Applying oily sunscreen to acne-prone skin is like throwing water on a grease fire: it just makes everything worse.
For those with oily, acne-prone skin, finding a sunscreen that won’t break you out can be a serious challenge. However, since sunscreen is an extremely important step in any skincare routine (sun damage? We don’t know her), it’s essential that anyone fighting acne finds the perfect sunscreen to keep their skin healthy and protected.
That’s why we talked to Board-Certified Dermatologist Erum N. Ilyas, MD of Schweiger Dermatology to give you professional advice on finding the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin (plus, some of the best recommendations!). She is also the CEO and founder of AmberNoon, which focuses on providing sun-protecting gear like clothing, sunglasses, and mineral sunscreen.
Keep reading for the 12 best sunscreens for acne-prone skin!
How to Choose Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
First things first, let’s talk about what ingredients you should look for when shopping for sunscreen for acne-prone skin. You’ll always want to keep an eye out for products that are non-comedogenic, which basically means it won’t clog your pores.
“The reality is that many sunscreens can feel thick and pasty or oily and greasy and leave those with acne struggling to figure out what role sunscreen could be playing in their flares,” says Dr. Ilyas. “I have found that the best way to approach determining the right option for your skin is by understanding the active ingredients in sunscreen.”
While there is still some debate about this, many dermatologists recommend using a mineral sunscreen (sometimes called physical sunscreen) over a chemical sunscreen for acne-prone skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreens don’t absorb into your skin, but rather sit on top of the skin and reflect harmful rays from the sun.
That means none of the ingredients absorb into your skin to cause irritation, clogged pores, or breakouts.
Two of the most popular ingredients of mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium
dioxide. Ahead, Dr. Ilyas breaks down these ingredients and more to give you the inside scoop on how they play a part in protecting your skin and keeping it clear of blemishes.
Mineral sunscreens are sunscreens that contain minerals as their active ingredients. As mentioned before, zinc and titanium are the two most popular choices for mineral sunscreens. They can be used by themselves or in combination!
According to Dr. Ilyas, there have been studies done to see if zinc can be an effective treatment for acne. “There is evidence that suggests that it may have antibacterial properties, reduce inflammation, and potentially reduce the amount of oil or sebum produced by the skin,” she says.
While there isn’t enough evidence to prove whether or not zinc is an effective treatment for acne, we do know it’s effective in preventing sunburn.
“For these reasons, I find that it is a good ingredient to seek in facial sunscreens for acne prone skin by being less likely to trigger acne [and] preventing sunburn.”
Because titanium dioxide is gentle on the skin, it can be a great active ingredient in sunscreen to help those with acne-prone skin protect themselves from sun damage while also preventing acne.
However, there have been concerns about the use of titanium dioxide since it is listed as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
According to Dr. Ilyas, there have been studies done that don’t show much evidence that titanium dioxide penetrates past the skin, though, which may make it less harmful to apply it topically. It is worth noting that sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been classified as safe and effective by the FDA.
Chemical sunscreens are “basically all of the sunscreens that are not zinc or titanium,” says Dr. Ilyas. Although many experts recommend using a mineral sunscreen because it does not absorb into the skin, there are also a number of chemical sunscreens that are favored by dermatologists because they are suitable for acne-prone skin.
“I have not come across any studies that raise any concerns about chemical sunscreens triggering or worsening acne,” says Dr. Ilyas. So, if you’re interested in using a typical chemical sunscreen, below we list the top products for acne-prone skin, as well as the best mineral sunscreens to try out.
Best Sunscreens for Acne-Prone Skin
This is one of the ultimate sunscreens for oily, acne-prone skin, recommended by several dermatologists. It’s a sheer, zinc oxide sunscreen and moisturizer in one, with a non-greasy consistency.
It’s formula contains hyaluronic acid to gently moisturize the skin, while the lactic acid clears pores and reduces shine. It’s a win-win.
“Elta MD is a great choice for a lighter sunscreen great for acne-prone skin,” says Stacy Caprio of acnescar.org. “This is because heavier sunscreens have the tendency to clog pores and lead to clogged skin and more breakouts, whereas using a lighter, less thick sunscreen will allow skin to breathe better and cause fewer breakouts.
Best Mineral Sunscreens
Made with zinc oxide and ingredients packed full of antioxidants, Coola’s mineral sunscreen applies like a dream and keeps you protected from some of the most harmful forces that affect our skin.
It not only protects from UVA and UVB rays, but it also protects skin from damaging blue light and air pollution! Take care of your skin with this multi-tasking product.
This gel sunscreen is lightweight, sheer, and boasts clean ingredients. “This particular product is only zinc— no titanium or other chemical sunscreen ingredients,” says Dr. Ilyas.
It contains no synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens, or active chemicals for sun protection you can feel good about.
Neutrogena is known for creating some of the best acne-friendly and fighting products at drugstore prices. It’s lightweight and free of irritating chemicals such as parabens, dyes, and fragrance.
Since this sunscreen is sweat and water resistant for up to 80 minutes, Dr. Ilyas notes that this “may make it easier on acne prone skin simply because you may not have to reapply it as frequently, running the risk of product accumulation on the skin.”
This is “the facial sunscreen I tend to recommend most routinely,” says Dr. Ilyas. The mineral electrolytes in their formula, calcium and magnesium, helps condition the skin while potassium promotes the skin’s natural balance.
It’s amazingly nourishing while also evening out the skin’s natural oils. It’s the perfect hydrating, protecting solution for oily, acne-prone skin.
Best Chemical Sunscreens
This is one of the top sunscreens recommended by Dr. Ilyas. “When I was 16, my first dermatologist recommended this for me with my acne regimen and I ended up using it for over 20 straight years!” she says.
“I still love this product and routinely recommend it.”
“The nice thing about the CeraVe line is that it’s a simple one to recommend with the AM and PM formulations,” explains Dr. Ilyas.
“The AM is simple to use for acne prone skin as it is non-comedogenic and provides sun protection, while the PM provides much needed hydration for dry, sensitive skin that results from acne treatments and products.”
Made specifically with acne-prone skin in mind, this “breakout free” sunscreen from Neutrongena is lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic.
The matte finish is excellent for oily skin, and it’s super affordable!
This oil-free, broad spectrum sunscreen is perfect for acne-prone skin by absorbing excess oil and resisting water and sweat for up to 80 minutes.
Lightweight, fragrance-free, and paraben-free, this sunscreen is an ideal choice even for sensitive skin. It’s made with perlite and silica, which absorb 250% of their weight in oil and sweat. Plus, it comes in a mineral version!
Tatcha’s pore perfecting sunscreen is not only great for acne-prone skin, it also provides anti-aging properties with antioxidants found in loquat leaf extract.
It’s so lightweight you won’t even notice you have it on! Plus, it makes an excellent 2-in-1 by doubling as a face primer, blurring pores, and keeping you matte all day long. Even though the price is higher than some other facial sunscreens, this is one of the most recommended products for acne-prone skin.
If you want to throw on some powder for oil control and an SPF at the same time, this brush-on sunscreen is made for you.
This award-winning, lightweight mineral powder won’t clog your pores and is super easy to reapply throughout the day, if needed. It comes with a heftier price tag than most other products on the list, but the rating stats indicate this product is worth every penny.
Overall, even oily and acne-prone skin needs protection against the harsh sun rays. Other than the obvious danger of skin cancer, sun exposure can make acne worse by irritating the skin. Not to mention, it can make hyperpigmentation from acne even darker and more difficult to get rid of.
Now that you found your best sunscreen for acne-prone skin, go have a blast in the sun (and make sure to reapply throughout the day)!