8 minute read
If there’s one step you never want to skip in your morning routine, it’s sunscreen application. It may feel like a drag to slow down to apply (or reapply) sunscreen when you’re ready and raring to go, but think of it this way: future you will be so thankful that you did! And with the products we recommend in this guide, your skincare routine can become a fun, feel-good activity. The best sunscreens for oily skin (some of which we’ll list below) include ingredients that make your skin feel ready to face the day.
With oily skin, finding a face sunscreen that doesn’t look/feel greasy can be an ongoing challenge, right? Challenge accepted. Since sunscreen is the most important skincare step of the day, we’ve made sure to find face sunscreen products for every skin type, so nobody will have an excuse not to protect their skin.
Seriously, it really is that important! Think of sunscreen as your skin’s personal bodyguard: it not only helps protect your skin from sun damage and signs of aging, it also reduces your risk of getting skin cancer—as long as you reapply as needed so it can do its job properly. No matter what the weather outside is like, no matter the season or temperature, the sun’s rays can still damage your skin, even on a cloudy day!
In this guide, you’ll find not only face sunscreen recommendations for oily skin—from plain clear sunscreen to CC creams and tinted moisturizers with sunscreen, and beyond—you’ll also find essential tips and tricks to make the best of life with your face’s BFF/bodyguard. Read on!
Read on to find out…
How to find out if any sunscreen will break out or irritate your skin
Product recommendations of the sunscreens that’ll work for your skin type
How to layer sunscreen under makeup (without it pilling or flaking off!)
How to protect your skin while swimming or sweating
But first, here’s a quick crash-course in the need-to-know basics.
You know those numbers on bottles of sunscreen? If you’ve ever wondered what that’s all about, you’re not alone—and the SPF number you use really does matter. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number of any sunscreen is based on how quickly redness forms on sunscreen-protected skin compared to unprotected skin. Basically, it’s a measure of the sunscreen’s ability to prevent the sun’s UVB rays from damaging the skin. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is the minimum recommended by Curology’s dermatology providers, and it’s super important to reapply at least every 2 hours. Also important: reapply right away after swimming or sweating, because there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen! Not such a fun fact, but you’ll be glad you remembered when you avoid getting sunburned.
What exactly are UVA and UVB? The sun’s UV (ultraviolet) light rays are classified into UVA, which are a longer wavelength, and UVB, which are shorter. It’s important to protect your skin from both. Sunscreens that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays are called broad-spectrum.
Main cause of aging and wrinkling — photoaging
Contributes to the development of skin cancer
Penetrates through clouds and glass — think of the sun exposure in your car!
Penetrates deeper into the skin compared to UVB
Major contributor to tanning (skin darkening is a response to sun damage and injury to the skin’s DNA — there is no such thing as a healthy tan!)
Main cause of redness and sunburn
Contributes to the development of skin cancer
Largely blocked by glass
Sunscreens can be classified as physical, chemical, or both, depending on their ingredients.
TIP: If you’re using sunscreen, remember to apply about 15-20 minutes before going outside. Follow the specific instructions on the bottle, though!
Contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which may help soothe irritation
Physically reflects or “bounces” sunlight away from the skin
Certain kinds of physical sunscreen may leave a white cast on the skin (unless rubbed in well, micronized, or tinted)
Contains ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone
Absorbs UV light so that it can’t penetrate the skin
May irritate or cause an allergic reaction in certain people’s skin
Physical sunscreen is often the best bet for oily, acne-prone and/or sensitive skin. Certain physical sunscreen ingredients such as zinc oxide may even help soothe irritation! Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, may irritate sensitive skin (and irritation can lead to breakouts). As always, look for products labeled “non-comedogenic” (translation: won’t clog pores). We’ll delve deeper into which ingredients to avoid a little later on in this guide—but, as a rule of thumb, avoid alcohol in skincare products (alcohol denat., aka denatured alcohol—other versions, such as coconut alcohol and cetearyl alcohol, are actually fine to use). And be on the lookout for pore-clogging ingredients such as coconut oil, octyl stearate, and isopropyl palmitate.
