You’ve likely heard it time and time again: Don't skip sunscreen if you want to prevent dark spots, sun damage and signs of aging. The only caveat is thick formulas can congest your pores, which may lead to pimples. Still, wearing sunscreen daily is essential, especially if you use products that treat acne and contain ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid or retinol.
“Sunscreen is important because many acne medications make your skin sensitive to sunburn,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital. “The right sunscreen can give a mattifying effect and protect the skin without worsening breakouts."
Pimples are avoidable if you choose the right sunscreen for your skin. We talked to dermatologists about how to purchase sunscreen for acne-prone skin and rounded up options that fit their guidance.
Our top picks
- Best cream sunscreen for acne-prone skin: Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best tinted sunscreen for acne-prone skin: Revision Skincare Intellishade TruPhysical Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45
- Best powder sunscreen for acne-prone skin: Brush on Block Translucent Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 30
How we picked the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin
To highlight the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin, experts told us to prioritize the following:
- Oil-free, noncomedogenic options, which means the products won’t clog pores.
- Fragrance-free sunscreens, since experts told us that fragrances can irritate skin and may potentially cause rashes or bumps.
- SPF rating to find one that aligns with the level of protection you’re looking for.
- Water resistance if you’re likely to sweat or be exposed to water while wearing sunscreen.
Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin in 2023
Below, we rounded up sunscreens dermatologists recommend for acne-prone skin. We also used their guidance to find additional options we think you should know about, and confirmed with our sources that they’re suitable for acne-prone skin.
This sunscreen from Neutrogena, which Zeichner recommends, is specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin in mind, according to the brand. It contains the active ingredient avobenzone, which Zeichner described as an "organic sunscreen filter that is extremely effective in providing broad-spectrum UV protection."
SPF: 30, 50 and 55 | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
Zeichner also recommends Eucerin’s Oil Control Face Sunscreen. It has a non-greasy feel and an invisible matte finish on all skin tones, according to the brand. The non comedogenic formula is made with antioxidants like vitamin E and C, and it’s fragrance-free.
SPF: 50 | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
Dr. Patricia Wexler, a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City, recommends this sunscreen from EltaMD. It’s designed for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin, as well as those who have rosacea and dark spots, according to the brand. The mineral-based formula includes zinc oxide, which Zeichner says is “a mineral UV blocker that also has a soothing effect on the skin.” It also contains niacinamide, which experts told us helps hydrate the skin.
SPF: 46 | Water-resistant: No
SPF mineral powder is a helpful option for those with oily and acne-prone skin, says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist. "It absorbs excess oil so it can serve a dual purpose as a finishing powder, actually extending the life of your makeup and providing sun protection,” she says.
Brush on Block’s mineral powder sunscreen is available as a translucent powder or in a Touch of Tan shade. The accompanying brush has a twist-open feature that helps ensure powder is only released when you want to use it. The brush is also refillable — when it runs out of powder, you can purchase refills online.
SPF: 30 | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
This sunscreen from La Roche-Posay is quickly absorbed by the skin and doesn't leave behind a greasy finish, according to the brand. It comes recommended by Wexler: "This sunscreen keeps skin dry, even in heat and humidity, making it great for oily, acne-prone skin,” she says. The sunblock, which is suitable for sensitive skin, is made with perlite and silica, two lightweight powders that help absorb excess oil from skin and reduce shine, according to La Roche-Posay.
SPF: 60 | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at UnionDerm in New York City, told us that those with acne-prone skin can benefit from sunscreens designed for wear during outdoor sports, even if they’re not doing something active. Sport sunscreen is usually more alcohol-based, which means it’s also typically less greasy. Neutrogena’s Sport Face Sunscreen, for example, contains benzyl alcohol.
