Sweat-Proof Sunscreen Tricks That WON’T Clog Your Pores


FACT: Layering on heavy, water-resistant sunscreens to ensure they hold up to summer sweat and heat can cause breakouts, bumps and clogged pores. Add the challenge of figuring out exactly which type of sunscreen is best for your acne-prone skin only leaves you majorly confused. Sound familiar? No worries. Read on to learn about my unique layering technique along with sunscreen removal tricks. I developed this to ensure my sunscreen holds up while sweating and swimming—without clogging my pores.

For starters, there’s a common misconception that if you’re serious about preventing sun damage and aging smartly, you need to hide indoors and only come out at night. As someone who lives in Austin, a city well known for biking, hiking, and water activities, I can tell you I participate in all of these. But my skin never, ever burns or tans. And guess what? I’m a skin type #2, which means I am oily and occasionally get blemishes. Sunscreens SHOULD clog my pores and break me out. But I’ve discovered a special technique that prevents just that. Watch the video below for a full demonstration or simply read my step-by-step instructions included in this post.

My three-sunscreen layering technique:

Step 1. First, use a sunscreen that you know is compatible with your skin. After a thorough cleansing and toning, I always apply an antioxidant vitamin C serum. Vitamins are MUCH needed when you spend time outside. (My favorite Vitamin C&E Treatment is actually shown to provide four times the protection of sunscreen alone.) Next, I apply a generous layer of Daily Protection SPF 30 to my face, ears, neck and any other exposed areas.

A quick history on Daily Protection SPF 30: I couldn’t find a sunscreen that didn’t cause bumps and breakouts, so I developed this one back in 2000. I never got clogged pores again, and I still use it every single day of the year under makeup. While I like to change up my skincare routine, this is the one change I am just not willing to make because it works so well. Celebs like Demi Lovato, Sofia Vergara, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead swear by it!

There are TWO benefits to using Daily Protection SPF 30 (or your favorite sunscreen) on the skin first.
  1. It doesn’t contain pore-clogging ingredients, and whichever cream or lotion touches the skin first is the one that needs to be most agreeable with your skin. For my skin type, it’s the one least likely to clog my pores–Daily Protection SPF 30, since I know it doesn’t cause breakouts. Once you begin layering other sunscreens over it, less of the other potentially pore-clogging ingredients from other products will seep into the pores. So you’re less likely to have any problems.
  2. Because this sunscreen uses oxtinoxate, a chemical sunscreen, it protects from within the skin. This means it’s giving deep protection to the cells. It also uses zinc oxide, a physical block, making it lightweight while still deflecting rays off the skins’ surface. I believe using a hybrid sunscreen, one that has both chemical and physical blockers, is the very best way to protect the skin. It ensures that you’re getting the best of both worlds.

Step 2. Apply a water-resistant, sweat-proof sunscreen. I then layer on La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 which is a water-resistant sunscreen that I first discovered over in France. (Per the FDA, sunscreen products can no longer claim “water-proof.”) I like the way this one feels; it’s not too heavy on my skin and does not cause breakouts. It holds up with sweating and swimming for 80 minutes as long as you’ve applied it generously enough—which of course I do.

Step 3. Blot the skin. I use a tissue to lightly blot my skin. This removes any surface oil and tackiness that the water-resistant sunscreen might leave behind.

Step 4. Apply a water-resistant, physical sunscreen mineral powder. Because I’m so careful with protecting my skin, I add a third layer of sunscreen for even more protection. For this, I pour out ColorScience SPF 50 mineral powder onto a Toning Cloth or cotton round. I then pat the powder generously on my skin. It does come in a self-dispensing brush, but because I apply it after a slightly tacky water-resistant sunscreen, this can make the bristles get clumpy. The idea behind putting on the SPF powder is that it uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are both physical blockers. (You always want to use a physical sunscreen on top of every other product you use.) Again, these will make the sun’s rays bounce off the skin’s surface. The powder is also slightly tinted, so it evens out my skin tone AND holds up to sweat and water.

Read more about chemical vs physical sunscreens.

In summary, the end result of my layering technique using three sunscreens is that I will get inside-out protection from both chemical and physical sunscreens. These products will hold up with sweating and swimming, and most importantly won’t clog my pores… as long as I remove them properly.

