The Best Sunscreens For Acne-Prone Skin, According To A Dermatologist

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by BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 
Amazon / Bustle

It’s important that you wear sunscreen on your face every single day, regardless of the weather or season. But navigating the vast world of sunscreens when you have acne-prone skin can admittedly be tough. To make things easy, Bustle spoke with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick to find out everything there is to know about choosing the right sunscreen when you’re regularly dealing with breakouts. According to Dr. Garshick, the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin typically come in the form of noncomedogenic or oil-free lotions and gels, rather than heavier creams, that use mineral blockers (aka zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to minimize the risk of irritation. “Additionally, sunscreens that contain other active ingredients that can be calming and soothing on the skin, such as niacinamide, can be helpful for those with acne as it can help to calm inflammation,” Dr. Garshick says.

If you’re tempted to only wear sunscreen when you’re out in the sun, Dr. Garshick reminds readers that “It is important for those with acne to use sunscreen daily as one of the concerns for people dealing with breakouts is discoloration or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can occur as the acne spot is resolving, and wearing sunscreen regularly helps to prevent this discoloration from worsening.” Additionally, “Many products designed to treat acne, such as retinoids or salicylic acid, can make the skin more sensitive in the sun, so it is especially important to [wear sunscreen] to prevent the skin from developing a sunburn,” Dr. Garshick cautions.

When it comes to applying your sunscreen properly, Dr. Garshick has a few last words of advice. “Remember to apply sunscreen to a clean face when possible to prevent trapping dirt and bacteria which can lead to breakouts. Similarly, it is important to remember to cleanse the skin at the end of the day to make sure the sunscreen is washed off appropriately.” (Check out this guide to the best cleansers for acne if you’re in the market for a new one.)

To find your perfect sunscreen match, keep scrolling.


Derm’s Pick: The Best Face Sunscreen For Acne

Elta MD UV Clear is a great option for those with acne-prone skin as in addition to offering broad-spectrum coverage, it also contains niacinamide, which calms and soothes the skin, reducing inflammation and redness that may be associated with acne flares. It also contains lactic acid which may help to unclog the pores, as well as hyaluronic acid which helps to moisturize the skin. This can be especially important if someone is also using anti-acne active ingredients as these can be drying on the skin, and it is important to avoid drying the skin out too much. It is also oil-free and noncomedogenic, which is especially important when it comes to finding a good sunscreen [for] acne-prone skin,” Dr. Garshick explains.

Relevant review: “Im a young adult female with skin prone to hormonal acne, and this is my go-to daily moisturizer & sunscreen. I’ve re-ordered 3 times in the past 1 year (aka this bottle lasts me about 4 months AND I keep going back to this product). The niacinamide and zinc keep my breakouts under control and are so smoothing. I use this product every day for sun protection paired with just the right amount of hydration for my oily, acne-prone skin.”


Derm’s Pick: The Best Face Sunscreen For Acne

“This oil-free sunscreen is a favorite for all skin types, but is especially good for oily skin as it absorbs easily, leaving a clear, natural finish. It not only offers protection against UVA/UVB rays but also contains red algae that may offer protection against blue light,” Dr. Garshick says.

Relevant review: “By far the best facial sunscreen ever. No white cast at all. Not greasy. Not creamy. It just disappears and leaves a matte finish. It doesn’t get weird in my beard. It doesn’t make my eyes burn. It’s perfect if a sunscreen could be. My skin type is acne prone, oily to combination. Finally something I can use.”


Derm’s Pick: The Best Face & Body Sunscreen For Acne

“This easy-to-apply sunscreen absorbs easily and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth, while providing SPF 60 UVA and UVB coverage. It also contains the Cell-Ox Shield technology, [which offers] antioxidant protection as well. It is safe to use on the face and body,” says Dr. Garshick.

Relevant review: “I was very skeptical about this! To me all sunscreens make my face break out, are super greasy and make my face look like my oil glands are constantly on overdrive. I had this sinking feeling that the money I'm spending on this sunscreen was going straight down the toilet but oh my goodness!!! I'M IN LOVE WITH THIS SUNSCREEN!!!! A little goes a very long way so it will last a long time. It goes on seamlessly and I love the velvety look and feel.”