SPF: 70 | Water-resistant: Up to 80 minutes
If you’re looking for a tinted sunscreen, this option from Revision Skincare is suitable for acne-prone skin since it’s formulated with common non comedogenic ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The sunscreen gives skin a sheer mineral tint and includes ingredients like vitamin C, which helps brighten your complexion, and peptides, which can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
SPF: 45 | Water-resistant: No
Associate updates editor Zoe Malin — who has acne-prone skin — uses Supergoop Glowscreen daily and says it feels lightweight on her skin. The sunscreen is made with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and niacinamide to moisturize skin, and also gives the skin a dewy finish, according to the brand. You can use this product as the last step in your skin care routine since it doubles as a primer — Malin says she notices that her concealer goes on smoother when she uses the Glowscreen first.
SPF: 40 | Water-resistant: No
Malin also likes using this sunscreen from Urban Skin Rx because it absorbs into her skin quickly, has a sheer finish and is non-irritating. In addition to protecting skin from the sun, this sunscreen is a moisturizer and acts as a primer to use before adding makeup. The sunscreen contains zinc oxide, safflower seed oil to soften skin and grapefruit extract, a source of vitamin C.
SPF: 30 | Water-resistant: No
Summer Fridays’ sunscreen has a serum-like consistency and blends in with all skin tones, according to the brand. Select’s Shari Uyehara likes that Summer Fridays’ sunscreen has a slightly stickier, tackier texture. “Instead of melting into my skin and showing my pores, it stays put,” she says. The sunscreen contains zinc oxide to protect skin from the sun’s rays, in addition to moisturizing squalane and antioxidants like vitamin E.
SPF: 50 | Water-resistant: No
Alastin’s sunscreen is suitable for all skin types, according to the brand. Uyehara says although it's a thicker, creamier lotion, the sunscreen blends in smoothly and leaves a soft sheer finish. The formula contains zinc oxide and it’s fragrance-free and noncomedogenic.
SPF: 30 | Water-resistant: Up to 40 minutes
Hero Cosmetics is one of our favorite AAPI-owned businesses and all of the brand’s products are designed for blemish-prone skin. This sunscreen leaves behind a shine-free finish and has a lightweight feel, similar to a gel. The sunscreen’s vegan, non comedogenic formula is made with zinc oxide.
SPF: 30 | Water-resistant: No
Why do I get acne after using sunscreen?
There are two main reasons why sunscreen-related breakouts occur, experts told us. Heavy, oily sunscreens can block pores and cause breakouts. Your skin may also be sensitive to some UV-blocking ingredients in sunscreen, which could show up as a rash or as small bumps, King says.
What sunscreen ingredients cause acne?
If you have acne-prone skin or are concerned about breakouts, pay attention to the ingredients in sunscreen. Experts recommend checking a sunblock’s label and making sure it says non comedogenic, which means the formula is designed not to clog pores, Gmyrek says. Two non comedogenic ingredients commonly found in sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Pay attention to both active and inactive ingredients in sunscreen, both of which can contribute to clogged pores. Those with acne-prone skin should avoid oils, Wexler says. Experts also recommend staying away from sunscreens with emollient-rich ingredients like vitamin E, coconut, mineral and soybean oils, beeswax, lanolin and cocoa butter.
Additionally, Wexler says that anyone with acne-prone skin should stick to sunscreens free of fragrances, silicones and sodium lauryl sulfates, which can irritate the skin and clog pores. And make sure not to keep your sunscreen out in the sun, as King notes that “the heat and sun can break down the chemicals and render them ineffective and potentially irritating to the skin.”
How to apply sunscreen on acne-prone skin
Experts say it’s important to wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser to help prevent pimples, especially after sun exposure. Wexler also recommends applying a face moisturizer made with hyaluronic acid or niacinamide to decrease inflammation and restore the skin barrier.
Keep in mind that regardless of which type you purchase, sunscreen is important to wear daily — Zeichner recommends applying a quarter-sized dollop of SPF to your face. If you’re spending time in the sun, you should reapply every two hours or immediately after heavy sweating or swimming.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner is a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital.
- Dr. Patricia Wexler is a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City.
- Dr. Hadley King is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She is also a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
- Dr. Robyn Gmyrek is a board-certified dermatologist at UnionDerm in New York City.
Why trust Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at Select. For this piece, she interviewed four experts to gather their tips and product recommendations, and researched other types of sunscreen for acne-prone skin with their guidance in mind.