Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning: Can Wearing Sunscreen Stop Your Tan?

Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning: Can Wearing Sunscreen Stop Your Tan?
November 9, 2020 Ellis James

Does sunscreen prevent you from getting darker?

It should come as no surprise that sunscreen is designed to protect you from the potentially harmful ultraviolet rays that the sun bombards our planet with nonstop throughout the day. It is an absolute necessity if you plan on spending the day at the beach and do not want to get sunburnt. But some people want to go a step further; in addition to preventing sunburn, they wish to avoid tanning altogether. Can sunscreen do this?

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion | Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free) Broad Spectrum Moisturizing UVA/UVB Sunscreen with Vitamin E | 8 oz

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A Rundown on Sunscreen

It is vital to have at least some understanding of what exactly sunscreen does, in order to know what we can use it for. While sunscreen plays a significant role in protecting your skin from the sun, it is usually not enough to shield you completely.

Sunscreen is proven to lower your risk of skin pre-cancers and cancers, and daily use of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 will reduce your risk of developing skin cancers by around 40 percent, as well as lower the risk of melanoma by as much as 50 percent.

What is SPF?” you ask?

SPF is a rating found on most sunscreen bottles. It measures the fraction of the UV rays that cause sunburn that reaches your skin. To give an example, a container with an SPF rating of 15 will only allow 1/15 of burning radiation to reach your skin when the recommended thickness is applied.

There are also other systems that indicate the degree of protection from UV rays that do not cause burning. Sunscreens are made to be useful for about three years. They generally deteriorate in quality after that period. The expiration date that can be found on most sunscreens indicated the date that they become ineffective.

So, will sunscreen prevent you from becoming darker?

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion | Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free) Broad Spectrum Moisturizing UVA/UVB Sunscreen with Vitamin E | 8 oz


Will Wearing Sunscreen Stop You From Tanning?

The short answer is: yes, to a degree.

The numbers 15+ and 30+ on a bottle of sunscreen refers to the time as a multiplier that the sunscreen will protect you for. For example, if you were living somewhere that the sun would burn you in 10 minutes, if you were not wearing sunscreen, it would take 15 x 10 minutes for you to burn if you were wearing 15+ sunscreen.

30+ follows this same principle. If you live somewhere that the sun would burn you in, say, 20 minutes, it will take 30 x 20 minutes for the sun to burn you when wearing 30+ sunscreen.

After these times, you will burn regardless of how much sunscreen you have on, and applying more will not help. You will need to remove the sunscreen and apply a fresh layer to protect yourself further. As we mentioned earlier, consistently wearing sunblock every day will help you prevent sun damage from the areas of your skin you have covered with lotion.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 45, TSA-Compliant travel Size, 3 fl. oz, Pack of 2


Are There Any Sunscreens That Best Prevent Tanning?

There are a few brands of sunscreen and skincare brands that have a sunscreen range. These recommendations proved to prevent tanning more effectively than others.

Neutrogena Dry-Touch Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)

Available on Amazon


Neutrogena is an iconic brand of skincare that we are likely all familiar with.

Their Dry-Touch formula is baked into their sunscreen. It gives you a matte finish instead of the greasy texture that most sunscreens leave on the skin.

This product is effective on all skin types, even if your skin is oily and prone to breakouts. If you are not a fan of using lotion, you can opt to use the spray or stick from this sunscreen, though the cream is by far the easiest to apply.


La Roche Sunscreen Milk

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 60, Oxybenzone Free, Oil-Free Sunscreen, Water Resistant

Available on Amazon


While this sunscreen has a more premium price tag, it caters to those who know exactly what they want from a sunscreen. The La Roche sunscreen has a broad SPF 60 spectrum that works just as well on the face as it does the body, meaning that you do not need to struggle with multiple bottles of sunscreen.

This sunscreen’s formula penetrates the skin quickly and leaves no greasiness or oiliness once you run it in. This product is water-resistant for an hour and twenty minutes, meaning that you can safely swim without worrying about washing it off.

Be sure to reapply this sunscreen every two hours, regardless of whether you go swimming or not.


How Long Does it Take to Tan?

Depending on what part of the world you live in, as well as whether or not you are wearing protection like sunscreen, you can tan or burn in as little as 10 minutes. Most people with lighter to fair skin will tan within one or two hours.

You often won’t notice a tan straight away, as the process of the skin producing melanin in response to sun exposure takes time. This process eventually changes the color of your skin, with the degree of change influenced by how long you spent in the sun.

The time it takes for you to tan is determined by your skin type and the climate in which you tan. A person with darker skin will tan rather than burn like the lighter-skinned person sitting next to them.


Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning? – Final Thoughts

So, while sunscreen is able to prevent tanning, you will need to be extra careful to ensure that you are using the right sunscreen for your climate and that you are applying it frequently enough to continually protect yourself.

Be sure to read the info on your sunscreen bottle before buying it.

Not looking for a sunscreen that prevents tanning? Check out out other tanning posts instead:


What’s your favorite sunscreen? Does your chosen sunscreen brand prevent or encourage tanning?

Comments (18)

  1. Sophie 2 years ago

    I’m extremely pale so try to opt for formulas that are essentially a total block to protect my skin as much as possible. It’s just not worth it, especially when there are so many great fake options available if you do want a tan x


    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Definitely, and if you have pale sensitive skin there are problems that can arise when you try and tan without protection!

  2. Aimsy 2 years ago

    I have olive tone skin, so I usually tan quite well, however, if I am not careful do burn. I always look for a sunscreen with 5 stars next to the UVA and UVB as it protects well for both harmful rays. One of my favourites is Hawaiin tropic, but the star rating isn’t the best…it does smell gorgeous though!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Aimsy xoxo

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Love Hawaiian Tropic, it just smells so good!

  3. Charity 2 years ago

    I definitely need sunscreen! My skin is so sensitive and I will burn like crazy if I don’t have any on!

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Sunscreen is an absolute staple!

  4. Kinga 2 years ago

    I love this La Roche Posay product ❤

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Love it too!

  5. Ashley 2 years ago

    Great post, babe- I think it’s important to distinguish between what products protect and what can help prevent tanning altogether.

    Le Stylo Rouge

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Thanks luv! And agreed!

  6. Tiziana 2 years ago

    Love love love your posts!!! And sunscreen is so important, my favorite is from Eucerin 🙂
    have an amazing day,

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Always happy to see you around, Tiziana! And thank you for your product recommendation!

  7. Nancy 2 years ago

    Years ago, I thought sunscreen would prevent tanning but it is more of a burn-prevention or lessening more than anything. I am so prone to getting a tan. Thanks for sharing these facts!

    Nancy ✨

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Definitely more about protecting your skin than anything, although there ARE some brands that were tried and tested to be able to prevent tanning more effectively than others! Thanks so much for stopping by, Nancy!

  8. Fashion Drips 2 years ago

    Very informative. I always prefer to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to prevent tanning as much as I can.

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Great tip!

  9. Michelle L Cote 1 year ago

    Currently it is very hot out, (95-100temp) will using a higher SPF tanning oil still allow tan, but prevent a burn? If so should I be using an oil with a higher SPF, to have a better chance at preventing a burn, though will it allow a tan, color (not burn) to occur?

    • Ellis James Designs 1 year ago

      Your duration outside also contributes to getting a burn, no matter how high your SPF. A higher SPF can help your skin from getting more burnt without affecting your tan, but don’t be out for too long!

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