Did you know you can get a tan while wearing sunscreen?
But which is the best SPF for tanning?
Or, more importantly, what’s the best SPF for tanning without burning?
We’ll answer those questions and more below in the reviews of the best sunscreen for tanning.
How can you tan without burning?
Anyone with pale skin might wonder how they can tan without getting sunburned.
The trick is twofold: sunscreen and patience.
Tanning outdoors is tricky because the UV index fluctuates. Then, it’s not just the sun’s rays but also the reflection of the light off the water and other surfaces.
Therefore, it’s crucial to wear sunscreen to tan without burning.
It’s also essential to be patient. Lay out for a limited amount of time as you build a base tan. Stick to 15 or 20 minutes if you’re outdoors in the hot sun.
Staying out longer only results in painful, reddened skin that peels off later. Being sunburned doesn’t get you tan faster; it injures your body. It also makes you miss valuable time as you recover.
How does sunscreen help you tan?
It’s a no-brainer – sunscreen limits the amount of UV radiation that reaches your skin (1).
That’s good as it let you enjoy the outdoors for longer without burning. But how can that help you tan?
For example, SPF30 protection doesn’t block 100% of UV radiation. It allows 3% of UVB rays to penetrate. (UVB is what causes sunburn.)
But the SPF rating only applies to UVB radiation, not UVA. And UVA is what makes you tan. It’s what tanning beds use to bronze you.
That’s why most sunscreens provide “broad-spectrum protection” against the sun. They include ingredients that defend against UVA, too.
If you want to tan faster in the sun, you need sunscreen with less UVA protection for tanning but plenty of UVB to prevent sunburn.
Which is the best sunscreen for tanning?
If you’re getting sunscreen with the idea of preventing sunburn and developing a sun-kissed glow, you need to do some research. On the other hand, you could scroll through the reviews below since we did the research already.
We found sunscreens that don’t just filter out harmful radiation. They moisturize, provide antioxidants, and some include tanning accelerators as well.
If your skin is well-hydrated and nourished, it will tan better and faster.
How to use sunscreen for tanning?
When you tan with sunscreen, you still need to use it properly. Skimping on or skipping an application will not make you tan faster but rather get you sunburned (2).
Apply as much as you need to protect your skin. Generally, that means a golf-ball-sized glob for your whole body.
Then, put more on after you go swimming or sweat a lot. If you’re outside for longer, reapply every two hours.
Best Sunscreen for Tanning in 2023
Check out the reviews below to learn more about tanning with sunscreen.
Australian Gold Spray Oil Sunscreen SPF 4
One of the best tanning sunscreen sprays is made by Australian Gold. It has a low SPF that’s most suitable for medium to dark skin tones.
If you have pale skin, don’t try to tan with it for more than 15 minutes.
It contains tanning intensifiers like carrot oil, which stimulates melanin production. The more melanin or pigment, the better the tan.
It’s also packed with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that cause wrinkles and age spots. The antioxidants come from exotic natural ingredients like tea tree oil and kakadu plum.
Besides, how can you resist the Cocoa Dreams creamsicle fragrance?
Reviewers say it’s a bit greasy, but it helped them tan more quickly than usual.
Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer SPF 4
Here’s another of the best sunscreens for tanning outside. With an instant bronzer, it makes you look like you have a base tan already.
It protects against premature aging and sunburn with moisturizers and antioxidants. It has Vitamin C from kakadu plum, and keeps the skin fresh and clean with tea tree oil.
What’s more, it has a sheer texture that absorbs in moments. It never feels sticky or greasy.
The formula is free of harsh ingredients like phthalates, oxybenzone, PABA, and gluten. It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
The fragrance is Cocoa Dreams, a blend of orange, coconut, and vanilla.
Panama Jack Sunscreen Tanning Lotion – SPF 4
Panama Jack has been helping sun lovers get bronzed for decades.
The low-SPF formula hydrates the skin with natural oils and antioxidants. It has a tropical fragrance and a soothing texture.
You can enjoy it in the water for up to 80 minutes before you need to reapply. Happily, it’s reef-friendly. It won’t poison wildlife in waterways.
Plus, it’s free of PABA, parabens, gluten, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and retinyl palmitate to protect sensitive skin.
Bronzo Sensuale SPF 4 Reef-Safe Sunscreen
This sunscreen has a secret. It contains organic carrot oil to accelerate pigment production.
It doesn’t just defend against sunburn; it will help you bronze faster.
It leaves the skin smooth and younger-looking with rich natural ingredients like hemp, aloe, and shea butter. All of those are certified organic as well.
There are no phthalates, mineral oil, parabens, PABA, octinoxate, or animal ingredients.
I’m not surprised that it repeatedly wins the Best Natural and Organic Beauty Brand each year.
ALOE UP SPF 4 Dark Tanning Oil
If you have well-hydrated skin, you can tan faster. This sunscreen oil ensures that your skin is conditioned and healthy.
It’s based on aloe vera gel plus avocado and coconut oil. It absorbs quickly, it won’t clog pores, and it doesn’t feel greasy.
Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 Sunscreen
Hawaiian Tropic is a name we all associate with sunscreen. But did you know they had a version with a low sun protection factor?
It holds up in the water for up to 80 minutes.
Furthermore, it has the classic tropical coconut fragrance that tells your mind to relax.
Although it’s a mass-produced commercial product, it still takes time out to pamper the skin with aloe and exotic extracts.
