Medicated face wash, harsh toner solutions, blotting papers – when you have trouble with seriously oily skin, it can feel like you’ve tried just about everything to get it under control.
This desperate quest to convince your skin to stop pumping out all this oil leaves you afraid to put anything on your skin that might make it worse. For many people, sunscreen is just another product to avoid because it may make your oily skin worse, or complicate it with breakouts.
Now, I am firmly of the opinion that all of my readers should indeed be wearing sunscreen. That doesn’t mean, though, that I want you to sacrifice your skin’s health to do it. Keeping our skin healthy is what sunscreen should be all about!
I am proud to say that I’ve tried and tested to find the best sunscreen remedies for very oily skin, and even different possible reasons that sunscreen may make the problem worse so that I can help you avoid the pitfalls between you and well-protected skin!
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to be effective for oily skin, SimplySunSafe recommends MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for oily skin. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for oily skin.
For a sunscreen to remain effective without worsening your oily skin or causing a break out it must have a number of key features:
Broad spectrum protection
One of the biggest things you’ll want to look for when choosing a good sunscreen is that it offers broad spectrum protection. Broad spectrum protection, sometimes also printed on the label as ‘UVA/UVB Protection’ simply means that the sunscreen is formulated to protect you from both of the sources of damaging radiation offered up by the sun.
You see, while we only perceive the light coming from the sun and only feel the heat it gives off, the part that actually does damage to our skin is invisible radiation.
There are two types of radiation we need to worry about: UVA radiation and UVB radiation.
UVB radiation is responsible for our sunburns, tans, and blisters if we aren’t careful.
UVA radiation is the more sinister kind, causing damage to our DNA that can accelerate signs of aging such as wrinkles or sagging skin, and can eventually lead to skin cancer.
Any sunscreen that is not broad spectrum will only protect you from UVB rays – you won’t get burned but you are still at risk for skin cancer. So, make sure the label has that little logo, or check the ingredients list for physical protectants (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) to make sure you’re properly protected.
Best SPF for oily skin
SPF is a big part of the labels on many sunscreen packages, and one that many consumers are familiar with. The trouble is that it can be such a misleading number, and the manufacturers of many SPF products exploit that by slapping it front and center on their products without explaining the significance of the rating to you at all.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. A useful way to think of how this number works is that it represents the fraction of the sun’s UVB radiation that will still reach your skin. So SPF 15 lets 1/15th of UVB radiation reach your skin and SPF 30 lets 1/30th through.
Let’s take a look at the chart below to get a clearer sense of how much protection these SPF ratings really offer us.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see, the ‘more is better’ rule only applies up to a point. SPF 15 is quite a ways better than SPF 2, but once you get past SPF 30 the differences start getting so small thet’re not that important.
This is actually why the FDA changed around some regulations a few years back so that the highest SPF rating allowed on sunscreen products is now 50+. This new systems prevents misleading marketing from taking too many of your hard earned dollars by charging a lot more for SPF 100 when it’s unjustified.
Making sure you buy at least SPF 30 is a great rule of thumb, as most people really don’t need much more protection than that.
That said, if you find yourself in a store and you’ve found yourself the best SPF 30 sunscreen for oily skin and the best SPF 50 sunscreen for oily skin – fairer skinned people may want that extra smidge of protection, but you really shouldn’t pay a much higher price tag for it.
Physical is better than chemical
Just like the (sometimes long) list of inactive ingredients in a sunscreen formula, the active ingredients used in a sunscreen can vary. The active ingredients are those that actually work to protect you from the sun’s radiation. Based on the mechanism they use to give you that protection, they can be broadly classified into two types: physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.
Physical sunscreens work almost like putting on a suit of armor. The ingredients sit just on the surface of your skin, and as the sun’s rays beat down on you, they deflect away the radiation so that it doesn’t harm you.
Chemical sunscreens soak down into your skin, and are designed to absorb the UV radiation from the light before it can damage your cells.
