Sunburn and Acne: What You Need to Know

Sunburn and Acne: What You Need to Know May, 21 2023

Understanding the Connection Between Sunburn and Acne

As someone who's struggled with acne for a significant portion of my life, I understand how frustrating and complex this skin condition can be. One of the most confusing aspects of acne is the relationship between sunburn and breakouts. In this article, I'll explore the connection between sunburn and acne, and provide you with helpful information to keep your skin healthy and clear.

How Sunburn Can Exacerbate Acne

Contrary to popular belief, sun exposure does not actually help clear acne. In fact, it can make acne worse. When our skin is exposed to the sun for extended periods, it can become sunburned. Sunburned skin is damaged and inflamed, which can lead to an increase in acne breakouts. The inflammation caused by sunburn can clog our pores, making it easier for acne-causing bacteria to multiply. Additionally, sunburn can cause our skin to produce more sebum (oil), which can also contribute to acne breakouts.

Moreover, sunburn can cause our skin to become dry and irritated. This can lead to an overproduction of skin cells, which can clog pores and create a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. In short, while it may seem like sun exposure improves acne in the short term, it can actually make it worse in the long run.

Protecting Your Skin from Sunburn

Now that we've established the negative effects of sunburn on acne-prone skin, let's discuss how to protect your skin from the sun. First and foremost, it's essential to wear sunscreen daily. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate the clouds and reach our skin. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and make sure it's labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores.

When spending time outdoors, try to stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during peak sun hours (usually between 10am and 4pm). Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face from the sun's harmful rays. Additionally, be mindful of your clothing choices. Long sleeves and pants made from lightweight, breathable fabrics can provide extra protection without causing you to overheat.

Treating Sunburned Skin

If you do happen to get sunburned, it's important to treat your skin gently and with care. Start by cooling your skin with a damp cloth or a cold compress. Apply a soothing, fragrance-free moisturizer containing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile to help calm the inflammation and provide much-needed hydration. Avoid using any harsh or abrasive skincare products, such as exfoliants or acne treatments, until your skin has healed.

It's also crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables. This will help your body heal from the inside out. If your sunburn is particularly severe, you may want to consult with a dermatologist for professional advice on how to treat your skin and prevent further damage.

Managing Acne in the Sun

While it's important to protect your skin from sunburn, you also need to manage your acne effectively. Continue to use your acne treatments as directed by your dermatologist or skincare professional, but be mindful of how they may interact with sun exposure. Some acne medications, such as retinoids and certain antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you're using these types of medications, be extra diligent about sun protection and avoid prolonged sun exposure.

Additionally, be mindful of which sunscreen you're using. As mentioned earlier, look for non-comedogenic sunscreens, and opt for a gel or water-based formula if you have oily or acne-prone skin. This will help prevent your sunscreen from contributing to breakouts.

The Importance of a Balanced Skincare Routine

Finally, maintaining a balanced skincare routine is essential for keeping both sunburn and acne at bay. Cleanse your skin gently but thoroughly, using a cleanser specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. Follow up with a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated without clogging your pores. Exfoliate your skin once or twice a week with a gentle, chemical exfoliant (such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid) to help prevent pore-clogging dead skin cells from accumulating.

Remember, every person's skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Don't be afraid to experiment with different products and routines until you find what works best for your individual skin type and concerns. And most importantly, always consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional if you're unsure about how to proceed with your skincare routine.


In conclusion, sunburn and acne are closely related, and it's essential to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays to prevent breakouts and maintain healthy skin. Use a broad-spectrum, non-comedogenic sunscreen daily, and be mindful of sun exposure during peak hours. Treat sunburned skin gently and with care to promote healing and prevent further damage. By following these tips and maintaining a balanced skincare routine, you can enjoy clear, healthy skin all year long.