SPF Problem: Sunscreen Breaks Me Out

by | Jul 21, 2022

Problems with SPF. We’re wading through a few common issues with sunscreen, while the sun is out and people feel its relevant and topical. The thing is, sunscreen should be topical all year round, if you’re at all worried about the effects of the sun on your skin, but I still think that the majority of people only apply SPF when it’s hot outside. Maybe it needs a rebrand. Lightscreen, instead of sunscreen?

For me, this is where “moisturisers with SPF” play their hand so well; you don’t think twice about putting them on, they’re pitched as more of a daily staple than a fair-weather friend and, if you apply as liberally as you would your dedicated sunscreen you’re getting the same protection. Anyway, maybe that’s a whole other post…

Back to problems, and the previous one with sunscreen was SPF stinging eyes – you can find that post here with a few recommendations on how to avoid irritation. Here’s the next skin issue in the line-up:

Problem: Sunscreen Breaks Me Out

Sunscreen causing spots, another annoying quirk. Many sunscreens break my skin out, too, and it feels like a sod’s law sort of punishment. You try to do the best thing for the health and look of your skin and it goes and kicks you in the teeth with a load of pustulating under-surface bumps or white-headed pimples. If you find that your SPF is breaking you out because it’s making you oily and clogging your pores then take a look at some of the oil-free options that work really well for me – they’re also worth a look if you’re after sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

Paula’s Choice Resist SPF50* is actually hurtling its way to my number one favourite sunscreen spot. It’s high protection but feels just like water going on and leaves absolutely no residue on the skin. It just ticks absolutely every box and also happens to be oil-free so it’s excellent for all skin types. It’s a joy to apply. Find it online here* – it’s £35 and can easily be used as your daily moisturiser unless you have very dry skin.

Read: My Five Favourite Sunscreens For The Face

If you’re after light and fresh then take a look at my five favourite sunscreens on the link above. It wasn’t a post on SPF for spot-prone skin, specifically, but there are some nice oil-free products. Another I find myself using quite a lot is the Kiehl’s Aqua Gel (online here*) with a lightweight feel that doesn’t melt or slide even when it’s very humid. A good one if you need a facial SPF for working out or going running. Chance would be a fine thing.

Both of those suggestions are for chemical sunscreens but if you struggle to find a chemical SPF that you get on with then it’s well worth giving mineral sunscreen a go. Some people are sensitive to specific chemical filters. (Equally, some people get on horribly with mineral sunscreens, finding them very chalky and thick, the residue too white, but there are some beautiful, lightweight, silky mineral products these days.)

Here are some mineral recommendations, I love all of the below:

Ultra Violette’s Lean Screen SPF50 at Space NK here*

Hawaiian Tropic’s SPF30 Skin Milk mineral sunscreen here*

Skingredients Skin Shield SPF50 here*

Coola Mineral Matte Cucumber SPF30 here*

If you have oily skin, you may also really like the matte finish that many mineral sunscreens have – it makes a good priming makeup base with that little bit of grip to hold foundation in place. And I find that I need less foundation on top, for some reason – the mineral sunscreen seems to create a lovely canvas.

As important as finding the right sunscreen formula to help reduce spot breakouts? Making sure you clean it off again effectively at the end of the day. SPF products are designed to stick around for as long as possible, for obvious reasons, so you really need to get in there with a cleanser that will break it down along with the grime of the day and any makeup you have on over the top.

I like to use a balm cleanser first (Beauty Pie’s Hot Oil Double Cleansing Balm* is one of my favourite balms, regardless of brand or price) and really massage it in for a minute or so. I use a flannel to remove – it works on eye makeup too, so you can work it in all over your face. Then if I’m feeling any sort of threat of a breakout (that lumpiness below the skin, or tenderness) then I go in with an exfoliating wash afterwards. I really like CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser* because it can be used on face and body so it’s great for keeping in the shower.

CeraVe’s cleanser contains salicylic acid to help keep pores clear but if you’d rather swipe something over your skin and leave then I think that Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant (buy online here*) is unbeatable. I use it every PMT week, too, just to keep any hormonal spots at bay. Just pour a little onto cotton wool and wipe all over your face – I concentrate on the t-zone and around my nose – and then follow with your usual skincare routine, though I’d keep textures nice and light if I was on breakout watch!

Buy Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid*


  1. I could not agree more!

    Danielle | thereluctantblogger.co.uk

  2. I had a sunscreen breaking me out when I was away on holiday, and I foolishly hadn’t packed another one as “I never had issues with the brand, what couls possibly go wrong”?
    Well, a lot it seems. Lesson learned.

  3. My favourites are definitely the moisturisers with a built-in SPF – you’re simply much more likely to get some protection on your face using these rather than two separate things. Which ones would you currently recommend? (I’m not sure why Beauty Pie don’t do one yet…)

    • Not Ruth but I’m absolutely obsessed with Mimitika’s SPF 50 for face and always wonder why I don’t hear more about it! It’s feels just like a moisturiser going on – rich enough for my dry skin but doesn’t make me shiny and works brilliantly under makeup.

        • I’ve bought so many in the past years and I even put it on my eyelids with zero issues! My only gripe is that I’ve had a couple where the lid cracked after a few months…hoping they can fix that.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree: I notice break outs as soon as I slack off in my cleansing routine! Using the Bodyshop’s Vitamin E Serum in Oil at night really helps my skin, too. Plus I take a break from retinol products in the summer – can’t handle evening at once! :-)

    Ps: very happy to see more of your blog posts lately! :-)


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