Acne & Sunscreen-Is there a Connection?

Does sunscreen cause acne? Although many people look forward to the summer months, many people with a history of acne are afraid to use sunscreen because they are afraid of clogging their pores. The truth is there are a lot of sunscreen products that can trigger acne breakouts and drastically increase the oil buildup in your skin.

Unfortunately, if you do not wear sunscreen, you are putting yourself at risk for sunburns, which can ultimately manifest itself as skin cancer down the line.

The best solution is to find a sunscreen absent of chemical ingredients, including octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone, which have been discovered in many popular sunscreen products in recent years. These chemicals are known to cause several negative skin conditions including acne!

Throughout this article, we will discuss how sunscreen causes acne, and how to pick a brand that protects you from the sun without clogging your pores.

Why Does Sunscreen Cause Acne?

The leading cause of acne is the excess production of oil from a person’s sebaceous glands. This happens when a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short feeds off oils found in your skin and hair follicles. 

The result? An increase in oil production, which means more clogged pores and acne. The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause your sebaceous glands to produce even more oil. The rise in oil production from the UV rays causes people who use sunscreen to break out with acne. 

This happens because while you are using sunscreen on your skin, it prevents some of the bacteria-rich oils from being released onto the surface of your skin where they usually would be if you did not wear anything at all. 

So there is less for P. acnes to feed off of and thus fewer outbreaks! Does this mean that wearing sunscreen causes acne? Not at all — instead, wear sunscreen so that existing acne does not get out of control!

What is the Best Type of Sunscreen to Use if you Have Acne-Prone Skin?

The best type of sunscreen to use if you have acne-prone skin is a physical block because chemical-based ones are more likely to cause breakouts. Also, look for one that is labeled as non-comedogenic or oil-free. 

This way, it will not clog your pores and make matters worse! Moreover, make sure to apply sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days. You can also try using a moisturizer with SPF as an alternative. 

For example, Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 contains soy extract. This is beneficial for calming redness and irritation, which are two things that can contribute to acne breakouts. In addition, this moisturizer is oil-free and non-comedogenic so that it will not clog your pores.

How Do I Apply My Sunscreen Correctly?

One of the most common mistakes women make with sunscreen is applying it after putting on their makeup. To apply the sunscreen correctly, and minimize the chance of an acne breakout you need to apply it before your makeup. You should also make sure that you are using enough of it. Makeup artists recommend around two tablespoons for an average face and neck area. It is essential not to forget about all those hard-to-reach spots under your chin or behind your ears! 

Once the sunscreen has been applied, wait a few minutes for it to soak into your skin before applying any other products on top of this, such as foundation. 

If you find that the sunscreen leaves white marks across where you have put it, then try shaking up some colorless loose powder in a jar so that there are no lumps left within it which will prevent this from happening. 

Now simply pat onto the areas with white marks, and you should find that they disappear. With sunscreen applied, it is now time to apply your makeup just as you usually do without forgetting your usual base products such as foundation or concealer!

Other Ways to Protect Your Skin

There are other ways of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays and reducing acne breakouts. First, limit time in the sun during high UV periods (typically between 12 p.m.-to-​3 p.m. )

While you always want to make sure that you protect yourself form the sun it should be noted that the sun is essential for many chemical and biological processes in the body. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that the sun can actually help clear your skin in moderation.

If you are out walking, try wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect yourself against harsh sunlight and sunglasses that will block UVA/UVB rays that cause premature skin aging! Try also to wear long-sleeve shirts. 

Use natural oils! For people concerned about using sunscreen due to it causing acne, try incorporating more plant-based essential oils into your skincare routine. Coconut oil is an excellent option because it is also antibacterial and contains antioxidants! 

If you are looking for a natural oil that protects against UV rays you should consider using cupuacu butter. Cupuacu butter has numerous skin benefits and is high in Vitamin E which has been proven to help reduce damage from UV rays. While cupuacu butter is definitely not a complete replacement for sunscreen, using it as a moisturizer also gives you some protection against the sun. I’ve started using cupuacu butter as a daily moisturizer to help minimize sun damage and promote collagen production on a daily basis.

Treating Acne Caused by Sunscreen

Treating acne caused by sunscreen is difficult and requires additional acne treatments. Daily topical treatments would be the best option. For example, benzoyl peroxide is an effective topical treatment for acne, but it can cause drying and peeling. 

Additionally, benzoyl peroxide increases the skin’s sun sensitivity. For these reasons, if you are using sunscreen that causes your acne to worsen, then try switching to a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher in place of your daily facial cleanser. Using a moisturizer is extremely important especially if you are swimming regularly during the summer. Chlorine pools remove the oil from your face and can dry out your skin if you do not make a point to moisturize.

If this does not work well enough on its own after two months of use without improvement in your condition – see a dermatologist about other options such as isotretinoin.


Sunscreen should be applied before any other product to the skin and allow time to absorb into the skin for maximum benefits. Avoid touching your face as much as possible because it can lead to breakouts from bacteria on your fingers, hands, etc. 

Additionally, if you wear glasses make sure to wash them daily with dishwashing soap and a dry towel. Oil from your skin can stick to the stems and nose piece of your glasses triggering acne breakouts on your nose and temples.

Eating healthy foods will also help clear skin naturally, which is another excellent tip that can provide results in no time! 

As mentioned above, sunscreen should always go on first, but some things may cause an increase in acne during the summer months, such as hot weather causing sweat and oil build-up, leading to clogged pores, which could result in an outbreak of pimples.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which SPF is Best For Your Face?

Higher SPFs, such as 50 or 60, may be necessary to prevent sunburns, but it also has the risk of causing skin irritation and acne breakouts. It is safest to use a lower SPF like 30 when wearing make-up instead. This prevents pores from clogging and will not trigger new pimple growth.

What are the Side Effects of Sunscreen?

This is a commonly asked question that you may have too. The possible side effects of sunscreen are not limited to: – acne – hormone disruption – vitamin D deficiency.

Does Sunscreen Darken Skin?

In rare cases, sunscreen may cause a temporary darkening of the skin. The change in your skin’s color is due to an increase in melanin production. Melanin is responsible for the rich brown tones of colored pigment on our skin and hair.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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