Wearing sunscreen when you want to tan sounds contradictory to what you would think to do, right? But actually, it is exactly what you need to do if you want to get a healthy tan!
If you don’t wear sunscreen because you’re trying to tan, yes, you will get darker (after burning), but you will leave your skin completely unprotected against the sun’s harmful UV radiation.
The truth is that tanning is not that great for our skin, in general, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, because it means that UV rays have damaged our cells. This means that trying to tan without wearing sunscreen is simply dangerous.
The only healthy way to tan your skin is to do it gradually, while always remaining adequately protected with a broad spectrum sunscreen. Tanning oils or skipping sunscreen completely may yield fast results, but your results will be at the cost of damaging your skin cells and increasing your risk of skin cancer.
The sun-kissed look is something we all crave and try to cultivate, but I’m telling you it’s best to change the way you’re going about it! Wanting to have tanned skin is not an excuse to forego all of the important sun protection measures like UV protective clothing, seeking shade, and wearing sunscreen.
The key to tanning healthily is the opposite of what you would imagine. In order to tan your skin with the least amount of damage, you need to use the best sun protection possible. This means making sure that you are always wearing and reapplying an effective broad spectrum sunscreen. You want your skin to be protected so that you can spend more time in the sun. More time in the sun will gradually lead to your skin tanning, simply from exposure. That’s the trick to a healthy tan without burning!
After extensive research into the products that will provide the best protection for spending more time in the sun, SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER Sport Sunscreen SPF 35 as the best sunscreen for tanning. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for getting a tan.
To be sure that your skin is sufficiently protected against harmful UV rays during your extended time in the sun while tanning, there are a few must-have features that you should look for in your sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
One of the most important features that you should search for when buying sunscreen for any purpose is broad spectrum protection. This means that the sunscreen you’re buying protects against both UVA and UVB rays. This is essential in fully protecting your skin because each type of ray works differently.
UVB radiation causes your skin to burn or tan by damaging its outer layer. UVA radiation, on the other hand, penetrate your skin’s deepest layer (the dermis) contributing to premature aging.
Exposure to both types of rays increases your risk of skin cancer. Tanning may be a result of UVA rays, but that does not mean that you want to leave your skin unprotected against them just for a golden color!
Since you want to tan your skin, you will be spending large amounts of time with your skin exposed to the sun and its harmful UV rays. You need to be sure that you are always protected with a broad spectrum sunscreen, in order to minimize the damage to your skin.
How will you know if the sunscreen you’re buying is broad spectrum?
Check the label and the ingredients list. On many sunscreen bottles, you will find the words ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/B,’ making it clear that the product provides adequate protection. You can also check the ingredients list for zinc oxide. Sunscreens with zinc oxide protect against the full range of UVA/B rays, and are always a safe option.
The FDA has made broad spectrum protection a requirement so the majority of sunscreens you see will protect against both UVA/B rays. But it certainly won’t hurt you to double check the ingredients and label in your search for the best sunscreen for getting a tan!
Best SPF for tanning
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is one of those things most people think they understand, but when asked, realize they don’t really know much about. Yet it seems like we all turn to the SPF rating to help us decide whether or not we should buy a specific sunscreen. It’s an important feature, and knowing what it really means will help your search for a safe tan!
The SPF rating of any given sunscreen tells you what fraction of the sun’s rays will reach your skin when wearing the product (when properly applied). This means that if you are wearing a sunscreen with SPF 50 then 1/50th of the sun’s rays will reach your skin.
This explains why you are able to spend more time in the sun when you are wearing sunscreen. But do not get overexcited and get confused about the meaning!
A sunscreen with SPF 50 will not protect your skin for 50 times longer in the sun than if you were not wearing sunscreen. A lot of factors come into play when it comes to the effectiveness of SPF. These include things like time of day, the amount of sunscreen, whether it was properly applied, and the reflections from other surfaces like water or sand.
Take a look at this table below to really understand how much protection different SPF ratings provide you with:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
It’s a bit different than you thought, right? Truthfully, there is little difference between a sunscreen with SPF 100 and one with SPF 30.
SimplySunSafe recommends that you always use a sunscreen with an SPF rating no lower than 30 and no higher than 50. Our recommendation is in line with that of the FDA. That may sound high when you want to get a tan, but remember that you’ll be doing it gradually to protect your skin. So always wear the best SPF for tanning and regularly reapply!
Physical is better than chemical
Sunscreens can be divided into two types – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays as they reach your skin. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting the UV rays before they even reach your skin.
But do these different sunscreen types really matter? Trust me, they do!
There are a few important reasons why SimplySunSafe recommends physical or combination sunscreens over chemical ones. Physical sunscreens:
- Stop more radiation reaching your skin
- Protect against more of the UV spectrum (longer wavelength radiation)
- Work immediately upon application
- Last longer on the skin
- Are less likely to cause irritation
- Have a longer shelf life
There are also a couple of good reasons not to choose chemical sunscreens. The most important of these, is that chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that are endocrine disruptors. Can’t recall what you learned in biology? No problem, let me explain.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mess with your hormones. No bio knowledge needed to understand that you don’t want that! Make sure that you always check a sunscreen’s ingredients for the worst endocrine disruptor, oxybenzone, and avoid it no matter what!
