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We’ve heard it time and time again that applying sunscreen is a necessary step in a proper skincare routine, no matter your skin type. But for those with oily or acne-prone skin, applying sunscreen can seem equivalent to pouring a bottle of oil on your face. And excess oil means one thing: Breakouts.
However, according to Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, a double-board-certified dermatologist, it's actually a myth that sunscreen itself causes acne. "For people who feel that they break out after using sunscreens, it may be that they're having an irritant reaction to the sunscreen or the sun," she says, "Which can look like acne."
Thankfully, there are several ways to help minimize your risk of irritation. If you have acne-prone skin, Dr. Houshmand suggests opting for a formula that's lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic. "This may help keep your skin clear while protecting it from harmful UV rays," she says. Beyond that, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that's SPF 30 or above, as is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology—although she still encourages an SPF 50 formula for extra protection.
With so many oil- and grease-free formulas on the market these days, it can seem a bit overwhelming trying to find the best one—so we did the hard work for you.
Read on for the top sunscreens for acne-prone skin.
Best Overall: Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting SPF 35 Sunscreen
If there’s one sunscreen that is hands down the best formula for nearly every skin type it’s the Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen. While it does work on dry and combination skin, we love this pick most for acne-prone and oily skin because of its mattifying and blurring formula. You’ll be wondering how your pores suddenly disappear.
Silk extract and Japanese wild rose help improve texture and tone so you can tackle nearly every concern. We like to think of this gem as the unicorn of sunscreens. While the price tag is much steeper than the rest of the bunch, we don’t know many people who wouldn’t agree that it’s totally worth it.
Best Budget: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Face Sunscreen
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
This may look like an ordinary sunscreen, but the swirly formula in this little bottle is like pure magic. It’s not likely that a typical drugstore brand brings top-notch products, but this sunscreen beats hundreds of others at only a fraction of the price. This silky formula is light as air, almost like whipped cream. It is hydrating enough to double as a moisturizer and SPF and the best part is you’ll barely feel it on your skin. The formula is swirled with silk proteins and shea butter so you can be sure it won’t get dry or chalky.
Best Invisible: EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 46
When applying sunscreen to your face, an invisible formula is a must-have. This EltaMD formula is backed by dermatologists and proven to keep pesky breakouts away. "It leaves your skin glowy and doesn't break you out," says Dr. Houshmand. "It's also lightweight and fragrance-free, and the formula delivers hyaluronic acid to moisturize and lactic acid to reduce shininess and clear pores." These skin-loving ingredients also make it a great buy for sensitive skin.
Best Matte Formula: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin SPF 60 Sunscreen
One major contributing factor to unwanted breakouts is excess oil. When you feel like sunscreens make you produce more oil than usual, it's less likely you’ll commit to sporting one every day. Good news: This formula was made for oily skin, and promises to work even in the heat and humidity. It goes on clear and won’t leave a greasy film on your complexion.
Best Hydrating Formula: CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 50 Face Lotion
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
All CeraVe products are formulated with three essential ceramides (1, 3, and 6-II) to provide a layer of hydration, and this SPF 50 is no exception. This mineral sunscreen also contains hyaluronic acid—an ingredient that can hold up to 1000x its weight in water—and niacinamide for more moisturizing power.
But that's not all: "This 100-percent mineral, oil-free formula contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide," says Dr. Houshmand, "Which forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface to help reflect UVA and UVB rays without irritating sensitive skin." Overall, she says, "It's a gentle yet effective sun-protection option—plus, it's been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance and the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation." In other words, it's an all-around winner.
Best Powder: ColorScience Sunforgettable Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
This two-in-one powder sunscreen is a lazy gal's dream. This brush-on formula doubles as a cosmetic powder and sunscreen in a few simple swipes, mattifying your complexion while lightly covering imperfections. Though the powder is tinted, it gives sheer-to-natural looking coverage, but won’t conceal any major blemishes. It's available in five shades that range from fair to medium skin tones. A bonus, Dr. Houshmand notes, is that it's ultra-portable: "It's easy to use, and it can fit in your purse or another small bag," she says.
Best Mineral: COOLA Mineral Face Organic Matte Finish Sunscreen SPF 30
If a mineral sunscreen is what you're after, look no further than this lightweight organic formula from Coola. For broad-spectrum UV protection, this product contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but it's also packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients—including red raspberry seed oil, buriti oil, meadowfoam seed oil, prickly pear extract, organic rosehip oil, and evening primrose oil—to help fight free radicals. It's also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and doubles as a face primer. Want a bit of color? The brand offers a tinted version, too.
Most Versatile: Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF 30
This formula from Dermalogica is one of our favorite sunscreens for both oily and acne-prone skin here at Byrdie HQ—and you'll see why. Its lightweight, oil-free formula incorporates a blend of zinc gluconate, caffeine, niacinamide, biotin, and yeast extract—which, combined, protect your skin from UV rays and absorb excess oils for a shine-free finish all day. In other words, sign us up.
Best Serum: Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum
If the texture of sunscreen is what deters you from wearing it, opting for a lightweight option may be the answer. This sunscreen-serum hybrid is so light its milky formula melts into the skin so you won’t even know it’s there. Supergoop names this product multitasking, a morning moisturizer that both primes and protects. So, this two-in-one can eliminate a few steps from your skincare routine. It protects the skin from pollution and UV rays while keeping skin hydrated and supple to the touch.
Best Stick: Sun Bum Face Stick
Stick products can be hit or miss, but this handy sunscreen stick is a definite hit. It offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection against UVA and UVB rays, and it’s small enough to fit in any backpack or purse for easy application while on the go.
Friendly reminder: Everyone should reapply sunscreen throughout the day—at least every two hours, if not sooner—to maintain adequate protection against harmful UV rays. Formulas that are super lightweight and portable, like this sunscreen stick, make reapplications as easy as pie. It also doesn’t hurt that it smells like bananas.
The whole “I can’t wear sunscreen because I have acne” excuse just doesn’t fly. The aptly-named Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen is our top recommendation, thanks to its mattifying and blurring (yes, and sun protecting) effects. The Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF 30 is another Byrdie favorite, infused with oil-absorbing ingredients. The Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is our go-to multi-tasker, imparting sheer coverage and SPF in a perfectly portable formula that makes touch-ups a breeze. And if you love sticks, try the Sun Bum Face Stick, another great choice for when you want to swipe and go.
What to Look For In a Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin
Sounds obvious, but choosing an oil-free formulation is one of the easiest ways to make sure it won’t exacerbate or cause breakouts.
This indicates that it won’t clog pores, another key factor for those prone to acne, or even just blackheads and whiteheads.
This is less about the oily skin side of things, and more about the sunscreen part of things. You want to make sure the product you pick can shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays; a ‘broad-spectrum’ indication is proof that it does.
Why trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Sunscreen is her absolute number one must-have beauty product, so she’s extremely well-versed in all of the different types and formulas available.
How we test sunscreens for acne-prone skin
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any sunscreen for acne-prone skin from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.