone skin. So, although sweating while enjoying the sun may be inevitable, sunscreen can still guard against breakouts by preventing irritation from the sun. Additionally, mineral sunscreen also prevents hyperpigmentation in fitzpatrick levels 3,4,5, 6. Mineral sunscreen reflects visible light radiation. Visible light radiation can cause erythema (redness), hyperpigmentation (dark spots), sunburn, urticaria (heat rash), and free radical production. To protect yourself from visible light with sunscreen, you have to visibly see the sunscreen, and that is why physical sunscreen is very effective.
Chemical sunscreens don’t block visible light, and they have more risk of irritation. Chemical sunscreen absorbs UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and then releases them from the body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone, and the active ingredients in physical sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These two ingredients deflect visible light.


Mineral-based sunscreens are truly broad-spectrum coverage because they protect against visible light. While they may be harder to blend into deeply colored skin, they can be tinted with titanium oxide. Many prefer physical sunscreens that melt into the skin because of the decreased risk of irritation and the true, broad-spectrum coverage. In general, when looking for mineral (physical) or chemical sunscreens, you’ll always want to look for an SPF of at least 30. The numbers listed after “SPF” denote how long your skin is protected from the sun. For example, SPF 30 indicates that your skin will be protected for an additional 30 minutes while “PA” just refers to how well the sunscreen protects your skin against UVA radiation. Moreover, for someone with acne-prone skin who is seeking to avoid irritants, words like hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free are good things to look for in labels.
Here are some good choices:
Juice Beauty Oil-Free SPF 30



This one works well for keeping pores unclogged. It also has aloe which can solve irritation.


COOLA Mineral Suncare Unscented Matte Tint Face Sunscreen SPF 30  $36

This is a good one is good for broad coverage and lack of irritation on skin of color.


Holika Holika Less On Skin SPF 50


Made with centella asiatica, this mineral sunscreen formula is very soothing. It can help with redness control, eczema, rosacea, and PIE. However, it may take some rubbing to get it to blend in on deeply colored skin.
 Supergoop Glow Sunscreen


This one has niacinamide so that’s great for acne-prone skin.  However, it might be irritating since it is chemical.


Sonrei Broad Spectrum SPF 30 

This one is paraben-free, and it has no oxybenzone, an ingredient that can lead to irritation.

For a video review on mineral sunscreens best for acne, click here.