There are some other keywords you can search for when buying a sunscreen. Look for the words ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ on the label. This gives you a clear indication that you’re buying a physical sunscreen. If you want to be even more certain, you can make sure that the only active ingredients used are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These are two safe yet effective ingredients.
Now that you know skipping sunscreen is not an option in your pursuit of tanning, do yourself a favor and seek out a sunscreen of great quality. The best sunscreen for a tan will always be a physical one!
So now you know you need to wear a strong and effective sunscreen when you are tanning. This will ensure your sunscreen won’t falter in protecting your skin as you push the limits of sun exposure. To help with this, you’ll want a sunscreen that is water resistant.
If you are going to spend more time in the sun to tan your skin, you are more than likely going to swim, or even more likely, sweat! If your sunscreen is not water resistant, it will melt right off you, leaving your skin vulnerable to damage from UV radiation.
Sunscreens are sold with water resistance choices of 40 or 80 minutes. The best sunscreen to tan fast will be one that is stronger and works longer. That means you want to choose a sunscreen with water resistance for 80 minutes.
Think about it. You want to tan, that means you want your skin to be under as much sun as possible, which means you will sweat! Make sure your sunscreen will not melt and leave you unprotected while you’re tanning.
Something important to keep in mind is that no sunscreen is ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweatproof’. Don’t be fooled by any misleading labels and assume you’ll be able to tan for hours without reapplying your sunscreen.
Stick with a sunscreen that specifies 80 minutes of water resistance, and be strict about reapplying it at least every two hours (more often if you are swimming or really sweating)!
Rub on lotion not spray
The lighter feel of spray sunscreen may seem like the better option for optimizing your ability to tan, but I do not recommend spray sunscreens. You need a safe and effective sunscreen when exposing your skin to more sun in order to tan. And the safety and effectiveness of spray sunscreens is questionable at best.
Rub on lotion is always the safer option. This is because it is too easy to accidentally inhale the chemicals in spray sunscreens when you’re applying them. And while your skin is able to handle these chemicals, your internal lung tissue is not.
Spray sunscreens are also less effective than rub on lotions. Can you really apply a sufficient and even layer of sunscreen all over your body with a spray sunscreen? It’s unlikely. Rub on lotions provide you with greater control of the sunscreen’s proper application.
When searching for the best sunscreen for a dark tan, you will want one that will provide you with adequate protection. Spray sunscreens will not protect you strongly or evenly enough to be able to spend extended amounts of time in the sun. With a rub on lotion, you will control the thickness of the layer you apply and its even distribution around your skin.
Suitable for daily use
A healthy tan is built gradually. This means that you will need to be out in the sun each day to create the golden tan you’re seeking. So you want a sunscreen that you can wear everyday without issue or irritation.
Sunscreens that will not irritate your skin with daily use while you build up your tan will have physical active ingredients (preferably zinc oxide), be hypoallergenic, and free of things like parabens.
Each of the products recommended in this guide has been chosen based on their respective formulas and their suitability for daily use. These sunscreens will not irritate your skin no matter how many reapplications are necessary during your many hours tanning.
Best Sunscreen for Tanning Comparison
|BADGER Sport Sunscreen||BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical||Thinksport Sunscreen||EltaMD UV Pure||California Baby Super Sensitive|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)||Titanium Dioxide (12%)|
|Scented||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens for Tanning
After careful research into the most effective sun protection available for tanning purposes, which included discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for tanning. Each product provides broad spectrum protection, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, and water resistance. They are all free of oxybenzone, suitable for daily use, and available in rub on lotions.
BADGER Sport Sunscreen SPF 35 is the best sunscreen for a golden tan! This physical sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through its active ingredient zinc oxide (22.5%). It is the ideal option for protecting your skin while you’re tanning as it is effective yet gentle enough for daily use and consistent reapplication.
BADGER Sport Sunscreen is made from only 5 total ingredients: zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and sunflower vitamin E. With this short list of natural ingredients, your skin will be safe from irritation, even with daily use of the product. This formula is also fragrance free, making it friendly for even the most sensitive skin.
You will receive the exact protection you need for successful tanning with BADGER Sport Sunscreen, as it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. This will allow you to expose the parts of your skin you want tanned for longer periods of time while still being sufficiently protected.
The thickness of this formula can leave a white cast that isn’t the most visually appealing for a tanning session, but if you rub it in thoroughly, this shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, that is a small price to pay for a lovely tan and protected skin!
BADGER Sport Sunscreen is reasonably priced and will provide you with the peace of mind to relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun while you tan, knowing that your skin is properly protected!
