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Choosing the right sunscreen: Why non-comedogenic options are a game-changer for clear skin

You want your sun protection to work for you—not against you. Here’s why you should look for non-pore-clogging SPF products.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Non-comedogenic Sunscreen
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

Why is sunscreen important?
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Selecting the right sunscreen* is a must for maintaining healthy skin. The main purpose of sunscreen is to protect your skin against harmful UV rays, but some formulas can contribute to skin concerns—particularly breakouts.

If you’re prone to acne or have sensitive skin, non-comedogenic sunscreen—a type that is designed not to clog pores—could be your key to clearer skin. Here we’ll unpack the importance of these sunscreens and explain what you need to know about the intersection of sun protection and skincare so you can choose the right UV-shielding product for your skin.

Why is sunscreen important?

So, why is sunscreen such a big deal?

Using sunscreen significantly cuts your risk of squamous cell and melanoma skin cancers.¹ Sunscreens pack compounds that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation—one of the top causes of skin cancer. Not just that; if you’re keen on avoiding signs of aging like wrinkles, sunscreen’s got your back. Sunscreen—of SPF 30 or higher—is necessary for everyone, regardless of skin type or tone!²

What is a non-comedogenic sunscreen?

Simply put, a non-comedogenic sunscreen is designed not to clog your pores. We all want sun protection without the dreaded breakouts, so while comedogenic products might lead to pimples, non-comedogenic products aim to not contribute to breakouts.³

Now, a little heads-up: Even though the term non-comedogenic sounds official, it’s not regulated by the FDA, which means there’s no 100% guarantee products labeled as such won’t block your pores. (Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients don’t need premarket approval from the FDA.)⁴ Still, opting for non-comedogenic products, especially gels and liquids, is a solid move to help prevent acne and keep your pores healthy.⁵

Want to double-check your sunscreen or other products? Here’s a handy list to confirm any potential pore-clogging ingredients.

The best non-comedogenic sunscreens

Are you yearning to go out in the sun without breaking out? You need to try a non-comedogenic sunscreen. Take a look at our list of the six best non-comedogenic sunscreens:

1. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

This sunscreen offers high SPF and is enriched with niacinamide, known for soothing inflammation,⁶ making it a good choice for those with acne-prone skin.

2. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

Rocking an SPF 50, this sunscreen is crafted for sensitive skin. Its formula is gentle and clear of parabens and fragrances.

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 60

With a high SPF of 60, this oil-free sunscreen is tailored for acne-prone adventurers. And if you’re thinking beach day, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!

4. Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Pocket-friendly, this sunscreen is made with breakout-prone beauties in mind. It offers SPF 50 protection and is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes.

5. Supergoop! Every. Single. Face. Watery Lotion SPF 50

This SPF 50 shield offers a refreshing, cooling sensation upon application. Whether you’re sweating it out or going for a swim, it stays with you for 40 minutes.

And, of course…

6. Curology’s The Sunscreen

Our personal pick! It’s designed by dermatologists with your skin’s daily needs in mind, and will blend seamlessly into your skincare routine. Our sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection tailored for acne-prone skin. The quick-absorbing and non-greasy formula is powered by 9.4% zinc oxide which helps offer UVA and UVB defense without clogging your pores.

While these are among the top picks, remember, our skin’s uniqueness is its superpower. It’s always a good idea to consult a dermatology expert to find your perfect match.

Maintaining clear skin

Keeping your skin clear might seem like a daunting task, but following some dermatologist-recommended guidelines can make a world of difference.

First and foremost, keep your skin clean by washing your face gently up to twice a day, especially after sweating.⁷ Use a non-abrasive cleanser and steer clear of scrubbing tools.

When selecting skincare products, go for alcohol-free options and avoid those that can irritate your skin, such as astringents, toners, and certain exfoliants.⁸ If you have oily hair, shampoo regularly as it can contribute to acne, especially on your forehead. When undergoing treatments, stick to one for a while as constantly switching products can irritate your skin—a little patience is key as treatments can take weeks or even months to show results!⁹

Make a conscious effort not to touch your face too often; this can make your acne worse and picking or popping breakouts can create dark spots that can take months to go away.¹⁰ Steer clear of the sun and tanning beds as they can boost your risk of skin cancer. And remember, some acne treatments can make your skin more susceptible to UV rays. Always prioritize sun protection by using a non-comedogenic, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, and opt for protective clothing when outdoors.¹¹

Lastly, if your acne persists despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to consult a dermatology provider. They can offer specialized treatments and guidance to minimize scarring and further issues.

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FAQs

Can non-comedogenic sunscreen clog pores?

Non-comedogenic sunscreens are formulated to avoid ingredients that typically clog pores and lead to acne. However, the term non-comedogenic isn’t strictly regulated by the FDA,¹² meaning there’s no absolute guarantee that such products won’t clog your pores. That said, opting for non-comedogenic products, especially in forms like gels and liquids, can help minimize the risk of pore blockage.¹³

What is the best sunscreen to not break out?

It’s a good idea to look for non-comedogenic sunscreens, like the Curology Everyday Sunscreen. However, consider seeking advice from a dermatology provider for personalized advice based on your skin’s unique needs.

How do you know if a sunscreen is comedogenic or not?

Determining whether a sunscreen is comedogenic involves several steps. Start by checking the product’s label for the term non-comedogenic. Next, review the ingredient list to identify any substances known to clog pores. Online reviews, especially from individuals with similar skin types, can offer insights into the product’s performance and potential for causing breakouts. 

After using the sunscreen, keep an eye on your skin for any new breakouts. It’s always beneficial to opt for brands with a good reputation for catering to sensitive skin. Lastly, for a thorough understanding and personalized advice, consider consulting with a dermatology provider.

Why is it important to consult a dermatologist when persistent acne occurs, even after using non-comedogenic products?

Dermatologists possess specialized knowledge and can provide insights into why certain breakouts occur, even with the use of non-comedogenic products. They can offer tailored treatments, recommendations, and guidance to address specific skin concerns, ensuring optimal skin health and minimizing the risk of complications.

Are all sunscreens safe for babies or young children?

No, it’s best to avoid using sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months due to potential absorption concerns. For children older than 6 months, its advisable to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.¹⁴ However, always consult a pediatrician or dermatologist for specific recommendations tailored to your child’s needs.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. CMAJ. (2020, December 14).

  2. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. CMAJ. Ibid.

  3. National Guideline Alliance. Skin care advice for people with acne vulgaris. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). (June 2021).

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Authority Over Cosmetics: How Cosmetics Are Not FDA-Approved, but Are FDA Regulated. (2022, March 2).

  5. Sutaria, A.H., et al. Acne Vulgaris. StatPearls. (2023, August 17).

  6. Walocko, F.M., et al. The role of nicotinamide in acne treatment. Dermatol Ther. (September 2017).

  7. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022, November 16).

  8. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ibid.

  9. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ibid.

  10. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ibid.

  11. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ibid.

  12. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Authority Over Cosmetics: How Cosmetics Are Not FDA-Approved, but Are FDA Regulated. Ibid.

  13. Sutaria, A.H., et al. Acne Vulgaris. StatPearls. Ibid.

  14. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. CMAJ. Ibid.

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

**Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary. Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Our thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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