Banana Boat Sunscreen Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil – SPF 4
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t want to take the time to rub in oil or lotion. I get tired of feeling greasy and sticky.
I found that this spray oil is convenient and easy to use. It goes on fast and dries in a flash. You can even hold the can upside down while you spray.
The formula contains banana, carrot, and coconut oil to nourish the skin.
It’s reef-safe to avoid harming corals, too.
Coppertone Tanning Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 8
Let’s go up a notch to SPF 8 sunscreen. Again, it’s best for medium to dark skin tones.
Coppertone has a lot of experience making sunscreen. They’ve developed this one so that it’s not greasy and won’t stain your clothes.
Other than that, it’s pretty basic. It has a little aloe and vitamin E to soothe the skin.
Hampton Sun SPF 8 Gel
For a luxurious experience in the sunshine, you should try Hampton Sun. It’s a premium product sold in Las Vegas hotel shops.
If you’ve been to Nevada, you know how strong the sun gets there and how dry the air is. It’s crucial to have an excellent moisturizer with plenty of antioxidants.
Even though this has a refreshing gel texture, it’s infused with aloe, jojoba, and walnut oil. This cocktail of natural ingredients fortifies the skin against damage. That way, you can relax while you sunbathe.
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 15
Let’s move up to the best sunscreens for tanning pale skin. They have SPF 15 or higher. They only allow 7% of the harmful rays to penetrate the skin. It’s enough for tanning, but hopefully not enough for burning if you don’t stay out too long.
This one has been approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an effective sunscreen.
Like many similar products, it’s enriched with vitamin E. That’s a necessary antioxidant that promotes healing and prevents photoaging.
The oil-free formula stays on in the water for up to 80 minutes.
Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 15
What’s the difference between a sport sunscreen spray and a lotion? Besides the obvious, the sport version won’t run into your eyes when you sweat or get wet.
You can go swimming with it for up to 80 minutes, too.
Although it’s not as hydrating as a lotion, it’s straightforward to apply in moments.
Coppertone Tanning Sunscreen Lotion SPF 15
Why might you choose Coppertone over Hawaiian Tropic? I’m guessing it would be because of the price or the fragrance. But it’s a hard choice as they are both inexpensive and they smell tropical.
Like the competition, the sunscreen is infused with vitamin E to protect the skin. It’s also suitable for sweating or swimming for up to 80 minutes.
Coppertone SPORT Continuous Sunscreen Spray SPF 15
Of course, Coppertone makes a sport spray that’s handy if you hate having sunscreen in your eyes. It’s water-resistant for 80 minutes.
It provides broad-spectrum defense against UVA and UVB, so it’s a little harder to tan with this product.
Sun Bum Original SPF 15 Sunscreen
Sun Bum’s sunscreen is reef-safe because it lacks octinoxate and oxybenzone. Both of those chemical filters harm corals and wildlife in the water. Therefore, you can use this product in Hawaii.
Moreover, it’s good for the skin as it contains plenty of moisturizers and vitamin E. There’s no gluten or parabens in it, either.
Plan on using three tablespoons of the lotion to cover your whole body. Otherwise, it won’t be as effective.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer & Neck Cream with SPF 15
But what about the best sunscreens for the face? Those with sensitive skin and eyes don’t want anything greasy or harsh. They might also prefer to avoid fragrances.
The best compromise I’ve found is to use a moisturizer with sunscreen. Neutrogena makes an excellent face cream with SPF 15.
The moisturizing effects last up to 12 hours. Happily, the formula has no fragrance, and it won’t clog pores. It doesn’t have alcohol, artificial color, or oil in it, either.
Lancaster Sun Beauty Satin Sheen Oil Fast Tan Optimizer SPF 30
I’ve held back the best tanning sunscreen for pale skin until the end.
Yes, it has a higher SPF. But that means less damage to your skin and more time in the sun.
It wards off UVA and UVB rays, plus infrared, which also ages the skin.
What’s more, this is a tanning oil, not only a sunscreen. It has a Tan Activator Complex designed to stimulate pigment production and build a flawless bronze.
Lancaster Sun Beauty Velvet Milk Sublime Tan SPF 30
Let’s wrap up with the best face sunscreen for tanning. It features the Lancaster Sun Full Light Technology, which filters out harmful UVA, UVB, and infrared.
Furthermore, it smooths fine lines and leaves the skin supple with premium moisturizers.
You can use it to bronze your body as well as your face.
Sun Bum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm
Remember to protect your lips from sunburn. They don’t tan, and they will suffer if you forget about them.
This is balm has natural mineral sunscreen that reflects dangerous rays away from the skin. It’s gluten-free and hypoallergenic.
The matte finish looks natural and disguises the fact that this is a very moisturizing lip balm.
Fortunately, it’s pleasant but not so tasty that you’ll lick it all off.
They say that the best sunscreen is the one that you’ll wear regularly. Take that a step further and make it the best sunscreen for tanning without burning.
Those with pale skin need at least SPF 15 for safety. Tanners with medium to deep skin tones can get away with less protection. If you limit your sunbathing time and avoid laying out between 10 AM and 4 PM, you can build a golden tan in time.
Pamper your skin now and you’ll thank yourself later. Prevent sunburn and premature aging with sunscreen while you soak up the sun.
1. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/does-sunscreen-prevent-tanning#sunscreen-facts by Kristeen Cherney, published November 19, 2019, accessed October 21, 2020
2. https://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/sunscreen-fact-sheet by the British Academy of Dermatology, accessed October 21, 2020