Does sunscreen prevent tanning? If your main goal for sunbathing is to get a stunning tan, I’m sure you’ve asked that question. You’ve probably also wondered if it will affect tanning when you use a tanning bed?
Despite having many benefits to our bodies, overexposure to direct sunlight can also be harmful to the skin. The sun produces some harmful rays, called UV (ultraviolet) rays. These dangerous rays include UVA, UVC, and UVB, but the ozone layer blocks UVC.
Overexposure to these rays can result in sunburns, and worst, they can damage your DNA and increase the likelihood of you getting skin cancer. But when it only reaches your upper skin layer (epidermis), and your body tries to defend itself, the skin darkens or tans. This is the main reason why folks with lighter skin must put on their sunscreens before leaving the house.
But how does sunscreen affect tanning? For answers to this and other related questions, please read on…
- What Is Sunscreen?
- How Does Sunscreen Work?
- Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?
- Why Is Sunscreen Important?
- Related Articles
What Is Sunscreen?
Sunscreen products are photoprotective topical skin products that can protect us from the effects of UV light. These products are ideal for everyone, especially those with lighter skin, and they act by either reflecting or absorbing the UV rays.
When used correctly, sunscreens can protect you from sunburns and skin cancer. Sunscreen can also prevent skin aging; therefore, anyone above six months of age must use it every day.
The skin gets damaged when exposed to direct sunlight, whether it burns or not. Remember, overexposure to sunlight is one of the leading causes of wrinkles.
Usually, sunscreen comes as foams, gels, powder, sticks, and spray. And even though it is designed to block UV rays, it does let some UV rays through. Unfortunately, applying some sunscreen 30 minutes before leaving the house can’t keep you safe the entire day. So make sure you reapply once every two hours.
The best option for anyone spending most of their day indoors is SPF 15 sunscreen. If you plan to take your dog for a walk or take a drive, you should use SPF 15 sunscreen.
But if you will spend a better part of the day outdoors, you need sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
How Does Sunscreen Work?
There are two types of sunscreens that can protect your skin from direct sunlight. They are physical-based and chemical-based sunscreens.
The physical-based sunscreens scatter and reflect the sun rays from your skin. The two primary examples of physical sunscreens are titanium and zinc oxides, which were designated safe by the FDA.
On the other hand, chemical-based products absorb the UV rays and alter them before they affect your skin. Some of the best chemical-based products include octisalate and oxybenzone.
These two types of sunscreens are effective, but you must look for a product that can block UVB and UVA when choosing between the two. After all, some sunscreens can only protect you against UVB.
Another factor to consider is water resistance. A water-resistant sunscreen cannot fall off when you sweat and leave your skin exposed.
However, it is still important to remember that sunscreens don’t offer 100% protection from UV rays.
All sunscreens come with an SPF number (sun protection factor), which shows you how effective it is against UVB. When it comes to SPF, you need to understand that the higher the figure, the more protection is offered.
The increase in SPF number becomes less important once you exceed SPF 50. The SPF numbers indicate the following:
- SPF 50 provides 98% protection
- SPF 45 provides 97.8% protection
- SPF 30 provides 96.7% protection
- SPF 15 provides 93.3% protection
A higher SPF number doesn’t mean that you can sunbathe for an entire day without getting sunburn. Therefore, for these products to be effective, you have to reapply them after every two hours. And if your sunscreen is not water-resistant, then you should avoid the beach.
Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?
Can my skin still tan even after applying some sunscreen? Well, the answer to this question is YES. After all, even an SPF 50 sunscreen provides only 98% protection from the UV rays. Therefore, even the 2% of the rays reaching your skin can cause tanning.
When the skin is exposed to UV rays, it will respond by producing more melanin so as to protect itself. And the increase in melanin in your skin will result in your skin darkening. But if you continue exposing your skin to direct sunlight even after tanning, then it will eventually burn.
So, even if you’re using sunscreen when tanning your skin, you should avoid overexposing yourself to the harmful UVB rays. Plus, it will take longer for you to achieve your tanning goals if you use sunscreen.
Sunscreen SPF 50 Versus Sunscreen SPF 30
A product with a higher SPF rating may keep you safer, but it will not give you 100% protection from the sun’s rays. For example, SPF 50 sunscreen can only filter 98% of the dangerous rays. This means that you will still be exposed to about 2% of the sun’s rays.
On the other hand, SPF 30 filters only 96.7% of the rays, leaving you exposed to 3.3% of the damaging rays. This means that SPF 50 can protect your skin 1.3% more than its counterpart SPF 30.
This might seem irrelevant to most people, but it can make a huge difference if you have sensitive skin. But if you need 100% protection, then you should use sunblock products.
Why Is Sunscreen Important?
As I’ve mentioned, sunscreen can protect our skin from the effects of Ultraviolet rays. So make sure you pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen that can protect you from both the UVB and UVA rays.
Remember, UVA rays have long wavelengths and can cause skin cancer and burns. UVB rays can trigger age spots, wrinkles, and burns.
Sunscreen does more than protect you from direct sunlight when outside; it can also offer day-to-day protection. This means it can protect you when in the park, at your workplace, or when driving. So make sure you apply sunscreen containing moisturizer on your skin before leaving the house. Water-resistant sunscreen with moisturizer can keep your skin moisturized all day long.
Can I Wear Sunscreen in a Tanning Bed?
Generally, sunscreens are not necessary when using a tanning bed. That is because the exposure to the UVB and UVA rays is normally regulated, and the exposure time is limited. Therefore, wearing sunscreen can interfere with your tanning goals. Plus, you may have to go for more sessions than you would have if you didn’t apply sunscreen.
What Is the Ideal SPF for Preventing Skin Cancer?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that the best SPF rating for preventing skin cancer should be at least 15. After all, anything that can protect you from over 95% of the UV rays can lower your likelihood of getting skin cancer. But make sure it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen that can protect you against both UVB and UVA.
Does Sunscreen Prevent You From Getting Vitamin D?
Applying sunscreen can force your skin to produce less vitamin D than it normally would. But with the risk of skin cancer being quite high, most doctors recommend getting vitamin D from supplements and foods.
The only product that can protect anyone with lighter skin from cancer and wrinkles is sunscreen. And because even the best sunscreen product can offer only 98% protection from UV rays, your skin can still tan even if you apply sunscreen after every two hours. So make sure you don’t overexpose yourself to direct sunlight if tanning is not your goal. But if your main objective for sunbathing is tanning, make sure you apply some sunscreen before hitting the beach.
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