Quick Question: Can You Still Get Tan Wearing SPF?
Always wear sunscreen — it’s the cardinal rule of skin care. But when summer (or your tropical vacation) rolls around, you may consider skipping the sunscreen in favor of a bronzed body. Well, 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 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 causes 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 take adequate sun protection measures when you do step outside. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97 percent. There is no sunscreen that will block 100 percent 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 excessively 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 suntan, avoid sunlight altogether and opt instead for self-tanners or spray tans. Trust us, you’ll be just as golden!
5 Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens We Love
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the two active ingredients in this ultra-light sunscreen. 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.
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.
This weightless, invisible primer offers SPF 40 with makeup-gripping abilities. It’s formulated with antioxidants and not only blocks broad-spectrum UVA and UVB rays, but also blue light emitted from phones and computers.
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.
The cream-to-powder formula goes on silky-smooth and feels comfortable on the skin. It protects your skin with a mineral matte formula that’s packed with antioxidant-rich raspberry, grape and carrot seed oils to fight free radiants and promote healthy skin.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn