Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?

Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?

If you want a healthy, golden glow without damaging your skin with harmful UV rays, you aren’t alone. But how do you strike that perfect balance between getting a summer-ready tan and avoiding an increased risk of skin cancer?

Many people know that sunscreen does the heavy lifting when it comes to protection from damaging UVA and UVB rays. But does sunscreen prevent tanning?

The short answer? No—sunscreen never fully prevents tanning, because no sunscreen blocks 100% of all UV rays. This means there are ways to tan even when wearing sunscreen to ensure your health risks stay minimal. Regardless, it's important to try to wear sunscreen every day to ensure maximum protection of your skin.



The science behind the process of tanning is a fascinating one. 

Tanning occurs through UVA radiation exposure. As UVA rays penetrate through to the lower layers of your skin, it increases the production of melanin by triggering melanocyte cells. These cells cause the skin’s pigment to darken, resulting in a tan.

However, melanin exists as the body’s built-in defense mechanism against sun damage, and more melanin is produced as a defensive reaction against damage that’s already occurred. This means that you do damage your skin to a degree to get that tan, even if you don’t burn.



Sunscreen plays a pivotal role in the protection of your skin from harmful UV rays and the risks associated with them. These risks can include:

  • An increased chance of skin cancer
  • Premature aging
  • First, second, and third-degree burns

Sunscreen ingredients work by stopping UV rays from penetrating the skin. Mineral sunscreens reflect UV light by using ingredients with properties that physically block rays. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by absorbing UV radiation instead.



Sunscreen does not completely block UV rays, which means you can’t stop the tanning process by wearing sunscreen alone. The amount of UV radiation blocked by sunscreen depends on:

  • The type of sunscreen you use
  • How often you reapply it
  • The SPF of your sunscreen
  • Whether you’re indoors or outdoors when using it

In short, not only can you tan with sunscreen, but you should tan with sunscreen. It’s possible to get a golden glow even with a doctor’s recommended level of protection.



Does sunscreen prevent tanning? No, but the degree and speed of your tanning process will hinge on the SPF you choose to use.

SPF—or sun protection factor—is the measure that all sunscreens use to show how much they protect against UV rays.

SPF 15 

Filters out about 93% of UV radiation. This is the minimum level of protection doctors recommend.

SPF 30

Filters out 97% of UV radiation. Most doctors recommend this option, especially if you’re going to be outdoors for long periods of time.

SPF 50

Filters out 98% of UV radiation. Typically speaking, you aren’t going to need an SPF of this strength.

Over SPF 50

Doctors generally recommend against higher SPFs, as no sunscreen provides 100% protection from UV radiation.

Be sure to look for a broad-spectrum SPF, as well. This type of sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB radiation, which is important because each type can contribute to health problems like cancer and premature aging.

If you’re looking for an SPF that offers sun protection and maximizes your tanning potential, an SPF of 15 or 30 will do. They both let through a minimal amount of UV radiation, while still providing adequate skin protection.



Though you can tan with sunscreen, you should still do it carefully. After all, any amount of intentional tanning also causes damage to your skin, and you should be aware of the risks.

When tanning with sunscreen, remember the following:

  • Choose an SPF that’s strong enough to protect you
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours if at rest
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 40 to 80 minutes if you’re active or in the water
  • Don’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes in direct, high-intensity sunlight 

Although these steps may slow your tanning process, they’ll prevent you from burning and reduce the damage that a sunburn can cause.



You don’t have to go the rest of your life without a tan to protect the overall health of your skin. However, you should always be smart about tanning. Never tan without the protection of sunscreen, and listen to your body. If it feels like you need to take a break from tanning, then take that break. As much as we all love a good summer glow, sacrificing the health of your skin in both the short and long term simply isn’t worth it.

When you’re ready to step outside, trust the health of your skin to Seven:Thirty. Our DAILY HABIT SPF 30 sunscreen is formulated for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin, so you can wear it every day. Plus, it contains powerful antioxidants that further protect against UV damage. 

Tan safely with Seven:Thirty.




Nemours Teens Health. Tanning (for Teens).


CDC. UV Radiation.

Healthline. Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?

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