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How To Choose a Sunscreen (That Won't Break You Out)

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Updated June 25, 2014

Sunscreen with acne
Jamie Grill Collection/Iconica/Getty Images

You're afraid sunscreen will make your already temperamental skin break out even more. Besides, who wants a thick, smelly cream smeared across their face everyday?

But you need a sunscreen. There really is no wiggle room on this rule. Skin cancer, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation, are all caused by the sun. When you factor in use of photosensitizing acne medications, sunscreen becomes even more of a necessity.

Sunscreen products have come a long way. So make your skin (and your dermatologist) happy by wearing sunscreen daily. Choose one that you love, and you actually won't mind using it every day.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. Look for oil-free, noncomedogenic products.

    This will help save your skin from clogged pores, and keep your face from feeling like an oil slick. You may be pleasantly surprised at how lightweight many products now are. If oily skin is an issue, you'll be happier with a sheer product that is absorbed quickly.
  2. Get broad spectrum protection.

    For maximum protection, always use a product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

    UVB rays, or the "burn and tan" rays, account for much of the sun damage that occurs on the skin. Some sunscreens will protect only against this type of ultraviolet light.

    UVA rays damage the skin as well, and it is these rays that cause aging of the skin. Overexposure can also cause skin cancer. For healthy, sun-protected skin, you must have a product that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

  3. Pay attention to the SPF.

    SPF, also known as Sun Protection Factor, is a way to measure protection from UVB rays. The higher the SFP, the more protection it affords. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher every day.
  4. Consider a facial moisturizer and sunscreen combination.

    These may be one of the best skin care products to have come out of the 20th century. The addition of sun protection into a moisturizer means no layering products, which is a real time and money saver. You already use a moisturizer, don't you? (If you said no, maybe you should!) One step and you're done. Try one; you'll love it.

    And yes, these moisturizers can give you just as much sun protection as a stand alone sunscreen. You should still choose a product that gives at least SPF 15 and broad-spectrum protection.

Tips:

  1. Don't use a sunscreen meant for your body on your face. These are generally much too thick, heavy, and greasy, and may contribute to breakouts.
  2. Shop around. If one product isn't quite what you're looking for, try another.
  3. Sunscreen should be applied every day year-round, even when it's cloudy or rainy.
  4. Using a topical acne treatment? Apply it first, wait 20 minutes (or until fully absorbed) and then apply your sun protection over the top.
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Acne
  4. Caring for Your Skin
  5. Sun Protection
  6. How to Choose Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin

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