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How to find the right non-greasy sunscreen

Discover expert-approved sunscreens that feel light on the skin, are easily absorbed, and offer broad-spectrum protection.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
Non-greasy Sunscreen
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
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 do you need to wear sunscreen? 
More

Summary

  • Sunscreen protects against UV radiation, reducing skin cancer risk and signs of aging.

  • Non-greasy options exist, formulated to feel light and comfortable, making regular use more appealing. 

  • Non-greasy sunscreens often contain non-comedogenic elements, which do not clog your pores

  • Our top picks include Curology, Supergoop!, Cetaphil, La Roche Posay, and CeraVe. 

  • Follow dermatologist-recommended tips to stay safe in the sun and try our Curology sunscreen today!

While sun protection is a pillar of any skincare routine, finding the right product can feel like a battle. If you’ve experienced that thick, greasy residue some sunscreens* leave behind, the unpleasant feeling may have deterred you from applying sun protection consistently. 

The good news is it is possible to find a non-greasy sunscreen for your skin. We’ve compiled a list of the best non-greasy sunscreens available to shield your skin from harmful UV rays—without leaving that oily, sticky feeling.

Ready to discover your go-to product for sun protection? Keep on reading to learn more about sunscreen and our experts’ top recommendations.

Why do you need to wear sunscreen? 

Why wear sunscreen, you ask? 

Sunscreen plays a pivotal role in safeguarding your skin.¹ It’s a powerhouse for reducing the risk of skin cancers, including squamous cell and melanoma. Around 80%–90% of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and sunscreen acts as a shield by blocking these harmful rays.² 

Besides its protective benefits, sunscreen also helps prevent signs of photoaging like wrinkles and pigmentary changes, thanks to its ability to ward off UV-induced damage. For optimal protection, dermatologists advise using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.³

How sunscreen works:

Sunscreens are our skin’s knights in shining armor against the harmful effects of UV radiation. But how do they work? 

There are two main types: chemical and physical.⁴ Each type works in a different way.

Chemical sunscreens: These are formulated with aromatic compounds such as oxybenzone and avobenzone.⁵ Their mode of action is interesting: They soak up the high-intensity UV radiation and then transform that absorbed energy into lower-energy wavelengths, typically heat.⁶ So, instead of your skin absorbing those harmful rays, these compounds do the heavy lifting!

Physical sunscreens: On the other hand, physical sunscreens (often referred to as mineral sunscreen) act like tiny mirrors for your skin. Ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sit on the skin’s surface and either reflect or refract UV radiation, helping prevent it from penetrating your skin.⁷ 

It’s like choosing between a shield that absorbs the enemy’s blows or reflects them. Either way, your skin remains protected! The different ingredients inside the sunscreen determine whether it will be greasy or non-greasy.

Why choose a non-greasy sunscreen? 

Non-greasy sunscreens are specially crafted to leave a light, non-oily finish on your skin, ensuring you feel comfortable and fresh. How do they achieve this, you wonder? Through a precise mix of ingredients and clever formulation techniques. 

They often incorporate non-comedogenic elements—basically, the good stuff that doesn’t clog your pores or make your face feel like it’s covered in an oily film. Plus, being typically water-based, they lend a breezier touch to the skin.

But there’s more than just comfort at stake: By using non-greasy sunscreens, you’re also reducing the risk of skin breakouts. After all, clogged pores are a breeding ground for pimples. When choosing skin products, it’s always a good idea to look for non-comedogenic labels. Think gels, fluids, and other lightweight formulas to keep your pores happy.⁸ 

So, a non-greasy sunscreen not only protects you from the sun but helps keep your skin looking and feeling healthy!

Shining a light on 2023's top 5 best non-greasy sunscreens

Nobody likes that oily, greasy feeling some sunscreens leave behind. Enter the era of non-greasy sunscreens—a game-changer in sun protection. 

Here’s a close-up look at some of the standout products in 2023:

1. Curology's The Sunscreen (Everyday Sunscreen)

Yes, this is ours, and we’re incredibly proud of it! 

Designed with acne-prone skin in mind, Curology’s sunscreen champions no clog UV defense. This broad-spectrum SPF 30 contains 9.4% zinc oxide, reflecting UVA and UVB rays without blocking your pores. It smoothly melds with all skin tones, minimizing the dreaded white cast and imparting a soft-focus finish.

2. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

A multitasker in the world of sun protection, Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen offers a weightless, oil-free, and scentless experience. With an SPF of 40, it serves not just as a sun shield but also doubles as a makeup primer. Notably, it filters blue light and blocks infrared light, making it a versatile choice.

3. Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Control SPF 30

Catering especially to oily and combination skin types, Cetaphil’s multitasking product hydrates, controls shine, and protects with SPF 30. Its standout feature? Delivering a matte finish by absorbing surplus oil and reinforcing your skin’s moisture barrier.

