Afraid that sunscreen might clog your pores, dry out your skin and cause it to break out? If you have acne-prone skin, these are very real concerns. But with melanoma on the rise and the sun being one of the main causes of wrinkles, skipping your daily dose of SPF is not a healthy option.
The good news? If your skin is sensitive and breaks out easily, there are specific sunscreens designed just for you. It’s just a matter of knowing what ingredients to avoid and what properties to look for.
What You Need To Consider When Buying Sunscreens To Avoid Breakouts
“As a general rule of thumb, people with acne-prone skin need to make sure that their sunscreen is non-comedogenic/oil-free, which means it won’t clog your pores,” says Dr. Hayley Goldbach MD, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Brown University.
She also says it’s important to avoid products that are heavily scented since they may be irritating to your skin. “Acne involves inflammation, so you don’t want to add to that by applying irritating fragrances, no matter how delicious they smell,” adds Dr. Goldbach.
Here’s a quick list of what you should look for in your sunscreen:
- Lightly scented or free of fragrance
- Oil-free formulation
- Broad spectrum protection
- Mineral based formula
- Lightweight formula
- Non comedogenic formula
- Board certified dermatologist based recommendation
Bonus Points for attributes:
- Sunscreens that contain vitamin E or vitamin C
- Include acne-fighting ingredients or prevents clogged pores
- Feature anti-aging benefits
- Leaves skin hydrated
Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin or Oily Skin Types
We caught up with an array of dermatologists who walked us through their list of top sunscreens for acne-prone skin, based on their experience as well as cosmetic and clinical research.
1. Drunk Elephant Tinted Umbra Tinte Physical Daily SPF 30
“This is a great option for people who have an active breakout and want something that will protect them from the sun but also cover up any blemishes,” says Dr. Goldbach. It’s a mineral-based sunscreen made with zinc oxide and is a clean product that is free of essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical screens, fragrances, dyes, and sodium laurel sulfate.
Check out the Drunk Elephant Tinted Umbra Tinte Physical Daily SPF 30 here.
2. Babo Botanicals Daily Spectrum Tinted Sunscreen, Fragrance-Free, SPF 30
“I use this line both for my baby and for my own skin,” says Dr. Goldbach. “It’s light, which is great for acne-prone skin, doesn’t break the bank, non-comedogenic and ‘clean’ ingredients.” It’s mineral-based with zinc oxide and also contains Bob’s Nutri-Firm Complex, which includes sea buckthorn, and argan oil. And as a bonus, it’s reef-friendly.
Check out the Babo Botanicals Daily Spectrum Tinted Sunscreen, Fragrance-Free, SPF 30 here.
3. EltaMD UV Clear
This, says Dr. Zain Husain, a dermatologist in Marlboro, New Jersey, is a mineral-based sunscreen that is lightweight and fragrance-free. “It also has hyaluronic acid to moisturize and lactic acid to reduce shininess and clear pores,” he adds. “It also contains niacinamide which is anti-inflammatory and helps treat acne.”
Check out EltaMD UV Clear here.
4. Skinceuticals Physical UV Defense
Dr. Husain likes this one, since it’s a mineral-based sunscreen in the form of a mattifying liquid that is paraben-free and offers true broad-spectrum coverage from UVA and UVB rays.” It has a non-irritating, ultra-sheer texture for all skin types including sensitive skin,” he explains.
Check out Skinceuticals Physical UV Defense here.
5. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Sunscreen for Face SPF 50
“This lightweight 100% mineral tinted face sunscreen with titanium dioxide was developed for sensitive skin,” says Dr. Husain. “The fast-absorbing texture leaves a tinted matte finish on the skin for a healthy glow,” he adds. This SPF is also formulated with Cell-Ox Shield technology: broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection with antioxidants.
Check out La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Sunscreen for Face SPF 50 here.
6. Blue Lizard Face Mineral-Based Sunscreen
This, says Dr. Orit Markowitz, a dermatologist, skin cancer specialist, and CEO and founder of OptiSkin, is a fantastic option for acne-prone skin. “The Blue Lizard brand, in general, is one of my favorite mineral sunscreen lines and the face sunscreen is a lightweight gel formula formulated to not clog pores,” she says. It contains no parabens or fragrances, making it great for sensitive skin types as well.
“I like to tell my acne-prone patients to look for mineral-based sunscreens, like this Blue Lizard one, as chemical sunscreens get absorbed by your skin and can clog pores (mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin),” adds Dr. Markowitz.
