APRIL 2024

Sunscreen and Acne: Your Essential Q&A Guide to spf

Wearing SPF everyday is a skincare non-negotiable, providing protection against skin cancer, sun damage and premature ageing. However, if you have acne-prone skin then understanding which sunscreens may triggers breakouts is key, so you don't end up wanting to skip the SPF step in your skincare routine.

So, what are the need-to-knows for using SPF with breakouts?

What are UVA and UVB rays?

If you're not familiar with UVA and UVB rays, let's clarify. UVA stands for ultraviolet A, and UVB stands for ultraviolet B. UVA rays can penetrate the skin more deeply, leading to premature aging of skin cells. Surprisingly, about 95% of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVA rays, while the remaining 5% are UVB rays. 

If you are think that you are safe from these rays indoors, did you know that more than 50% of UVA rays can penetrate glass? If you're sitting near a window without sunscreen right now, those rays could be reaching your skin.

When should I be wearing sunscreen?

The rule of thumb is: if you can see things in natural light, it's time to apply sunscreen. This means wearing sunscreen every day—even indoors, on cloudy days or in the winter. If you're in a dark place where you'd need to turn on a light to see, then sunscreen isn't necessary.

why is wearing spf important if you have acne?

If you are trying to treat spots & breakouts, then it's likely you might be using ingredients such as retinoids or salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin. Ingredients like these can cause skin to be more sensitive to UV rays, which means you are more vulnerable to UV damage and hyperpigmentation. So rather than skipping SPF, those with acne-prone skin need to be even more on top of layering on that SPF that those without acne.

does sunscreen cause acne?

In general, sunscreen does not cause acne BUT, like any make-up or skincare, certain sunscreens may contain ingredients that can clog pores and exacerbate acne - these pore-clogging ingredients are known as comedogenic substances.

You may also notice that your breakouts worsen with SPF due to sweating in hotter temperatures - if the skin sweats with SPF, there is an increased risk of pores clogging which can lead to breakouts.

what sunscreen should i use with acne-prone skin?

The two main types of sunscreen filters are chemical or mineral. Mineral sunscreen creates a physical barrier that reflects UVA and UVB rays, while chemical sunscreen absorbs these rays and converts them into harmless heat through a chemical reaction—hence the name "chemical" sunscreen.

Mineral sunscreens are generally tolerated by all skin types, including those with acne. They also contain zinc-oxide which is known to help regulate excess oil as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory, so potentially mineral SPF can actually help those with acne. However, if the mineral sunscreen you are using is quite a thick formulation (acting as a physical sunscreen) then you might increase the risk of pores becoming blocked.

Chemical sunscreens are use to create lightweight, easily-absorbed formulations which might help to avoid blocked pores. However, some chemical suncreens are thought to trigger skin sensitivity (which as avobenzone) which can in turn lead to breakouts.  

anything else to know when choosing an SPF for acne-prone skin?

  • Choose a sunscreen labelled as "non-comedogenic" or "oil-free" to minimize the risk of pore blockage, and opt for textures that are lightweight
  • Avoid fragrances which can irritate skin and make skin more vulnerable to breakouts
  • Before applying sunscreen, cleanse your skin thoroughly with a gentle cleanser designed for acne-prone skin and ensure your skin is completely dry
  • Use clean fingertips or a soft, clean brush to apply the sunscreen evenly across your face, taking care to avoid heavy pressure or rubbing that can irritate existing acne. Focus on areas prone to breakouts, such as the T-zone, and ensure even coverage. Allow the sunscreen to fully absorb into your skin before applying makeup or other skincare products

How often do I reapply sunscreen?

Reapply sunscreen on your face every two hours, particularly when you're outdoors or exposed to sunlight. If you're on holiday and doing activities like swimming, sweating heavily, or towel-drying, reapply sunscreen more frequently to safeguard your skin from UV damage.

Can I reapply sunscreen over my makeup?

Yes, you can apply sunscreen over your makeup—it's all about using the right products and techniques! 

Use a sunscreen spray or powder that's made specifically for this purpose. With a sunscreen spray, lightly mist your face from a few inches away. If you prefer a powder, use a brush to dust it over areas exposed to the sun. Before reapplying, you can choose to use blotting papers to tackle any excess oil. Just keep in mind that sunscreen over makeup isn't as effective as on bare skin, so use these tricks for touch-ups throughout the day, especially if you're out in the sun a lot.

Are SPF BB creams safe for my acne prone skin?

BB creams with SPF can be a great option for providing light coverage over breakouts and sun protection, but whether they are good for acne-prone skin depends on the formulation. Some BB creams may contain ingredients that can potentially clog pores and contribute to breakouts, especially if they are not labelled as "non-comedogenic" or "oil-free."

If you have acne-prone skin, it's important to choose a BB cream that is specifically designed for sensitive or acne-prone skin and is labelled as non-comedogenic. Also look out for BB creams with added ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide, which can help to treat and prevent breakouts while providing SPF protection.

To sum it up, don't skip sunscreen if you have acne-prone skin—it's a must for protecting against UV rays and keeping skin healthy and glowing! 
Our top tips are:

  • Choose non-comedogenic or oil-free sunscreens tailored for sensitive skin
  • Look for BB creams with SPF + SPF formulations that contain ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide to help with breakouts
  • Remember to patch-test new products and chat with a dermatologist if you need personalized advice. 


We hope that you've found this blog helpful - if you have any questions or would like to share your skincare journey with us, we'd love to hear from you. You can get in touch via the form below or by DM on IG. 




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