There are plenty of options to choose from that work great on oily skin, and we’ve rounded them up right here to make it easy to find your new go-to. Most of us with oily skin are well acquainted with clogged pores. To avoid pore-clogging, take a closer look at the ingredients in any product you use on your skin. We know it’s a lot to remember what all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients really are, though, so here are some products whose ingredients we’ve reviewed to make sure they’re non-comedogenic.
We’ve also reviewed each product in this guide to make sure we stand behind for other reasons, so we’ve eschewed any product whose ingredients may be irritating to sensitive skin. We hope this helps you find your new favorite face sunscreen! Once you’ve found ~*the one*~ don’t forget to wear it and—important!—reapply it. That means every. single. day.
100% mineral sunscreen
Two-in-one product, also works as a primer
Translucent tinted formula gives skin a smooth, matte finish
Universal tint shade blends in to virtually any skin tone
Wear underneath makeup for more coverage, or on its own
Both physical and chemical sun protection
Formulated to help with fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dry skin
Five active ingredients work together to promote a healthy-looking complexion
Broad-spectrum SPF 50 mineral sunscreens deflect UV rays and prevent premature skin aging
Environmentally conscious formula
Non-greasy, non-oily texture
Broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen with a barely-there feel and shine-free finish
Weightless formula isn’t sticky on skin
Guys: use as the last step in your AM skincare routine
Multi-tasking primer that softens and smooths skin with a formula that features antioxidants and broad-spectrum SPF 30 for a makeup-ready base
Preps skin for a seamless makeup application
Lightweight, silky texture
Soothes razor irritation
Hydrates dry skin
SPF 20 isn’t enough protection on its own—layer with another sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher
Temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Lightweight formula firms skin while hydrating
Lightweight hydrating formula
Helps replenish the skin’s moisture barrier
Formulated with anti-aging skincare ingredients
Lightweight daytime moisturizer with SPF 30
Helps reduce the appearance of shine from excess oiliness
Fluid formula leaves a soft matte finish
Lightweight moisturizer absorbs quickly and provides a long-lasting, matte finish while providing broad-spectrum sun protection
Oleosome technology™ uses a lower concentration of sunscreen filters for minimal irritation and rich hydration
Care for a side of coverage with your sun protection? A tinted sunscreen or tinted moisturizer with SPF is a great two-in-one product: it does double-duty as a lightweight foundation. All you need for an effortless daytime look (complete with sun protection) is a tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher— and yes, there are plenty out there that work with oily skin. The tint evens out the appearance of your skin tone, and makes things like redness, acne, and pores a little less visible (just add some well-placed concealer, if needed). For more coverage, you can layer foundation makeup on top of tinted sunscreen, then follow it up with concealer on any spots you’d like to hide.
CC cream with a matte finish
Infused with charcoal, colloidal clay, and tea tree extract to help reduce the appearance of oiliness
Clinically tested to reduce shine and control oil for up to 12 hours
Free of parabens and phthalates
Sheer tinted, weightless liquid formula blends easily
100% mineral sunscreen
Mattefies skin with bentonite to absorb excess oil from pores
Works like a primer under foundation to create a smooth, matte finish
Oil-free and recommended for all skin types
Lightly tinted mineral-based formula
Silky texture leaves a soft matte finish
Moisturizes and blends easily for a natural finish
100% mineral base, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection
“Non-migrating formula” to prevent eye irritation
Sheer, universal tint suitable for all skin types
Use from the brow bone to the cheekbone, even on the eyelid
Similar to It Cosmetics’ formula, but slightly less expensive
Non-comedogenic formula with some added natural fragrance
Contains retinyl palmitate and sodium hyaluronate to help revive dull skin
Light coverage in 4 shades, ranging from Light-Medium to Medium-Tan
With SPF 20, it’s better than nothing, but we still think you should aim for at least SPF 30!