Physical sunscreens may seem unpleasantly thick or ‘pasty’ to those who are used to only chemical sunscreens, but it’s for good reason! They stop more radiation than chemical sunscreens and do so across a broader UV spectrum. Physical sunscreens also work immediately upon application, last longer on the skin, are less likely to cause irritation, and have a longer shelf life!
Many people find that their skin reacts badly to chemical sunscreens (yes, they can make you oily too!) and certain active ingredients such as oxybenzone are known to cause health issues if used repeatedly. Though not banned, the CDC warns against its use. I wholeheartedly agree with their studies, and so SimplySunSafe will never recommend a product containing oxybenzone.
Part of my research into finding you the best sunscreen possible led me to look into the causes of oily skin as well as the labels companies put on their products to lure you in.
I learned that terms like ‘oil-free’ and ‘non-comedogenic’ are sort of like SPF ratings – they tell you a little bit, but not quite as much as you might think. Not all oily skin is created equal – some people struggle with excess oil production precisely BECAUSE you’ve stripped your face of all its oil, causing your skin to ramp up sebum production even more.
This effect is also the result of sunburns, so remember to grab that sunscreen and reapply often!
However, some people are just genetically predisposed to have larger oil production glands in their skin. If this is the case, then you are the folks who benefit most from ‘non-oily’ products.
However, according to the Face Reality Acne Clinic, non-oily isn’t the same as the two terms I first mentioned. A common example is products that claim to be oil-free but contain lanolin. Lanolin doesn’t have the word ‘oil’ next to it on the ingredients list, so unless you already know what to look for you’d never know that it’s a substance that actually behaves remarkably similarly to the oil your face produces naturally.
Non-comedogenic formula claims are also not checked by the FDA so there’s no particular regulation there. The Clinic does have good news, though: it provides a list of pore-clogging, oily ingredients and tells you which ones are a hard pass and which ones you can use in moderation.
That advice was the inspiration for the ‘oiliness’ ratings of our top 5 products as shown in the comparison table below.
Suitable for daily use
Lastly, you’ll want to ensure that whichever sunscreen you pick is suitable for daily use. If you don’t use it consistently, exposure to the sun can cause an increase in oil production even without a pronounced burn, so it’s important to make sunscreen application part of your daily routine.
This means that, in addition to a formula that isn’t overly oily, you pay attention to other characteristics of the sunscreen such as its overall texture, smell, etc. You definitely don’t want to buy a huge amount of a sunscreen to use every day, only to realize inside of a week that you truly can’t stand the way it smells!
Certain inactive ingredients in sunscreen can also irritate the skin with prolonged use. Typically, these ingredients are the harder-to-pronounce members of the ingredients list, so choosing a sunscreen with recognizable ingredients is a good start as well.
Don’t be afraid of a little research! Beeswax is often listed as cera alba on ingredients list; some things that may seem foreign are just hiding behind a nickname.
Best Sunscreen for Oily Skin Comparison
|MDSolar Sciences Mineral Crème||BurnOut Eco-Sensitive||All Good Sport||Kiss My Face Face & Body||SanRe Shaded Rose-Solar|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (17%) & Titanium Dioxide (2%)||Zinc Oxide (18.9%)||Zinc Oxide (12%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) & Titanium Dioxide (6%)||Zinc Oxide (9%) & Titanium Dioxide (4%)|
5 Best Sunscreens for Oily Skin
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for oily skin. All of the sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are suitable for daily use, and have less-oily formulas.
This physical sunscreen from MD Solar Sciences is simply fabulous! It is a tad pricy, but the company follows through on their promise to provide a comfortable, pleasant cream that doesn’t feel overbearing to wear day-to-day.
The only ‘oily’ ingredient in this formula is at the very end of the list: squalene. This is actually a fancy way to say shark liver oil, and the Face Reality clinic lists it as only having a very minor risk to clog pores or make skin unpleasantly oily.
This product offers you broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 and a strong concentration of active ingredients without overloading your skin by incorporating more oil than necessary.
