With summer almost here, the heat is on when it comes to using sunscreen. (Although I’d recommend that any time during the year when you’re going to spend considerable time outside it’s worth getting your SPF on.)

It goes without saying for those of us with acne that being careful to choose non-comedogenic sunscreen is important. You want to get the benefit of protection without blocking your pores and making your acne worse.

But beyond that, you should know what you’re putting on your face and body for best results. The ideal SPF should be between 30 (minimally) and 50; there’s no scientific evidence that beyond 50 is any more effective. And there are two types of sunscreens, each with its own pros and cons:

1) Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients (i.e. titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) that literally physically sit on top of your skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays.


  • Naturally broad spectrum; they protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Protection is immediate upon application.
  • Relatively long-lasting even in direct UV light as long as your skin is dry.
  • Non-irritating, so a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
  • Also a good choice for those with rosacea and redness, as heat and energy that can exacerbate it are deflected from the skin.
  • Relatively long shelf life.


  • Comes off relatively easily with moisture (water, sweat) and rubbing, so frequent re-application is necessary — especially after working out or swimming.
  • Protection can be spotty, especially if not applied frequently and in a relatively large quantity (UV rays can get through the in-between areas).
  • Can leave a white residue on the skin, so some physical sunscreens are more noticeable on darker skin tones.


2) Chemical sunscreens contain carbon-based (organic) compounds (i.e. octisalate, avobenzone, oxybenzone) that create a chemical reaction, which changes UV rays into heat. That heat is then released from the skin.


  • Thinner and lighter, so easier to apply on your skin.
  • Less is needed for strong protection.
  • More flexibility in the formulation, so additional ingredients (i.e. peptides, enzymes) that benefit your skin can be included.


  • Takes time after application to start working (approx. 20 mins.).
  • Can be irritating/stinging to the skin (particularly if your skin is dry), especially at higher SPF levels (50+) because of the multiple ingredients necessary to deliver broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
  • May cause an increase in existing brown spots and discoloration because of a higher internal skin temperature
  • Needs frequent reapplication because its protection is used up quickly, especially in direct UV light.
  • May cause more redness for rosacea-prone skin types because it changes UV rays into heat, which leads to more flushing.
  • Can be greasy, especially for those with oily skin.

Now that you know the difference, you may be able to tell which type works best for you, or even SPF that’s a combination of both.  At Skin+ we have both types, our UV Silk 40 is a Physical, and our UV Daily is a Chemical. All of them are acne safe!

If you have questions or need help deciding what kind of sunscreen is best for your face and/or body, give me a shout – I’d love to help you get the best protection for your skin type.