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Simple formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical is another great sunscreen for tanning. This formula offers broad spectrum protection through the use of its only active ingredient, zinc oxide (20%). This sunscreen offers strong protection and was crafted to reliably protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays, making it a good choice to use while tanning.
BurnOut Ocean Tested will protect your skin against harm through a gentle formula that can be used every day. It is free of chemicals, PABA, and parabens. Not to mention that the sunscreen also contains aloe vera and tocopherols (a type of vitamin E) which will promote health in your skin.
BurnOut passes the water resistance test at 80 minutes. Once again, this formula has a thick consistency may put you off at first. If you’re willing to put in some elbow grease to rub the lotion in, it’ll dry to a noticeable layer perfect for helping you to remember to reapply. An added bonus of the thicker formula is its amazing water resistance that’s proven to work extremely well in the most intense conditions.
BurnOut is right up to par with the number 1 choice, BADGER Sport Sunscreen, and is second on the list due only to the better feedback BADGER gets from users who tan. Despite this, BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical may be the ideal product for you to tan evenly and safely!
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Hydrating ingredients
- 80-minute water resistance
- Takes time to rub in
- Likely white cast
Thinksport Sunscreen is a fantastic option for tanning. This sunscreen is also marketed towards athletic activities, which is one of the things that makes it such a dependable option for tanning.
It provides broad spectrum protection through the active ingredient zinc oxide (20%). The higher SPF rating means that it may take you longer to gradually build up your tan, but it is a safer option for those with fair or especially photosensitive skin.
Thinksport will not cause your skin irritation when you use it for protection every day while tanning. The formula is PABA, paraben, and phthalate free. It was the first product to pass the Whole Foods premium care requirements and this company follows FDA regulations strictly and supplies only quality products.
This formula is, of course, water resistant for 80 minutes, and therefore suitable for your tanning needs. Though it may feel like a heavy product, its aim towards sports activities means that it is very durable and adept in properly protecting your skin for longer periods of time.
Feedback from customers who used this sunscreen while tanning was positive. They were able to gradually build color without having to worry about burning. This makes thinksport another good option to test out when searching for a sunscreen to tan with!
- High SPF
- Great value
- Reliable water resistance
- Thick formula
- Likely white cast
EltaMD UV Pure is a favorite here at SimplySunSafe, and is a great sunscreen for many situations, including tanning. It provides broad spectrum protection through the active ingredients zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%). It is gentle enough to be used on all skin types.
This sunscreen has a lightweight formula ideal for daily use. It is not likely to cause any irritation as it is non-comedogenic and free of parabens, oils, dyes, fragrances, hormones, and gluten. There is a very light scent left by this sunscreen, but most customers report that it is not bothersome at all.
EltaMD UV Pure meets the ideal 80 minutes of water resistance, but it has landed at number 4 on this list due to issues in that area. Some feedback on this product suggests that it runs a little too easily if you sweat a lot. The problem here is that when you’re tanning, it is very likely that you will be sweating as you will be trying to tolerate as much direct sunlight as possible.
This product is very reasonably priced and fits all of your tanning needs. It is lower on the list only because, compared to its sports-oriented counterparts, EltaMD UV Pure doesn’t provide the same long-lasting protection in terms of water resistance.
But don’t count it out before you try it! It is a great product that may just be the perfect fit for your personal tanning needs.
- High SPF
- 80-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
- Less reliable water resistance
If you have very sensitive skin, but are looking to try to cultivate a golden glow, then this may be the best sunscreen for you. California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through the active ingredient titanium dioxide (12%).
As is explained in its name, this formula is designed especially for sensitive skin. It will not cause any irritation to your skin, even when used and reapplied daily. The formula is hypoallergenic, PABA-free, and fragrance free.
California Baby Super Sensitive offers water resistant protection for 80 minutes, but like with EltaMD UV Pure, you will need to reapply frequently if you sweat a lot while tanning. The lotion is a bit thick and will take some rubbing in if you don’t want to be left with a white cast.
California Baby Super Sensitive is a good choice for tanning, and if you have very sensitive skin, it will likely be your best choice. It is listed last on our list because it lacks zinc oxide in its ingredients and because it is a bit pricey. You should test it out for yourself to see if it could be your ideal tanning sunscreen!
- Designed for sensitive skin
- 80-minute water resistance
- No zinc oxide
- Less durable water resistance
This guide was written for those who are trying to find the best sunscreen for tanning. I really hope that by reading this guide, you gained more knowledge about how to tan healthily and what to look for in a sunscreen for tanning. I hope you found a product that fits your specific needs!
SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER Sport Sunscreen SPF 35, but all 5 products will sufficiently protect your skin while you spend time in the sun tanning.
Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to test a few products when searching for your perfect sunscreen. After testing different sunscreens, you will be able to make a more informed decision about which one fits your personal needs. Then you will be able to proceed with your desire to achieve golden skin in the least harmful way possible.
I really love to learn new things and hear about new products from people around me. So if you use or know of another sunscreen that is good for tanning, please let me know in the comments. I will check it out and maybe even add it to this list!