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Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning? Sunscreen Myths And Facts


If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times – wearing sunscreen is skincare rule #1. If you do nothing else, putting on SPF at the beginning of the day will help protect you from the damaging rays of the sun.

When you’re pale like me, this is a no-brainer, but I still have so many olive-toned friends who coat themselves in oil and sit on the beach for hours to get that summer glow.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be bronze in the summer months, but avoiding protecting your skin could result in skin cancer, premature aging and discoloration down the line. 

Turns out, lots of people are confused about how to properly use sunscreen. Today, we’re running through major sunblock myths, so you don’t have to wonder any longer. 

Sunscreen Myths and Facts



Myth #1: Wearing sunscreen prevents tanning

Fact: Wearing sun protection does slow down the tanning process, but it can’t stop it altogether. Tanning is your skin’s defence mechanism to try and prevent burns, but it’s not crazy effective. You’ll still get darker wearing sunscreen regularly, and you can prevent painful burns, too! 

It’s also important to know that sunblock and sunscreen act differently. Sunblock completely blocks sun rays, so you won’t tan using that. Sunscreen filters UV rays, so you can get a few shades darker without worrying about damage.

Myth #2: Darker-skinned people don’t need to use sunscreen

Fact: Regardless of your skin tone, you are equally at risk for sun damage. When UV rays interact with your skin cells, pigment is released. (That’s why freckles are more prominent in the warmer months.) While darker skin tones mask these changes, it doesn’t mean they’re getting any less damage. Skin cancer doesn’t care how pale you are, so applying before sun exposure and reapplying throughout the day is always a good rule of thumb. 

Myth #3: Anything above SPF 15 is ineffective

Fact: The effectiveness of a product is all in how you use it. Some people apply their sunscreen in patchy patterns, resulting in splotchy tans. Most dermatologists believe that 30 and 50 SPF lotions can be highly effective (just as long as you apply it well.)

Being sure that you apply thoroughly the first time and reapply every 2 hours or so will keep your skin safe on a long day at the beach. It’s generally recommended to use a minimum of 30 SPF for everyday activities.

Myth #4: I won’t get enough Vitamin D if I use sunscreen

Fact: Nope! Firstly, you have to lay sunscreen on incredibly thick to completely stop your skin from absorbing vitamin D. Even if you were able to do that, your body only needs about 15 minutes of sun exposure to absorb enough vitamin D for the day. After you’ve reached the limit, your body stops absorbing. If you apply sunscreen normally and spend a healthy amount of time in the sun, you should be full to the brim with enough vitamin D.

Myth #5: Applying sunscreen once means you’re protected for the whole day

Fact: Sunscreen, when applied well, lasts for only about 2 hours. That’s not including it washing off in water or with sweat. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, after those hours are over, you’re fully at risk for sun damage. No sunscreen blocks all UV rays, so if you’re planning a beach trip, hats and protective clothing may be necessary.




Myth #6: A base tan will protect your skin

Fact: The tan on your skin doesn’t give nearly enough protection against the strong rays of the sun. In fact, a tan is actually a sign of skin damage! One study showed that a base tan is about the protection of an SPF 4 sunscreen, while just wearing a t-shirt gave closer to 7 SPF protection. Your skin isn’t built to defend against sun damage, so slathering on sunscreen is necessary before sun exposure.

Myth #7: You don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days or in the water

Fact: Water vapour in clouds or shallow water do not block most of the UV rays from the sun. Clouds only filter about 25 percent of the rays, and light can reflect off of water to burn any parts of your body above the surface. And always remember to reapply after being in the water! Even water-resistant sunblocks can wash off, and no sunscreen is 100% waterproof. Regardless of the weather or your activities, if there’s light out, you’re at risk for sun damage.

Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning? Now You Know

Taking care of your skin can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to trying to find a sunblock that works for you. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve broken down the differences between using commercial sunscreens versus making your own DIY sunscreen – particularly useful if you have sensitive skin. 

You may have made mistakes in the past, but it’s never too late to start making healthy choices for your skin today. Using sunscreen regularly, applying thoroughly and learning about the products you put on your skin can seriously lower your chances of skin damage.

If you think we’ve forgotten any sunscreen ‘myths’, let us know @kiseu 

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