Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin: Which One Will Work for You?

How to choose the best sunscreen for acne prone skin knowing that sunscreen can clog the pores, and where you see clogged pores, you see zits. 

Further, the various chemicals can irritate your skin, and that leads to dreaded breakouts. So ?

Go without sunscreen, right?

Well, certainly not.  Skin cancer is not a desirable outcome, no matter how frustrating you skin blemishes may be.
What if you wore a hat so your hair wouldn’t get drenched in the rain, then took the hat off and found it had turned your hair royal blue?

That’s like trying to protect your skin from dangerous UV rays only to get an acne breakout as your thanks.

So, we’re looking for screens that don’t sit heavily on the skin, choking your pores, and for screens that don’t treat your skin like their worst enemy.

So here are sunscreens that won’t undo the other hard work you’ve done for clear skin.

Our Top Pick for Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin: Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector

This moisturizing sunscreen is a class act all the way.  It not only gives you the much-sought-after matte finish, but it also cuts down on sebum, which is the oily, waxy stuff that ultimately gives way to acne.  That’s a pretty intensive acne-fighting trait for a sunscreen.

This screen seeps into your skin very nicely, getting out of the way in case you’d like to wear your choice of makeup on top of it.  It gives 42 SPF, which is a bit less than some of the others we’ll review, yet more than a lot of people generally want to wear.

Now, the Shiseido does come in a petite little package and it’s not inexpensive.  But your skin is worth it!

17 of the Best of the Rest

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #1: Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen

This is just a lovely product.  It’s designed specically to prevent breakouts.  And it isn’t amateur hour at Neutrogena, either.  Hecka no, they have their scientists on it, bringing forth the Neutrogena Helioplex Technology.  This is a tech that brings together Avobenzone and Oxybenzone in a lovely marriage.  These two compounds actually strengthen one another rather than just being good on their own.

You get a broad spectrum here because we’re talking UVA/UVB, protection from both of these major types of ultraviolet sun rays.  UVB are the rays we most associate with sunburn and with skin cancer, but UVA does more subtle damage, including aging your skin, and it can be associated with cancer too.

It’s this broad spectrum protection that causes this screen to be the top one recommended by dermatologists.  It gives you SPF 30 care and comes in a 3-ounce bottle.  Everyone from a tenured professor to someone who got C’s in science has to appreciate the results of the science in this wee little bottle.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #2: Banana Boat Natural Reflect Baby Sunscreen Lotion

This one comes in a friendly-looking, everyday sunscreen package.  That way, you’ll look whimsical rather than clinical and no one will want to know what kind of fancy-pants sunscreen you have.

But it is a very effective, scientifically-formulated sunscreen.  It’s 100% natural, packed with minerals.  Top of the list is Zinc oxide—now, that can be a controversial ingredient, thought to be too heavy or chalky, but this lotion passes our tests overall.  Part of the reason is its all natural composition and the fact it’s free of parabens.

You’re getting 50+ SPF here, with 80-minute water resistance.  Now, don’t let yourself get distracted by the fact that this is called a “baby” sunscreen.  Just realize that it has natural ingredients that will keep you from breaking out.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #3: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 45 Face Ultra Light Sunscreen

This little gem is noncomedogenic and oil-free.  It will give you a matte finish, and that’s a pretty amazing achievement for a sun screen.

That’s one of the best things about this product, the good effects it has on the actual tone and shade of your face.  In addition to ensuring you won’t have breakouts, it keeps you from looking oily while you’re wearing it.  And it also blends into your skin in a way that allows for great makeup use.  Put makeup over it and you’ll have no problem, as long as you allow the sunscreen to set first.

It’s water-resistant, with a 45 SPF.  That can be good for some women, since the 50 or 51 you get with other products can seem too extreme.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #4: MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème Broad Spectrum

This is another broad-spectrum lotion—refresh your memory on #1 Neutrogena to see how valuable the broad-spectrum approach is.

But MDSolarSciences is no clone of Neutrogena’s lotion.  It provides something a bit unique, which is a light to sheer natural shading.  It’s made of natural ingredients such as green tea and vitamin C, not including any synthetic fragrances.

It isn’t a liquid or oil but a gel-cream texture which leaves a nice silky finish on your skin.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #5: SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense

This is a fascinating and unique sunscreen.  It comes in the form of a weightless mousse—your mom put mousse in her hair in the 80’s (or dated a dude who did).

Anyhoo, it wisely includes a bit of tinting, which means you don’t get the ghostly white effect.  The lotion has a thick, creamy texture, but it does rub in easily.  It does function as a base for foundation or concealer if you want to go that route.  All in all, unless you have super light skin, it gives clean, almost sheer coverage.

