How do I keep my skin from breaking out after I use sunscreen?

We all agree that sunscreen is a must have skin care step (and product). We have all heard about the risk of skin cancer and the premature skin ageing that can happen when we skip the sun protection step in our daily life. Yet for me personally, one of the key issues with sunscreens are the way they feel on my skin throughout the day and how my skin can break out after I use some of them.

I am a chemist so I know which ones make me break out.  I am also an active sailor which means, in the intense Australian sun while on the water, I really have no choice but to protect my skin.

Let me throw in a quick education here. There are two types of sunscreens, Chemical and Mineral ones. Manufacturers of sunscreen are very limited on what ingredients they can use (at certain levels) to claim the sun protection factors that we are all familiar with.

The whiteish pasty ones are usually the mineral sunscreens made with Zinc oxide or Titanium Dioxide or a blend of both. This type forms a physical barrier on the skin and therefore prevents the harmful rays reaching your skin cells. The problem with mineral sunscreen is that they can be very visible on your skin and give you a ghostly look! unless you are using the ones with nano-particles.  The use of the ‘nano’ version of the Zinc makes it more invisible, but it has created its own problems which we will not get into in this blog.

The chemical sunscreens (with hydrocarbon structure) like Avobenzone or Oxybenzone will absorb the harmful rays and prevent them from getting into your skin cells but they can cause a stinging problem when they get in the eye. They are aesthetically more pleasing and do have a much better feel on the skin. 

One of the key aspects of a good sunscreen is the film formers or other additives that are used in the formulation to keep the sunscreen in place and give it a waterproof claim.  Look for cross polymers on your ingredient list. This is absolutely necessary when sunscreen is used in water sports or the beach environment.

So you see the dilemma, the very thing that is necessary to give me protection is what is causing me a breakout on my skin.  I do my best to stay away from sunscreens formulated with herbal extracts that are packed with naturally occurring chemicals, any one of which can cause me skin irritation and reaction. I keep it simple. Yet, other than trying 100s of different sunscreens to see if any of them actually work with my skin, I have resolved the issue by using BOA after each application. As soon as I am indoor and taking a shower after my sport I use BOA to totally exfoliate and get rid of the elements in the sunscreen that cause the breakout on my skin. 

In addition I make sure to wear long sleeves shirts and other physical barriers like a hat to protect my skin.