SPF & acne: How to protect your skin from the sun without causing breakouts

SPF & acne: How to protect your skin from the sun without causing breakouts 1

Wearing sunscreen every day is a necessity, but what do you do when your SPF exasperates acne and breakouts? A common problem among those with oily and breakout-prone skins, the SPF-acne debacle has left many people with a dilemma. How can you protect your skin from the sun without exasperating acne? We asked Charize Neill, Marketing Manager at Eau Thermale Avène:

  1. Sunscreen has a reputation for causing breakouts on certain skin types. Why is this?

This is generally caused when you do not use a sunscreen adapted for your skin type. Just like our normal skincare routine, it is always recommended to choose products that are formulated for your unique skin needs. So if your skin is oily and prone to breakouts for example, rich textures are not recommended. Opt for sunscreens that provide oil controlling benefits, look for words like “mattifying”. Formulas that aid in absorption of sweat and sebum (oil) is also highly recommended. A great option for this is the Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance SPF50+ Sunscreen.

  1. Are there certain ingredients one should avoid when looking for a facial sunscreen?

In general, it is recommended to look for formulas that are labelled non-comedogenic, meaning that it won’t clog your pores, which is often related to increasing breakouts.

In terms of ingredients, most dermo-cosmetic sunscreens take great care in the selection of ingredients to ensure minimum change of irritation and aggravation of the skin.

Recent studies have highlighted that some controversial sun filters like octocrylene can cause photo-contact allergies. This filter is also often in the spotlight for its potential toxicity on harming marine ecosystems and coral.

Quality dermo-cosmetic sunscreens like those from Eau Thermale Avène take great to develop formulas that respect skin sensitivity, does not clog pores and respects marine life.

  1. Can sunscreen used on the body also increase the risk of developing body acne? 

Again, if you are prone to oily skin and breakouts, opt for products that respect sensitivity, absorb quickly and are non-comedogenic. Lower quality sunscreens may not tick all these boxes. Generally if you are prone to breakouts on your neckline, chest or body, use your same specialised facial sunscreen for your skin type and apply it to this area too.

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the development of ‘maskne’ – will an SPF exasperate this problem? 

If you apply the same skincare principles to your sunscreen routine, the problem shouldn’t be exasperated. On the contrary, not protecting your skin from the sun can worsen the effects of existing acne by darkening residual marks.

Once again, look for gentle formulations of sunscreens that respect sensitivity as our skin’s are naturally more aggravated due to wearing of masks. Look for non-comedogenic sunscreens that are adapted to your skin needs. Don’t forget your skin hygiene. Wash your face morning and evening to remove any impurities, which will go a long way in combatting maskne along with gentle cleansers, moisturisers and sunscreens that respect sensitivity.

A great tip for irritated skin and maskne, is spraying a fine mist of soothing, anti-irritating Avène Thermal Spring Water. Follow this with a product like TriAcneal Expert in the evening to combat the breakouts and residual marks.

  1. How can you protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays whilst also protecting it from getting sunscreen-induced breakouts?

It all comes down to your choice of sunscreen. To summarise, look for the below features in your sunscreen:

  • Good quality sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  • Photostable formulas that protect for longer
  • Formulas and brands that respect skin sensitivity
  • Formulas adapted to the unique needs of your skin – for example, specialised sunscreens for oily skin prone to breakouts
  • Non-comedogenic formulas
  • Formulas that are quick absorbing and offer good water resistance
  • Added antioxidant benefits in certain sunscreens like Eau Thermale Avène also protect against oxidative stress and cell DNA dam


Products to try:

SPF & acne: How to protect your skin from the sun without causing breakouts 2

NeoStrata Sheer Hydration SPF40 – R684.00
NeoStrata Sheer Hydration is a popular hydrating, anti-ageing day moisturiser that is, what its name suggests – sheer. Its light formulation makes it easily absorbable and the built-in sunscreen does not leave a white residue on the skin. It hydrates oily skin so effectively, without congesting the skin, that those who live in hot, humid climates will find this product works well for them.

Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance SPF50+  – R269.00
High sun protection for oily, blemish-prone skin on the face. Enriched with Monolaurin, a sebum-regulating active ingredient, its ultra-light texture offers skin an anti-shine effect. This sunscreen is mattifying, silicone and paraben-free and leaves no white marks.

Nuxe SUN Light Fluid High Protection SPF50 – R495.00
Ideal for combination skin, the Sun Fluid SPF50 helps to protect your face from the sun’s rays and premature photoageing of the skin. Shake its ultra-practical pocket format before application to dispense a light and fluid texture with a “bare skin” effect.

NIVEA SUN UV Face Q10 Anti-Age & Anti-Pigments Cream SPF 50 – R129.99
This SPF provides immediate and effective sun protection. The formula with Q10 prevents and fights the appearance of sun induced fine lines, wrinkles and pigment spots. The cream moisturises your face and is ideal for everyday usage. Your skin will be protected against UVA / UVB induced skin damage will feel light and silky soft. The skin compatibility of this sunscreen has been dermatologically proven. The product also has an eye-friendly formula and is ophthalmologically proven as well.

Heliocare 360° Gel Oil-free SPF 50 – R465.00
Heliocare 360° Gel Oil-free SPF 50 is a light, innovative physical sunscreen with anti-aging benefits, potent sun protection and skin repair actions. It protects the skin from the harmful effects of the full solar radiation spectrum including Visible Light and Infrared radiation. The unique oil-free formulation has a dry touch finish that melts into the skin – it is especially good in hot humid climates. It is quickly and uniformly absorbed to protect the skin against daily environmental challenges. Best suited for oily and/or acne-prone skin.


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