A five-in-one longwear, vegan primer that can be used under (or instead of) foundation
Hydrates skin and helps visibly smoothes fine lines, blurs pores, and give skin a brightened appearance
Lightweight, sheer coverage
“Triple-B complex” to help brighten, smooth, and soften skin
Color-correcting formula visibly evens skin tone
SPF 50+ physical sunscreen
Anti-aging benefits with peptides, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and vitamins
Diffuses the look of wrinkles and helps minimize the appearance of pores
Looking for some of the best foundations with sunscreen for oily skin? Check out our makeup guides and our no-breakout makeup series on the blog for our list of products we’ve reviewed to make sure they don’t contain pore-clogging ingredients.
Not-so-fun fact: there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen! In 2011, the FDA released a new set of rules regulating sunscreen in the United States which did away with “waterproof” and “sweatproof” labels on sunscreens because such claims are impossible. (Thank you, FDA, for getting real about beauty claims!) Instead, sunscreens can be labeled “water resistant” for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes, depending on test results.
That means you swimmers, surfers, athletes and boogie-boarders need to choose your sunscreen wisely, and remember to reapply. Use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating, and reapply according to the label instructions, either after 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, immediately after towel drying, and every 2 hours at a minimum.
Solbar Zinc SPF 38 has an oil-free base that lasts for up to 80 minutes in the water, is more rub resistant than most, and is gentle on the eyes.
You and your skin deserve better than to be stingy with the sunscreen, so slather it on liberally and when in doubt, apply more! Most of us don’t use enough sunscreen—the sun’s rays don’t really get boundaries, so make sure any skin in the sun’s line of proverbial fire is fully covered. We know we sound like a broken record by now, but seriously, re-applying throughout the day is essential! Sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating.
Use up to a half teaspoon for the face and neck, especially if you use your whole hands to rub in the sunscreen. Use 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons for the body. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around 1/4 to 1/2 of an 8 oz bottle.
No sunscreen, regardless of strength, stays effective longer than two hours. That being said, how often you reapply sunscreen depends on your activities. If you’re inside working all day, no need to reapply. If you’re in and out, reapply at least once midday. If you’re out for extended periods during the day, then reapply every 2 hours or so, especially if you’re entering water, sweating, or wiping your face.
Ever try to layer makeup on top of sunscreen, only to have it pill or flake off in annoying little white bits? Ugh! Try applying moisturizer before your sunscreen, then give it a few minutes to dry before putting on your makeup. This should give it enough grip so it won’t flake on you!
Powder sunscreens like ILIA Radiant Translucent Powder SPF 20 are a great, easy way to re-up your sun protection throughout the day without messing up your makeup. Bonus: a little powder will also get rid of any oiliness that’s accumulated on your skin, making your makeup look refreshed while you’re at it.
We highly recommend you review the comedogenicity of the ingredients in your current skincare products to see what ingredients may be blocking your pores. Next, and unfortunately, the cosmetics industry in the US is a “buyer beware” situation—there’s no real regulation of ingredients or claims like “non-comedogenic,” so many products on the market contain ingredients that could do your skin more harm than good. We’ve rounded up 30 skincare and makeup ingredients not to put on your face—these may clog your pores, irritate sensitive skin, or both. Do not want!
Acetylated lanolin alcohol
Cetearyl alcohol + Ceteareth 20
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil
D&C red no. 27
D&C red no. 40
D&C red no. 9
Lauric acid in sunflower oil
Sodium laureth sulfate
You can read more about ingredients to avoid here.
If you’ve got sensitive skin or dry skin, take care to avoid ingredients that can dry it out even more! Alcohol is unfortunately used in a lot of skincare products, even though it dries out the skin and can damage its protective barrier. Watch out for “denatured alcohol” or “alcohol denat.” on the ingredients list of your skincare or makeup. Not all alcohol-related ingredients are created equal, though: cetearyl alcohol and coconut alcohol, for two common examples, are totally fine to use.
If you’re struggling with oily and/or acne-prone skin, we’re here to help—treating acne is kind of our thing. Sign up for a free trial of Curology to get your very own custom acne-fighting cream (subject to medical consultation), plus our must-have moisturizer and gentle cleanser when you sign up for the full set (you just pay $4.95 for shipping and handling, FYI). Check out our other Guides for more skincare tips, and remember: we’ve got your back!
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.
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).
Your first month of custom skincare is free. After that, pick your plan. Pause or cancel anytime.