Can You Really Tan with Sunscreen?

tanning with sunscreen

Sunscreen does prevent tanning to a degree, but this doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it just takes a bit more time.

There isn’t a sunscreen out there that can completely protect you and block out all of the sun’s rays, so a tan is still entirely achievable while wearing sunscreen and it is actually recommended to do so. The same also applies to using sunscreen on a tanning bed.

To understand how you can tan with sunscreen, let’s take a look at understanding how sunscreen works.

Types Of Sunscreens & How They Work

There are two types of sunscreens; chemical-based and physical-based ones which work in different ways.


Chemical versions include oxybenzone and octisalate and work by absorbing ultraviolet rays and altering them before giving them a chance to cause any harm.

However, oxybenzone is a bit of a worrisome ingredient as there has been evidence that it is absorbed through the skin more than was originally thought.

There’s concern that oxybenzone could interfere with the normal function of a number of hormones, based on animal studies.

Hence, chemical-based sunscreens are not recommended for pregnant women and children.

Besides the fact that it can have a bad impact on our health, oxybenzone is actually banned in Hawaii. This action was taken after a study discovered that the ingredient contributes to poisoning and bleaching coral reefs.


Physical-based sunscreens reflect UV rays away from your skin with the use of ingredients such as zinc and titanium oxides which are both blocking agents.

Both of these ingredients are recognized by the FDA as Generally Recognized as Safe & Effective (GRASE).

Best Sunscreen to Tan & Ideal SPF

It is important to choose a sunscreen that is on a broad spectrum, meaning that it protects against the two damaging types of UV rays: ultraviolet (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

UVB rays are shorter wavelengths that cause burns, age spots, and wrinkles and UVA rays are longer which also lead to burns, but also can cause skin cancer.

Water-resistant sunscreen is also ideal, otherwise, regular sunscreen would just fall off your skin with sweat and not last as long as it should.

Though keep in mind no sunscreen can 100% protect you from the sun’s rays.

The ideal SPF level completely depends on your exposure to the sun and its strength, also known as UV index. For more on UV – what UV index is good for tanning.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 30 filters out 96.7% of UV rays so that only 3.3% reach your skin, whereas 98% of UV rays are filtered out with SPF 50 sunscreen.

Wearing SPF 30 means that your skin can take 30 times longer to burn than it usually would when unprotected as long as it is applied correctly and in the right amount.

This is how you can still achieve a tan while wearing sunscreen.

It is recommended to wear SPF 30 as a minimum and to wear higher if planning on spending extended periods of time in direct sunlight such as when playing sports or swimming.

Don’t forget to check out our article covering – does sunscreen take of spray fake tan or spray tan?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Still Tan with SPF 50?

When wearing SPF 50 sunscreen, 98% of the sun’s UV rays are being filtered out, but 2% are still reaching your skin. Even though it will take longer, you can still achieve a tan while wearing this sunscreen.

Do You Tan More With or Without Sunscreen?

It does take longer than it normally would to tan when wearing sunscreen, but you will still gradually achieve one.

How Long Does it Take to Tan with Sunscreen?

Even while wearing sunscreen, you can still get a tan within one to two hours. Without that protection, your skin could begin to darken and potentially burn within a mere 10 minutes. It’s always better for it to take slightly longer than to risk getting burned.

Can You Tan with SPF 15 Sunscreen?

SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, giving you 15 times (150 minutes) the amount of time before you would usually burn, in theory, and if applied in the right amounts. So, yes, a tan is still achievable no matter what sunscreen you are wearing.

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