Will Sunscreen Make My Acne Breakouts Worse?

Your complexion needs daily protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays.  The dangers of overexposure to the sun can vary widely, but the most serious risk is the threat of skin cancer, making the regular use of sunscreen an absolute MUST.

But how do you protect your skin from the blemishes that may be caused by sunscreens? Unfortunately for acne sufferers, in order to be effective, sunscreens have to coat your skin with zinc or titanium, which has the potential to clog pores and make your acne worse. While it might seem like a catch-22 where you lose with either option, the good news is there are indeed viable sunscreen options available for acne sufferers.

Here’s all you need to know about sunscreen and acne-prone skin:

How Sunscreens Work

Will Sunscreen Make My Acne Breakouts Worse?

Sunscreens are divided into two types, physical and chemical. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical sunscreens that work by physically blocking the sun’s rays. Application of physical sunscreens sometimes leaves skin looking pale. Think of that classic image of a lifeguard with a huge dollop of zinc oxide on his nose.

Chemical sunscreens, which include ingredients such as Padimate O, Avobenzone and Octyl Salicate, work by absorbing UV-rays from the sun. These chemical ingredients are invisible on the skin and add an element of moisturizing, but they lose effectiveness over time and need to be reapplied frequently.

Sunscreens and Acne

Unfortunately, the active ingredients in sunscreens can trigger breakouts in acne-prone skin. The binders that hold the product ingredients together can also aggravate blemishes as well. Some sunscreens are advertised as “oil-free,” but they contain ingredients like lanolin, which has the same underlying effect as oil naturally produced by the skin’s sebum glands.

Choosing and Using Sunscreens

  • Look for products that are less oily and labeled “non-comedogenic,” which are formulated without ingredients likely to irritate acne.
  • Physical sunscreens are broad spectrum, meaning they block both UVA and UVB rays. While both types contribute to skin aging, damage and cancer, UVB rays are the ones that tan or burn.
  • With chemical sunscreens, Avobenzone provides the most comprehensive protection against UVA rays.
  • A sunscreen’s SPF factor is a measure of its protection against sunburn. Experts recommend a rating of 15 or higher. Keep in mind that the scale is not proportional so an SPF 30 will not provide twice the coverage of an SPF 15.
  • If you have oily or sensitive skin, consider a physical sunscreen with zinc or titanium. Many products include tints that reduce or eliminate the pale residue.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens may sound desirable, but the waterproofing ingredients can irritate skin. They often require excessive scrubbing to remove due to the water-repellent layer.
  • Blocking the sun’s rays interferes with your body’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D. Be sure to get your Vitamin D levels checked and consult your physician about the use of Vitamin D supplements, if necessary.
  • If you wear makeup, SPF-rated foundation and powder can be a good alternative to traditional sunscreens.
  • Don’t become discouraged if you choose a sunscreen that initially doesn’t work out. It can take a bit of trial and error to find a product that provides the right mix of UV protection and skin care for acne prone individuals.

You can protect your skin from the sun without having to sacrifice your acne treatment and skin care maintenance. Consult your dermatologist for more information about protecting your acne-prone skin with the right sunscreen.

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