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  • Does Sunscreen Cause Acne? How To Choose The Right Sunscreen

A reef safe sunscreen is your first line of defence against the intense Australian sun. But does sunscreen cause acne? Can the very product designed to protect us somehow end up harming our skin in other ways? 

There is no question that acne-prone skin can put a wrinkle on your day, and it’s time to address it.


The role of sunscreen in sun protection - Little Urchin Blog | Does Sunscreen Cause Acne

The role of sunscreen in skin protection

Sunscreen plays a crucial role in protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.

When we apply sunscreen, we’re essentially putting up a protective shield. This protection is important because overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to sunburn, and over time, they can even make our skin look older than it is by causing wrinkles and spots.

Sunscreen and skin

Besides stopping sunburn, sunscreen helps keep our skin healthy in other ways too. It acts like a barrier that keeps our skin’s moisture locked in, which is great for keeping our skin feeling smooth and looking fresh.

However, not all sunscreens are the same. It’s important to pick the right brand or formulation best suited to your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin or you’re going to be in the water. For best results, you’ll want a sunscreen that’s safe for the skin and safe for the reef.

There are a lot of different sunscreen formulations, and the ingredients can interact with the skin differently. Some people have sensitivity to certain chemicals in sunscreen, which can lead to irritation, rashes, or dermatitis, especially if the ingredients are harmful to your skin. It can aggravate clogged pores or make your skin congested.

Remember, sunscreen isn’t just for sunny days at the beach. Even on cloudy days or when you’re just hanging out at a park, wearing sunscreen is a smart move to make sure your skin stays safe and healthy.

Whether you’re looking for a clear zinc sunscreen or a natural suncare product, sun protection is always essential to keep in mind.

Does sunscreen cause acne?

Many people believe that only oily or dirty skin can lead to acne breakouts. In reality, acne results from an overproduction of oil, dead skin cells clogging the pores, bacteria, and inflammation. Hormonal changes, diet, and stress also contribute to acne formation.

Our skin continually produces oil known as sebum in its sebaceous glands, coupled with dead skin cells. When an overproduction of sebum occurs or dead skin cells accumulate, our pores become clogged, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, signalling inflammation and manifesting as acne on the skin’s surface.

How sunscreen affects your skin

Sunscreen is like a guard for our skin, protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays. But some people worry that it might cause acne. The truth is, sunscreen itself isn’t always the culprit here.

The problem can be about the type of sunscreen you’re using or how your skin reacts to it. Some sunscreens have ingredients that might not be compatible with certain skin types, leading to blocked pores and breakouts. Especially for those with oily skin, picking a sunscreen that doesn’t make the skin greasier is important.

So, does sunscreen cause acne? Not really, but it’s all about making smart choices. Picking the right type of sunscreen and keeping your skin clean are steps in the right direction. Remember, protecting your skin from the sun is important, and with the right care, you can enjoy the sunshine without worrying about acne.


Does sunscreen clog pores? Sunscreen myths - Little Urchin Blog | Does sunscreen cause acne

Myth versus reality: “Doesn’t sunscreen clog your pores?”

There’s a common misbelief that sunscreen inherently clogs pores and leads to breakouts. 

Today, many sunscreen formulations are designed to provide sun protection without clogging pores. These formulations are often light, quick to take effect, and can even serve as part of a skincare routine without leaving a heavy or greasy feel on the skin.

Contributing factors to pore clogging

Several factors contribute to the clogging of pores when using sunscreen:

  • Ingredient sensitivity: Some sunscreens contain ingredients that might not be compatible with or are irritating to certain skin types, leading to irritation or clogged pores.
  • Environmental factors: Swimming, gardening, or doing other outdoor activities can lead to sweat, outdoor dirt, and sunscreen, which in turn can lead to clogged pores.
  • Improper removal: Some sunscreens are designed to be water-resistant, so it requires a thorough cleansing routine to remove them completely from the skin. Inadequate removal can leave a residue that may contribute to pore clogging.
  • Skin type: People with naturally oily skin or those prone to acne may find their skin type reacting differently to certain ingredients in their sunscreen. It’s best to check the ingredient list for compatible ingredients first before applying a sunscreen brand you haven’t used before.


To minimise the risk of clogged pores while using sunscreen, consider the following tips:

  • Proper cleansing: Use a gentle cleanser and ensure thorough washing to remove sunscreen, sweat, and dirt from the skin. We recommend this routine, especially if you’ve been outdoors for a prolonged period of time.
  • Sun protection as a daily routine: Integrating sunscreen into your daily skincare routine can help provide outdoor skin protection. The practice also helps acclimatise your skin to your chosen product.
  • Choosing the right product: Opt for sunscreens that use natural ingredients like zinc and other ingredients in their natural form. Additionally, if your skin is sensitive to certain ingredients, be mindful of these triggers and choose products that are compatible with them.

Maintaining a proper skincare routine and choosing the right product can ease your concerns about clogged pores. Even better, when combined with a consistent cleansing and care regimen, sunscreen can provide the necessary sun protection without compromising your skin’s health or appearance.


Sunscreen FAQ - Little Urchin Sunscreen | Natural sunscreen | Does sunscreen cause acne

Can sun exposure improve acne?

While sunlight can initially dry out acne spots, giving you the impression that your acne condition has improved, it can lead to long-term skin damage and exacerbate your acne. The sun stimulates your skin to produce more sebum, which can block pores and cause more breakouts.

Instead, choose a suitable, natural-based sunscreen to protect your skin while letting it breathe and heal naturally. It’s about taking small steps for a big impact on your skin.

How often should I apply sunscreen if I have acne-prone skin?

For optimum sun protection, aim to reapply your sunscreen every two hours. If you spend a lot of time outdoors or swimming, you should apply sunscreen more frequently.

Remember, overexposure can lead to skin damage, which may exacerbate your acne.

Can I use sunscreen on sensitive, acne-prone skin?

If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin, it’s best to look for sunscreens labelled ‘non-comodogenic’, which means they are formulated not to block pores. Mineral sunscreens containing ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are often recommended for sensitive skin types. 

It’s also a good idea to opt for a fragrance-free and oil-free formula that may further reduce the risk of irritation or flare-ups. Always patch test a new sunscreen on a small area of your skin before applying it to your entire face.

Key Points to Remember

  • Sunscreen is crucial for protecting skin from harmful UV rays and sunburn.
  • While some people report acne outbreaks after using sunscreen, not all sunscreens are the same. Choosing the right type, particularly for acne-prone skin, is essential.
  • Beyond protecting from the sun, sunscreen helps maintain the skin's moisture and overall health. It's important to use sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days, to ensure continuous protection.
  • It's vital to select a sunscreen that suits your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin or are acne-prone. Sunscreens with natural ingredients and non-comedogenic properties are recommended.
  • Properly applying and thoroughly removing sunscreen is key to avoiding clogged pores and skin irritation.
  • Integrating sunscreen into your daily skincare routine can help protect your skin from the sun's rays without compromising skin health.
  • Acne is not just caused by oily or dirty skin. It's a result of various factors, including oil production, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Sunscreen can be part of an acne care routine if chosen and used correctly.
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