Acne-prone? You Need These 15 Oil-free SPFs

·7-min read

Whether it’s stalking your favourite skincare influencer or scrolling through an A-lister's IG account, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that SPF infused with UVA/UBV protection is the universal component of any savvy woman’s skincare regime.

Yet, when you're faced with a breakout or an oily complexion, SPF can often take a back seat, for fear of exacerbating the issue with extra products. If persistent skin issues are a drama, then you'll be pleased to read that a specific breed of sunscreen – oil-free – won't aggravate acne-prone skin.

Here's the WH edit of the best oil-free sunscreens for summer 2021.

What are the benefits of using an oil-free sunscreen?

'Wearing sunscreen is essential for protecting skin from UVA and UVB rays that can cause sun damage, premature ageing and, in some cases, lead to skin cancer. Often manufacturers add oils to sunscreens to give them a smoother texture and help with hydration. However, whilst they do bring these benefits they can also have a number of negative effects on the skin,' says Dr Rekha Tailor of Health & Aesthetics.

'Consequently, oil-free sunscreen, or non-comedogenic sunscreen, as it is sometimes labelled, is beneficial for a number of reasons. It can help to protect skin without clogging pores or adding extra shine or grease, and it’s typically lighter in consistency than some sunscreens,' she adds.

'Using an oil-free sunscreen can help to keep the skin balanced and prevent too much oil from building up, which can clog pores and result in acne and breakouts. Oil-free formulations tend to absorb faster too, allowing the skin to be hydrated without being clogged.’

Is oil-free sunscreen good for acne-prone skin?

'In general, many oil-free products are non-comedogenic, which means that they are less likely to contribute to acne breakouts, and those with oily skin may not feel the need for the extra hydration from thicker products containing oils,' explains INKEY List Skincare Expert and Junior Doctor, Dr Kemi Fab.

She adds 'oils are not bad for oily or acne-prone skin, but gel and water-based formulations will be more comfortable to use and can help with sebum regulation.'

What skin types can benefit from using oil-free sunscreen?

Those prone to pigmentation and acne scarring

'UV rays can otherwise trigger hyperpigmentation and worsen the marks left behind with acne. Ensure you chose a mineral-based SPF like Obagi Sunshield. It’s an all-rounder product for those who suffer from acne. Its broad-spectrum SPF 50, contains zinc oxide which reduces inflammation and it is supported by the skin cancer foundation,' advises Skincare expert Dr Zainab Al Mukhtar.

Sensitive skin types

'People with sensitive skin often find the sun irritates their skin, but so too can sunscreen. A mineral sunscreen rather than chemical sunscreen can help. These contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than chemical filters.' says OnePrimaryCare GP with Special Interest in Dermatology, Dr Angela Goyal.

Eczema-prone skin

Dr Goyal advises 'We recommend that a richer sunscreen should be used for those who regularly suffer from eczema. Preservatives and chemicals in the sunscreen can aggravate the problem so try one which is mineral and alcohol-free'.

What is the best oil-free sunscreen?

That is going to depend on your specific needs. But here are a list of oil-free SPFs, that are WH-approved.

1. Best oil-free sunscreen for your face

It's easy to think of sunscreen as a heavy bottle that sits at the bottom of your beach bag, but La Roche-Posay has made it easy, with this pocket-size edition.

2. Best lightweight oil-free sunscreen

The new kid on the SPF block, this Aussie-based brand's formula ticks all the boxes. It's packed with antioxidants to help supercharge your skincare routine and feels exceptionally light on the skin, so much so it feels like you're wearing nothing at all.

3. Best clear oil-free sunscreen

Perfect for dark skintones, this translucent formula means you don't have to worry about pesky white marks or chalky residue. It glides onto skin seamlessly while providing broad spectrum SPF30 protection and works wonderfully under make-up for those that don't want to ghost their foundation.

4. Best mattifying oil-free sunscreen

If glossy skin isn't for you, then reach for this formula leaves behind a matte finish. Loved by dermatologists, it's brimming with broad-spectrum protection to defend your skin against UV rays.

5. Best oil-free sunscreen that stops spots forming

An SPF that stops acne in it's tracks? Your wish is our command, because this clever SPF harnesses luconolactone which purifies skin texture as well as skincare hero niacinamide, which prevents bacteria from proliferating and so stops spots from forming.

6. Best oil-free sunscreen for under make-up

As well as giving your face the protection you need, this velvety formula lends a gentle glow to your complexion. Use under primer or make-up for your everyday look.

7. Best anti-pollution oil-free sunscreen

If you live in a hustling city with basically no clean air, it's easy for your skin to feel clogged up. Instead of booking a facial regularly or trying a DIY face mask at home, try this preventative anti-pollution SPF by Clarins after your face cream and before your makeup.

8. Best spray oil-free sunscreen

If slathering on a sunscreen doesn't tick any boxes for you, this refreshing spray from iconic skincare brand Bioderma should have you covered.

9. Best oil-free sunscreen for your whole body

This is only SPF 25 and, for your face especially, you want to be looking at 30 minimum – whatever your skin tone. But this formula is great for slathering over your forearms and legs for UK days – just make sure you use a stronger product up top.

10. Best oil-free sunscreen to prevent a shiny T-Zone

If you prefer having a matte base, this Dermalogica oil-free option may be the one for you. Designed for combination to oily skin types, this helps prevent shine, regulate oil production and soothe inflammation without making you skin appear dull. We have a winner.

11. Best anti-ageing oil-free sunscreen

If using anti-ageing products is on your mind, this classic Clinique SPF cream is made with SolarSmart technology that fights the burning effects of UVA and UVB rays. It's also designed for sensitive skin.

12. Best high factor oil-free sunscreen

For the 'only 50-and-up-SPF, please' gang, this high protection Avene option will have you covered. Though it's made for the original purpose of protecting your skin, it's also a non-greasy and non-irritant lotion for those with blemish-prone skin.

13. Best oil-free sunscreen if you deal with hyperpigmentation

If your skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, in which certain patches of your skin become darker than others, then this dermatologist-strength formula is worth spending on. As well as protecting you from fresh damage, it also works to soothe the effects of previous harm from the sun.

Plus, it's boosted with Vitamins C and E, to catch you some extra glow.

14. Best oil-free water-resistant sunscreen



This lightweight daily formula is rapidly absorbed and is water-resistant, making it an ideal choice for sporty types who run, swim or train outdoors. It works by producing 30% less oil on the skin and also doubles up a primer under make-up. A real multitasking hero.

15. Best oil-free tinted sunscreen


For those that want an SPF that protects and conceals, look no further than this daily tinted moisturiser. It offers broad-spectrum pure mineral protection against UVA and UVB rays while delivering a hint of colour that subtly evens out skin tone and gives a healthy glow.

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