Can Sunscreen Cause Acne: What's the Relationship?

Everyone has different skincare needs. The best way to care for your skin will vary, depending on your skin type, genetics, and environment. However, some products designed to protect the skin can have adverse effects, like breakouts or increased oil production. 

If you notice that your sunscreen is causing increased breakouts or acne, don’t worry. There are many ways to get the skin protection you deserve without having to deal with breakouts

Journ is here to help you every step of the way. We’re dedicated to providing you with the information and products that you need to design a skincare routine that works for you. Here’s a look at the best ways to protect your skin from the sun while avoiding acne breakouts

Why Is Sunscreen Important? 

If you notice your sunscreen is causing breakouts, it’s a good idea to stop using that specific product. That said, finding the right sunscreen for your skin type and skincare need is essential. Here are just a few reasons sunscreen is a vital part of any skincare routine. 

Sunburn Prevention

Sunscreen works to protect the skin from UV rays. That means you won’t have to worry about sunburns that can cause peeling and irritation. The healing process from sunburns can be long and painful, and sunscreen will help you avoid it. 

Sunscreen is critical for those looking to achieve a smooth, even skin tone. It can even help reduce your need for foundation or other color-correcting skincare products.  

Supports Skin Health

Excess sun exposure can cause sunburns, but it can also lead to more concerns over time. By wearing sunscreen regularly, you can reduce your exposure and risk of developing long-term side effects. A little sunscreen every day can make all the difference. 

Sunscreen also keeps your skin looking healthy and clear. Sun exposure can cause redness and increase the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Sunscreen helps prevent new lines from appearing, so your skin looks and feels healthy and strong. 

Can Sunscreen Cause Acne? 

There are many different types of sunscreen, and different skin types will call for different products. That said, if you notice that your sunscreen is causing you to break out, the following reasons might explain why. 

Sunscreen May Clog Pores

Acne develops when the pores in the skin become clogged with dirt, dead skin cells, and sebum. Sebum is a type of oily secretion produced by the skin. Certain types of sunscreens are thick and heavy and can cause similar clogging of the pores. This clogging can lead to acne breakouts.  

Ingredients like avobenzone, benzophenone, and PABA may contribute to breakouts — especially for those with acne-prone skin.

When you are shopping for your next bottle of sunscreen, consider noncomedogenic options like mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. 

Sunscreen May Trap Debris

Certain waterproof or sweatproof sunscreens can trap the dirt, oil, and sebum on the skin's surface. It’s important to wash your face regularly to prevent acne buildup. It’s also essential to allow the skin to breathe, as this can help prevent acne from developing. If you use waterproof sunscreen, it can be challenging to remove buildup from pores before acne develops. 

Some Sunscreen Products Contain Chemicals

Not all sunscreen products are the same. Some of the ingredients and chemicals in sunscreen may lead to skin irritation. When the skin is raw, itchy, or irritated, it becomes more vulnerable to breakouts, thus contributing to the appearance of acne. 

How Can I Avoid Acne from Sunscreen

Don’t worry! You can protect your skin with non-irritating sunscreen with clean ingredients while avoiding acne. Here are a few simple steps you can take to find the right low or no-breakout sunscreen for your skincare needs. 


Wash Your Face & Hands Before Application 

We often don’t think about the bacteria that collects on our hands and faces throughout the day. However, when we apply sunscreen with our hands, we transfer bacteria. Not only are we adding more bacteria to the skin’s microbiome, but we’re pressing in on it, increasing the likelihood that the pores will become clogged. 

You can reduce the transfer of bacteria by washing your face and hands before you apply your sunscreen. Washing your hands will help keep your skin safe and reduce the development of acne. Plus, it’s a good practice, in general, to avoid touching your face as much as possible to minimize breakouts

Consider Your Skin Type

The good news is that you have lots of great sunscreen options. When deciding on the best product, consider your skin type. Normal, oily, dry, combination, and sensitive are the five main skin types. 

You can find products designed for your specific skincare needs when you know your skin type. That means fewer breakouts and irritations, so you can achieve smooth, healthy and protected skin. 

If you have dry skin, look for a sunscreen with extra moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or ceramides. If your skin is oily, aim to find a water-based or gel sunscreen product. 

People with combination skin may have to try out a few products to find what works best for them, depending on whether they lean more oily or dry. Those with sensitive skin might be best off with a zinc oxide formula since it avoids many of the chemicals that often irritate this skin type. 

People with normal skin can generally just buy whichever sunscreen they prefer, as they’re unlikely to experience major concerns based on one type of sunscreen or another. 

Wash Your Sunscreen Off

You know to always wash your makeup off at the end of the day, and the same goes for sunscreen. Removing these products helps get rid of buildup and reduces the likelihood of acne. When you wash your sunscreen off at the end of the day, you help to prevent pore buildup, which is key to reducing breakouts

Steer Clear of Waterproof When Possible

There are many different types of sunscreen for different needs. If you’re an athlete or planning to spend time by the water, you may pick waterproof or sweatproof products. These are useful because they keep your skin protected all day long, despite the environment or busy activities. 

That said, some waterproof and sweatproof sunscreen products can increase acne breakouts. This is because sweat, dirt, and sebum get trapped below the product and build up in the pores. 

When purchasing waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen products, consider oil-free options that allow your skin to breathe more freely. Your pores are less likely to clog with buildup when your skin can breathe. All that means fewer acne breakouts on your next beach adventure. 

Use Other Protective Methods 

Sunscreen isn’t the only way we can protect ourselves from the sun. You’ll also want to keep in the shade as much as possible and wear skin-protecting clothing like hats and long-sleeve shirts. 

Combine these protective methods with sunscreen, and you won’t need to apply your sunscreen as often, so you’ll have fewer breakouts to worry about.


Sunscreen plays an important role when it comes to protecting your skin. It reduces the risk of sunburns and can protect your skin in the long term. It even keeps your skin safe from wrinkles and redness. 

That said, sunscreen can lead to breakouts and acne if you’re not careful. It can clog the pores and increase acne development. With a few simple steps, you can protect your skin while still avoiding pore buildup and acne breakouts

Make sure you’re always washing off your sunscreen and avoiding products that trap the oil on the surface of the skin. It’s all about finding that happy medium between protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding potential breakouts. 


Sun Safety | CDC

Acne | John Hopkins Medicine 

What to Wear to Protect Your Skin From the Sun | American Academy of Dermatology Association