People with acne-prone skin are often, understandably, wary of applying anything that could promote more pimples. However, people with acne need to use skin care like moisturizer and sunscreen just like everyone else. “Everyone, including patients with acne-prone skin, should wear sunscreen daily and reapply often when outdoors to protect from UV damage that may lead to skin cancer,” says Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD. The experts say there are a few ways to prevent inciting breakouts when using sunscreen on acne-prone skin.
Use a light, non-comedogenic sunscreen
A lightweight sunscreen that won’t further clog or block pores is your best bet when you have acne-prone skin, says Dr. Hopkins, and she has a few recommendations. She shouts out Supergoop! for having a good selection, including Unseen Sunscreen ($22-$76) and Mineral Matte ($22-$38). She adds that Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 ($28) is also a good choice for oily, acne-prone skin. In her own line Hopkins Dermatology RX, she recommends Protect Pure for daily use and Protect Powder—a mineral powder with antioxidants that’s easy to reapply through the day.
Consider using mineral sunscreen
Lead aesthetician at SkinSpirit Karen Fernandez says she always recommends mineral rather than chemical sunscreen for clients with acne. “They’re powered by zinc and titanium dioxide, both of which are healing and beneficial to acne,” she says. “They reduce inflammation and keep skin cool even when the sun tries to heat it up, which is what causes damage in the first place.”
Layer vitamin C under sunscreen
Fernandez says it’s important to layer a vitamin C product under sunscreen for those with acne-prone skin. This will help prevent hyperpigmentation in spots where acne might leave scars. She recommends skipping daytime moisturizer to limit the layers and lipids that could potentially clog pores.
Don’t forget to take sunscreen off at night
“Just as important as putting sunscreen on during the day is taking it off at night,” says Fernandez. Sleeping with sunscreen on is ill-advised across the board by experts. Dr. Hopkins recommends washing your face after prolonged outdoor exposure and before bed to remove sunscreen and sweat buildup that can cause breakouts.
“Thoroughly cleanse skin and apply breathable products designed for acne so that while you sleep, your skin can heal and regenerate itself,” says Fernandez. “Proper and thorough removal will really help prevent SPF from causing acne.”
Try powder sunscreen
Some ingredients can help reduce the amount of oil produced, says Fernandez, which is where powder sunscreen can come in. It’s also designed for frequent reapplication, which is great for those that tend to sweat off sunscreen quickly.
Get a sunscreen with beneficial active ingredients in it
“Some medical-grade SPFs have other active ingredients that help correct chronic issues,” says Fernandez. “They may help slow the production of melanocytes, which become activated in the sun and heat—or have anti-inflammatory aspects that help soothe and reduce active acne.”
Find a sunscreen that complements your skin tone
The best sunscreen is one that you like and will actually use. Aesthetic nurse specialist at SkinSpirit Taylor Bagby, RN says it’s important, especially for people of color, to find a sunscreen that “doesn’t cause the skin to look ashy or grey, which can be a huge deterrent to wearing physical SPF daily.” She recommends Colorescience products for this. “I think they have cracked the code on physical sunscreens that complement brown to darker skin tones.”