Check out Blue Lizard Face Mineral-Based Sunscreen here.
7. SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34+ Sunscreen
“If you are taking medication for your acne and it is leading to dry skin, I recommend looking for a thick mineral sunscreen formula like this one,” says Dr. Markowitz. She notes that a thicker cream like this one will be soothing for the drying agents that treat your acne.
Check out SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 50+ here.
8. Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen
“This is oil-free and light so it won’t weigh down the skin or interfere with an active acne skin regimen,” says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “It has a matte finish to help de-shine even the oiliest among us.”
Check out Neutrogena’s Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen here.
9. Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen
This one, says Dr. Hartman, is a formula that suits almost any skin type. “The lightweight nature of the product is mattifying that really provides an almost immediate smoother skin texture,” he explains.
Check out Tatcha’s Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen here.
10. ColorScience Sunforgettable Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen
“This is a powder sunscreen to use as your reapplication throughout the day,” says HealthCentral’s board-certified dermatologist Dr. Holly Singletary, M.D. “It comes in multiple shades for light coverage and is easily portable, twist-up brush applicator.” “Powder sunscreens are less likely to clog pores,” adds New York City dermatologist Susan Bard, MD.
“One of the main reasons people don’t reapply their sunscreen throughout the day is because it’s inconvenient,” she adds. “This is especially true for women who don’t want to ruin their makeup.”
Check out ColorScience’s Sunforgettable Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen here.
11. Neocutis Journee Revitalizing Day Cream SPF30
“This product is ideal for adults with acne rosacea,” says Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD in San Diego, California. “This subset of acne tends to have reactionary, sensitive skin that is simultaneously experiencing aging changes,” she explains. “The PSP formulation contains growth factors, large proteins that initiate skin repair and encourage healthy collagen growth.”
She notes that the mixture of zinc oxide and antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and green tea, is anti-inflammatory and broadly protective against UVA/UVB, high-energy visible light, and infrared light. “And the addition of hyaluronic acid provides non-comedogenic skin moisture.”
Check out Neocutis Journee Revitalizing Day Cream SPF30 here.
12. Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50
This sunscreen contains zinc oxide and does not use chemical blockers. “It is non-comedogenic, lightweight, and dries to form a matte layer over your skin,” says Jill Canes, founder of Face Forward Medical Aesthetics. “It’s a plus for people with oily skin so that it doesn’t feel greasy.”
Check out Aveeno’s Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 here.
13. Sunbetter Tone Smart SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact
“This sunscreen is great for acne-prone skin because it is a mineral-only sunscreen with a high SPF,” says Dr. Geeta Patel, a board-certified dermatologist in Houston, Texas. “The formula feels smooth and lightweight, almost like sheer-coverage foundation balm, and can even be applied over makeup.” It’s also convenient, as it comes in a makeup compact and adds a pop of color.
Check out Sunbetter’s Tone Smart SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact here.
14. Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum
“This sunscreen is a great option for acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Patel. “It’s a hydrating primer that contains hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and niacinamide to help boost moisture in the skin, sea lavender for antioxidant protection, and cocoa peptides to help protect from blue light.”
Check out the Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum here.
15. Cerave AM Facial Moisturizer
“This moisturizing sunscreen is an affordable sunscreen that is great for acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Chesahna Kindred, associate professor of dermatology at Howard University’s College of Medicine and owner of the Kindred Hair & Skin Center in Columbia, Maryland.
She notes that it contains key ingredients that hydrate the skin: hyaluronic acid (HA) attracts water to the skin; niacinamide (vitamin B3) is a powerful antioxidant that improves the barrier function of the skin, and ceramides act as a sealant that prevents water loss. “Cerave AM Facial Moisturizer leaves an elegant finish with no white residue on melanin-rich skin tones,” she adds.
Check out the Cerave AM Facial Moisturizer here.
16. ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica
“This mineral sunscreen is lightweight and doesn’t clog pores,” explains Dr. Kindred. “It takes advantage of the plant-based antioxidants and enzymes to repair DNA damage and reverse the signs of aging and sun damage.” For those who prefer tinted moisturizers, ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Ageless is another great option.
Check out the ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen here.
17. Badger Sport Mineral Sunscreen Cream – SPF 40 with Clear Zinc
“Don’t forget sunscreen for the body! Especially for my athletes with acne-prone skin, I like to recommend this product line,” says Dr. Godlbach. “This formula is super environmentally friendly, organic, and best of all won’t clog pores.”
Check out the Badger SPF 40 Clear Zinc Sport Mineral Sunscreen Cream here.