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Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning? What Your Bronzed Tan Means

A day at the beach can raise your spirits like nothing else can, and to top it all off, you’ll usually find that you’ll enjoy that sun-kissed, bronzed look for a few days, too. While the bronzed and glowing look is an aspiration for many people, it’s important to consider your sun protection needs for your skin type. Plus, even people who always keep their skin tan and looking healthy can find themselves suffering from premature aging, fine lines, and other consequences of too much sun exposure.


Sun safety 101 tells us that sunscreen is essential. But what if you want to be sun-safe and achieve your bronzed or tanned look? Is that possible? Or does sunscreen prevent tanning? Moreover, what about tanning for people with deeper complexions? Do you need to wear sunscreen for your skin’s natural melanin , and can you still suffer from sunburn? In this blog, we’ll run through everything you need to know. 


The Big Question: Does Sunscreen Really Prevent Tanning?


The short answer to this question would be ‘yes,’ sunscreen does prevent tanning. However, if you dive a little deeper, then you’ll find that things are a little more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.


It’s still possible to get a tan while we’re wearing sunscreen, and that’s for the simple reason that sunscreen protects against the sun’s harmful ways but it doesn’t offer flawless protection – especially depending on how long you stay outdoors. Even the best sunscreen lotion in the world cannot block out 100% of the sun’s rays — and the few percent that make it through can give you a tan. So there we have it. 


How Sunscreen Works


Sunscreen works in one of two ways. Some sunscreens protect the skin by absorbing the sun’s UV rays. Others protect the skin by reflecting those UV rays. If you’re not wearing sunscreen, then the sun’s powerful UV rays will be absorbed into the skin, causing sunburns, premature aging, and, in some instances, even skin cancer.


However, this can also inhibit melanin production. Everyone produces melanin, but those with deeper skin tones will have more than others, hence the darker skin tones. The purpose of melanin is to protect your skin from the sun, which is why it is typically harder for people with darker skin to burn or “tan”. With sunscreen working to reflect or prevent the absorption of UV rays, it means your body starts producing less melanin. So, that’s one thing to keep in mind.  


Of course, there are things that can prevent sunscreen from working effectively. One is not applying enough cream. Most people tend to use only small amounts of sunscreen, which can compromise the effectiveness of the product. You’ll also find that sunscreen may not work as effectively if you’re wet, for instance, when you get out of the pool. Finally, remember that sunscreen does expire and also needs to be stored in a cool place. Sunscreen that is kept in hot conditions (such as a hot car) will break down more quickly, nullifying its effectiveness. 


Sun Protection Factor: What do the Numbers Mean?


The SPF number refers to how much time it would take the sun’s UV rays to penetrate your skin if you are wearing sunscreen versus if you had no coverage at all. If you apply the product properly, it will take you 30 times longer to redden if you were wearing SPF 30 sunscreen versus if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen.


Most people tend to assume that the higher the SPF number on a bottle of sunscreen, the higher the level of protection it’ll offer. But that’s only kind of true. It can be dangerous to assume that applying a high number means you can skip sun safety. It would be more effective to wear SPF 30 and reapply multiple times a day rather than applying SPF 70 just once a day.


What a “Tan” Means


A tan is actually indicative of skin damage. As mentioned, your skin produces melanin when it’s exposed to harmful amounts of UV rays — and it’s this melanin that darkens the skin. The more UV rays that your skin is exposed to, the more the skin feels “threatened” and the more melanin it produces. This is why people get darker tans when they spend more time in the sunshine. 


What is bronzing?


Bronzing is the process of deepening your skin to look healthier and glowy after staying in the sun. It’s popular amongst many black women as a way of adding dimension to the skin while looking nice and bronze. You see, producing lots of melanin will offer some natural protection from the sun. As such, darker individuals are less likely to burn. Nevertheless, you still need to protect yourself from the sun. Bronzing lets you do this, utilizing the protective benefits of specially formulated sunscreen with added ingredients that nourish the skin and provide a bronzed and glowy look. 


The Importance of Wearing Sunscreen Every Day


The majority of people only think about applying sunscreen when they’re going for a fun day in the sun. However, dermatologists recommend that people wear sunscreen every day, regardless of whether it’s sunny and hot or cloudy and cool. Why? Because UV rays are always present, and over time, they can cause wrinkles and other signs of aging, as well as more serious problems, such as skin cancer. 


This applies to everyone – including melanin-rich individuals. There’s a common misconception that black people don’t need sunscreen and skin protection. But, constant sun exposure will still have debilitating effects on your skin, regardless of how much melanin you produce. As such, it’s crucial to keep yourself protected to slow down the signs of aging, prevent skin cancer, and keep your skin looking naturally beautiful. 


If you’re looking for effective sunscreen designed with your skin in mind, be sure to check out our excellent selection of products here at Black Girl Sunscreen.