Quick Question: Can You Still Get a Tan While Wearing SPF?
Always wear sunscreen — it’s the cardinal rule of skin care. But when summer (or your winter vacation) rolls around, you may debate skipping the sunscreen in favor of a bronzed body. We have news for you: You can still get tan while wearing SPF! When used as directed, a broad-spectrum SPF of 15 and above can help you build a glow and gradual tan without the nasty side effects of unprotected tanning (think: sun damage and the added risk of developing skin cancer). Don’t believe us? We turned to the experts. Read on for their tips — and our favorite sunscreen picks.
Can You Get Tan With Sunscreen On?
“Of course you can still get a tan while wearing sunscreen,” Vanda Serrador, a facialist and body-care expert at The Body Shop, says. “It all depends on the strength of the SPF.” Simply put, the SPF number is a measure of how long your skin can be in direct sunlight without beginning to get red or sunburn. Side note: SPF only measures protection from UVB rays — the type that cause the skin to burn — and not UVA rays — the type that age the skin with over-exposure. That’s why it’s important to reach for a sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
How to Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage
Protecting your skin from sun damage should be the goal given that there’s no such thing as a safe suntan. “Sun exposure causes changes at the DNA level of the skin cells, triggering the cells that produce pigment to increase their output of melanin,” board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Ted Lain, MD, says. “Therefore, if you consider that a tan represents damage to your DNA, how could any tan be safe?”
That’s not to say that you should stay locked up indoors all the time, but rather you should take adequate sun protection measures when you do step outside. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97%. There is no sunscreen that will block 100% of UV rays, so your skin — especially if it burns easily — may still get some color even with it on, just at a slower rate. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reaching for a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen — it has to be labeled as such — that includes some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, ecamsule and oxybenzone.
No time to check the label? We rounded up some of our favorites. Whichever sunscreen you choose, make sure to apply it directly onto your skin at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Don’t forget to reapply the formula every two hours at minimum; if you’re swimming or excessive sweating, reapply sunscreen immediately. For a better line of protection, pair your sunscreen use with additional sun protection measures, such as wearing protective clothing, seeking shade and avoiding peak sun hours — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — when rays are strongest. If you want to get the safest sun tan, avoid sunlight altogether and opt instead for self tanners or spray tans. Trust us, you’ll be just as golden!
This ultra-light sunscreen doesn’t disappoint when it comes to SPF protection. Designed for sensitive skin and formulated with Cell-Ox Shield technology, the formula boasts a powerful antioxidant complex to help protect the skin from free radicals caused by UV rays. If you burn easily, pick this product up at the drugstore, apply it frequently and stay out of the sun when possible.
For broad-spectrum protection and anti-aging antioxidants — specifically white grape polyphenol and vitamin E — for the face and body, reach for this fast-absorbing sunscreen by Vichy. The formula practically melts into the skin without leaving a greasy, sticky, white residue.
For easy-to-use sun protection that smells out of this world, My Sol Stick is going to be your new beach-bag favorite. It’s specifically designed for the face, lips and areas with tattoos. It has SPF 50 protection and leaves you with a moisturized finish.
This weightless, tinted sunscreen — formulated with transparent zinc oxide, artemia salina and translucent color spheres — adapts seamlessly to various skin tones and provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. The formula features a breakthrough technology where iron oxide spheres evenly disperse within the fluid to provide sheer surface coating, UV protection and skin radiance. What’s more: It’s paraben-free and non-comedogenic, which makes it an ideal choice for all skin types, even sensitive.
This titanium dioxide sunscreen is 100% mineral based, boasts UVA/UVB technology, antioxidant vitamin E protection and a universal sheer tint. Thanks to the lightweight consistency, it’s an ideal choice for sensitive and acne-prone skin types.
An oil-free option, this CeraVe pick is not only super affordable, but it’s also great for sensitive skin or oily skin. Ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid help hydrate, smooth and moisturize the skin, so you don’t leave your day in the sun feeling dry, itchy and irritated. Plus, with SPF 50, titanium oxide and zinc oxide protect your skin barrier from the sun’s harmful rays.