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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Face sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Face sunscreens that won’t clog pores

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Dermatologists all agree that if there’s one step you never want to skip in your morning skincare 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! Just think of all the benefits of sunscreen. It can help to protect you from skin cancer, slow down signs of aging, reduce chances of hyperpigmentation from developing, and, of course, prevent dreaded sunburns (which, yes, can still happen on a cloudy day).

Sunscreen is the most important skincare step of the day. Because of this, we’ve made sure to find some of the best face sunscreen products for every skin type, so nobody will have an excuse not to protect their skin. Think of sunscreen as your skin’s personal bodyguard, helping to protect you from sun damage, signs of aging, and skin cancer—as long as you reapply as needed so it can do its job properly. In this guide, you’ll find not only quality face sunscreens—from plain sunscreen to CC creams and tinted moisturizers with sunscreen built in—you’ll also find essential tips and tricks to make the best of life with your face’s new BFF. Read away!

Woman with retro sunglasses on the beach

The importance of wearing sunscreen year-round

If you haven’t been wearing sunscreen everyday, now’s a good time to start. The sun’s damaging rays can still damage your skin on a cloudy day, even when you’re cooped up inside. Plus, sun damage can make hyperpigmentation from old acne lesions even worse—so you want to make sure you protect your skin to the best of your ability. When you opt for an SPF that gives you great protection against UV rays, you can feel confident that you’re protecting your skin health in the long run.

When you opt for a non-comedogenic sunscreen (read: one that’s designed to not clog your pores), you can help your skin to look and feel great. Another quality that makes a great sunscreen for acne-prone skin: A lightweight texture that either dries with a matte or satin finish, with no awkward white streaks. 

Some of the best face sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Sunscreen is essential, but finding the right one isn’t always easy—especially when you’ve got acne to deal with. But protecting your skin from the sun is an essential step in helping to prevent age spots or sun spots, post-acne spots, redness, premature signs of aging, and of course, skin cancer!

If you get breakouts, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in any product you use on your skin—but we know it can be intimidating assessing all of your options at once. So, we’ve picked out a few non-comedogenic sunscreens for acne-prone skin that our skincare experts stand by.

Curology Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 No White Cast

The sunscreen by Curology with SPF 30

  • A mineral (aka physical) sunscreen with 9.4% zinc oxide

  • Silky texture and no white cast 

  • Contains hydrating ingredients like squalane and glycerin

  • Formulated specifically for acne-prone skin by Curology’s team of experts

If you’re a current Curology member, you’ll be happy to know that our team of dermatologists designed the sunscreen to work with your Curology routine in support of your skin goals—so you never have to choose between sun protection and clear skin... ever again. If you're new to Curology, you can try the sunscreen when you sign up for a free trial* (more on this later).

TATCHA Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35

  • Lightweight creamy formula

  • Combination of physical and chemical sunscreen (zinc oxide 15%, octisalate 5%)

  • Protects without clogging pores

  • Helps give skin a smoother appearance

  • Doubles as a primer, perfect for wearing under makeup!

Olay Complete Lotion Moisturizer with SPF 30, Sensitive

  • Gentle and lightweight; features vitamin E and aloe, plus SPF 30

  • Combination of physical and chemical sunscreen (zinc oxide 6.9%, octinoxate 7.5%, octisalate 2.5%, octocrylene 2.5%)

  • Long-lasting hydration without irritation

La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Oil Free Sunscreen SPF 60

  • Non-comedogenic, oil-free sunscreen for acne-prone and oily skin 

  • Provides broad spectrum SPF 60 protection

  • Water resistant up to 80 minutes 

Some of the best tinted sunscreen for acne-prone skin

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, while still protecting your skin from the UV radiation. All you need for a fresh-faced, glowy, effortless daytime look (complete with sun protection) is a tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. The tint helps even out the appearance of your skin tone, and makes redness, acne, and pores a little less visible—just add some well-placed concealer, if needed. Bonus: tinted sunscreen is less likely to leave a white cast! For even more coverage, you can layer foundation on top of tinted sunscreen, then follow it up with concealer on any spots you’d like to hide.

Supergoop! CC Cream Daily Correct Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen

  • 100% mineral-based SPF 50

  • Helps correct uneven pigmentation and softens the look of fine lines and pores

  • Contains hyaluronic acid to maintain long-lasting hydration

  • Includes vitamins to help protect skin from free radical damage

  • Provides lightweight color coverage and correction, while protecting against UVA and UVB rays

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Ultra-gentle

  • Lightly hydrating

  • Subtle tint for light-to-medium skin tones (unfortunately, this doesn’t come in different color options)

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50+

  • 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 minimizes the appearance of pores

  • Luminous, flawless finish

CoTZ flawless complexion SPF 50

  • Broad-spectrum SPF 50 mineral sunscreens deflect UV rays and helps prevent signs of premature skin aging

  • Reef-safe formula

  • Non-greasy texture that’s great for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin

MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30

  • Natural light tint and matte finish

  • Primer formula wears well underneath makeup

  • Designed for all skin types

Looking for the best foundations for acne-prone skin for a little extra coverage? Check out our guide to foundations for acne-prone skin for our list of products we’ve reviewed to make sure they don’t contain pore-clogging ingredients.

How to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type

Mineral sunscreen, which is also sometimes called physical sunscreen, is often the best bet for acne-prone and sensitive skin. Certain mineral sunscreen ingredients, like zinc oxide, can even help soothe the skin! Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, may irritate sensitive skin, which may contribute 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 certain types of alcohol in skincare products, specifically alcohol denat, or 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, lauric acid, and isopropyl palmitate. Here are a few other helpful things to know about your sunscreen.

