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    11 Best Sunscreens for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin, According to Dermatologists

    These lightweight products absorb quickly, don’t feel greasy, and improve your skin tone over time.

    best sunscreens for oily, acne prone skin
    Courtesy of brands

    This article was medically reviewed by Caroline Chang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board.

    When you think of sunscreen, your mind probably jumps to the greasy, pore-clogging, strongly-scented lotion from your childhood days at the pool. The benefit: You protect your skin from premature wrinkles and serious health issues like skin cancer. The downside? That sticky, goopy mess may leave you with another annoying skin issue: acne.

    It’s true that sunscreen can cause breakouts—but it’s important that you don’t skip it, even if you have acne-prone skin. In fact, since acne-prone skin is so sensitive, it’s even more important to protect it from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

    “Using acne medication like retinol can make the skin sensitive to sun,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York City. “People with acne have potential to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Sun exposure can make this worse and increase the potential of having the pigment last much longer than it would otherwise.” Hello, acne scars.

    That’s why fear of new pimples shouldn’t get in the way of all the benefits of sunscreen. Plus, many sunscreens are now specifically designed with acne-prone skin in mind.

    How to choose (and use) the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin

    When in doubt, choose mineral: Your skin absorbs chemical sunscreens, which can potentially causing allergic reactions and irritation in the process. Mineral sunscreens work differently because they “sit on the top of the skin and deflect or scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin,” says Dr. Engelman. These sunscreens are typically formulated with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and better tolerated by people with sensitive skin. Go for a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

    Read the label: It’s important to choose a sunscreen that is noncomedogenic, meaning it’s specifically designed to not clog your pores. Ingredients to avoid? Heavy oils (including coconut oil) and fragrance if you can, says Dr. Engelman. Go for sunscreens with a thinner, gel-like or liquid consistency, rather than heavy-duty creams. Products with a matte finish will also help you avoid midday shine.

    Prep your skin: Before you apply your SPF, make sure your skin is clean. Dr. Engelman recommends using an acne face wash that contains salicylic acid to clear out your pores and gently exfoliate dead skin cells. From there, make sure to apply an acne-friendly moisturizer, which will help keep bacteria (a major cause of acne) out of your pores. Always apply sunscreen with freshly-washed hands as your last step before makeup.

    Not sure which formula to buy? These sunscreens for acne-prone skin will ensure your complexion stays clear and pimple-free.

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    EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 46
    $28.80 (21% off)

    There’s a reason this sunscreen is constantly recommended by dermatologists, especially for those with acne-prone skin. The product is oil- and fragrance-free, so it won’t cause further irritation. Plus, it’s packed with niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3 that reduces redness) and lactic acid, which “gently exfoliates skin and regulates sebum build-up,” Dr. Engelman explains. On top of that, it also contains hyaluronic acid, a humectant that draws water to the skin, for a boost of moisture (which is often needed in conjunction with drying acne medications).

    Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

    This nourishing sunscreen is highly recommended by Joshua Zeichner, M.D.D, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Colloidal oatmeal in this broad spectrum sunscreen can help calm inflamed skin, which we commonly see in acne,” he explains. “It is noncomedogenic and shown not to block pores.” Water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, the moisturizing (but non-greasy!) formula works double-duty as a great all-over SPF, too.

    Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55

    Dr. Zeichner says that “this oil-free formulation is light, won’t weigh down the skin, and most importantly won’t cause acne breakouts.”  While it is a chemical sunscreen, it’s also fragrance-free and noncomedogenic to reduce irritation and clogged pores. Better yet, the matte finish is a dream for oily skin and at only $11 a bottle, it’s easy on the wallet, too.

    La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

    This top-selling sunscreen for acne-prone skin is raved about for its ultra-lightweight formula. Fragrance- and chemical-free, noncomedogenic, and fast-absorbing, this liquid SPF is perfect for sensitive skin, says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine and member of Prevention’s Medical Review Board. “It’s light, cosmetically elegant, and easy to layer,” she says, adding that the addition of antioxidants is a major plus.

    Neutrogena Face Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin SPF 50
    $10.54 (19% off)

    If you can’t stand the feeling of thick creams, then this super-thin liquid sunscreen from Neutrogena will be a total game-changer for you. The mineral, broad spectrum formula is oil- and fragrance-free, noncomedogenic, and water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Our senior editor, Alisa Hrustic, swears by it: “I never wore face sunscreen daily until I discovered this SPF,” she says. “My skin is really prone to breakouts and gets shiny midday, but this sunscreen literally feels like water—and has actually improved the look of my acne scars over time. I can’t go without it.”

    6 Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer With SPF 30
    $13.93 (23% off)

    Finding a moisturizer with SPF that actually protects your skin can be tricky—but this one (designed with oily skin in mind) gets a stamp of approval from the Skin Cancer Foundation. The mattifying formula won’t break you out or irritate existing pimples, since it’s lightweight, non-greasy, and fragrance-free. Still, your skin will feel hydrated, thanks to glycerin (which pulls in water) and dimethicone (an ingredient that prevents moisture loss without clogging the pores).

    7 Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 30

    Also named one of our top sunscreens for your face, this powder sunscreen from Colorscience is popular for a reason. “Since it is powder, it doesn’t clog the pores and never breaks out the skin,” says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the author of Skin Rules. “I recommend it to patients who have oily skin because it helps with the 4 o’clock shine that many of my patients complain of.” The long-wearing, chemical-free formula feels lightweight on the skin and comes in a range of fair to deep, so it’s safe bet for a variety of skin tones.

    8 Supergoop! Mattescreen SPF 40

    Save a step in your routine and use this SPF underneath your makeup for a pore-blurring finish. “This mineral sunscreen is gentle, protects the skin, and acts like a primer,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It absorbs oil, giving a matte appearance.” Free of chemical filters and fragrances, the whipped texture sinks in quickly and perfects the complexion for a smoother, less bumpy appearance.

    9 Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    Murad sephora.com

    Dr. Engelman says this is a great sunscreen for darker skin tones, since it doesn’t leave behind that white cast that SPF is notorious for. The fragrance-free, mineral formula is also a safe bet for acne-prone skin, thanks to its weightless feel and non-greasy finish. A slight peach tint works to color-correct the skin, while the addition of vitamin C boosts antioxidant protection and gives a healthy glow.

    10 Peter Thomas Roth Max Mineral Naked Protective Lotion SPF 45

    This weightless sunscreen for acne-prone skin is one of Dr. Jaliman’s favorites. “It contains zinc oxide as well as titanium dioxide, and it’s tinted so it’s not white in color,” she says. “It also contains vitamins A, C and E” for additional antioxidant protection and a major radiance boost. Perfect for layering over your moisturizer or underneath your makeup, the mineral formula will never spur pesky breakouts.

    11 Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield

    Elizabeth Arden’s cult-favorite mineral-based sunscreen contains antioxidants that neutralize damage from free radicals (a.k.a. unstable molecules that mess with your skin), protecting your face from pollution and environmental damage in addition to UV light. Recommended by Dr. Engelman, this product is gentle enough for acne-prone skin, and the formula’s slight tint helps eliminate any chalkiness upon application.

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