To get more bang for your buck, check out the smaller sized 1 ounce listing which, at the time of writing, offers better value. Weird, but if you want to cut costs, go for lots of little bottles!
- Minimally oily
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Water resistant
- Slightly expensive
If the low-oil formula of the winner sounds great but you just can’t hang with the price, check out BurnOut Eco-Sensitive sunscreen.
It has lower concentrations of just two oily ingredients: lecithin and carrageenan. Both of these are used as emulsifiers but are produced from oils.
Regardless, BurnOut offers great broad spectrum, physical protection with an SPF 35 formula that uses a strong concentration of just one active ingredient: zinc oxide (18.9%).
The trade off for a lower price tag is that most users report traces of this product leaving a white cast even after rubbing in. Due to the nature of physical sunscreen this is a bit expected, but it may be a deal breaker to users with darker skin tones.
NOTE: There are some concerning reviews from several years ago that mention customers being dissatisfied with a formula change by the manufacturer. This is actually an issue that occurred across multiple BurnOut products, and BurnOut has since listened to customer feedback and corrected the issue. BurnOut is back to its old, fabulous self!
- Minimally oily
- High concentration of active ingredients
- High SPF
- Slight white cast
All Good Sport sunscreen offers broad spectrum, physical protection with an SPF of 30 and 12% non-nanoparticle zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
The lightweight formula and impressive 80-minute water resistance means this product does come with a slightly bigger price tag, making it just a little more expensive than BurnOut’s product.
All Good Sport has a good, fairly natural list of ingredients, though it does contain small amount of various oils. These are: rose hip oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and shea butter.
The olive oil and shea butter are fairly close to the end of the list, which is good as those two are the only oils posing a significant concern. In either case, some more sensitive users may have issue with this product, but it should be just fine for most people with normal use.
Considering it’s water resistance and reef-safe classification, this sunscreen is definitely the best product for oily skin during physical activity and swimming (especially in the ocean).
- 80-minute water resistance
- Natural scent
- Contains a couple of comedogenic oils in small concentrations
This face and body sunscreen formula from Kiss My Face Organics features an impressive 87% certified organic ingredients. They utilize those in perfect fashion to deliver broad spectrum, physical spectrum with an SPF rating of 30.
Despite its quality ingredients and lower price point, Kiss My Face’s product finds itself lower on the list due in part to the much lower concentration of active ingredients compared to the other products listed here.
This sunscreen features 6% each of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. That being said, the zinc and titanium are what give sunscreens a white cast, so this could be a blessing in disguise for people who need basic protection and don’t want a lot of zinc because of a darker skin tone.
This sunscreen features only a few ingredients flagged by the Face Reality clinic, though in slightly higher concentration than our top three picks: beeswax, sunflower oil, and sesame oil.
- Added antioxidants
- Moderately oily
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
Remember at the beginning of this guide, when I mentioned that some people suffer from oily skin simply because they are over-drying their skin and causing it to overcompensate?
If that applies to you, then this will definitely be the best sunscreen for your oily face woes. It is, far and away, the most expensive sunscreen on this list, but if you are in this niche group, the benefits are so worth it.
This sunscreen from SanRe is specifically formulated to calm skin and can even benefit conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
This ultra-spreadable formula means a little pot will last you a while, and the luxurious formula should help you to rehydrate your skin and calm down excessive oil production.
It offers staunch SPF 30 protection with two broad spectrum, physical ingredients: zinc oxide (9%), and titanium dioxide (4%). This option does, again, contain several types of oils, but they are primarily flower extracts that contribute more toward scent than texture.
- Little bit goes a long way
- Moderately oily
My goal in writing this guide was to help you realize that it is totally possible to find the perfect sunscreen for your specific needs. I wanted to remind you of the important features when shopping, and also give you a jumping off point with this top 5 list.
While all of these products are great choices, SimplySunSafe recommends MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for oily skin.
While I do make every effort to present you with great product recommendations, I also love learning about new options as much as possible! If there is a product that you love for your oily skin and you don’t see it listed here, let me know!