What is SPF?

SPF (sun protection factor) is a number that measures a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. The number is based on how quickly redness forms on sunscreen-protected skin compared to unprotected skin.¹ Although sunscreens with an SPF of 15 protect fairly well against UVB, we (and dermatologists in general!) recommend choosing a broad spectrum (protecting from both UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. For swimming and sweating, choose a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

UV radiation and the skin

What exactly are UVA and UVB rays? The sun’s UV (ultraviolet) light rays are classified into UVA, which are a longer wavelength, and UVB, which are shorter.² It’s important to protect your skin from both. Sunscreens that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays are called broad spectrum. Let’s break it down even further:

UVA

  • Main cause of photoaging (like dark spots and wrinkling)

  • Contributes to the development of skin cancer

  • Can 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!)

UVB

  • Main cause of redness and sunburn

  • Contributes to the development of skin cancer

  • Largely blocked by glass

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreen

Sunscreens can be classified as mineral (aka physical), chemical, or both (aka hybrid), depending on their ingredients. Both kinds can offer great sun protection, but because each person’s skin type is unique, you might prefer to use one over the other. Here’s what you need to know about the difference.³

Mineral sunscreen (also called physical sunscreen)

  • Contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which may help soothe irritation.⁴

  • 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)

Chemical sunscreen

  • 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

Skin cream on young male with facial hair

How to apply sunscreen

Whether you’re applying a chemical sunscreen or mineral sunblock, follow these expert approved tips to protect your skin for harmful rays:⁵ 

  • Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure (or, according to the directions on your specific product). 

  • Use about half a teaspoon for the face and neck 

  • Use at least 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons for the body. When in doubt, apply more! 

  • Sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours, (likely more often if you’re swimming or sweating!).

sunscreen11

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 and aren't near any windows, there’s likely 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.

Applying sunscreen for sports, swimming, and sweaty activities

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. Instead, sunscreens can be labeled “water-resistant” for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes, depending on test results.⁶  

So, 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 or immediately after towel drying.

How to layer sunscreen under makeup

Ever try to layer makeup on top of sunscreen, only to have it pill or flake off in annoying little white bits? It’s a very frustrating experience—but don’t let that put you off of daily sunscreen use! Instead, 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 or pill.

How to reapply sunscreen over makeup

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 help get rid of any oiliness that’s accumulated on your skin, making your skin look refreshed while you’re at it.

How to check skincare products for pore-clogging ingredients

Want to learn more about how to pick the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin? It’s all in the ingredients. Basically, some common ingredients in cosmetics and skincare products can clog pores or irritate sensitive skin (yes, even if the label says a product is “non-comedogenic” or “gentle”). Find out which ingredients can potentially clog pores, and you can make better decisions about what products are right for your unique skincare needs.

Some ingredients found in moisturizers and skincare products can irritate the skin or clog pores.  Here's what to look for and avoid.

  1. Avoid products not labeled with terms "non-comedogenic", "non-acnegenic", "does not clog pores", or "won’t cause breakouts." The label "non-comedogenic" (or similar) indicates that the product has been designed with acne-prone people in mind. It’s no guarantee, but it can be a useful place to start. We still recommend checking products labeled as non-comedogenic for pore-clogging or irritating ingredients.

  2. Check for coconut oil (aka cocos nucifera oil). Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in skincare and cosmetics, but if your skin is prone to pimples and clogged pores, you’ll want to avoid it. It’s also called “cocos nucifera oil,” so keep an eye on those ingredients lists. Coconut oil clogs pores slowly but surely for some, so you might not notice right away, but take it from the experts: It can get in those pores and lead to breakouts down the line.

  3. Watch out for alcohol. If you’ve got 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 can dry out the skin and may damage its protective barrier. Watch out for certain types of alcohol (usually “denatured alcohol” or “alcohol denat.”) on the ingredients list of your products, especially if your skin seems dry, red, tight, itchy, or irritated after using it. One caveat: Some products have alcohol at the end of the ingredients list, which likely means the product doesn’t contain a large amount of it. Those products may not irritate the skin as much. But in general, it’s best to avoid it whenever possible.

Curology Products

When in doubt, custom skincare is what it’s about

If you’ve read this far, then kudos to you for doing your sun protection homework! You know that everyone’s skin is different, so it can take some educated guessing to figure out what works for you. If you’d like to take the guesswork out of skincare, then Curology’s got your back. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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curology bottle

At Curology, we believe that everyone’s skin is unique and that skincare should be accessible for all. That’s why all of our prescription treatments are customized to meet your skin’s needs and sent straight to your door. After taking a consultation, if Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a 30-day supply of our recommended products (like our brand-new sunscreen) for just $4.95 to cover the cost of shipping and handling. Sign up for your free* trial today!

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

  1. Dale Wilson, B., et al. Comprehensive review of ultraviolet radiation and the current status on sunscreens. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. (2012).

  2. Dale Wilson, B., et al. Comprehensive review of ultraviolet radiation and the current status on sunscreens. Ibid.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. (n.d.).

  4. Gupta, M., et al. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice. (2014).

  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. (2021).

  6. Wang, S. Q., & Lim, H. W. Current status of the sunscreen regulation in the United States: 2011 Food and Drug Administration's final rule on labeling and effectiveness testing. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2011).

*Trial is 30 days. Subscription required. 

• • •
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).
Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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