Does sunscreen prevent tanning: A research-based answer

Does sunscreen prevents tanning?

Does sunscreen prevent tanning? Can you tan with sunscreen on?, How to tan without burning yourself?”

If you are looking for answers to these burning questions, then you have come to the right place.

Who doesn’t want a golden tan?

Of course, it is the holy grail of women’s beauty. However, not everyone knows how to get it. Those who already have it, never miss any opportunity to flaunt it by ignoring any sort of sun protection. 

So, as a result, most often than not, in order to get that coveted tan, most of the women end up harming their precious skin. Then you might be wondering how to get tanning right and would be putting on my sunscreen to prevent tanning?

To find the ultimate and researched-based answer to this question, skipping out reading below to answer all sorts of your tanning questions is not the option for you. 

How does sunscreen work?

How sunscreen works?

To answer these questions, you need to understand properly how does your sunscreen works ?, What is SPF ? and how does it play its role in our protection against the sun?

There is no doubt that sunscreen is your best friend against the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and the aging effect of harmful sun effects but what is the exact functionality that helps it accomplish these life-saving goals?

Essentially, your sunscreen is made up of two parts

  1. Active ingredients
  2. Emulsion

Active ingredients are the main sun protection agents. They are further divided into two categories.

  1. UV absorbers
  2. UV reflectors 

1. UV absorbers

UV absorbers, as the name indicates, do the task of absorbing harmful UV radiation and converting it into a low key heat that is not that noticeable, however sometimes, some people might get uncomfortable with this heat.

Primarily, the chemicals of UV absorber are “organic” as their major element is carbon atoms. So, half of these organic chemicals absorb UVB rays and half absorb the UVA rays.

This absorption of harmful rays is very important as recent research has confirmed that both types of UVA rays and UVB rays are dangerous to your skin health and contribute to skin cancer and skin burns respectively.

Therefore, for best sun protection,  you should always look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both types of harmful radiation without compromising any of the two

2. UV reflectors

As the name indicates, UV reflectors primarily reflect and scatter harmful UV radiation. They are mainly composed of reflecting elements like oxides in the form of zinc oxides or titanium oxides.

In normal sunscreen, there are usually up to 5-6 active ingredients for most of the sunscreen.

3. Emulsion

An emulsion is actually the milk, cream, oil or any other apparent carrier that you rub or apply on your face while going in the sun, containing these active ingredients.

The basic composition elements of these emulsions like oil, water, and other beauty ingredients are crucial for your sunscreen in a variety of ways like 

  • it helps preserve these sun protecting agents chemicals, 
  • gives the good smelling look and feel to your sunscreen
  • helps bind sunscreen to your skin for a long time.

What is SPF in most sunscreen?

What is SFP in sunscreen?

Essentially, SPF stands for ‘ sun protection factor’. In simple words, it is the strength of your sunscreen to safeguard you from the harmful UV rays of the sun. 

So, logically, the greater the number, the lesser the number of harmful UV rays able to pass through, and hence the stronger the protection.

Practically, if your unprotected skin burns out in about 10 minutes, in terms of SPF strength, it means an SPF 30 sunscreen would help your skin to last 30 times more than without sunscreen.

Similarly, an SPF 15 sunscreen would extend your skin burning time to 150 times more than without sunscreen on. Finally, it would take about 500 times more for a sunscreen of SPF 50 to get your skin burnout due to harmful sun.

For instance, a sunscreen with SPF of 30 would filter almost 97.7% of UV rays and allow only 3.3% of UV rays to reach your skin.  Similarly, A sunscreen of SPF 50 would be able to block 98% of UV rays and allow only 2% of rays to get through

Final verdict: Can you tan with Sunscreen on?

So, finally, we reach the point where we have to decide the answer to this question.

The simple answer to the question of “will wearing sunscreen prevent tanning on my skin? is No.

Here is why: As explained before, a normal sunscreen has both ‘UV absorbers’ which absorbs some of the UV harmful rays and make them less damaging for your skin and ‘UV reflectors’  who reflect and completely scatter out all sorts of UV rays.

 Hence, sunscreen is basically a kind of screen, which acts as a screener of incoming sun rays and absorbs them selectively unlike UV reflectors or sunblocks which completes block any kind of sun rays coming to your skin.

For example,

Think of sunscreen just like a fly-screen, through which air can easily get through but dirty flies can’t. 

Similarly, sunscreen would allow at least 2-3% of UVA rays to reach your skin but not in their harmful strength, rather in a less harmful strength as sunscreen absorbs them and makes them less damaging to your skin.

