No ifs, ands, or buts: Wearing SPF regularly is crucial. We’ve all heard the excuses — they range from “But it’s not sunny out!” (we’ve dispelled that one) to “I’m dark-skinned, I don’t need SPF!” (such a falsehood) to “I hate the way sunscreen feels greasy on my skin!”
Listen, we get it. Greasy, oily sunscreen feels gross on your face. But trust us when we say that there are dozens of professionally backed, well-formulated SPFs that can protect your skin without making your face feel slimy.
The other classic excuse is “I have acne, and sunscreen clogs my pores.” This sentiment is especially dangerous — even more so because of the myth that the sun is great for drying out acne.
“When exposed to infrared heat from the sun, acne flares up even more,” explains Anita Sun Eisenberg, licensed Medical Esthetician, VP of product development at Skin PS Brands, and creator of Dermovia. “Not only is this type of heat damaging, it can irritate the skin.”
In other words, that longtime myth you’ve heard about letting your acne dry up in the sun? Entirely false.
The other important thing to note: Sun exposure darkens pigmentation. Those acne scars you’ve been trying to get rid of will only get worse if you let them soak up the sun unexposed. Why? Because the sun encourages melanin production (this is how and why we tan) and scars and pigmentation are just a buildup of extra melanin.
Regardless, we understand it can be a challenge to find the right sunscreen formula for acne prone skin. And it is true, confirms Eisenberg, that the wrong type of sunscreen can cause a chemical reaction on the skin that leads to more acne.
So, those with acne and oily skin hate sunscreen for a reason — it usually makes them break out, and is typically greasy and oil-based. “Unfortunately, oil does protect your skin from the sun,” says the skincare pro. “But the best sunscreens are the ones that have oils that are encapsulated by water,” she explains. Also called micellars (sound familiar?), these types of tiny molecules are able to actually penetrate your skin and protect it from harmful UVA, UVB and infrared sun rays.
Luckily, there are a plethora of sunscreens on shelves, and many where the ingredients don’t clog your pores or stay on the surface of your skin and make you look white and pasty. In fact, says Eisenberg, if you have the right sunscreen it will help to mattify your skin. “Ingredients with mattifying properties help to calm inflammation beneath the heat of the sun,” she says.
That’s right. The correct sunscreen can actually help your acne-prone skin. So don’t shy away from SPF just because sunscreens are traditionally oily and greasy — the right one is out there for you!
Think the answer is in a natural formulation? Wrong. We know — it’s kind of mind blowing. “Natural formulas tend to be weaker, and don’t offer as high of an SPF,” notes Eisenberg. “You can’t get to a higher SPF level without using more scientific ingredients.”
So with all of that in mind, look for an acne friendly SPF by finding formulas that offer broad spectrum coverage, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure you look for water resistant or sweat proof formulations, because these add an extra layer of protection, especially when you’re in the water or active. If you’re spending the day in the outdoors, use an SPF 50 — or higher.
It used to be true that physical SPFs — sunscreens that include zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide that sit on the surface of the skin to block UV rays — were thicker formulations. Thankfully for those of us who are acne-prone, newer formulations of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are lighter, smoother and much smaller. These micronized formulas are ideal for acne-prone skin.
The bottom line? You absolutely should not skip the SPF if you’ve got acne prone skin. In fact, it’s even more imperative that you wear sunscreen if you have pimples. Now go get yourself a good facial SPF!