How does sunscreen help to protect acne-prone skin?

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Dermatologists prescribe sunscreen for acne-prone skin as one of the effective skincare products to protect your skin from harmful rays of sun, especially in sunny Malaysia, but applying any formula of sunscreen without determining whether it is suitable for your skin can lead to a number of issues.

Further in this article you will explore how sunlight affects acne-prone skin, how sun protection can prevent and even reduce the symptoms of oily and acne-prone skin, and how to select the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

What is Acne-Prone Skin?

Research shows that around 70% to 80% of people suffer from impure and acne-prone skin. Having acne-prone skin means that you are more susceptible to breakouts such as whiteheads, blackheads, inflamed pimples and blemishes. 

There are a number of causes for this, which includes diet, smoking, medication, inappropriate skincare, stress, pressure and friction on skin, and sunlight.

In many cases, medical treatment is not necessary. For those who experience mild acne, there are a wide variety of non-medicinal treatments such as cleansers, toners, scrubs, moisturisers and concealers specifically made for skin with acne. These are available over-the-counter at pharmacists without needing a prescription. 


Effects of Sunlight on Acne

Despite the availability of non-medicinal treatments for mild cases of acne, one product that many avoid is sunscreen. This is because the idea of applying any formula that seemingly blocks the skin’s pores leads them into thinking it would worsen the problem. 

Users also complain that the heavy texture of some sunscreen products feel uncomfortable on their oily skin and irritate it further. 

However, all dermatologists stress that sun protection is vital, especially for acne-prone skin, as UV radiation exacerbates the causes and triggers of acne.

Here’s how:
1. The sun dries out the skin, and on the other hand oily and acne-prone skin can’t sustain without moisture. Over-exposure to the sun prompts the skin’s sebaceous glands into producing excess sebum, which in turn makes it oily and irritates the skin. This is one of the reasons the skin breaks out into blemishes.
2. When skin dries out, it is also cornifys or keratinized. This means that the cells on the skin’s surface harden. As a result, the natural process by which dead skin cells are shed is interrupted, preventing sebum to drain from the pores. This causes comedones, which are bumps on the skin caused by blocked hair follicles filled with oil, dead skin cells and even bacteria.  
3. When you’re out in the sun, and it’s warm, you sweat, and that sweat on the face is the perfect environment for the bacteria that causes acne – P.acnes. 
4. Sunlight also triggers a type of acne called Acne Aestivalis or Mallorcan Acne). This happens when UVA rays combine with the chemicals in certain skincare and sun protection products and trigger an allergic reaction. 
5. Too much sun, and using the wrong sunscreen, also causes pigmentation, and people with acne are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation

In addition to these, peeling products and many medications make skin more sensitive to light, and excessive sunlight can increase the risk of pigmentation issues and scarring.

This should not be a reason to avoid sunshine as it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle as a source of Vitamin D.

The key is to enjoy sunshine in moderation by avoiding the peak sunlight hours between 11am and 4pm, and in protecting your skin with an appropriate sunscreen. 

The active ingredients in sunscreen work by protecting the skin’s cells from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. This includes UVB rays (which causes burning) and UVA rays (which causes photoageing). 

Sun protection uses either chemical or physical active ingredients to protect your skin against these rays. Sunscreens made with chemical active ingredients work by absorbing UV light, while physical sunscreens work by reflecting UV light off skin. Many sunscreens use a combination of both. 


How to Select Best Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin

There are sunscreens specifically made for blemish-prone skin that won’t inflame skin and cause breakouts, and which can even help to minimise existing flare-ups.

These products are clinically and dermatologically proven to give skin the protection it needs without blocking pores, adding sheen or triggering and exacerbating acne.
This is what you need to look for:

1. Light creams, fluids or gels. A lighter texture doesn’t mean a sunscreen provides weaker protection. A sunscreen with a matte finish also helps to prevent any shine that oily and acne-prone skin has.
2. Products labelled ‘non-comedogenic’. These products do not contain ingredients that block pores and trigger blemishes. 
3. The words ‘broad spectrum’ on the packaging. This means the sunscreen protects against both UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) rays.
4. At least SPF 30 protection or higher. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and indicates how long it would take the sun’s UVB rays to burn skin when the product is applied, as opposed to how long it would take to burn without any protection. 

Eucerin Sun Dry Touch Oil Control SPF 50+
Eucerin Sun Dry Touch Oil Control SPF 50+

You can protect your skin with Eucerin Sun Serum Spotless Brightening  . It offers a light texture and comes in SPF50+ PA+++ . It is non-comedogenic and clinically and dermatologically proven to provide protection against UV rays (outdoors) and blue light rays (indoors). It is suitable for all skin types, even blemish-prone skin.  

How to Apply Sunscreen Effectively?

lady sunprotected skin

When and how you apply sunscreen plays a big part in how effectively it can protect you.

Here are some tips:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go under the sun.
  • You need to apply enough to cover your entire face and neck reasonably. This means using about 30g of sunscreen for your face and body.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours as the sunscreen’s efficacy reduces with exposure to water and sweat.
  • If you’re fair-skinned, you’re more likely to experience the effects of too much sun exposure, so, apply more.
  • Apply sunscreen at the end of your skincare routine. This means it comes after your serum and moisturiser and before any makeup.