Does Sunscreen Cause Your Skin to Break Out?
Daily SPF is an essential step in any skincare routine, helping to prevent skin cancer and premature aging in every skin type and tone. But those with sensitive, acne-prone skin often think twice before applying any products to their face. The fear of sunscreen causing or worsening acne can keep them from using it as recommended.
Since dermatologists emphatically advise applying (and reapplying) sunscreen every day, we compiled all the info we could find on how to select a sunscreen when you have acne-prone skin.
Can Sunscreen Cause Acne—or Help It?
Like nearly any cosmetic product, for some people, some types of sunscreen will potentially cause breakouts. As with many things, this comes down to your own skin and its sensitivities.
Mass-market, generic sunscreens intended for the body are more likely to cause acne on the face. Fortunately, many brands formulate sunscreens specifically for the face—in fact, some face sunscreens contain acne-fighting and healing ingredients.
And finding a sunscreen that helps prevent and treat acne is essential for those prone to breakouts. Not only has research shown that the sun likely does not improve the condition of acne, but some studies have shown that sunlight can actually trigger breakouts, along with exacerbating scarring.
Picking a Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
If you are looking to avoid causing or exacerbating breakouts with your daily sunscreen, here’s a few recommendations. First, specifically look for sunscreens marketed as face sunscreen instead of ones meant for the body, as these are formulated differently. They tend to have a lighter texture and may also include ingredients like niacinamide that can actually help to reduce the risk of acne.
Next up, take a close look at the ingredient list. Not all sunscreens are created equal. Some formulations contain known acne-causing ingredients, while others can actually improve the appearance of breakouts. It’s cautioned that individual skin sensitivities may vary, but these are the ingredients generally recommended to those with acne-prone skin:
- Niacinamide: It has a wide range of properties, including helping with acne, reducing oil production, fighting unwanted discoloration, and improving texture.
- Zinc oxide: Generally, most mineral-based sunscreens formulated with zinc oxide can help treat acne. Not only is zinc oxide anti-inflammatory, but it also helps regulate sebum production in the skin.
- Antioxidants: look for formulations that include antioxidants, which can help reduce acne-causing inflammation.
- Squalane or ceramides: Sunscreens containing squalane or ceramides promote a healthy skin moisture barrier, which can help reduce the risk of acne.
- Fragrance-free: be careful against sunscreens with added fragrance for acne-prone skin.
Sunscreens That May Contribute to Acne
In addition to seeking out the acne-fighting ingredients, it’s recommended avoiding known acne-causing components. Some of these ingredients are added to sunscreens to improve the feel of the lotion on the skin, while others are types of sunscreen. If you experience a reaction to a specific sunscreen, take note of the ingredients in the formula and seek alternatives.
- Heavy, occlusive formulas: sunscreens containing heavy occlusives can make acne worse. These ingredients include coconut oil, cocoa butter, mineral oil, and beeswax.
- Chemical SPF filters: chemical SPF filters, such as avobenzone, may cause a reaction in acne-prone skin. Consider a mineral-based sunscreen instead.
- Added fragrance: As noted earlier, added fragrance increases your risk of irritation, potentially leading to acne.
Sunscreen and Scarring
Unfortunately, the annoyance of acne does not often stop after the breakout subsides. One of the most common problems individuals see after acne is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These are the residual red or purple marks that can stay in the skin for weeks to months. These marks tend to get worse and stay longer when exposed to the sun. For these types of marks, sunscreen can be very beneficial. Sunscreen will help reduce the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and make existing lesions fade faster. It’s unlikely that sunscreen will make a significant difference in the texture of acne scars, however.
This is especially true for melanin-rich skin or skin prone to hyperpigmentation.
The Final Takeaway
For those with acne-prone skin, it's crucial to avoid acne-causing ingredients in sunscreen—and, thanks to innovations in sunscreen formulations, it isn't too difficult to do so. Using formulas with ingredients like niacinamide and zinc oxide that can help prevent and treat acne. The need for sunscreen continues even after the breakout resolves, as SPF can help to prevent further discoloration and scarring.
For help with acne that you do have and for healing acne scars, check out Wild Naturals manuka honey skin care! You’d be surprised at just how transformed and clear your skin will become from honey!