Can You Tan With Sunscreen

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Can You Tan With Sunscreen ⋆ Beautymone
Published by Simone de Vlaming on March 31, 2023

Summer is close, making us think of golden beaches and basking under the warm sun. If you dream of a caramel tan but do not want to put your skin at risk from the sun’s harmful UV rays, this article is for you!

Can you tan with sunscreen? The short answer is yes. But in this article, we will uncover so much more than that: from why we tan to how you can tan better and smarter. Keep reading to find out more!

Can You Tan With Sunscreen?

Yes, it is possible to tan with sunscreen on. Tanning is the effect of UV radiation on our skin, and sunscreen filters those UV rays. So, how can you tan with sunscreen?

As I said above, sunscreen *filters* UV radiation – it does not block it. According to Cancer Council NSW, sunscreen works by filtering out ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can cause premature aging and other skin damage, such as burning or discoloration.

However, sunscreen cannot filter ALL of those damaging UV rays. That is actually what SPF is telling us. And what does SPF mean?

SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and measures how well a sunscreen protects the skin from UVB radiation. According to Cancer Council NSW, an SPF count measures the amount of UV it filters.

For example, “an SPF of 30 allows one-thirtieth or 3.3% of UV to reach your skin. This means that it filters 96.7% of UV. With an SPF of 50, 98% is filtered, and one-fiftieth or 2% gets through.”

This means that even if you wear a high SPF sunscreen, some UV rays will still penetrate through and cause a light tanning effect. So, can you tan with sunscreen SPF 30 or SPF 50? Yup, you can!

Can You Tan With Sunscreen

How Does Sunscreen Work

Now that we have established that sunscreen acts as a filter and that you can tan while wearing it let’s move to another burning question.

How does sunscreen work? There are two types of sunscreens, mineral and chemical sunscreens. They have different formulas and protect your skin in different ways.

Mineral sunscreens contain inorganic natural ingredients, most likely zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and work as “reflectors.” These active ingredients sit on top of the skin and work by creating a physical barrier on the skin that reflects and scatters UV radiation.

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate, which are designed to absorb UV radiation. They work by absorbing UV radiation and converting it into heat, which is then dissipated by the skin.

It is important to note that SPF measures protection from UVB rays. No reference to UVA here! ALL sunscreens protect from UVB and MOST from both UVA and UVB. Therefore, you should pick sunscreens that write “broad spectrum” (meaning UVA+UVB) on the label.

Also, SPF is not the only parameter to consider regarding sunscreen protection. According to FDA, we should keep in mind the amount of solar exposure, which can be affected by:

  • Time of solar exposure
  • Time of day – at midday, you are exposed to more intense rays.
  • Geographic location – lower latitudes generally have greater solar intensity.
  • Weather – solar energy is more intense on clear than cloudy days.
  • Skin type – fair skin absorbs more energy than dark skin.

Another thing to note is that according to FDA, no sunscreen is waterproof! Some are water-resistant, meaning they can remain effective longer while swimming or sweating. They will eventually wash off, but they will last longer.

How Does Tanning Work

Tanning is the process of exposing the skin to ultraviolet light (UV) to create a darkening effect. The protagonist of this phenomenon is melanin, a pigment that makes up for our individualized skin color and offers natural protection from sunlight.

Tanning occurs when specific cells within the skin, called melanocytes, produce more melanin; When exposed to UV light, these cells are stimulated to produce more melanin, which leads to an increase in pigmentation and darker skin color.

The amount of exposure you need to tan depends on various factors, such as your natural skin tone and how frequently you sit under the sun. Those with lighter complexions will require longer sessions than those with darker tones because they have lesser melanin.

Additionally, frequent tanners require fewer sessions because their bodies become accustomed to creating additional amounts of pigment. Infrequent tanners may need multiple sessions to achieve the same result.

It’s important to remember that there are risks associated with overexposure, including sunburns, premature aging, and even cancer. Using sunscreen or protective clothing when engaging in outdoor activities is always the best practice – regardless of whether or not you plan to tan!

