Editor’s Picks: 8 Top Sunscreens for Acne-Prone Skin

A guide to sun protection for a radiant complexion.

You already know that sunscreen should be part of your daily skincare regimen, but choosing a suitable SPF can be challenging when you experience breakouts and clogged pores. If you have acne, though, finding adequate sun protection is even more important than usual, as sunburns can make your already inflamed skin worse, said Rachel Lee Lozina, a licensed esthetician and owner of Blue Water Spa in Oyster Bay, New York. If your facial products are photosensitive, the sun can also cause a reaction.

Fortunately, you have options. When you buy sunscreen, look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, physical (mineral) agents that sit on the skin's surface and deflect harmful UV rays. “These are less likely to cause irritation or trigger acne breakouts than chemical sunscreen ingredients,” said Suneel Chilukuri, MD, director of cosmetic surgery at Refresh Dermatology in Houston. "Zinc oxide also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm down existing acne inflammation."

Dr. Chilukuri recommended staying away from heavy oils (which can clog pores) and avoiding comedogenic ingredients such as isopropyl palmitate, lanolin, or certain types of silicone, which may worsen breakouts. "Additionally, some chemical sunscreen agents like avobenzone or oxybenzone may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals," he noted.

Moreover, he explained that sun damage is cumulative, so even as it gets cooler outside or on a seemingly rainy day, using SPF is still vital. "Many people underestimate the damage caused by everyday sun exposure,” said Dr. Chilukuri. “Even on cloudy or overcast days, approximately 80% of the UVA and UVB light shines through.,"

Here are eight top sunscreens to keep on hand for acne-prone skin.

Tula Skincare Ultimate Sun Serum with SPF 50+

As much as sunscreen is essential as important that it glides on seamlessly without leaving residue and that is what you will get with light as a feather Tula Skincare Ultimate Sun Serum. This editor's favorite will brighten your appearance without feeling (or looking) slick and greasy. Bonus: It doesn’t contain any parabens, sulfates (SLS, SLES), phthalates, or formaldehyde.


SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair with SPF 34

"I wear sunscreen daily, and in the summer, I use SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 34,” said Dr. Chilukuri. “Its combination of antioxidants helps prevent pigmentation from heat, blue light [emitted by phones and computer screens], and pollution. It also protects against UVC light, which penetrates deeper into the skin and can affect the mitochondria." This type of damage can accelerate skin aging. 


Related: Editors' Pick: Top Mineral Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

Tizo AM Replenish Lightly Tinted with SPF 40

Esthetician Lozina recommends Tizo AM Replenish sunscreen because it is "acne-safe.” Plus, since it's tinted, it’s less likely to leave a chalky finish on darker skin tones. Reef-friendly and dye-free, it also contains ceramides that help retain moisture and reinforce the skin's protective barrier.


PanOxyl AM Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30

If you have an oily complexion, you will genuinely appreciate the way that PanOxyl AM Oil Control Moisturizer  mattifies oily skin. Recommended by Dr. Chilukuri, this all-in-one winner contains both SPF and lubricant, so you don't need to pile on products and clog pores. The lightweight, non-comedogenic formula hydrates with moisture-sealing hyaluronic acid, and helps to stave off damage from pollutants with antioxidant-rich green tea extract.


Oars + Alps 100% Mineral Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 50

For some, the smell of sunscreen recalls great times at the beach. Others get headaches from its strong odor. If you don't want your SPF competing with your perfume, fragrance-free Oars + Alps 100% Sunscreen Lotion should be on your radar. It hydrates and protects skin with hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and coconut oil, so you don’t have to worry about feeling dried-out after a dip in a chlorinated pool.


AlumierMD Sheer Hydration with SPF 40

In the winter, Dr. Chilukuri prefers AlumierMD Sheer Hydration with SPF 40 for its "built-in moisturizer.” Packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, it also contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which protect skin from damage caused by UVA and UVB light.


Kiss My Face Daily Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 50

What you won't get from reef-friendly Kiss My Face Daily Mineral Sunscreen are parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances. Instead, you will get broad- spectrum coverage from a product that nourishes and soothes with red algae, sunflower seed oil, and chamomile.


Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 30

Non-greasy and tinted to effortlessly blend into various skin tones, Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is excellent for mature complexions. It is formulated with niacinamide and three essential ceramides, which lock in moisture and help you glow instead of burn. Perfect for the beach and the bunny slopes.


This article was fact checked by Melinda Dodd.

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