Does Sunblock Prevent Skin Tanning?

Forgetting sunblock is the most common mistake which is essential to prevent tanning and skin burns.

 Onlymyhealth Staff Writer
Written by: Onlymyhealth Staff WriterUpdated at: Mar 03, 2020 17:04 IST
Does Sunblock Prevent Skin Tanning?

Sunscreen might prevent the tanning to some degree. According to the recommendation of dermatologists, wearing sunscreen every day may help prevent the sun’s rays from causing photoaging and skin cancer. It might still be possible to get a slight tan even if you put on sunscreen but no amount of deliberate tanning is considered safe.

How does it work?

  • There are two different ways in which the sunscreen works. The active chemical-based sunscreen that absorbs ultraviolet (UV) such as oxybenzone. They alter these UV rays before they have a chance to cause any damage.
  • The physical-based with zinc and titanium oxides blocking agents reflects and scatter UV rays away 
  • Look for one that is broad-spectrum, or protects against the damaging types of UV rays that are ultraviolet (UVA) and ultraviolet B(UVB) rays rather than choosing between chemical-based and physical sunscreen.
  • Sunscreen does protect you a bit from tanning but it’s important to remember that sunscreen acts as a filter so you can still tan at some level. 
  • The skin responds to sun exposure by becoming inflamed and the skin adapts by tanning. The more you are exposed to the sun, the more severe a burn may be. The skin gets tanned due to the release of melanin in the affected area.



  • The broad-spectrum sunscreen products protect against both UVA and UVB rays. The UVB rays are shorter wavelengths causing burns, wrinkles and age spots. UVA rays consist of longer wavelengths and can lead to skin cancers and burns. 
  • If you don’t apply sunscreen on unprotected areas, the small amount of sun exposure can tan your skin. 

Ideal SPF

  • The sunscreen contains an SPF also known as sun protection factor. The ideal SPF measures how much UV gets through the screen. If the number is higher, then fewer UV rays pass through the skin. 
  • An SPF of 30 allows only one-thirtieth or 3.3 per cent of UV rays to reach your skin. It will filter 96.7 per cent of UV. In the case of SPF 50, 98 per cent is filtered and 2 per cent gets through. 
  • The SPF can also refer to the amount of time it would take for your skin to burn without wearing sunscreen. An SPF 30 also means that the skin could take 30 times longer to burn than it would if it were left unprotected. This will only work if you apply it correctly in the right amount. 


  • Wearing sunscreen protects you against direct UV exposure incurred during outdoor activities as well as from day-to-day exposure such as driving, walking to places and going to the park.
  • If you are going to the beach or anywhere in the direct sunlight for an extended period like swimming, playing sports, you may need to apply a higher SPF like SPF 50 or more and keep reapplying it frequently. As no sunscreen protects your skin 100 per cent from UV rays, you can still get tanned. Applying sunscreen every day can prevent skin inflammation but won’t completely protect you from tanning.
  • Apply and layer out sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out as the product applied can get settled to your skin. Also, add on hats, shades, covered clothes to protect your skin and avoid getting tanned. 
  • Wear water-resistant sunscreen while doing certain activities. This ensures that the product doesn’t fall off your skin and leave it exposed to the damaging UV rays. 
  • Consult a dermatologist about the SPF you should be using and for a skin check. If you have a history of skin cancer or have tanned skin then it is advisable to talk to one. The sooner the detection of skin cancer, the better the treatment outcome.
  • Avoid going out during the peak sunlight hours between 10 AM to 4 PM as that will minimize exposure. 

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