This Derm-Approved Trick Will Keep Your Sunscreen From Ever Causing Breakouts

Dermatologists often say that the "best" sunscreen is the one you'll use every day (because, yes—you should be wearing it every day). But what happens if seemingly every option you try causes your skin to break out? The answer is obviously *not* to remove this important step from your skincare routine. Instead, according to Dendy Engleman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in New York City, all you've got to do is layer it on top of your trusty antioxidant serum.

Because antioxidants fight the skin-damaging free radicals from the environment, including those emitted from UV light, they can be the perfect building block to ensure your sunscreen is protecting your complexion without causing acne. “Antioxidants, like vitamin C, are a great addition to sunscreen, as they are known to prevent further UV damage by pairing with free radical scavengers in search of a missing electron, thus neutralizing the damage," says Dr. Engleman. "This is especially important as we move into warmer, sunnier months, and expose our skin to the sun’s damaging rays."

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To combat sunscreen-induced breakouts, Dr. Engelman suggests applying the new SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF ($166) ahead of your go-to SPF. “The main antioxidant in the serum is derived from the milk thistle plant," she says. "It inhibits oxidation of the sebum of the skin, which can cause bacteria to come into the pores, leading to inflammation and ultimately blemishes." By helping to stop bacteria from entering pores, antioxidants can give your skin barrier the boost it needs before sunscreen application. This SkinCeuticals formula also includes an acne-banishing lineup of L-asorbic acid (vitamin C), ferulic, and salicylic acid, to reduce oiliness, minimize the appearance of pores, refine skin texture, and boost radiance.

If you’re searching for a more accessibly-priced vitamin C solution, Dr. Engelman recommends Melach 33 Rimmon Elixir ($44), a face oil that features pure pomegranate and grapeseed oil. She's also a fan of Elizabeth Arden Vitamin C Ceramide Capsules ($88), which she says are the “perfect one dose at a time” to use under whatever sunscreen you choose (you can pair it with a sunscreen for acne-prone skin to safeguard your skin even more). Because these are individually sealed, the vitamin C, which is often an unstable ingredient, is able to keep its integrity and potency.

After you’ve used your powerful antioxidant, Dr. Engelman recommends going straight for a moisturizing sunscreen, like Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield ($68), to ensure you’re getting proper coverage.

Elizabeth Arden, Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield, sunscreens for acne prone skin
Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield — $68.00

By adding vitamin C, or other antioxidants, to your regimen before you use your daily sunscreen, your breakouts should be fewer and farther between. This double shield against UV damage not only provides extra protection, but also becomes a “foundation” for your skin that limits the ability of sunscreen, or other debris, to sink into your pores. It’s a win-win.

Check out the video below for some more tips on choosing the best sunscreen for your skin. 

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