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Can Sunburn Cause Acne?

Sunburn and acne are two skin problems that can be both inconvenient and uncomfortable. The sun’s harmful UV rays can actually cause more than just red, swollen, and sensitive skin – but can sunburn cause acne?

I’m going to let you know whether sunburn causes acne, and how you can prevent potential breakouts. So, keep on reading to find out more…

Can Sunburn Cause Acne?

What Are Solar Comedones?

Solar comedones are a specific type of comedonal acne that occurs due to prolonged sun exposure. They can also be referred to as sun acne, senile comedones, Favre-Racouchot syndrome, or nodular elastosis with cysts and comedones.

Excessive sun exposure can lead to solar elastosis, a condition that causes the skin to appear yellowish, leathery, and develop deep furrows.

Solar comedones commonly affect the skin around the eyes, temples, and neck.

There are two types of solar comedones: closed (whiteheads) and open (blackheads). Closed comedones are whiteheads or plugged pores that are closed all over and appear as small white or skin-colored bumps.

Open comedones – also known as blackheads – occur when the pore is open, and the trapped sebum and dead skin cells oxidize, turning the exposed surface black.

Solar comedones form when the combination of dead skin cells and sebum clogs your hair follicles.

Prolonged sun exposure increases the likelihood of this blockage, making solar comedones more common in individuals with a history of excessive sun exposure and those with fair skin.

It’s essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding excessive sun exposure.

Bacteria can also contribute to the development of solar comedones. When bacteria invade the clogged pores, it can lead to inflammation and the formation of more severe acne lesions.

Solar lentigines, commonly known as sunspots or liver spots, might appear alongside solar comedones, highlighting the role of the sun in causing these skin conditions.

To treat solar comedones, your healthcare provider may recommend both topical and oral medications.

Topical treatments typically include retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, which help unclog pores and reduce excess sebum production. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to target the bacteria contributing to the acne.

Can Sunburn Cause Acne?

Sunburn itself doesn’t necessarily cause acne, but it can lead to conditions that contribute to the worsening of existing acne.

When your skin experiences sunburn, it goes through irritation and inflammation, which can make treating acne more difficult.

If you are using acne medications, some of them might not be as effective when your skin is sunburned, as they can be irritating to the skin themselves.

Moderate sun exposure can actually be beneficial for your skin. Adequate vitamin D levels, which can be achieved through moderate sun exposure, may potentially help with acne to some degree.

The sun’s UV rays may help kill acne bacteria and lessen inflammation, both of which could contribute to improving acne.

That being said, it’s essential to find a balance when it comes to sun exposure. While a tan can make your skin appear more even and temporarily hide dark pots or uneven texture.

Excessive sun exposure or sunburn can lead to skin damage and increase your risk of skin cancer, negating any potential benefits for acne.

Is It Normal To Get Pimples After Sunburn?

Is It Normal To Get Pimples After Sunburn?

Yes, it is normal to get pimples after sunburn. When your skin is sunburned, it becomes irritated and inflamed, which can lead to the formation of pimples. Sunburn does not necessarily worsen acne, but it can interfere with acne treatment, according to board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner.

Overexposure to the sun can damage your skin, especially if it’s already prone to acne. The sunburn may cause your skin to produce more oil, leading to an increase in pimples and breakouts.

Many acne medications can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, making you more susceptible to severe sunburns.

Protect your skin from sunburn by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day, even when it’s cloudy.

Also, avoid extended exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours from 10 am to 4 pm, when its rays are strongest.

If you have sunburned skin with pimples, you need to treat both conditions gently. For sunburn relief, try using an over-the-counter pain reliever and applying a cold compress or soothing aloe vera gel on the affected area.

For acne, you can continue using your regular acne treatments, but be gentle with your skin and avoid using harsh exfoliating scrubs, which may irritate the sunburn.

What Does Sun Exposure Do For Acne-Prone Skin?

When you have acne-prone skin, you may notice that your skin condition worsens during the warmer months. This is because sun exposure can have both positive and negative effects on acne.

Positive Effects of Sun Exposure

Moderate sun exposure essential for achieving adequate vitamin D levels in your body, which may potentially help with acne to some degree.

The sun’s UV rays can also help kill off acne-causing bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) and reduce inflammation, which can be beneficial for those with acne.

A tan can make your skin appear more even, temporarily hiding spots or uneven texture.

Negative Effects of Sun Exposure

Sun exposure can also cause more harm than good for acne-prone skin. Prolonged exposure to the sun can exacerbate skin conditions and even lead to sunburn.

Sunburn causes inflammation and pain as the skin tries to heal from damage caused by the sun’s harmful UV rays.

This inflammation can irritate acne-prone skin, potentially making breakouts worse.

A tan may provide the illusion of improved acne, but it can actually cause long-term damage to your skin.

Sun exposure can also dry out your skin, disrupting the natural balance of your skin’s microbiome and allowing opportunistic bacteria to thrive, leading to more breakouts.