That’s why some people might feel some sort of heat when they apply a sunscreen which is actually the small quantity and less harmful rays that are touching your skin. 

This is where you would be able to get that “golden or darker tan” without compromising your skin health and risking skin burnout while you are wearing your sunscreen.

So, you are now free to choose your favorite sunscreen without any fear and suspicion.

In short: Sunscreen would definitely filter all UV rays and avoid sunburn but would not prevent the ‘tanning’ or ‘darkening’ of your skin by producing a pigment called ‘melanin’ as it allows absorption of some rays all the way through your upper skin.

The Bottom line: sunscreen doesn't prevent tanning!
Bottom line

  • If you want complete protection of your skin from all sorts of UV rays, then use a sunblock not sunscreen, which completes block any kind of sun rays.
  • But If you want a tanned skin, use a low SPF sunscreen that will not avoid any sort of skin damage but would be able to give you the desired ‘tan’ too. 

So, Sunscreen does not prevent tanning.

Sunscreen myths that you need to set aside

 We just busted one of the major sunscreen myths. But it does not stop here. Rather, people have cooked up a lot of those sunscreen myths in recent times which need to be addressed too for the greater interest of your overall skin health.

Let’s look at each one of these one by one and try to bust them.

Myth 1: Most of the sun damage happens at a young age – no need to future-protect

sun damage at young age

This is another common misconception found in a lot of women who think that most of our skin is sun-damaged when you are just about 18 years old and at that time we didn’t know how to properly protect yourself.

Moreover, what’s more, dangerous about this sunscreen myth is that you don’t need to protect yourself in the future because the damage is already done and there is a slim risk of getting that again.

However, this is not the case as recent studies have found this figure of skin damage to be inaccurate and misleading. in fact, at 18 years of age, you are only 25% exposed to sun, not more.

Moreover, You are never too old to start protecting yourself and rediscover your skin beauty.

While experts believe that, although most of the skin damage like “Melanoma”(the deadliest form of skin cancer), occurs at relatively younger ages like childhood or teenage.

But to transform this damage at a young age into a serious type of skin cancer, you need years of carelessness that go beyond a young age. So, it is never wise to stop caring about your skin if you got some sort of skin damage at your young age.

For instance, would you like to keep smoking more and more to make yourself from worse to worst or you would stop doing it once you find out that you have got lung cancer ?.

Obviously, you don’t want to make it more painful in the near future. Or if the damage is less severe, you would be able to recover back quickly. The same case is with sunscreen. 

You are better off saving yourself from getting further damage rather than believing in such myths and making your life worse off. At whatever age you are, start protecting yourself from sun damage on a regular basis.

Myth 2: Darker skins don’t need to worry about wearing sunscreen.

tanning for darker skin people

I am really sorry if you believe this which is totally inaccurate and misleading. 

While it is true that darker skin people who have more pigment in their skin have a slightly lesser chance of suffering from a serious skin cancer risk however this does not guarantee their immunity from it.

In fact, why many darker skin people believe this is because skin damage like skin cancer or other kinds of serious damage is by nature, exposes itself only in a relatively later stage when it has becomes more harmful and serious.

Furthermore, a darker skin complexion does not guarantee to bestow you the skin-saving benefits of darker color like the lesser risk of skin cancer. Rather, skin colors are more complex than they seem to be. 

In simpler words, while your skin can appear darker, your underlying skin genes could behave differently and can be easily vulnerable to serious skin problems like skin cancer. 

So, darker skin is never a guarantee to treat in such a careless way you want and so you need to be equally careful about it.

Myth 3: Face protection is enough

sun face protection

This is another common behavior found in most of the sun protecting women. They care only about safeguarding their faces because the face is what is presented to other people.

However, you need to know, skin cancer and sunburn don’t differentiate between body parts rather it treats all our body parts like your arms, legs or your face just as a skin and sun loves inflicting damage anywhere it finds an open, unprotected skin.

You tell me yourself, how would you feel when in a party and your friends are impressed by your glowing face but suddenly they found out your wrinkled hand and feet because of unprotected sun damage?

Of course, it would be a great embarrassment. So, it makes sense to keep all your body parts as youthful and healthy not just face.

Myth 4: Using sunscreen would prevent you from getting enough vitamin D

sunscreen prevents getting Vitamin D

This is another misconception that needs to be addressed. So, you believe that sunscreen would prevent the production of important vitamin D

However, the reality is, a lot of people don’t wear sunscreen on their faces properly to completely prevent any sort of sun rays reaching out to your face and hence completely shutting down vitamin D production.