Editor’s Pick

This sunscreen from TULA, a brand that was developed by dermatologist Dr. Roshini Raj, may appear to have a tint, but it actually blends into all skin tones invisibly. Mineral blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide SPF 30 protection, while the brand’s signature probiotic blend helps promote stronger, more balanced skin overall. This also contains willowherb to soothe inflammation and red algae to help control excess oil — both major bonuses for acne-prone skin — as well as peach extract for its brightening benefits, and something very exotic called wild butterfly ginger root, which the brand says aids in protecting your skin from blue light and pollution. Overall, a very impressive formula.

Relevant review: “I have been wearing this under my makeup and it seems great. A nice base layer to give sun protection. Also nice to be worn alone. Seems like a quality product. Didn’t make me breakout or irritate my skin.”


Another Great Face Sunscreen With SPF 30

REN’s Clean Screen sunscreen is another great pick for acne-prone skin. In here, 22% zinc oxide provides an SPF of 30, while yellow passionfruit — a source of antioxidants — offers pollution protection as well. This also contains rice starch to soak up oil so your skin stays matte, but it won’t dry you out, since lightweight moisturizers like aloe vera and glycerin provide plenty of hydrating benefits.

Relevant review: “I love this sunscreen! Goes on smooth dries fast and not white! [...] This is the everyday sunscreen I've been looking for! I have combination skin that tends to break out, this hasn't caused any irritation and I apply daily as part of my skincare routine.”


Another Great Face Sunscreen With SPF 50

If SPF 50 is your preferred protection level, try MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme. It checks off all the right boxes when it comes to sunscreens for acne-prone skin — it’s oil-free, lightweight, and noncomedogenic, and leaves skin looking matte. As an added bonus, this unscented sunscreen contains antioxidants like vitamin C to give the formula a protective boost.

Relevant review: “I love this sunscreen for my face. I have sensitive skin that is prone to breakouts with most sunscreens, but this brand is gentle and effective. I wear it daily under my makeup. It absorbs quickly as well.”


Best Tinted Sunscreen

If you like a bit of a tint with your sunscreen, consider this BB cream with SPF 50 from Australian Gold’s Botanical line. It uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection, while a blend of antioxidants — like red algae, kakadu plum, and eucalyptus — offer further skin-protecting benefits. Sold in three shades, this fragrance-free, non-greasy sunscreen leaves behind a matte finish while it simultaneously helps even out your complexion thanks to its tinted formula. It’s also available in SPF 30 or SPF 70 varieties, or in a spray formula, if you’d prefer.

Relevant review: “My favorite sunscreen EVER!!!. This matches my skin and it doesn't feel heavy at all. Doesn't clog my pores either.”


Best Sunscreen Stick

For easy SPF reapplication throughout the day, keep a sunscreen stick in your bag. Cetaphil’s sunscreen stick — a relatively new launch from the brand — is a great choice for acne-prone skin since it uses mineral blockers to protect your skin from the sun, and has a non-greasy, noncomedogenic formula that blends in sheer. Other highlights include SPF 50 protection, water resistance for up to 80 minutes, and vitamin E to leave your skin soothed and soft. And to top it all off, it rings up at just $10 on Amazon.

Relevant review: “i have sensitive and combination skin, and this product didn’t give me any issues at all. the application was smooth and it blends in well with my skin. the product itself is soft, so don’t put to much pressure when applying, always use a light hand. [...] personally, it didn’t leave any slight white cast which is great. it gave sorta a dewy finish, even a person like me with oily skin, i don’t think it’s too much.”


Best Powder Sunscreen

Powder sunscreens don’t provide enough protection to be used as your primary form of sunscreen, but they’re still convenient for touchups throughout the day and/or layering on top of your makeup for added sun protection. This one from Colorescience was specifically designed for oily, acne-prone skin, as it contains mattifying ingredients that help soak up excess oil and reduce the appearance of congested pores. Like most of the sunscreens on this list, this relies on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to help shield skin from the sun, per Dr. Garshick’s guidance.

