Ask the Expert: Can Sunscreen Cause Acne?
Wondering if sunscreen can cause acne? We tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman to help answer this burning question, ahead.
Sunscreen often gets a bad rap: it’s too heavy, it leaves skin looking ashen and greasy, and—perhaps worst of all—causes acne blemishes to form. The truth is, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Not all sunscreens are created equal, so while some formulas may leave behind less-than-ideal results, that’s not to say that all sunscreens will do the same. Applying Broad Spectrum SPF and taking additional sun protection measures is a critical part of every skin care routine, playing a significant role in reducing risks for visible signs of skin aging and even some cancers. Forgoing sun protection is a terrible—we repeat: terrible—idea!
To clear the air once and for all, we reached out to board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman. Can sunscreen really cause acne? Read on to find out!
First and foremost, it’s important to understand the difference between the two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. “Physical sunscreens sit on the top of the skin and deflect UV rays,” says Dr. Engelman. She warns that since some physical sunscreens can be thick in consistency, they may cause unwanted blemishes to form due to the blockage of pores from the formula. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work to absorb UV rays, thereby reducing penetration into the skin. Some chemical sunscreens may feel lighter on the skin compared to physical sunscreens, but Dr. Engelman recommends scanning the product’s label for the word “non-comedogenic,” meaning the sunscreen was specially formulated so as not to cause blocked pores.
Another thing to consider before choosing an SPF? Your skin type! Applying a sunscreen that’s formulated for oily skin onto your sensitive skin can be a recipe for disaster. When in doubt, consult the product label or ask your dermatologist for a recommendation.
How to Use Sunscreen to Prevent Breakouts
Long story short: Yes, some sunscreen formulations can cause your skin to breakout. But, there are ways to help prevent sunscreen-induced blemishes. In addition to choosing the right formula—chemical versus physical—and keeping your skin type in mind, make sure to use your sunscreen the right way. Dr. Engelman recommends layering up with other skin care products before applying your sunscreen of choice, such as serums and moisturizers. “I would recommend a serum before applying any sunscreen,” she says. If your skin is prone to breakouts, adding in an acne-fighting serum prior to sunscreen use can help prevent pimples behind the scenes. “I would also advise a light moisturizer prior to applying sunscreen,” Dr. Engelman says. “The moisturizer can make a barrier on the skin while also protecting it.”
3 Of Our Favorite Sunscreens from the L’Oreal Portfolio of Brands
SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
This sunscreen formula offers Broad Spectrum SPF 50 protection in a tinted, fluid formula to help enhance the skin’s natural tone. Wear it under makeup or on its own for UVA/UVB protection plus light coverage!
SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, $34.00 MSRP
Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+
This formula—with advanced UVA/UVB technology and antioxidant Vitamin E protection—delivers Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ protection to help prevent sunburn and decrease the risk of premature skin aging when used as directed. Best of all, it’s a suitable option for all skin types!
Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+, $38.00 MSRP
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry-Touch Sunscreen
For a dry-touch sunscreen that won’t cause breakouts, give this oil-free, Broad Spectrum SPF 60 a whirl. It features advanced technology—with CELL-OX SHIELD XL—to deliver UVA/UVB protection and antioxidants to the skin.
Editor’s Note: Once you’ve found your ideal sunscreen match, reach for it every day—no matter what. But don’t stop there. Reapplication is just as important. Reapply Broad Spectrum sunscreen at least once every two hours and immediately after swimming, profusely sweating or toweling off. Also, be sure to take further sun protection measures, such as wearing protective clothing, avoiding shade, and staying indoors during peak sun hours when the rays are most powerful.