Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist) on 10th Feb 2021

What should sunscreen for oily skin look like?

sunscreen for oily skin

It is not news that sunscreen is crucial. We have all heard about it, and we still manage to find ways to avoid it with our long list of ifs and buts. From "its winter" to "it's just twenty minutes in the sun," the list knows no end! Among these excuses is one genuine problem: oily skin.

Sunscreen becomes a nightmare when you have excess sebum on your face. The greasy sunscreen on your already oily face is not something you would want to go through, let alone regularly. But this shouldn't stop you from using sunscreen altogether since premature wrinkles and skin cancer don't get out of the picture just because you have oily skin.

Yes, the thought of thick, heavy cream is appalling, but for a moment, don't think of sunscreen as a greasy, pore-clogging heavy lotion. All you need to do is choose a perfect sunscreen that your skin will love, and it is not that hard, trust me. Oily skin can't be used as a valid excuse to skip sunscreen. You still have to look out for your skin's health. UV exposure can cause some real problems, sunburn, and premature aging.

You have to look for the right ingredients and avoid some. You don't have to hate sunscreens for the goopy mess they make. Not every sunscreen will clog your pores and sit on the surface or give you that cakey finish.

You will change your stance once you

Why is sunscreen unavoidable? 

Seek sunscreen before the sun seeks you. Why? You know why! Skin cancer, premature aging, and dark spots are all the 'gifts' the sun gives you in installments every time you step out unprotected and expose yourself to UV. Even if it's cloudy, raining, hot, or cold, the sun has the potential to damage your skin.

Sun causes your skin to make more melanin. This melanin build-up is what leads to tanning, scars, and pigmentation.

Sunscreen's main aim is to protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation. UVB causes sunburn, and tan UVA will penetrate deeper when exposed to it for longer and causes premature aging and cancer. Your skin's immunity gets compromised. It can no longer protect the collagen (a protein that provides the skin structure, suppleness, and stretch). The sun depletes the ability to make collagen and the existing deposits of it.

But a huge chunk of people is not agreeable to the rule of "sunscreen round the year," the oily skin types. But they don't necessarily have to choose between dry, broken-out skin and ten-year-old skin prone to skin cancer. If you think alike, find a sun protection arsenal that will not irritate you by reading on.

Oily skin is shiny even after a face wash, and the overproduction of sebum results in an around-the-clock greasy feel. Oily skin and sunscreen mean a perfect pore-congested mess. Not really. There are ingredients you can look for that can counter your argument. 

What your sunscreen should be like 

Your sunscreen should not necessarily feel heavy, oily and make your skin feel hot or clogged. Instead, your sunscreen should be non-greasy, lightweight, and one that gives your skin a matt-finish.

Sunscreens are now more complex than ever. Identifying the right one for you depends on a list of factors; your skin's sensitivity to cosmetics, burning, skin types, etc.  

Also, there is a broad bifurcation between two types of sunscreens:  

  • Physical/mineral sunscreen- They sit on the skin and deflect the UV rays that contact your skin.  
  • Chemical sunscreen: These absorb the UV rays and convert them into heat.

Other factors you should consider: 

Oil-free and non-comedogenic  

Since the sole concern is oily skin, avoid oil-based products. Look for sunscreens that are labeled oil-free. You are looking for a water-based sunscreen that has absorbent ingredients.

Non-Comedogenic means that the product is void of ingredients that clog pores. 


Consider sunscreen forms like sheer, fluid lotions, gels, and sprays since they are not all thick, heavy, and creamy. Oily skin or the kind of skin that is prone to acne would survive better with a lighter base sunscreen, for instance, an alcohol-based lotion, spray, or gel. Get a product that absorbs quickly rather than sitting on the surface. Products that have thin, gel-like consistency rather than heavy-duty creams.

Sheer lotions and fluids are good options, and even gels get very easily absorbed. Another lightweight option is a spray, but it needs to be applied enough to work. 