The Risks of Tanning Without Sunscreen

UV radiation interacts with skin cells and their DNA in multiple ways, which can have several adverse effects. Without sunscreen, you expose yourself to a variety of risks that can have lasting consequences for your skin and overall health:

  • Sunburn – The most obvious risk is sunburn, which can cause redness and irritation, as well as more serious long-term damage, such as wrinkles and age spots. Sunburns also increase your risk of developing melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
  • Premature aging – UV rays from the sun can penetrate deep into the layers of our skin, leading to photoaging, which is characterized by features such as fine wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and laxity of the skin.
  • Skin cancer – Sun exposure is one of the most important risk factors for ALL skin cancers: melanoma and non-melanoma.  

The effects of tanning without sunscreen don’t end there, though! Studies have shown that tanned people tend to suffer from lower self-esteem due to guilt over damaging their bodies – something no one should ever feel guilty about!

Finally, opting out of using protection while tanning means you will likely experience increased levels of sensitivity when exposed again later in life. This will make further attempts at achieving a healthy glow even more difficult than before.

Can You Tan With Sunscreen

Different Types Of Sunscreen Protection

When it comes to protecting our skin from the sun, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every person has different needs and preferences when caring for their skin.

That’s why there are many types of sunscreen protection on the market today. As you read above, there are two types of sunscreens with different properties. Here, you can find everything you want to know about them.

Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral or physical sunscreen uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as its active ingredient. This type of product tends to last longer than other forms of protection, so you don’t have to reapply as often throughout the day.

Mineral sunscreens can naturally provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. They are also resistant to water and sweat, making them an excellent choice for outdoor activities.

Physical sunscreens typically leave behind a white sheen on your skin but can be found in clear formulations as well. Because they are non-comedogenic, they are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.

Chemical Sunscreen

Moving forward to chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens use different combinations of chemical agents, such as avobenzone or oxybenzone, instead of minerals for their active ingredients.

Chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin rather than sit on it as physical ones do, meaning they won’t leave behind any residue or greasiness after application. However, they may need reapplication more frequently if you spend extended periods outdoors or under intense sunlight.

Chemical sunscreens typically have a higher SPF rating and can provide broad-spectrum protection. However, chemical sunscreens can take up to 20 minutes to activate after application and are more likely to cause sensitivity or allergic reactions.

Makeup With SPF

Another kind of sunscreen is mineral makeup with SPF built into its formula. Mineral makeups tend not only to provide great coverage but also protect against damaging UV radiation while giving a natural-looking finish.

However, even if you opt for makeup with SPF protection, you should still apply your sunscreen underneath. Unfortunately, to achieve the labeled SPF protection, you should apply a much greater amount than you would normally do.

Also, makeup may not provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, which is necessary to fully protect the skin.

Finally, makeup should be reapplied throughout the day to maintain protection. But most people do not reapply makeup frequently enough for it to be effective as a sole source of sun protection.

Alternatives to Traditional Tanning Methods

Can you tan with sunscreen? Yes.

Is it safe to tan with sunscreen? It is undeniably safer than tanning without sunscreen, but no one can guarantee it is 100% safe…

Are there any alternatives to traditional tanning methods?

Thanks to modern technologies, there are now safer and healthier ways to get a natural-looking tan without risking skin damage. Tanning beds have become popular options as they offer more control than sunbathing. But even these can be dangerous due to UV radiation exposure.

Fortunately, there is an array of alternative methods available, which can provide similar results with fewer risks involved.

Spray Tanning

Spray tanning or airbrush tanning involves spraying a fine mist onto the skin using an applicator gun. The solution contains DHA, a colorless “sugar” that creates a tanned appearance when it reacts with amino acids in the top layer of the skin.

This process takes just 15 minutes and provides an even application all around, so you don’t end up with streaks or lines like you would by lying out in the sun for too long.

The best part about this method is that it does not involve UV radiation at all. Even though it can be costly, it is one of the safest options available today for people who want a golden-brown complexion.


Another great alternative is self-tanner lotions and creams. They come pre-mixed with DHA and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and aloe vera extract. Your skin stays hydrated and acquires a natural-looking bronzed hue at home.

