Does a sunless tan prevent sunburns?

Everyone knows that extended exposure to the sun causes sun tanning. The reason for this sun tanning is because darker skin reduces the amount of damage the sun can do to your body. In a way, the tan itself is a result of severe sun damage, and the tan is created to reduce the chances of more damage in the future.

That does not imply that having a tan means that your skin will not receive much damage. On the contrary, your skin has already been damaged, and the more sun you receive, the more damage will occur. But the amount of damage is going to be slightly less than before your tan, because the tan reduces how much damage affects your skin. It is the reason that people with natural tans are at slightly less risk for sun damage than people with lighter skin.

Still, the fact that tanning reduces how much future damage may occur is interesting. It brings up the question – if you get a spray on tan to change the color of your skin, and then you go out sun tanning, are you going to receive less damage from the sun?

Sun Damage and Spray on Tan Color

The answer is a clear and concise “no.” Remember, the tan occurs at a very base level, deep within the skin. Sunless tanners are chemicals that cause the appearance of a tan on the top of the skin. Thus deep within the skin is still as fair skinned as it always was, and will still receive harsh sun damage from being left outside.

In addition, you may not be able to notice as easily that your skin is burning, since the sunless tan will change your skin tone to make it harder to see that you are turning red. That means that in some ways you are actually more at risk for skin damage than you were before the sunless tan, because you will have a harder time noticing that you have received such serious damage.

Finally, prolonged exposure to the sun breaks up some of the chemicals used in sunless tanning agents. So the more exposure you have to the sun, the less time your spray on tan will last.

Consider Products with Sun Protection

For those that are determined to get a real tan from the sun, but are also strongly considering sunless tanner until that tan occurs, consider finding one that has its own sun protection inside of the ingredients. For sun tanning, it is believed that the best way to tan is to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or so, allowing your skin to see a little bit of sun and then protecting it from further damage. Some sunless tanners provide you with sunscreen protection, so that your skin will stay safe, you should tan a little (though not a lot), and your sunless tan will still give you that naturally tan appearance.

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