Updated 06/16/21. Do you feel as if your sunscreen is clogging your pores? Well, the truth is that it very well could be. For many people, regularly wearing water-resistant sunscreen—which they choose over non-water resistant formulas to hold up to summertime heat and sweat—can cause clogged pores, bumps, and breakouts. No fun!
In this post, I’ll share the unique sunscreen layering technique I use to prevent clogged pores, along with a few important sunscreen removal tips that can also make a difference. Since I’m someone who gets clogged pores easily, I developed this process for my own skin. It’s worked very well for me, and I hope it’s a success for you, too.
My Unique Sunscreen Layering Technique
It’s only four steps, but my sunscreen layering technique can keep your skin clear, protected, and bump-free!
Step 1: Apply a Non-Water Resistant Sunscreen That’s Compatible With Your Skin Type
Water-resistant sunscreens are notorious for including oily ingredients, which tend to block the pores, so you don’t want this kind of sunscreen touching your skin first. Instead, you’ll want to apply a non-water resistant sunscreen as your first layer. Make sure that it’s one that’s compatible with your skin and one that you enjoy wearing.
I love Weightless Protection SPF 30. It’s been one of the best-selling products in my skincare line since 2000 because it’s wearable under makeup, doesn’t feel greasy, and doesn’t cause breakouts. I apply it every single day without fail.
No matter which formula you use, be sure to cleanse, tone, and apply a vitamin C & E serum before applying sunscreen. Once that’s done, apply a generous layer of SPF. The keyword here is generous. Make sure you’re applying the correct amount to your face, neck, and chest. After all, it’s not so much about the SPF number as it is about how much and how often you’re applying. Don’t skimp on sunscreen.
Step 2: Apply a Water-Resistant, Sweat-Proof Sunscreen Over Top of the First Sunscreen
Give the first sunscreen time to settle into your skin. Then, seal it in with a water-resistant formula. The idea is that this layer sits atop the skin’s surface as a kind of sunscreen topcoat without slipping into (and clogging) your pores.
When it comes to water-resistant sunscreen, I like La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60. It’s a water-resistant formula I first discovered in France many years ago but is now available in the States. I like the way this one feels; it’s not too heavy on my skin and doesn’t cause any bumps or breakouts. It holds up to sweating and swimming for 80 minutes as long as it’s applied generously enough.
Note: per the FDA, sunscreens can no longer be labeled as “waterproof,” so you’ll see “water-resistant” instead.
Step 3: Blot Your Skin With a Tissue
This removes any surface oil and tackiness that water-resistant sunscreen might leave behind. Essentially, it de-greases the skin and prepares it for the final step in my special sunscreen layering technique. Just be sure to use a light touch during this step. Don’t swipe or rub at the skin—just blot.
Step 4: Apply a Water-Resistant Sunscreen Powder
Applying a layer of powder sunscreen over top of the first two sunscreens ensures your skin is really protected from the sun. It can also keep your skin from feeling cakey or greasy. For this step, I like using ColoreScience Brush-On SPF 50. It comes in a self-dispensing brush, but since it’s being applied over a slightly tacky, water-resistant sunscreen, the bristles can get a little clumpy. So, I’ll pour a little out into the palm of my hand and pat it on my skin using a toning cloth or cotton round.
Since SPF powder uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physical blockers, it works great as your last step to make the sun’s rays bounce off the skin’s surface (read about the pros and cons of physical vs. chemical sunscreens). It’s also incredibly easy to reapply—simply dust on the mineral powder every 90 minutes. It will even hold up to sweat and swimming since mineral powders tend to be water-resistant. In fact, you can actually see sweat and water bead up on the skin while the powder stays put.
Note: Colorescience only has a few shades so it can be difficult to get a good match for your skin tone. If you can’t get an exact match, look around and see what other SPF-infused powders you can find. There are others out there, including translucent options!
Why This Sunscreen Layering Technique Works
This technique offers UV protection from both chemical and physical sunscreens and ensures that UV protection will hold up through sweating and swimming. It also won’t clog pores or cause bumps and breakouts—well, as long as you remove the sunscreen properly (read on for removal instructions).
I want to mention that just because I’m recommending that you use an SPF 30, 60, and 50, doesn’t mean your skin is getting a combined SPF of 140. When it comes to layering sunscreens, the scientific community is unsure as to exactly what SPF number results. However, it does ensure you’re getting good protection.
How to Properly Removed Layered Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin from UV rays. However, proper sunscreen removal is also important, especially if your skin type is #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, or #6. These are skin types that are prone to clogged pores, which is why it’s absolutely essential that you thoroughly clean your skin and use skincare ingredients that will help disrupt the blemish cycle.
Step 1: Cleanse Your Skin Using a Lightweight Cleansing Lotion on Dry Skin for 60 Seconds
The type of cleanser you choose is SO important. You need to use a cleanser that contains lightweight emollients (oils), instead of a water-based cleanser. The reason for this is that water-resistant sunscreens contain emollients that are designed to repel water. So, if you use a water-based cleanser to remove a water-resistant sunscreen, it won’t break down the sunscreen properly, which means you won’t be cleaning your pores properly.
Apply a cleanser that contains emollients to dry skin—don’t add water just yet. Massage it thoroughly over your skin for 60 seconds. Then, wet your fingertips, massage it through again, and rinse off. The most important part comes next. Wipe the skin with a facial sponge or gentle baby washcloth. This will lift away with you have just dissolved. (In the video at the end of the post, you’ll see the ColoreScience powder appear on the washcloth. This cleanser really removes it nicely so you can feel confident that it’s not hanging out in your pores).
Massage it thoroughly over the face for 60 seconds. 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. (In the video down below at the end of this post, you’ll see the ColoreScience powder appear on the washcloth. The cleanser I use, which is the Renée Rouleau Vitamin-Infused Cleansing Emulsion, really removes it nicely so you can feel confident that it’s not hanging out in your pores.)
Step 2: Treat Your Pores to a Cleansing Mask
If water-resistant sunscreen is clogging your pores, your skin will really benefit from a deep pore-cleansing mask. You’ll want to find one that contains salicylic acid. This ingredient is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) and since it’s oil-soluble, it can penetrate into the pore lining to clear trapped debris that can lead to bumps and breakouts. Apply the mask to your entire face and leave it on for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Apply a Toner and Antioxidant Serum
After rinsing off the mask, apply an alcohol-free toner. Then, apply a powerful repairing serum. Since your skin’s natural antioxidant supply has been depleted from being outside (this is the case even if you applied a vitamin C serum in the morning), you want to restore it with essential vitamins. This could mean applying a vitamin C serum again.
Step 4: Lastly, Apply a Lightweight Oil-Free Lotion
At this stage, there have been a lot of emollients on your skin, from the water-resistant sunscreen to the emollient cleansing lotion, so you’ll want to hydrate your skin with something lightweight and oil-free, like the Renée Rouleau Skin Recovery Lotion.
The skin is now properly cleaned and left feeling impeccably fresh. What’s more is that you won’t have to worry about a post-sunscreen backlash of clogged pores, bumps, and blemishes. This process works really well for my sensitive skin that’s prone to clogged pores, and I hope it works for yours, too.
To see this whole routine in action, click below to watch a step-by-step tutorial.
Are you noticing sun spots and freckles appearing on your skin, even though you’re slathering on sunscreen? Read all about how you can prevent sun spots from appearing in the first place.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”