Antioxidants and soothing agents 

Sunscreens that include antioxidants and other soothing ingredients help you take on a holistic approach towards benefitting your skin.

Ingredients like niacinamide in the sunscreen help curb sebum production, which reduces the waxy feel. It is vitamin B that also improves your overall appearance. 

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A high Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Choose a sunscreen that has SPF 30 or higher, don't settle for less. SPF 30 or higher because it will block about 97% of UV rays. Cloudy or rainy, do not skip sunscreen. Wear it. Every. Single. Day.  

Broad-spectrum protection  

Look for "broad spectrum" labels every time you buy sunscreen. It ensures that the product will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. As we saw above, UVB rays are the ones that burn your skin, while UVA will age skin and cause skin cancer. To avoid the harmful effects of the sun on your skin, go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen.  


If you have acne-prone skin, you can opt for mineral-based sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin instead of absorbing into the skin and causing irritation. Formulated with titanium dioxide & zinc oxide, they deflect the rays away from the skin.

Now you know what to find/look for, but there are ingredients that you need to avoid and bad news for your already oily skin.  

What your sunscreen shouldn't contain


Plant oils, heavy oils, and fatty acids are emollients that contribute to the oily face you are running from. You are better off without ingredients, like coconut oil, octyl stearate, and isopropyl palmitate, to name a few.

If combined with oily skin, formulas with emollients will lead to pore-clogging as there will be too much oil for your skin to handle. 


Alcohol in skincare products is best avoided. It can increase skin sensitivity.  

Chemical sunscreens  

Chemical sunscreens can irritate the skin, and this irritation may lead to further breakouts if your oily skin is already prone to acne.  

Oxybenzone and PABA 

Keep away from ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and homosalate, which most water-based sunscreens contain. If your skin is extremely sensitive, it is best to stay away from oxybenzone and PABA as they will cause further irritation.  


Does your sunscreen need to smell good? NO.

This is a rule of thumb for all skin types and especially the ones with sensitive skin. There is absolutely no reason for your products to smell good. Your skincare products shouldn't have added fragrances as they are potential irritants and a cloak for shady ingredients.

Your route to finding your perfect facial sunscreen may involve errors and a few trials since not every skin type is the same.

A body sunscreen or a face sunscreen?

Please don't mix them up, as the ones meant for the body are thick, heavy, and greasy. You don't want to know what they'll do when applied on already oily skin. 

Acne-prone, oily skin, and sunscreens.  

Oily skin is always prone to acne, and if you are one with oily, acne-prone skin, it is likely you too have given up on sunscreens altogether in fear of future breakouts. But get this, acne-prone skin is sensitive, and that makes it more vulnerable to the harmful UV wrath.

The sun's heat worsens the acne flare-ups, heat damages your skin, and the irritation leads to even more breakouts. And it is also likely that you are on anti-acne ingredients like retinol that make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

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Acne also leads to acne marks, and these marks may worsen if you continue to expose them to the sun, making them last longer.

Don't let the fear of breakouts get to you, don't let the acne dry up in the sun since there are numerous sunscreens now available that are considerate of acne-prone skin.  

Advice by Minimalist 

Whatever product you decide on after reading this, make sure you apply the sunscreen. Once you get the hang of it, it won't feel much of a hassle.

Apply half an hour before stepping out on sun-exposed areas and reapply every two hours in case of excessive sun exposure.

Although sunscreens are critical to your skin's health, you should wear clothes that ensure maximum protection and limit sun exposure when the sun is brightest.

If your skin is acne-prone or breaking out due to clogged pores, go for a lightweight physical sunscreen instead of a chemical sunscreen.  

Wrapping up 

Oily skin or not, sunscreen is crucial and something you should never skip, avoid, or forget. More so if you have oily skin that is prone to breakouts. So, get up and find that perfect sunscreen.

The experience need not be heavy and sweaty if you are using the right product with the right ingredients. With the overwhelming options of sunscreens out there, it won't be very complicated to find a sunscreen that's suited for your skin type.