How Long Does It Take For Sunburn Acne To Go Away?

How Long Does It Take For Sunburn Acne To Go Away?

Sunburn acne can be quite uncomfortable and unsightly, but don’t worry, it is temporary. The length of time it takes for sunburn acne to go away depends on the severity of the sunburn and your skin’s natural healing process.

Typically, sunburns appear within two to six hours after sun exposure, peaking within 24 hours, and fading within about 48 hours.

In cases of mild sunburns, you may notice an improvement in your acne in just a few days. However, more severe sunburns can result in blistering burns, which could take up to 10 days to heal.

During this time, your skin might be more prone to breakouts due to increased irritation and inflammation.

It’s essential to take proper care of your sunburned skin to help speed up the healing process and decrease the chances of acne outbreaks. Some steps you can follow include:

  • Use a gentle cleanser to clean the affected area without causing more irritation.
  • Apply a soothing moisturizer specially formulated for sunburned skin to keep it hydrated and promote faster healing. Look for ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile to provide a cooling effect.
  • Avoid using abrasive or harsh skincare products that could exacerbate the sunburn and acne.
  • Protect your skin from extra sun exposure by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when going outdoors.

Can The Sun Help Acne?

Sunlight may have a positive effect on acne. The sun’s UV rays can help kill acne bacteria and lessen inflammation.

This gives the impression of improved acne and might provide temporary relief. However, this benefit comes with a caveat.

While a limited amount of sun exposure might offer short-term improvements, too much sun can do more harm than good.

Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn, which is highly irritating to the skin. It’s essential to understand that anything that irritates the skin can lead to more acne as the skin tries to repair itself.

Sun exposure can also dry out your skin. At first, this might look like your acne is clearing up, but this effect is only temporary.

When your skin becomes too dry, it may respond by overproducing oil, which can clog pores and worsen acne.

The sun can cause damage beyond sunburns. The effects of sun damage accumulate over time and can take years to become visible.

Therefore, it’s best to limit your time in direct sunlight and always wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Can Sunscreen Clog Pores and Cause Acne?

Yes, certain sunscreens can cause acne by clogging your pores. This occurs because some sunscreens contain chemicals that irritate your skin, making it more susceptible to acne breakouts.

Not all sunscreens have this effect, and using the right type of sunscreen can help protect your skin from sunburn without causing acne.

When choosing a sunscreen for acne-prone skin, it’s essential to look for non-comedogenic products, which means they won’t clog pores.

It is advisable to avoid sunscreens containing lanolin, as this ingredient is known to create a film over the dermal layer, trapping dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil within the pores, which can worsen acne and breakouts.

Sunscreen is especially vital, if you’re using acne medications, as they can make your skin more sensitive to sunburn.

To avoid more irritation, opt for sunscreens with a physical block, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients provide broad-spectrum protection without clogging pores or causing breakouts.

How To Prevent Sunscreen Worsening Acne

How To Prevent Sunscreen Worsening Acne

When it comes to preventing sunburn and acne for oily skin or acne-prone skin, your best bet is to choose the right sunscreen for your skin.

Sunscreens are essential for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, but some may exacerbate acne if not chosen carefully. Here are a few tips on selecting and using sunscreen to avoid worsening your acne:

Opt for sunscreen with non-comedogenic ingredients: Non-comedogenic products are less likely to clog your pores and, consequently, less likely to cause acne. Look for sunscreens labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free” when shopping for suitable options.

Choose a sunscreen with a lightweight formula: Lightweight, watery sunscreens are less dense than thick, creamy ones and tend to be better for acne-prone skin. They allow the skin to breathe and reduce the chances of clogged pores.

Consider mineral sunscreens: Mineral sunscreens use physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect your skin from UV rays. These blockers are less likely to irritate the skin or cause breakouts compared to chemical sunscreens.

Apply sunscreen the right way: Use about a nickel-sized amount of sunscreen for your face and be sure to spread it evenly. Don’t forget to apply the sunscreen to your neck, ears, and hairline areas. Reapply it every two hours or immediately after sweating or swimming to ensure continuous protection.

Cleanse and moisturize your skin daily: Maintaining a consistent skincare routine is essential in managing acne. Make sure to cleanse your skin thoroughly at the end of each day to remove residual sunscreen, dirt, and excess oil that may contribute to breakouts. Also, use a non-comedogenic and oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.



Sunburn and acne can both be uncomfortable and inconvenient. While sunburn itself does not necessarily cause acne, it can worsen existing breakouts due to inflammation and irritation from UV rays.

Solar comedones are a specific type of comedonal acne that occurs due to prolonged sun exposure.

When your skin is sunburned, it’s essential to take proper care of it by using gentle cleansers, moisturizers specially formulated for sunburn relief, and avoiding harsh exfoliants that could irritate the skin.

Find balance when it comes to sun exposure. Avoid overexposure to the sun or any form of direct sunlight as this can do more harm than good in the long run.

Also, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 everyday for optimal skin protection against harmful UV rays without worsening your acne.

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