Holy grail skincare for sensitive, acne prone skin

I am looking to change my daily moisturizer/suncreen. I’d like a combination moisturizer & suncreen product, but maybe I should use a separate moisturizer & sunscreen? What is the advantage of doing that? I enjoy multipurpose products, but am concerned that I’m not going to be able to find some that I’ll be happy with.
I’ve mainly used Paula’s Choice (PC), Birchbox & the SkincareAddiction Reddit for products to consider. I researched so many products over the last few months that I finally had to start a list to keep track! Below are the products I’m considering, have used in the past and what I have eliminated.

My criteria & background on my skin:

view of acne on my neck and chin.
This is my skin several months ago. Acne is not terrible, but it was caused by fragrance/oil in my conditioner. This took six months to develop. I’d really like to find a the right product and not have to start my search all over again in six months.

I have sensitive skin so I need something that is non-irritating. I have had acne since I was in middle school, 1 round of Accutane back in the day, which helped a bunch but it didn’t clear up 100%. I also have oily skin, so I’m really concerned with the finish & wearability under makeup. However, I only wear makeup maybe once a week & rarely to work (in an office) because it always seems to melt off. I also hate the feeling of heavy products on my face. Additionally, tints usually are too dark for me as I am a redhead. As for physicals vs. chemical, I would prefer physical as they provide longer protection, but am still considering chemical as long as it is good for my skin & leaves a finish I can deal with. I’d also like to note that I

Considering one of these, but none are a slam-dunk:

CeraVe SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion– PC claims that it has a preservative that can be sensitizing methylisothiazolinone, suitable for normal to dry skin & can leave possibly horrible white cast – waterproof – Current 2nd choice as it is probably too moisturizing & I could use this for long days in the sun (pool/beach) if I don’t like it for everyday – Titanium Dioxide 4.9%, Zinc Oxide 4.7%
PC – Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 – sheer tint – soft matte finish – no primer needed & good for sensitive & acne prone skin – ideal for those struggling with wrinkles BUT has reviews that it turns orange & the tint is too dark for light skin – Zinc Oxide 13%

***current front runner: PC – Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30 – fresh matte finish – better than winkle defense for those prone to breakouts, more moisturizing than the Super Light (above) & anti-wrinkle but could irritation based on reviews? Thinking this was reactions to the chemical sunscreen, but it similar to what I use now. Contains lots of silicones. Oxybenzone 4%; Avobenzone 3%; Homosalate 7%; and Octocrylene 2%

Neutrogena Pure & Free Liquid Daily Sunscreen SPF 50 – Surprisingly light, but lacks good skincare ingredients. I’ve never been happy with the texture of the Neutrogena Sheer Dry Touch SPF 45 that I use when at the beach, so I am hesitant to give this a try. Would need an additional moisturizer. Titanium Dioxide (5%), Zinc Oxide (3%)

MDSolarScience – Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen – would need a separate moisturizer and is silicone based. I’ve used a silicone serum for the last few weeks & have developed some milli that may be caused by the silicone? Titanium Dioxide 1.5%, Zinc Oxide 17.0%

Derm-E Deep Wrinkle Peptide Moisturizer SPF 30 – feels thick & possibly too drying, double strike. But, keeps this up here because mineral only – Zinc Oxide 18%

Others I have tried before and did not like: 

Cetaphil DermaControl SPF30 – not moisturizing – What I currently use, but it doesn’t work well under makeup & isn’t moisturizing enough. I’ve also never been super happy with the finish, a bit of sheen in the morning & am oily by the end of the day. – Avobenzone 3%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%
Neutrogena, basically all of them, never happy with the finish, but it has been a few years.

Aveeno, cannot stand the smell, some have feverfew which I’m sensitive to because of my ragweed allergy

Simple – mild sensitivity to their Ultralight Gel Moisturizer (no spf) – caused tightness after application that develops into warmth/redness after several hours so didn’t want to try any of the others.

