Is Your Sunscreen Making You Break Out?

It’s a given that you need to use sunscreen every day to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. But what’s a girl to do when your SPF is the constant cause of breakouts? You can’t forgo sun protection, but you don’t want to be caught in the vicious cycle of sunscreen-induced acne either, right? 

You have to take a look at what you’re using on your skin, specifically the type of sunscreen, the ingredients in it and the formulation of it, too, to determine why your SPF is making you break out. Washington D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD, says some breakouts are caused by blocked pores, which can result from heavy physical sunscreens, whereas whiteheads and pus-filled red bumps are usually the result of things in sunscreen like oxybenzone. “The newer physical sunscreens are lighter in weight and less occlusive, so they're less likely to cause acne.”

Ingredients aside, formulation is important too—picking the wrong one for your skin type can be a recipe for disaster. “If you have oily skin, opt for a lightweight gel or spray, which is less greasy, so that pores don’t become clogged,” advises Dr. Alster. “If you are prone to allergies or eczema, avoid sunscreens that are chemical-based because they tend to cause more irritation, especially when skin is heated in the sun.” Look for products that are noncomedogenic, too, because they don’t clog pores as much.

No matter what type of breakouts sunscreen may leave you with, Dr. Alster says it’s never okay to avoid wearing it. “Sun protection is important in order to avoid the development of wrinkles, sunspots and cancer. Plus, people with acne have a greater tendency to have dark spots develop in acne lesions that are unprotected from the sun, which can be difficult to treat.”

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