Sunscreen is a nonnegotiable part of a stellar skin care routine, but when you have acne-prone skin, it can cause some unpleasant side effects like irritation and breakouts.
With summer on its way, the Shop TODAY team decided it was time to kick this seasonal beauty conundrum to the curb, so we consulted a few dermatologists to find out what you should be looking for while shopping for an SPF. We also got them to name some of their favorite sunscreens for acne-prone skin!
Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin, according to experts
Acne-prone skin is already inherently sensitive, and American Academy of Dermatology fellow Dr. Robert Anolik encourages his patients to avoid ingredients that could cause irritation since acne often follows.
“While fragrance may smell wonderful, your skin might not look wonderful if you’re sensitive to it. Since it’s a common irritant, acne patients should generally avoid this one,” he told us.
The derm enjoys this affordable fragrance-free find from Sun Bum that’s available in SPF 50 and 70. Its lightweight moisturizing formula offers broad-spectrum protection and also absorbs quickly without leaving behind any greasiness.
Water-resistant formulas are key for summertime and this non-comedogenic sunscreen stays put when you’re swimming or sweating a lot.
“Any product that you put on across the majority of the face, especially sunscreen, should be non-comedogenic, which is just language for saying it won’t clog pores. Clogged pores will generally lead to acne, so you may want to look for that language on the sunscreen,” Anolik explained.
The sheer SPF absorbs quickly and also harnesses the power of Helioplex, broad-spectrum technology that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Plus, the price is right!
Black Girl Sunscreen Make It Matte Sunscreen
Wondering why sunscreen has a tendency of aggravating acne-prone skin? Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirschoffered a helpful explanation.
“Generally speaking (it’s formulation dependent), some acne-prone people don’t do well with heavy oil-based products and certain silicones,” she said.
The derm is a fan of this matte sunscreen that has naturally hydrating ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. The SPF 45 formula is reef-friendly, formulated without parabens and ideal for anyone with a darker skin tone.
When shopping for a sunscreen for skin that tends to get acne, oil-free is the way to go according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist and author of the book, “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.”
“Look for sunscreens free from oil, fragrances and PABAs, which can irritate the skin and make acne worse,” she said.
Neutrogena’s Clear Face Liquid Sunscreen fits the bill and checks off all the boxes for Jaliman.
“It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic so it will not clog pores. There are also no added fragrances, which can be irritating for some,” she said.
Mineral sunscreens are a go-to for Jaliman, especially for anyone who breaks out a lot, and this formula from Hero Cosmetics is one of her favorites.
“The lightweight texture absorbs quickly without being greasy,” she said.
The broad-spectrum, reef-safe sunscreen offers SPF 30 protection with the help of zinc oxide and it has a hydrating gel-cream texture that looks great under makeup.
“Physical or mineral sunscreens that use titanium or zinc are generally better tolerated and are recommended for those with sensitive skin,” Dr. Brendan Camp of MDCS Dermatology told us.
The derm recommends this daily moisturizer from Cetaphil and cited its light formula and matte finish as major selling points. The SPF 30 moisturizer is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and works overtime to absorb oil, reduce shine and shield your skin from the sun’s dangerous rays.
Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen
It’s always nice when your sunscreen acts as a multitasker, and this is one of Dr. Angela J. Lamb’s go-tos.
“It has an antioxidant blend, which is great for acne and oil absorption,” the New York City board-certified dermatologist said.
The mineral sunscreen has a sheer, silky finish and works its magic with the help of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and a range of antioxidants like blueberry acai and green tea extract. It’s also formulated without parabens, phthalates and fragrance.
Dr. Liia Ramachandra, a former pharma executive and skin care expert, has a soft spot for this budget-friendly mineral sunscreen and it’s easy to see why.
“I love it since it is a truly mineral/natural sunscreen with natural active ingredients and does not contain chemical oxybenzone or octinoxate,” she told us. “It is great for acne-prone skin and sensitive skin and does not contain any fragrances or parabens.”
As an added bonus, the sunscreen is reef-friendly and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Camp raved about this popular sunscreen from EltaMD, saying the built-in niacinamide is great for rosacea-prone skin.
“This is a thin, lightweight facial sunscreen that comes in a travel-ready bottle. It is oil-free, noncomedogenic and spreads easily,” Camp revealed.
The strong SPF 60 formula in this La Roche-Posay sunscreen provides plenty of protection from the sun and also has built-in Cell-Ox Shield technology, an antioxidant complex that protects skin from free radicals. Plus, it has 3,300+ verified five-star ratings on Amazon!
“The reason sunscreen or sunblock often aggravate the skin is that the ingredients can be intrinsically irritating. Also, just that one extra product on your skin can also clog the pores,” Lamb explained.
The derm appreciates this powerful, yet gentle formula that offers SPF 50 broad spectrum protection with the help of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. The impressive formula also features antioxidants to keep skin happy and it has a light, matte finish.
Ramachandra is fond of this lightweight, oil-free find from Paula’s choice.
“It’s really great for anyone with acne-prone and sensitive skin. It has no parabens or fragrances and is great for the face and body,” she said.
The SPF 50 offers great water-resistant coverage and has a silky texture that feels luxurious on oily and combination skin. It’s also formulated with several antioxidants and hydrating aloe.
Hyaluronic acid joined forces with vitamins C and E to create this hypoallergenic, non-greasy sunscreen that Ramachandra swears by.
“It’s great for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin and for people with allergies. It is not only protecting but also moisturizing due to the hyaluronic acid in there,” the expert said.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
Dermatologist Dr. Dhaval G. Bhanusali recommends this popular Supergoop! SPF to his clients for its oil-free formula.
“It blends in very well without being heavy,” he explained.
The water-resistant SPF 40 formula offers broad-spectrum protection, filters out blue light and serves as a nice makeup primer. It’s also formulated with plenty of hydrating ingredients!
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