Does the Sun Help Acne?

October 19, 2022

Woman in the sun wonders "Does the sun help acne?"

There are many rumors and myths surrounding the benefits of sun exposure for the skin. According to Dr. Iviensan “Ivie” Manalo of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Peoria and Goodyear, AZ, “More than a century ago, polite ladies wouldn’t be caught out in the sun without wide-brimmed hats and parasols. People have known for a very long time that the sun impacts our skin in many negative ways. A few decades ago, tan skin became very popular. Many people believed that tanning beds offered a safe alternative to full sun exposure. Others lathered up with tanning oils before laying out to develop their base tan for the summer. This sun-related misinformation is prevalent, especially with so many people getting skincare tips and recommendations from social media influencers and other less-than-reputable sources. While limited sun exposure can have some positive effects on the skin, including benefits in clearing acne breakouts, it’s extremely important to remember that the sun also causes damage to the skin.” In this blog, Dr. Manalo will discuss some of the potential benefits of sun exposure for acne clearance as well as offer tips to clear acne safely and protect skin from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Sun Exposure & Acne

When it comes to the benefits of sun exposure on acne, Dr. Manalo says, “The main reason people believe that the sun is beneficial for acne is that UV ray damage destroys bacteria that contribute to the development of pimples, especially deeper and more severe breakouts. This can cause pimples to clear up. Additionally, sun damage suppresses the skin’s immune response, which can help to reduce the appearance of redness and inflammation associated with acne. However, it’s important to note that both of these skin health benefits are caused by sun damage. While there are some short-term benefits to sun exposure during an acne breakout, remember that the sun damages skin cells every time we’re exposed. Even the perceived rewards of sun exposure increase the risk of damage later. Specifically, while the sun may help to clear up a breakout, damage from UV rays may increase the risk for acne scarring compared with other treatment options. Additionally, the suppressed immune response that decreases inflammation temporarily can also increase the risk for infection, leading to breakouts that are longer lasting and more painful. Finally, many acne treatments can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. This means the skin is more likely to burn during acne treatment. In short, the temporary benefits of sun exposure for acne-prone skin definitely do not outweigh the long-term damage caused by sun exposure.”

The Sun’s Full Impact on Skin

While the positive effects of a golden tan or slightly less noticeable pimples may seem like a benefit that’s worth the risk, sun exposure can cause a lot of damage. In addition to the short-term impact of sun exposure like sunburns, UVA and UVB damage is responsible for numerous skin health issues. Skin cancer is probably the most well-known risk associated with UVA and UVB damage. When the sun’s UV rays damage the skin, it changes the cellular DNA, leading to irregular replication and the formation of tumors as well as other potential health risks. According to skin cancer statistics published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. Sun damage is the leading cause of skin cancer, so it’s important to minimize exposure to reduce skin cancer risk.

In addition to skin cancer, the sun also damages the skin by leading to accelerated signs of aging like premature development of fine lines and wrinkles. Sun exposure may also cause hyperpigmentation, dark spots on the skin. While there are some minor benefits to sun exposure, it’s always best to reduce your risk for sun damage to protect the health of your skin and whole body.

Tips for Protecting Skin from Sun Damage

Because sun exposure can cause so much damage, Dr. Manalo recommends, “Sun protection should be an essential part of every person’s skincare routine, but it’s especially important for people with acne-prone skin. The first step is to make sure you’re applying sunscreen every day to areas of the skin that are exposed to sunlight. You should choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that is oil-free or listed as non-comedogenic.”

In addition to daily sunscreen application, you can also take the following steps to minimize sun damage:

  • Limit sun exposure during peak hours between 10 am and 4 pm
  • Wear sunglasses and/or hats to protect the eyes and face from sun damage
  • Wear gloves to protect hands while working outdoors
  • Seek shade periodically during prolonged sun exposure to diminish the risk of sunburn and other damage

Tips for Preventing & Clearing Up Acne Breakouts

Rather than relying on sun exposure to help clear up skin during an acne breakout, keep the following dermatologist-approved acne skin care tips in mind:

  • Care for skin consistently – In order to prevent breakouts and reduce the severity of acne breakouts, it’s important to work with a dermatologist to establish and maintain a consistent daily skincare routine. Specifically, be sure to wash your skin in the morning and evening, use treatments as recommended, and apply a good moisturizer.
  • Be gentle – Don’t use unnecessarily harsh cleansers or treatments, apply skincare products gently, and avoid popping pimples. Inflammation and infection can make acne breakouts significantly worse, and it’s easy to irritate skin by picking at and popping blemishes.
  • Keep up with the basics – Stay hydrated, eat a nutrient-rich diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Dehydration, malnutrition, stress, and generally poor health can all negatively impact skin health. It’s important to take self-care steps to maintain your overall health and skin health.

Interested in Learning More?

If you’re struggling to clear a particularly bad acne breakout or looking for ways to prevent breakouts before they begin, it may be time to partner with a dermatologist to develop a personalized daily skincare routine. At U.S. Dermatology Partners, our skilled, local practitioners offer their expertise to help people struggling with acne achieve and maintain clear, healthy skin. You can learn more or get started with us by completing our online scheduling request and inquiry form. Once our local office hears from you, we’ll be in touch to answer any questions and set up your first visit.

Find a location near me


Find a location