Will Sun Exposure Cause Acne? The Beach, Sun, and Acne

July 24, 2020 0 Comments

sun exposure and acne

Acne can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Most adults and teens have acne at some point in their life and have most likely tried a variety of home and commercial remedies. Sunbathing has long been touted as a home remedy.  

Anyone with acne has been told to stay out of the sun and limit swimming. The sun damages our skin and swimming may dry out and irritate our skin. To lessen the harsh sun rays we are told to wear sunscreen. Having oily skin, it was hard to find a good sunscreen that wouldn't make my skin oilier.

It was clogging my pores and made my face look pale.

Many people believe that lying out in the sun and getting a tan may help treat acne. Since getting a tan can help hide the discoloration acne can cause, and sun exposure sometimes dries up excess oil, it may look like the sun is helping to clear up the skin. However, both of these benefits are temporary -- and once they disappear, acne can flare up and even worsen because of the damage caused by ultraviolet light.

Does going to the beach or getting extra sun really help with our acne? Or not at all?


Many people believe that the sun exposure can dry out our acne-causing oil and cure breakouts. Tanning yourself can temporarily hide the blemishes on your face. Yes, it may work in the short run but exposing your skin too much in the sun will have its consequences and cause more breakouts.

If you get whiteheads, blackheads or any other form of acne, you’ve probably heard someone recommend spending more time in the sun. 

At first, it can seem like good advice. Spending time enjoying the sun tends to dry out your skin because of blue light, making the sebum that can produce acne less of a problem. Getting tanned can possibly make acne less visible, but it is still there. 

Here are some reasons why exposing your skin too much under the sun is a bad idea:

  • Risk of sunburn can cause flacky skin build up and more dead skin cells that clog pores and cause more breakouts.
  • Too much sun exposure causes unwanted skin inflammation.
  • The sun can cause dark spots and scarring to appear after pimples heal.
  • Excess sun exposure puts you at risk for skin cancer and premature skin aging.
  • Sunbathing in the heat leads to sweating, giving bacteria a place to thrive and causing more breakouts.
  • If you’re taking certain medications or topicals for acne, your skin can be more sensitive to UV light, making it burn faster and more prone to sun damage.

Exposing your skin under the sun has both its positive and negative effects.

Positive Effects of Sun:

Sunlight in moderation is good for our bodies and our minds. It’s an important source of Vitamin D which is essential for many of the vital processes in our body such as the development of healthy bones and a healthy immune system. 

Other positive effects of sun exposure aside from Vitamin D include enhancing your mood, treating seasonal depression or seasonal effective disorder and relieving stress.

Many people report clearer skin after being out in the sun. This report may be due to the light from the sun reducing sebum, thus reducing breakouts if red and blue light therapy works these individuals.  It might be also be as a result of the sun increasing vitamin d levels if someone is deficient.  Many people take vacation during the summer and may associate the sun to clearer skin. However it may be reduced stress could be the reason for clearer skin, but it doesn't apply to everyone. 

Negative Effects Of Sun:

Everyone’s skin type varies from one another. We’re all individuals, and our skin is as different as we are, so what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the next. For every acne patient who says their skin improves in the sun, you’ll meet another who says their skin condition is worse during the sunny and warm months. 

Acne is not the only thing people need to guard against: The sun is constantly emitting ultraviolet light that can create free radicals and lead to health concerns, such as sun damage, skin cancer, and premature aging.

Another negative effect of too much sun exposure would be that the skin cells on the surface harden and interfere with the natural process by which dead skin cells are shed. They also prevent the sebum from being able to drain in the process, hence leading to development of comedones.

In fact, it’s a common acne myth that’s been holding back people with acne (and causing plenty of sunburn) for decades. Worse yet, spending too much time in the sun could even make your acne worse than it already is.

Sun exposure may reduce inflammation in the body but the truth is that over time, the sun breaks down skin collagen, opens pores making your pores more susceptible to blackheads as well as makes your skin more difficult to repair itself which increases your chances of acne scarring, also making your acne scarring more noticeable and darker.

Solar radiation causes oxidative damage, which accumulates over the years and promotes skin aging. So sunscreen is essential for two reasons: to prevent the formation of free radicals and to prevent the photosensitivity of the skin. 

Too much of the drying out affect can worsen acne too . "The sun exposure will also cause dehydration, which in turn stimulates oil production as your skin tries to correct the issue. That, of course, means you will end up with another breakout."

Other negative effects or setbacks of sun exposure are: sun damage to the eyes,  sunburn, and heat rash.

Life is all about balance and this idea applies just as strongly to sun exposure as it does to other areas of life. At this time of crisis, most of us may not be lucky enough to get to go to beach to get those daily doses of Vitamin Ds but if you are living somewhere where there is plenty of sunshine, then stepping out for a few minutes a day will suffice. Small, daily doses of sunshine are definitely beneficial for skin and health, as the sun is a good source of vitamin D and mood stabilizer. Prolonged exposure, however, can have damaging long-term effects so a good balance goes a long way.