Further, it is another misconception that you need to be under the sun for a long time to get your adequate share of vitamin D. In fact, you need a lot less time to reach your required level, a good exposure of about 10-15 minutes is enough.

However, if you exceed the required time, your skin would start producing vitamin D to toxic levels and its production would automatically stop. So, it is not necessary to be there in the sun for a long time.

Finally, while the sun is a very good source of free vitamin D, you don’t always need to wait for it to give your vitamin D rather its incidental exposure is enough most of the time.

Also,  there are a lot of vitamin D rich foods and other supplements that can your desire and consume.

Myth 5: Sunscreen is not required at peak tanning hours.

sun screen in peak hours

This is another myth that a lot of people believe in. While your skin tends to burnout is more pronounced during peak hours like 12 –  2 O’clock pm, researchers have reached the conclusion that tanning is never safe at any time of the day.

In fact, while UVB rays of UV rays are present only at peak hours, but UVA rays of UV rays type, are always present all day long,  which are equally major sources of skin damage and other serious skin complications too.

Moreover, UVA rays get through clouds too, which makes people to mistakenly miss sunscreen on cloudy days, which in return damaged skin more often than they would believe. 

Myth 6: Sunscreens have dangerous chemicals in them which are best to be avoided at all costs.

sunscreen and harmful chemicals

This is another common belief that some of the damaging chemicals of sunscreen are more harmful than not wearing sunscreen in itself and have either carcinogenic or estrogen-like effects on our bodies.

However, such a belief is a typical myth and so far no credible research has been able to confirm it.

Think about yourself, how many women daily sit and lay down by the beach and there is no one who has complained that her sunscreen is leading to serious skin cancer while sunscreen business is booming more than ever.

Rather, most of the time, the underlying cause would be negligence at their part like not properly applying sunscreen on their body or using a low-quality sunscreen to protect their skin.

Can you tan more with or without sunscreen?

sunscreen and tanning

Ans: Definitely, you would be able to tan more and quicker if you are without your sunscreen on. But there is a caveat.

The skin health issues associated with tanning without sunscreen simply outweigh the benefits of tanning in itself.

In other words, you are very much likely to suffer from serious skin burnouts and even skin cancer if you continue to practice tanning without sunscreen, in the open sun.

Moreover, this belief is primarily driven by the idea that since sunscreen prevents tanning, so you need to get rid of it as soon as possible to get that golden tan. However, this is a generally great misconception and popular myth.

The reality is you can actually tan with sunscreen on. This is just because sunscreen does not completely block all types of sun rays rather, it lets some of them through(in a safe form) which are enough to get you your desired tan or darker skin complexion.

How do you prevent getting a tan?

preventing tan with sunscreen

Ans: You can definitely prevent getting a tan if you follow these tan prevention tips

  • Don’t go into sun aimlessly. Even if you have to go, never forget to cover yourself up properly.
  • If you need to be out there in the sun for a long period of time, always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 50 which offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays or SPF 30 minimum.
  • Don’t just take care of your face, rather give equal coverage to your lips, eyes, back neck and ears too.
  • Don’t be fooled by cloudy weather, as it is not skin-friendly too. Not all harmful UV rays can be blocked out by clouds.
  • Apply sunscreen on your skin properly and it is always a good practice to reapply it after 2 hours as it tends to wear out due to heat and lose it effectiveness.
  • Drink a lot of water, especially during summers as dehydration can exacerbate the harmful effects of the sun for your skin.
  • Eat a lot of healthy fruits and vegetables that fulfill your vitamin requirements especially of Vitamin D, which you should beg from scorching sun heat which gives you more tan than vitamin D.


Q: Can you get a tan with sunscreen on?

Ans: Definitely, you can tan with sunscreen on. It is very misconception that sunscreen prevents tanning. This is not true at all.
A normal sunscreen has ‘UV absorbers’ which absorbs some of the UV harmful rays, letting them reach your skin but making them less damaging for your skin.
So, sunscreen is basically a kind of screen, which acts as a screener of incoming sun rays and absorb them, not block them

Q: Does sunscreen prevent you from getting darker?

Ans: No, sunscreen does not prevent you from getting darker. In other words, wearing sunscreen would not prevent your much desired tanned skin texture.
It is very misconception that sunscreen prevents ‘darkening’ or ‘tanning’. This is not true at all.
A normal sunscreen has ‘UV absorbers’ which absorbs some of the UV harmful rays, letting them reach your skin but making them less damaging for your skin.
So, sunscreen is basically a kind of screen, which acts as a screener of incoming sun rays and absorb them, not block them

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