Why sunscreen causes breakouts and how to prevent it
There are few things more delightful than the return of summer. Dreary, grey skies and daily drizzles make way for sparkly afternoons that seem to hiss and sizzle. Bare skin replaces woolly layers.
Everyone looks look better sun-kissed and glowing. The feel-good factor is undeniable. The life-giving power of sunshine is vital for many bodily processes, as well as for emotional wellbeing.
What’s also undeniable is the sun’s potential for damage when the skin is over-exposed and under-protected. Damage you won’t see for years to come.
And then you do, by which time it’s often too late.
Sunscreen: the ultimate bodyguard
The internet abounds with horrific images of sun-damage — from dry, ‘leathery’ skin to sinister melanomas that grow and morph. We know it’s possible to enjoy the rejuvenating effects of the sun whilst protecting it. Our best all-day defence is sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. This, coupled with obeying the 6 golden sun-safety rules set out by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, are all that’s needed.
But, what exactly is sunscreen?
Sunscreen was aptly named as it was intended to be a physical filter, filtering out harmful UV rays. A skin umbrella, if you will. This filter acted as a screen between your skin and the sun. As such, its purpose was not to be absorbed but to form an armour (often, a visible one).
Nowadays, many sunscreens contain chemical compounds which act by absorbing UV rays instead and releasing it from the skin as heat. They are generally undetectable.
Most sunscreens available to consumers today contain both physical and chemical components. All need to be reapplied regularly, especially when it washes or wipes off. Reapplying the layer takes you back to safety, thereby reducing the risk of premature ageing and skin cancer.
Sunscreen is, literally, your bodyguard. In order for it to work, it must form a film on your skin that deflects or absorbs UV rays.
Therein lies the rub — of sunscreen
Unfortunately, sunscreen can wreak havoc with even the calmest skin. Whilst it protects your skin it also covers the pores of your skin, causing congestion and irritation.
Sunscreens with physical filters derived from Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, with its ‘whitish’ film, can be more comedogenic. Whilst chemical filters, like oxybenzone, tend to irritate sensitive skin
In addition, many screens come with extra ingredients that can exacerbate the situation. Adding oil to the fire, skin is further irritated in Summer when we perspire more and excrete more sebum.
Never skip sunscreen again
It seems like you have to choose between skin that is blemish-free now but unprotected or healthy when you’re older because you always used sun protection.
This needn’t be the case. Use sunscreen and other skincare products wisely and you can have the best of both worlds.
Simply follow these easy tips:
Choose sunscreen to match your skin type
This is the main cause of sunscreen-related congestion. If your skin is oily or combination your pores are easily blocked. Choose a sunscreen intended for oily skin — it’s matte, light texture doesn’t contain pore-clogging ingredients.
Even if your skin tends to be dry, it can also get oilier in Summer so choose wisely. Do your research and experiment until you find your perfect match.
Match your sunscreen to your lifestyle/routine
If you’re fair-skinned and don’t wear much makeup your best choice would be a physical sunscreen. They can leave a ‘whitish’ cast but it is barely noticeable on fair skin. The advantage of physical sunblock is that the ingredients are less likely to cause irritation.
If you wear makeup and you’re using at least 2 layers already, opt for sheer chemical sunscreens that are less likely to block pores.
Removing dead skin and product build-up once or twice a week is key. However, beware of overdoing it as that can also lead to flareups and irritation. Exfoliating will ensure that dead skin cells are sloughed away, along with any sunscreen residue, so you can skin can breathe freely.
Lose the layers
A common reason why we avoid sunblock is because it feels heavy or sticky. Avoid this by switching products during the summer, thereby using fewer products. There are many options. A tinted sunscreen that multi-tasks as a light foundation. A Beauty Balm (or BB cream)with added SPF. A richer sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. Or, try a foundation with SPF or a moisturiser with SPF.
Still breaking out?
Then do a skin product audit. Could your beloved berry blush be the culprit? Or perhaps it’s your new favourite foundation? Through a process of elimination you can find the main trigger to your skin woes:
- Examine ingredients — perhaps you’re allergic or the product is comedogenic
- Consider switching products — use less oily formulations in summer
- Check expiry dates — products can harbour bacteria whilst oils can turn rancid
Armed with the checklist above you’re now ready to face the summer head-on. Work out what’s rubbing your skin up the wrong way so you won’t have to skip the sunscreen this summer, or ever again.