It would be nice if the screen were to maintain its finish a bit longer; it also lacks antioxidants, and they can be a plus to help boost the skin’s natural immunity to the sun’s potential damage.

It is fragrance free, though, and delivers SPF 50 without causing acne.  In fact, it also works to blur some blemishes while keeping out of the way for makeup that does more concealing.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #6: Elta MD UV shield SPF 45

This is another broad-spectrum sunscreen, in this case with zinc oxide as its main active ingredient.  As for the important element of antioxidants, it has a little touch of them in the form of vitamin E.

It finishing with a nice smooth, moist finish.  Its fast-absorption formula allows it to blend into the skin quickly and stay out of the way for your makeup.  It also means the screen won’t get streaky and freaky. It looks good, though to be fair, it may cause gals with oily skin to look a bit shinier than they’d like if you don’t have good foundation on over it.

One thing to keep in mind—again visiting anxiety some might have about zinc oxide—is that this particular type of zinc oxide is micronized, making it lighter and less likely to bother skin than other zinc oxides.

This fragrance and paraben-free screen is lightweight and oil free.  It comes in a 3 oz. package.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #7: Beauty By Earth Mineral Sunscreen

Well, even if the whole organic craze was so 2015, that doesn’t mean organic ingredients aren’t important, particularly when we’re talking about putting them on your skin.

That’s where Beauty By Earth’s SPF 25 mineral sunscreen is valuable.  It contains extracts and/or juices from an amazing array of plants, including Aloe Vera, cucumber, pomegranate, vanilla, calendula, and sunflower.  It also throws in Shea Butter for good measure.  Now, to be clear, the company counts Zinc Oxide as an organic ingredient.

It’s easy-on, and since it’s a mineral sunscreen, it goes into protection mode immediately rather than taking a half an hour as with some other brands.

It is sheer and great for using under makeup.  We found it to be light-feeling and incredibly non-irritating.

Remember that the SPF is 25 here-it may be good for times other than the heart of Summer or places other than the beach.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #8: Blue Lizard Sunscreen Sensitive Chemical Free

The formula with this Australian sunscreen is 10% Zinc Oxide and 5% Titanium Dioxide.  Not only does it offer you the all-important assurance that it won’t make you break out, but it is also meant explicitly for sensitive skin.  Even if your skin isn’t particularly sensitive, this blend may give you the necessary comfort.

It really stretches, meaning you don’t have to use a lot, and have to be careful not to over-moisten the skin.

One of the things that the company touts about it is that its paraben free and dye free.  This is an important issue for many people, as it should be, but it’s true of many of the screens we are reviewing.

It does give broad-spectrum, UVA/UVB protection, and I’d tend to put the screens with broad-spectrum in the upper category.  Its SPF is 30+, which hits the sweet spot for a lot of people who are skittish about the idea of walling off the sun completely.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #9: Clinique Super City Block Ultra Protection

The house of Clinique brings forth this unisex sunscreen.  It provides 40 SPF coverage.

One of the big draws for Super City Block is that it absorbs readily, with a light feel and the ability to easily apply makeup over it.

It is recommended for normal skin, but some users report that it helps reduce shine on their oily skin.  It is gentle and light-feeling.  It doesn’t have any special acne-fighting ingredients.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #10: Coola Suncare Mineral Face

If it’s special anti-acne ingredients you’re looking for, you’ll find them in Coola Suncare Mineral Face, which gives SPF 30 sun protection.

Antioxidants fight free radicals, and recent studies have linked free radicals to the onset of acne.  Coola Suncare has plenty of antioxidants, along with Vitamin C, which also fights free radicals, and  both Omega-3 and Gamma Linolelic Acid.  All of these fight free radicals and supply important ingredients to your skin.  There’s good reason to be cautious about possibly including harmful chemicals in our regimen.  Therefore when you know you’re nourishing your skin while guarding it from the Sun, it’s not so much a tradeoff as an exercise in all around goodness.

And this screen actually includes even more natural ingredients, including organic rosehip, evening primrose, and Shea Butter.

This is one of our reviewees that boasts Broad Spectrum coverage; it also is tinted with a nice matte tint.  It’s designed for normal or oily skin.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #11: Photobook Gel SPF 50 For Acne

Photobook also gives Broad Spectrum coverage, which to recap, means protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

It contains Avobenzone for this UVA protection—this is a fairly well-known, common product.

