Does sunscreen stop you from tanning? After all, it’s designed to prevent sunburn. But as any experienced tanner knows, you don’t need to get burned to get bronzed.
Sunburn is skin damage. It doesn’t always turn into a tan. So no, sunscreen doesn’t prevent tanning but will slow down the process. That’s not a bad thing, however. It can help you get a sun-kissed look without all the risk.
Let’s dive into how sunscreen works and how to use it for tanning.
How does sunscreen prevent tanning?
Sunscreens with a high sun protection factor still allow some UV radiation through. For example, SPF 50 filters out only 98% of harmful rays. You can use that to your advantage to tan slowly with less damage to your skin.
There are two types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical. A mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide reflects the sun’s rays to defend your skin. Meanwhile, a chemical sunscreen absorbs the rays to keep them from penetrating the skin.
Both provide imperfect protection. Moreover, certain factors impact the sunscreen’s performance. It matters if you’ve applied enough of the product and reapplied it after sweating or swimming.
Which type of sunscreen is better for tanning?
If you want to tan while wearing sunscreen, either mineral or chemical sunscreen will work. What matters is the SPF or sun protection factor. A high number like 50 blocks more UV rays than a low number like 4.
If you have pale skin, using a high-SPF sunscreen is recommended to avoid sunburn and skin cancer. Of course, that means you’re less likely to tan.
But if you wear sunscreen with a low SPF, you may burn. How can you make this work so that you get tan instead?
How to tan while wearing sunscreen
The key to tanning while wearing sunscreen is understanding your skin’s tolerance.
Do you know how long it takes for your skin to burn in the sun?
Here are the guidelines (1):
- People with skin type I (pale skin with freckles, red hair, and blue or gray eyes) typically sunburn in 10 minutes
- Those with skin type II (light skin, any eye color, blonde or brown hair) burn in 20 minutes
- Skin type III (with olive skin, gray or brown eyes, and brown or dark blonde hair) tans easily but may burn after half an hour
- Skin type IV, V, and VI (naturally brown hair and skin and brown eyes) may not burn for as long as 60 minutes (but can still get a sunburn)
Therefore, if you have type II skin that burns in 20 minutes, a sunscreen with SPF 15 protects you for up to 15 times 20 minutes or 5 hours.
SPF 30 provides 10 hours of protection.
As we mentioned, you must apply enough sunscreen and reapply it if you’ve been in the water or are perspiring.
But no sunscreen provides 100% defense against UV rays. So the trick is to apply the sunscreen properly and let the reduced UV trickle through and tan you.
Yes, it’s going to take time. You could bronze a lot faster by going to an indoor tanning salon or wearing a self-tanner. But if you want the satisfaction of an authentic sun-kissed look from Mother Nature, do it the slow way. Slather on a low-SPF sunscreen and break up your sessions in the sunshine.
When is the best time to tan with sunscreen?
Covering yourself with sunscreen and laying out when the sun is strongest is tempting. Instead, avoid the hottest part of the day when the UV radiation is strongest. Tan before noon or after 4 PM, especially if you’re prone to sunburn. Use a low-SPF sunscreen, and remember your sunglasses (2).
How much sunscreen to use for tanning?
As we mentioned, different levels of SPF provide different amounts of protection.
- SPF 15 filters 93% of harmful rays.
- SPF 30 filters 97%
- SPF 50 filters 98%
The effectiveness also depends on whether you apply enough sunscreen. Can you picture a golf ball or a shot glass? That’s the amount that needs to cover your whole body.
Now you’re wondering if you have enough sunscreen to go tanning. Time to go shopping!
Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer SPF 30
No need to worry about wintry pale skin with this sunscreen. It contains a caramel instant bronzer, so you look like you’ve already been on vacation.
What’s more, it smells yummy and feels good on the skin. It is nourished with kakadu plum, tea tree oil, and cocoa seed butter without feeling greasy.
More importantly, it has broad-spectrum protection to guard against UVA and UVB rays. UVA leads to wrinkles and skin cancer, while UVB causes sunburn.
Spritz it on, rub it in, and enjoy! The cruelty-free, vegan formula lasts up to 80 minutes in the water.
Coppertone Tanning Sunscreen SPF 15
Did you know that Coppertone was voted the most trusted sunscreen brand? It may be a drugstore sunblock, but it works great and smells like summertime.
The lightweight, creamy lotion is enriched with vitamin E to hydrate your skin. Happily, it also washes off easily at the end of the day.
Sun Bum SPF 15 Moisturizing Tanning Oil
Here’s the solution if you want a dark tan with minimum effort. It’s formulated especially for sun lovers.
The broad-spectrum protection prevents sunburn while helping you bronze faster. It features green tea butter, argan, and avocado oil to keep your skin silky soft and healthy.
Moreover, the formula complies with Hawaii’s Reef Act to protect sea life. It contains no nasty ingredients like parabens, oxybenzone, or octinoxate. It’s also gluten-free and was never tested on animals.
Banana Boat Deep Tanning Oil Spray SPF 15
Do you hate getting your hands greasy with sun cream? Try this spray instead. Yes, you’ll still need to rub it in, but it absorbs fast and doesn’t feel sticky.
What’s more, it offers excellent durability during swimming and sweaty workouts. You won’t have to reapply for 80 minutes. It doesn’t get into the eyes and burn, either.
Panama Jack Sunscreen Tanning Lotion SPF 4
Outdoor tanners rely on Panama Jack tanning lotion with low SPF. It’s best for those that don’t burn easily. Although it filters harmful rays, it also focuses on converting sunshine into bronzed skin.
Not only does it have a delicious fragrance, but it also feels soothing. Plus, it’s free of harmful ingredients like parabens, dyes, and octinoxate that could harm aquatic life.
I’m happy you dropped by today to discover whether sunscreen prevents tanning. I hope you found the answers you need.
If you’d like to learn more about how to get bronzed without getting burned, see my article about how long it takes to tan. And if you’re in a hurry, find out which self-tanning drops will help you achieve a tan faster.
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK321117/ How much sun is too much? Created: July 22, 2011; Last Update: November 29, 2018
2 https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-get-a-tan-with-sunscreen/ by Corey M. Mackenzie