Now you get to go enjoy your time outdoors! If you’re going to be outside longer than 80 minutes, which is how long the sunscreens will hold up, the easiest way to reapply is to use the ColorScience powder as needed. Just keep applying that generously, and it will hold up well with sweating and swimming. In fact, if you’ve applied enough of it, you’ll actually see the water or sweat bead up on your skin while the powder stays fully intact.

Note: Because I am recommending to use an SPF of 30, 60 and a 50, this doesn’t mean that the skin is getting an SPF of 140. When it comes to layering sunscreens, the scientific community is unsure as to exactly what SPF number this truly makes or exactly what protection you’re getting. However, it does ensure that you’re protecting every inch of your skin with generous applications and that’s the most important part.

How to properly remove sweat-proof sunscreen to prevent blemishes, bumps and clogged pores:

Wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from dangerous rays is important, but proper sunscreen removal is also crucial. Especially if you’re a skin type #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 or #6 (clogged-prone skin types), it’s absolutely essential that you clean out pores and use ingredients that will help disrupt the breakout cycle.

Step 1. Massage a generous amount of a lightweight cleansing lotion over DRY skin for 60 seconds. Don’t apply water just yet. Vitamin-Infused Cleansing Emulsion works beautifully for this, as you’ll see in the video. Then, wet your fingertips, massage through again, repeat and rinse off. Next, and the most important part, is to wipe over the skin with a facial sponge or gentle baby washcloth. You want to really lift off and remove what you have just dissolved. (You’ll see the ColoreScience powder appear on the washcloth, so you can really see it coming off.)

You need to use a cleanser that contains lightweight emollients (oils) because water-resistant sunscreens are not meant to break down with water. Water and oil don’t mix, right? Using a water-based gel or foaming cleanser will simply not draw the sunscreen’s ingredients out of the pores. I suggest avoiding the use of a very oily-based cleanser such as a balm. Balms can leave behind a residue, even if you wipe them off well. This will prevent the next products mentioned from being most effective.

Step 2. *Clear out the pores. You’ll now want to apply a layer of Rapid Response Detox Masque. This is a treatment that is unlike most every mask out there in that it removes bacteria from deep within the skin to help prevent potential breakouts. And what makes it ever more special is that it’s not a drying clay mask like most acne focused masks are. In fact, it’s incredibly soothing and hydrating which will always benefit the skin. (Skin cells are like fish and need water to live.) It’s so important that you perform this step as part of the blemish-prevention process to provide a total reset for your face. I like leaving it on for 15 minutes. If you’re in a rush, though, it’s been proven to only take 5 minutes to remove acne-causing bacteria.

*If you do have extra time, it’s beneficial to exfoliate prior to using the mask to remove any surface dry skin cell debris. This ensures that the mask can really perform its best and penetrate deep within the pore lining. Triple Berry Smoothing Peel works beautifully to exfoliate the skin. A gentle facial scrub can work well, too.

Did your sun spots or freckles show up from a day outside? Even with your skin completely protected, this can occur because HEAT (not just sun exposure) raises the skin’s internal temperature. This then stimulates melanin cells and results in increased pigment. This mask’s amazing benefit is that because it’s gel-based, it naturally retains a cool temperature. When applied, it calms down the heat-activated skin by sending a message to pigment cells to settle down. (You can keep it in the fridge for an extra cooling experience!) The mask also has lots of incredible anti-inflammatory, redness and puffiness-reducing properties which greatly benefit the skin. The result is a slowdown of the spots’ appearance. Read 7 Ways To Get Rid Of Sun Spots.

Step 3. Remove cleanser and tap water residue by using a toner. After rinsing off the mask, you now want to apply an alcohol-free toner. This serves to remove chlorine from the skin that’s found in tap water. Then, because your skin’s natural antioxidant supply has been depleted some from being outside (even if you applied a vitamin C serum pre-sun), you’ll want to restore it with essential vitamins. This could include applying a vitamin C serum again, or if it’s later in the day, I’ll use Firm + Repair Overnight Serum. This is loaded with potent vitamins found in super fruits and superfoods, but doesn’t cause breakouts.

Step 4. Lastly, apply a lightweight oil-free lotion. I use Sheer Moisture Lotion since I’m a skin type #2. It’s light, refreshing has antioxidants and feels great after a long day spent outside sweating.

The skin is now left feeling impeccably fresh and properly cleaned. You won’t have to worry about a post-sunscreen backlash of clogged pores, bumps, and blemishes. This is process works really well for my sensitive skin and I hope you find it works for yours, too.

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and see recommended products.

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