While some of the skincare advice your grandma gives you turn out to be pretty useful (like using cucumbers on puffy eyes and ice on pimples) some of those age-old wives tales (okay, most of them) ‒ especially those pertaining to acne ‒ can actually do more harm than good. Using toothpaste on zits can dry out and irritate your skin, popping your pimples only ups your risk for infection and scarring, and scrubbing with baking soda can seriously mess up the pH of your skin.
So if you’ve ever heard that a little sunlight can solve your acne woes, you’re probably curious — does the sun help acne? You’ll definitely want to approach this beauty ‘hack’ with caution. Too much sun exposure can actually be harmful to your skin, irritate your breakouts, and up your risk for skin cancer as a result.
Below, we shed some light on this old wives’ tale and answer some other burning sun and acne questions on your mind: does sunscreen help acne, does tanning help acne, and, of course, is sun good for acne?
Is sun good for acne?
While sitting out in the sun may seem like a good way to boost your vitamin D levels, too much ultraviolet (UV) exposure can spell out trouble for our skin. That being said, if you have ever asked yourself does the sun help acne, the answer is definitely no.
Yes, the sun can make your pimples appear less pronounced. That’s because as the sun damages your skin, the immune cells in your skin are actually suppressed. However, this is more of a temporary fix and not a long-term solution — exposure to the sun’s UV rays increases skin inflammation and redness, causing pimples to end up as dark scars as a result.
Long-term exposure to UV rays also causes new pimples to form. Skin that’s been in the sun becomes more dry and irritated, which, in return, only triggers more breakouts. Similarly, too much sun can increase your chances for developing solar acne (aka acne solaris); a type of sun-induced acne that appears on the upper chest and shoulders. With this in mind, you should always aim to use sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors. More on the reasons why you should use sunscreen below.
Does sunscreen help acne?
We’re not going to beat around the bush: sunscreen is an important part in any skincare routine. Why? SPF helps protect your skin from damage like wrinkles and dark spots and lowers your risk of developing skin cancer. If you are using active ingredients in your regimen, you’ll also want to lather up; these ingredients make the skin sensitive and prone to sunburn.
While wearing sunscreen doesn’t treat your acne, it does protect your skin and helps prevent damage and inflammation that can make your breakouts worse.
How to choose a sunscreen for acne-prone skin
To choose a sunscreen that will protect your skin properly, always stick with products that offer broad-spectrum protection. This ensures your SPF protects you from both UVA and UVB rays, which are linked to sunburn, skin cancer, and premature signs of aging.
Next, you’ll want to select sunscreens with an adequate sun-protection factor (aka SPF); a term used to demonstrate the level of protection the product provides. While the recommended level is typically SPF 30 higher, the more SPF your sunscreen has, the more protection it provides, for longer. That means using sunscreen with SPF 50 offers a higher amount of protection than SPF 15 products.
Finally, consider your acne. While it’s easy to assume sunscreen is too heavy for acne-prone skin, choosing noncomedogenic sunscreen can make all the difference. Oil free, noncomedogenic formulas are lightweight and won’t clog your pores.
The bottom line
Is the sun good for acne? Not in the slightest. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can end up causing more damage to your skin in the long run, increasing your risk for developing wrinkles, damage, and skin cancer. Plus, they can dry out your skin and cause inflammation, making your breakouts worse.
To protect your skin, always wear (and reapply!) broad-spectrum sunscreen products with SPF 30 or higher. These products can help provide protection against sunburn, skin cancer, and signs of premature aging.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, never skip out sunscreen in fears that it will clog your pores. Instead, select products that are noncomedogenic. That way, they won’t cause new breakouts from showing up unannounced.