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

A good choice for acne-prone skin, this sunscreen by La Roche Posay provides comprehensive protection while actively absorbing pore-clogging oil, even amid heat and humidity. It ensures a wide spectrum UVA/UVB defense complemented by antioxidants. It comes with a recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

5. CeraVe Hydrating Sheer Sunscreen

Budget-friendly yet powerful, CeraVe's offering is apt for both face and body. Its unique blend includes skin-nourishing ingredients like niacinamide and ceramides. It also offers SPF 30 protection.

Whether you’re prone to acne, want a matte finish, or are looking for a budget-friendly option, there’s a non-greasy sunscreen out there waiting for you. It’s time to step into the sun with confidence and the right shield!

Expert tips for protecting your skin from the sun 

So, you’re looking to stay sun-smart and protect that beautiful skin of yours? Dermatologists emphasize the importance of practicing safe sun habits, especially given that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. Skin cancer affects people across all skin tones, but here’s the silver lining: It’s largely preventable.⁹ 

Now, how can you reduce your risk?

First, it’s important to seek shade, especially during the scorching hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.¹⁰ A little trick? Check out your shadow; if it's looking shorter than you, it’s a sign to dash for some shade. Second, think of clothing as your armor against the sun. Opt for lightweight, long-sleeved attire, pants, and those chic wide-brimmed hats.¹¹ 

And, if you can spot an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) number on the clothing label, that's even better!¹² As for your exposed skin, slather on broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. And don’t forget that your skin needs a reapplication every two hours or after your refreshing swim or sweat session.¹³

Stay sun-safe out there!

Get clearer skin with Curology 

Non-greasy sunscreens are a game-changer, especially for those with acne-prone skin. Traditional sunscreens can leave a residue, clog pores, and make your acne flare-ups worse. But non-greasy formulas? They’re light, breathable, and specially designed not to obstruct your pores. This ensures protection from harmful UV rays without the risk of breakouts. 

And for the ultimate acne defense? 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

Pair your sunscreen with Curology’s custom formula designed to target acne at its root. Combine sun protection with acne treatment for skin that truly shines.

Experience clearer skin with Curology today!**

FAQs

Which sunscreen is best and non-greasy?

The best non-greasy sunscreens are often non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog your pores. Products formulated as gels and fluids can be especially helpful in achieving that lightweight, non-oily finish. The Curology Sunscreen is a fantastic example of this! However, everyone’s skin is different, so it’s always best to contact a dermatology provider to get personalized advice for your skin type and needs.

What makes sunscreens non-greasy, and how can they benefit my skin's health?

Non-greasy sunscreens boast a careful mix of ingredients and formulation techniques that ensure a lightweight finish. These sunscreens are often water-based and incorporate non-comedogenic elements that won’t clog your pores or feel oily. This means you get dual benefits: robust sun protection without the risk of skin breakouts. Look for descriptors like gels, fluids, and lightweight formulas to ensure your pores remain clear.

What is the best sunblock that doesn’t leave a white residue?

If you’re looking to avoid that pesky white residue, chemical sunscreens might be your go-to! They generally blend more seamlessly into your skin.¹⁴ Brands such as Glossier, Supergoop!, and Black Girl are renowned for their chemical formulations, with some even offering clear or transparent options. But if you’re keen on physical sunscreens, tinted versions can also be a great alternative.¹⁵ Remember, the best sunscreen varies for everyone, so always consult with a dermatology provider to find what works best for you.

Is there a sunscreen that isn't greasy?

Absolutely! Non-comedogenic sunscreens, like The Curology Sunscreen, typically offer a non-greasy feel. It all comes down to the formulation. But, as always, skin is personal. So, it’s a smart move to reach out to a dermatology provider for advice tailored to your unique skin needs.

Chemical vs. physical: What's the main difference in how they combat UV rays?

Diving into the sunscreen realm, there are two main types: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens, formulated with aromatic compounds, absorb high-intensity UV rays and convert them into heat.¹⁶ It’s like they’re doing the hard work so your skin doesn’t have to! 

Physical sunscreens, on the flip side, are like tiny reflective shields. Ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sit atop the skin, bouncing off UV radiation, keeping it from delving deep.¹⁷ Think of it as choosing between a shield that absorbs harm or one that deflects it. Either way, they help protect your skin!

• • •

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

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. (2023, July 19).

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

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

  9. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sun Protection. (2022, April 18).

  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sun Protection. Ibid.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sun Protection. Ibid.

  12. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sun Protection. Ibid.

  13. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sun Protection. Ibid.

  14. Song, H., et al. Sunscreen recommendations for patients with skin of color in the popular press and in the dermatology clinic. Int J Womens Dermatol. (2020, November 10).

  15. Song, H., et al. Sunscreen recommendations for patients with skin of color in the popular press and in the dermatology clinic. Int J Womens Dermatol. Ibid.

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

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

Maria Borowiec is a certified Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She received her Master in Nursing from University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA.

**Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
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.
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Curology Team

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Maria Borowiec, NB-BC

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