Relevant review: “I have aging, oily skin. I don’t wear any foundation only tinted sunscreen. We were in a hot humid climate so I have a hard time with oily skin. This product over a sunscreen worked wonderful. Easy to use and keep in your bag for touch up. I’ve never broke out from it either. Love this stuff”


Best Gel Sunscreen For Your Face & Body

As Dr. Garshick noted, gel sunscreens may be preferable for people with acne-prone skin since they’re known for being exceptionally lightweight and breathable. Sonrei’s Clearly Zinq Mineral Gel Sunscreen is an amazing, under-the-radar find from the new-ish brand (they only launched in 2019). It’s the rare mineral sunscreen gel out there — most gels use chemical sun blockers — and it goes on clear, doesn’t suffocate your skin, and can be used on both your face and body. The fragrance-free formula is enriched with aloe vera and shea butter to nourish your skin without clogging it or making it feel greasy, while a water-resistant rating of up to 80 minutes tops everything off.

Relevant review: “I have some other mineral sunscreens that leave a white cast. Not this one. This one spreads super easily. Initially it looks like it is going to be a dewy/shiny finish. After a few minutes, it absorbs fully into the skin leaving no trace of sunscreen. It leaves no streaks, white cast, or sunscreen smell behind. It contains non-nano zinc so it is truly reef safe.”


Best Green-Tinted Sunscreen

Green tinted sunscreen can be great for anyone experiencing a lot of redness, making it great if you want your acne or irritation to blend into your skin a bit more. That’s just one of the things that makes this sunscreen from Hero Cosmetics such a great pick for acne-prone skin. The SPF 30 sunscreen uses zinc oxide to protect your skin from the sun, and unlike other mineral sunscreens, the gel cream is formulated specifically to feel lightweight on the skin. It’s reef safe, and contains skin-loving ingredients like green tea, purple sweet potato, and red algae extracts.

Relevant review: “No white cast, unscented, non-greasy and has a bit of a luminous finish. Beautiful on the skin and doesn't cause breakouts. You'll forget you're wearing sunscreen! Good broad-spectrum SPF30. Great capped pump bottle (took quite a few pumps to get it flowing!).”


Best Spray-On Body Sunscreen

If you’re prone to breakouts on your body, try Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen for neck-to-toe use. Like all zinc oxide-based sunscreens, it may leave behind a white cast, so be sure to blend it in well. Formulated with sensitive, delicate skin in mind, this SPF 30 sunscreen feels lightweight and non-greasy once absorbed, and offers up to 80 minutes of water resistance. It’s so gentle that even babies can use it safely.

Relevant review: “I've been on the hunt for a mineral sunscreen that doesn't feel greasy, heavy, doesn't break me out, doesn't have silicones, and works well under makeup. I have light/medium skin that is combination dry/oily and is acne prone with mild rosacea and super sensitive. My mom actually purchased these for a trip and gave me an extra one. I am waiting for another sunscreen to arrive and decided to try this on a whim under makeup and WOW. I'm shocked at how amazing this works. [...] Blends in like a dream, doesn't pill, feels like I have nothing on my face, works well with my AM skincare products. My makeup blends amazing over it. I feel like this is my holy grail honestly.”


Best Face Moisturizer With Sunscreen

If you prefer to apply your moisturizer and sunscreen in one step, you’ll love PanOxyl’s Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30. The formula does three things simultaneously: hydrates skin sans grease with hyaluronic acid; protects skin from the sun via zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; and soaks up oil to leave your face looking matte for hours. It’s the perfect two-in-product to help you get out of the door quickly in the morning.

Relevant review: “I hate most sunscreens because they feel sticky and leave my skin with a shine that looks oily. I don't have oily skin but it is [...] sensitive and acne-prone. This is my favorite new sunscreen because it does not irritate and does not leave a shine. If you're not oily, I recommend using a light moisturizer before applying PanOxyl in order to help with spreadability.”


Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D. F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.

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