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There's a Right Way to Remove Sunscreen (And It'll Keep You Zit-Free)

Simply washing with soap and water won’t get all the SPF gunk off your skin. Follow these tips to cleanse completely and avoid pesky breakouts.

| June 26th, 2014

If you know what’s good for you, you slather on sunscreen every time you even think about stepping outside. Now that summer’s officially here and you’ll be slipping into something a little smaller, be it a teensy bikini or a short and airy sundress, there’s more exposed skin you’ll need to protect.

But at the end of the day, your focus should be on taking it all off. Sunscreen does its job when you’re out in the sun, but letting it hang out on your skin past that is a recipe for clogged pores and breakouts. Unfortunately, simply washing with soap and water isn’t going to cut it.

Dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi notes that especially after a day at the beach, when you’re applying sunscreen four or five times throughout the day and probably sweating a bit, too, you’ll need to use more than just your finger tips to get squeaky clean. “It definitely increases the risk of breaking out because you’re kind of trapping all that oil and dirt and everything in the sunscreen and it makes this film on the surface of the skin,” Dr. Tanzi says.

Keep in mind that not all sunscreens are made the same, celebrity facialist Sonya Dakar notes. “While they may have active SPF ingredients in common (titanium dioxide, etc.) the carrier creams or delivery systems will really differ. Some formulas (especially water-resistant) will really adhere to the skin,” she adds.

Chemical sunscreens might be a little easier to get off, Tanzi notes, since they get absorbed and broken down over time. But the thick, adhesive ingredients in physical sunscreen—namely zinc and titanium dioxide—sit pretty stubbornly on the surface of skin. “They’re hard to break down and get off,” says Tanzi.

So what’s a girl to do? Your best bet, Dakar says, is to use an oil-based cleanser. “This will break down the sunscreen formula, leaving skin clean and clear.”

In case you haven’t been schooled yet on the beauty of cleansing oils, they work by grabbing onto whatever oil is on your skin already (natural ones or from the products you’ve applied) forming a strong bond, so that when you rinse the cleanser off, it carries away all the gunky stuff with it.

To remove your sunscreen, Dakar suggests massaging an oil-based cleanser into your skin for one to two minutes. Then, gently remove the cleanser with a wash cloth soaked in warm water. “The cleanser will remove all the sunscreen,” she says.

If you're not into oils, a cleansing water used before washing will also help dissolve tough sunscreen.

Tanzi also recommends using some light exfoliation to help lift off any stubborn particles that may be lingering. A gentle washcloth with a cleansing oil will add that small bit of physical exfoliation. For your body, try a body scrub or use a loofa in the shower.

Not sure where to find the right oil-based cleanser? Check out some of our favorite facial and body cleansing oils in the gallery below.

 

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