Cotz – Flawless Complexion SPF 50 – sampled from Birchbox – not a moisturizer, crazy scary SHINE & felt heavy- I think the SPF 40 ones may have a better texture, but they don’t say the are good for acne-prone skin like this one & have quite a bit of titanium dioxide – this one is Zinc Oxide 20%

Coola – sampled from Birchbox, not impressed or contain fragrance or too dark tint. Considering moving the unscented face SPF up to products to consider.

Dr. Jart – sampled from Birchbox, not impressed & too dark tint

Eliminated these from my search for the reasons stated :

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Lotion with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 – contains fragrance

PC – Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30 – contains Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract which is related to ragweed (I’m allergic) and can cause a skin reaction. (ZO/TDO)

PC -Resist Cellular Defense Daily Moisturizer with SPF 25 & Antioxidants – best for normal to dry (not my skin) – physical sunscreen (TDO)

PC-Clear Ultra-Light Daily Fluid SPF 30– contains Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract which is related to ragweed (I’m allergic) and can cause a skin reaction.

Clinique City Block Sheer Oil-Free Daily Face Protector Broad Spectrum 25 SPF – good for normal to dry (not my skin type) – tinted – Titanium Dioxide (7.3%), Zinc Oxide (6.9%)

Skinceuticals – Physical-Fusion-UV-Defense-SPF-50 – tinted too dark for lighter skin – Titanium Dioxide (6%), Zinc Oxide (5%)

Exuviance-by-Neostrata – Sheer Daily Protector Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA – similar to skinceuticals, feels heavier but has more skincare additives but not good for breakout prone skin – physical sunscreen – Titanium Dioxide 7.0%, Zinc Oxide 6.0%

Philosophy – Miracle Worker SPF 50 Miraculous Anti-Aging Fluid – expensive! good for oily & breakout prone skin – Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (2%), Oxybenzone (6%)

Kate Sommerville – Serum Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ – expensive! lightweight thin lotion that spreads easily with a soft matte finish – Homosalate, (10%), Oxybenzone (6%), Octysalate (5%), Avobenzone (3%), Octocrylene (2%)

PC – Resist Youth-Extending Daily Fluid SPF 50 – contains Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract – Octinoxate 7.50%, Octisalate 5.00%, Octocrylene 2.00%, Avobenzone 2.00%

Edit: Found a few more! 

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 – lightweight, but silicone based. – 9% Zinc oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate

Peter Thomas Roth – Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30 – intriguing product, but Amazon review say the applicator is terrible and there’s practically no product in the tube. Also the percent of mineral ingredients can be problematic for acne-prone skin. – Titanium Dioxide (13.65%), Zinc Oxide 14.70%

Supergoop – Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil Broad Spectrum SPF 50 – another intriguing product, but it contains irritating oils – Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%, and Octinoxate 7.5%

For the TLDR:

Am I missing any combination moisturizer/sunscreens in my research? I’d like to stay away from anything with fragrance, that can clog pores or cause irritation. Not too picky on physical vs. chemical, but would prefer less Titandium dioxide as Zinc oxide is supposedly gentler, but honestly I’ve never used a physical sunscreen for a long period of time, so I’m not sure how my skin reacts. I hate buying products that don’t work. I always feel bad returning them!

Have you used any of these and love/hate them? Or do you like another product missing from my list?


2 thoughts on “Holy grail skincare for sensitive, acne prone skin

  1. I’m still searching for the perfect sun protection/moisturiser but have found bb creams are pretty good for me as they’re lighter and don’t feel like I have anything on my skin but don’t have that high spf. My skin’s almost the opposite of yours in that it’s dry/very dry especially in the summer and winter but I have bad acne without medication. I’m trying a Hawaiian tropic face sun cream at the moment which is going quite well but it does have a bit of fragrance to it and can leave me greasy even though it says it’s possibly a base for makeup so looking for others to try too.


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