A bit more rare and particular to this product is RonaCare AP.  It is known as a UV filter and basically works as an extension to other filters, working on a “chronoactive” principle to make the effects last 24 hours.

Photobook is a water-based, non-comedogenic gel. It goes to 50 on SPF for gals looking for something pretty strong.  There’s a lot to like here.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #12: Rejuvelle Sunscreen For Face

In addition to giving Broad Spectrum coverage, this screen acts as one big multivitamin.  It treats you to the bennies of Vitamins C, D & E, along with Aloe & cucumber.

It’s PABA free and reef safe.

But back to your face, this product gives you antioxidant properties, and moisturizing in addition to being a no-breakout screen.  It’s waterproof with 45 SPF.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #13: Heliocare 360° Gel Oil-free SPF 50

Perfect for oily skin, this sunscreen is gel-based and oil-free, with a double antiglare system.  Heliocare goes beyond Broad Spectrum to protect against all forms of radiation: UVA, UVB, and IR-A.  Heliocare also applies its own technology to deliver antioxidants.

It’s free of oil, alcohol, and parabens.

As for the way Heliocare wears, it is infused with a technology called fotoprotettrice which ensures that the gel is invisible as it blends into the skin.

The company also touts the way the filters are distributed when the screen is applied, which means nice even coverage.

The blend, with its antioxidants, prevents blemishes beyond acne, such as freckles and wrinkles—it takes care of your skin all around.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #14: Murad Oil-free Sunscreen Broad Spectrum

Sometimes when people think of broad-spectrum sunscreens, with their combinations of ingredients capable of working so hard, they worry that the screen will be too heavy.  But Murad’s Oil-free is lightweight and it feels that way.  It absorbs easily, and it does deliver a pretty convincing matte finish.

Murad also includes antioxidants, which will help your skin age very gracefully.

The SPF is 30, and that does mean it should be reapplied after an hour to an hour and a half.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #15: Clarins Sun Care Cream High Protection SPF 30

This is a screen that was designed expressly for skin that’s sensitive to sun.  There’s a bit of overlap between that skin and acne-prone skin, so let’s go.  Clarins will gently hydrate your skin all day, and when we sun-tested it, we found it didn’t need re-application.

We also liked the creamy texture, similar to body butter.  With a texture like that, there’s no wonder it has a non-greasy feel.

The hydrating properties, instead of being synthetic oils, come from natural ingredients, extracts of the Baobab and Olive trees.  Clarins Sun Care also includes extracts of Occidentalis Bark, Cassia Alata Leaf, and Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.

One thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t waterproof.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #16: Belli Anti-Blemish Facial Wash

Lactic acid is one of the best-known alpha hydroxy acids, which are valued for their ability to prevent acne outbreaks.  It’s one of the key ingredients in Belli’s facial wash.  However, to make it kinder and gentler, they’ve blended the Lactic with greet tea and cucumber extract.

The company really likes to be clear about what the product is lacking: mineral compounds like benzoyl peroxide; plus glycolic acid and salycilic acid.  While it’s very possible for these to irritate or dry the skin, it’s possible that you’ve used products containing them without a problem—something to consider.

The wash is also free of parabens.

Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin #17: Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum

The main ingredients in this sunscreen are Octinoxate and Zinc Oxide—it’s a broad-spectrum coverage product.

We found that it stayed on well and provided a reasonable matte finish.  The whitish overtones visible at first went away quickly as the screen blended in.

Obagi Sun Shield protects the skin from oxidization caused by the Sun’s heat.

While this SPF-50 sunscreen is free of synthetic fragrances, it does have a scent, and it’s pretty pleasant.

Types of Sunscreens

We know that the reviews of the products are important.  You want to know the bottom line, sunscreen by sunscreen.  But it’s also important—at least we think so—to understand sunscreens and important concepts behind them.  You may have features of your skin, or just preferences and needs, that require you to need various kinds of sunscreens, ingredients, or protection.

When you look at the reviews, above, we talk about broad spectrum protection and clogged pores and antioxidants as these concepts come up product by product.  But we’re now going to give you a more comprehensive guide of all the main concepts at play.

Coverage: UVA/UVB, and Broad Spectrum

What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?hile

Both UVA and UVB are infamous ultraviolet rays.  For years, when people talked about dangerous Ultraviolet Sun rays, they were referring to UVA.  There are 500 times more UVA rays in a beam of warm sunlight than UVB.  They penetrate the skin more deeply, and are associated with causing wrinkles and aging of the skin.  They do have some role in skin cancer as well.

However, the big culprit in skin cancer is UVB rays.  This includes melanoma, the formation of black moles, which is one of the main reasons everyone talks about being sure to shield yourself from the sun.

