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Acne Under the Sunlight: How to Protect Your Skin During the Summer

Young woman with moisturizer on her cheeks making funny face

The summer is coming, and we are getting ready to go to the beach, wear summer clothes and enjoy the holidays. During this happy time, many of us will want to look smooth and have clear skin. However, there are some factors that we should be cautious about during this warm season. The salt in the sea, the sand and the excessive sun exposure are only some of them. That is why here are some tips on what you can do to protect your skin during the holidays. 

What does the sun do to your skin?

Some people find that spending time in the sun is good for their acne. A possible reason for this is that the UV rays in sunlight are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and therefore help to reduce swelling and redness. Moreover, if you’re feeling stressed, acne can become worse, so spending time having fun in the sunshine may counter this. However, the sun is not directly beneficial for acne. While you may experience a short-term “drying up” of your acne after being in the sun, and it may seem as though getting a tan could help camouflage breakouts, the sun will actually worsen acne in the end. It is important to remember that too much sun exposure can be really dangerous. The UVB radiation in sunlight causes redness and burning, while the UVA radiation penetrates the skin deeply to cause pigmentation and aging. In addition to that, both UV lights can cause skin cancer. 

Sun exposure can be very damaging. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and not stay under the sunlight for too long. Sun exposure makes acne worse by aggravating the balance of the skin. Moreover, it can leave you with darker acne scars. So sun protection is just as important for acne treatment as it is for preventing sunburns and premature aging. Any healing acne lesions exposed to the sun can become permanently darker, leaving you with worse scars. Acne pimples begin with clogged pores, and the effects of UV radiation from the sun lead to more clogged pores, and therefore more breakouts. This may happen because:

  • The sun dries out the skin. While it may seem logical to “dry out” your acne-prone skin, all skin needs moisture to maintain a healthy, balanced state. When your skin dries out, the body tries to compensate by increasing the production of oil, which directly leads to worsening acne.
  • Sun exposure stops healthy cell turnover. When the sun dries out your skin, the surface hardens. This makes it harder for the top layer of dead skin cells to naturally fall off, which will definitely worsen acne since healthy cell turnover (natural exfoliation) is critical to keeping pores from becoming clogged.
  • The sun makes you sweat. When you sweat, it creates a moist environment where acne bacteria thrive, contributing to breakouts.
  • Certain medications may make you sensitive to sunlight. When having acne problems, some people may start using some medications to help them clear their skin. Some of these medications may make your skin especially prone to sunburn and sun damage.

How to choose the right sunscreen

Even sunscreens that are labeled as “non-comedogenic” may clog your pores, so talk with your dermatologist before testing a new sunscreen. They can help you identify a formula that has worked for patients with the same kind of acne you have.  The SPF tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. An SPF 30 allows about 3% of UVB rays to hit your skin. An SPF of 50 allows about 2% of those rays through. That may seem like a small difference until you realize that the SPF 30 is allowing 50% more UV radiation onto your skin. 

Ideally, SPF 30 means that it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.

In general, this is what you should look for in sunscreen:

  • Look for an SPF of at least 50. While it is recommended that everyone use an SPF of at least 30, those with acne are best served with stronger protection.
  • Choose a lotion (or spray) sunscreen formula with a lightweight texture. These are easier to wear and absorb into your skin. Try to avoid sunscreens that are thick, sticky, and difficult to rub in. They are typically oil-based and may be more pore-clogging causing more acne.
  • Look for “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic” on the label. Although these labels are not a guarantee that you will not break out, it is a good signal of a potential good formula for your skin.
  • Choose a mineral-based sunscreen. These can be formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the primary ingredients, as these are less likely to cause a reaction on sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Finally, remember to wear sunscreen year-round. Even on cloudy days, your skin is exposed to UV radiation from the sun. For full protection, complement your sunscreen use by minimizing direct sun exposure outdoors, seeking shade, and wearing a hat.



MYSA user avatar
Victoria 11/07/2023

Nothing more important than spf, especially in summer. Great article!

MYSA user avatar
erika 11/07/2023

In reply to by Victoria


Dear Victoria! We completely agree! SPF is important throughout the year, but especially in the summer!


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