Self-tanner products eliminate the need for expensive spa treatments! They are easy to apply but require extra care since they tend to streak if used improperly.

Make sure you exfoliate beforehand and use circular motions when applying them evenly across your body for the best results. If you want more application tips, check out how to self tan properly.

The Pros Of Self-Tanning Options

  • Self-tanner products or spray tans offer more sustained color. You can also keep it all year long, even when the sun has shied away.
  • They are safer alternatives than relying solely on sunscreen alone, sacrificing protection from long-term health risks associated with overexposure to sunlight.
  • These options give you control over how dark you get and can be temporary if you do not repeat.

Of course, just like with any chemical product for the skin, the ingredients could cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. So, always get an opinion from your doctor and apply with caution.

If all is good, keep slathering up for those glowing summertime vibes without putting yourself at unnecessary risk!

Tanning With Sunscreen: Truths And Myths

Can You Tan With Sunscreen


  • Tanning is a protective measure of our body to protect skin cells from being damaged by UV radiation.
  • Sunscreen offers a protective screen that filters MOST of the UV rays reaching our skin.
  • Tanning with sunscreen allows your body to build up melanin gradually over time to achieve a natural-looking golden hue.
  • Tanning with sunscreen will take longer than unprotected exposure to the sun.
  • Tanning with sunscreen will provide a more even tanning look – The skin damage due to direct exposure can cause redness or exfoliation, compromising your healthy complexion and creating an uneven look.
  • Using sunscreen also helps reduce signs of aging, such as wrinkles and age spots, which are often caused by long unprotected exposure to sunlight over long periods.


  • You cannot tan with sunscreen on – Sunscreen can help protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV rays while still allowing you to achieve a beautiful and even tan.
  • Tanning sessions without sunscreen out of peak midday hours is safe.
  • Tanning with sunscreen will prevent the sun’s unwanted effects – If you remain under the sun for too long and/or forget to reapply the product often, your sunscreen cannot guarantee your safety.

So, if you want tanned skin but don’t want any permanent damage, applying a small amount every couple of hours is recommended when spending extended amounts of time outdoors under direct sunlight!

Can You Tan With Sunscreen? A Conclusion

The scientific evidence has made it abundantly clear that sunscreen is an essential part of any sun-seeking individual’s repertoire. You can get undeniably tan while wearing sunscreen. That is because sunscreen works by filtering out MOST of the UV radiation that hits our skin.

The key to an even and safe tan is to apply a layer of SPF and re-apply often to ensure optimal protection from the sun’s harmful rays. By doing this, you allow your skin to acquire some color and soak up the Vitamin D benefits of the sunshine.

To avoid long-term damage caused by overexposure, pick a sunscreen that contains broad spectrum UVA/UVB coverage and an appropriate SPF rating for your skin type.

Higher numbers provide better protection against both UVA and UVB rays but should not replace regular application as directed on packaging instructions. Finally, be mindful when in direct sunlight.

Seek shade periodically (especially during peak hours) and wear protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses for added defense against UV exposure.

With these simple steps, enjoying a day out in the sun can equate to healthy, radiant skin!

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, it is possible to tan with sunscreen SPF 30 on. Tanning is the effect of UV radiation on our skin, and sunscreen filters those UV rays. Sunscreen filters UV radiation – it does not block it.

According to Cancer Council NSW, sunscreen works by filtering out ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can cause premature aging and other skin damage, such as burning or discoloration.

Yes, it is possible to tan with sunscreen SPF 40 on. Tanning is the effect of UV radiation on our skin, and sunscreen filters those UV rays. Sunscreen filters UV radiation – it does not block it.

According to Cancer Council NSW, sunscreen works by filtering out ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can cause premature aging and other skin damage, such as burning or discoloration.

Yes, it is possible to tan with sunscreen SPF 50 on. Tanning is the effect of UV radiation on our skin, and sunscreen filters those UV rays. Sunscreen filters UV radiation – it does not block it.

According to Cancer Council NSW, sunscreen works by filtering out ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can cause premature aging and other skin damage, such as burning or discoloration.

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