What rays do Sunscreens fight and What is Broad Spectrum Protection?

In the past, sunscreens were formulated to fight UVB rays.  This is true for a couple of reasons.  First, as we just mentioned, they are much more instrumental in skin cancer than UVA.  Further, UVA rays actually don’t cause sunburn.  Note that—UVA rays do not cause sunburn.

For that reason, when you see an SPF on a package of sunscreen, it measures the ability of the screen to fight UVB rays only.  These are the ones that cause sunburn and the ones that are feared for their carcinogenic ways.  Yet, we’ve established that UVA rays age your skin and can have some role in skin cancer.

This means that some makers of sunscreens have wanted to make screens that fight both types of rays, and have become successful at doing so.

Sunscreens that fight both types of rays are called Broad-spectrum sunscreens.  Unless a sunscreen is labeled Broad Spectrum, you can guess it specializes in UVB rays only.   Neutrogena Clear Face, MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème Broad Spectrum, Elta MD UV shield SPF 45,  Photobook Gel SPF 50 For Acne, Rejuvelle Sunscreen For Face, and Heliocare 360° Gel are the broad-spectrum sunscreens we’ve reviewed.

Types of Sunscreens

The two major classes of sunscreens are physical vs. chemical.  This is sometimes re-phrased as mineral vs. chemical.  In quite a few of our reviews we’ve talked about the mineral ingredients in sunscreens.  Those sunscreens are physical.

The minerals mostly used in physical sunscreens are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Physical Sunscreen Pros

  • They’re broad-spectrum
  • Protection begins immediately
  • Deflects heat energy—this makes it better for people with acne-prone skin
  • Doesn’t clog pores—extremely important for acne-prone skin

Physical Sunscreen Cons

  • Can create a white tint or shadow
  • Prone to rubbing off

Chemical Sunscreens tend to use oxybenzone and avobenzone, among others.  These are organic compounds, and they convert the sun’s rays to heat, which they then release from the Sun.

Chemical Sunscreen Pros

  • Wears lighter and thinner
  • Good for use under makeup

Chemical Sunscreen Cons

  • The chemical filters are often irritating to skin
  • Many of these filters haven’t been approved by FDA
  • Some chemicals generate free radicals, which some sunscreens actively fight, since they cause acne

The Verdict–

Specifically for women with acne-prone skin, physical sunscreens will generally be the better choice.  The fact that they work to block out the sun’s rays as opposed to absorbing and sending back as chemical screens do it good for people whose skin tends to redness and easily burns.  Also, the fact that it doesn’t clog pores is good.

It may seem to a lot of people like chemical sunscreens are better for acne sufferers, since it absorbs more (physical screens essentially sit atop the skin) and feels lighter.  It’s true that there is a certain wear on the skin that comes from thick physical sunscreens.  However, physicals are designed more with sensitive and trouble skin in mind.  Taking into consideration all factors, ladies struggling with actor should go with physical screens.

However, it’s important to look at all the ingredients in a sunscreen and all the factors, including price.

Applying Sunscreen

It may seem that applying sunscreen is just about the easiest thing in the world.  But you’re trying to be sure not to break out and to heal your skin.  It’s important not to use too much or to apply the screen in any incorrect way that can actually wear out the skin and potentially make your acne problem worse.

One important concept is how much to use. Create a little egg on the palm of your hand—it should be the length and width of an egg but only about a quarter inch tall.  This will be nearly a tablespoon.

Take your index finger and place the screen around your face in tiny dots.  Dry your hands and then rub the screen in gently and thoroughly.

As explained above, if you’re using a physical sunscreen, you can hit the beach right away; with a chemical screen, you’ll need to wait about 20 minutes.

If you want to use a foundation or other kind of makeup, you’re all set to do so.


It’s extremely important to get protection from the Sun, particularly when you’re going to be in a place that doesn’t provide any cover.

But while you’re getting your protection, be sure to care for acne-prone skin if you have it.  First off, deciding whether or not you’d like broad-spectrum protection is key, as is choosing between physical and chemical ones.  You can make whichever choice you feel is right, but be sure to compare based on our guidelines and on the ingredients of each individual screen.

Ultimately, you get to decide what is important to you and how you’d like to fight acne.  You may look for a sunscreen that unclogs pores, that fight bacteria that cause acne, or that feed your skin with antioxidants and vitamins.

Or you may have the lightness with which the sunscreen sits on your face as a greater priority.  However, we recommend going for protection over a nice soft wear.

Elisabeth Hasselblad

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