Looking for some tanning tips? Our tips are quite different from the rest.
In addition to the basics, we explain why carrots could be the secret to the perfect glow. Plus, we discuss why you need to rethink everything you know about sunblock and SPF ratings!
Just keep reading!
Tanning Tips For Looking Great
Before You Tan: Choosing Lotion | Bronzer or Accelerator
Tanning lotions give you greater control over your tan. Different types of lotion are available for indoor and outdoor tanning. While you can usually use indoor tanning lotions outside, many tanning bed salons ban outdoor lotions because they typically contain SPF.
Some brands, such as Maui Babe, developed multiple different versions of their tanning lotion to appeal to a broader base. Their range includes a sunbed safe version, and also a lotion that replaces mineral oil with coconut oil (for those with concerns over certain ingredients).
One of the most important tanning tips is to understand the pros and cons of each different type of tanning lotion and find the right lotion for you.
Tanning Lotions Are Moisturizing For Smoother Skin And A Longer Lasting Tan
Tanning in the sun (or on a sun bed) often dries your skin out.
In addition to accelerating the tanning process, lotions also hydrate and condition your skin. The result is a deeper, smoother, and faster tan.
Hydrating ingredients, often found the more expensive tanning lotions, help combat this dryness. These include vitamins oils, antioxidants, and soothing plant extracts like aloe vera. A good lotion will help your skin feel better and your tan should last longer.
Accelerating Lotions Enhance The Natural Tanning Process
These lotions stimulate, enhance, and speed up the natural tanning process that occurs when your body is exposed to UV rays. Accelerating lotions often include tyrosine (an amino acid believed to increase the production of melanin).1
Simple accelerating lotions speed up the time it takes for your skin to tan. These accelerators are not self tan products: they contain no color pigment whatsoever. This means you do not need to worry about orange palms, patches on the skin, or staining your belongings.
Bronzing Lotions For An Artificial Boost Of Color
Want to artificially boost your color? Opt for a 2 in 1 accelerating and bronzing lotion.
Bronzing lotions contain ingredients like DHA (and other bronzing agents) that produce a color on the skin. This color sometimes appears immediately on application, other times gradually, without even exposing your skin to UV rays.2
Using a bronzing lotion is a great tanning tip if you’re trying to cut down on your time spent sunbathing.
Because bronzing lotions provide that extra color, you can spend less time in the sun trying to reach your ideal shade of tan. However, because they often contain DHA, these lotions often have that infamous self tanner smell.
You also need to be more careful on application to prevent streaks.
Tingle Lotions Make It Easier To Achieve A Darker Tan
Tingle lotions, (as you may guess), produce a tingling sensation on the skin as you apply. They work via a process called micro-circulation. Here, the oxygen in your blood is raised to your skin’s surface.
This allows the UV light to reach your skin easier and produce a darker tan. One of the most important tanning tips is to never apply these tingle lotions to your face. 2
Skin Prep Tanning Tips: Wash, Exfoliate, & Moisturize
Preparing your skin before a sunbathe session is essential to get the most out of your tan. Before heading off for the beach, be sure to shower, shave, exfoliate, and moisturize. A fresh, smooth surface should provide a better looking tan and softer skin.
Keep It Moving!
Be sure to move around regularly while you’re tanning to get an even tan and prevent burning. Whatever you do, do not fall asleep in the sun! You could burn a lot easier and it will result in an uneven color all over. Avoid bathing suits with cut out details to prevent uneven tan lines.
Longevity Tanning Tips: Moisturize and Apply A Tan Extender
UVA rays cause photo damage on the skin, and this damage often manifests itself in drier skin.3
Be sure to use a moisturizer when you get home from the beach, and keep moisturizing your skin regularly to prolong the length of your tan.
To keep your tan going for even longer, why not try out a special tan enhancer lotion?
These lotions (like the Maui Babe Tan Enhancer and Healer) not only moisturize, they also help heal dry or damaged skin, prevent peeling and flaking, and seal in your tan to prevent it from fading.
Because your tan will last even longer, it will cut down on the number of tanning sessions necessary to keep your skin looking tan all the time.
As previously explored in our deep dive into the academic research on tan attractiveness, it’s possible that our attraction to a tanned appearance is driven by the yellowness of the tan.
In some studies, a deep tan is rated more attractive than a light tan. However, in others, a lighter color, but yellower skin tone is deemed more attractive.
Researchers believe this apparent preference for yellow toned skin is driven by the yellow color signalling a beta-carotene-rich diet.
In one particular study, men were rated to be much more attractive after consuming a beta-carotene-heavy diet than before the diet. Special computer software showed that their skin did in fact become yellower and more red following this change in eating habits! 4
Try cutting down on your minutes spent in the sun, and spend some time eating healthy, high beta-carotene content foods (like carrots and leafy greens) instead!
Tanning Tips For Staying Safe
There Are Some Benefits To UV Exposure, But Understand The Risks
Tanning can boost your endorphins, helping you feel more relaxed and happy. Some measures estimate that UV exposure enhances your production of beta endorphins by 44%. 5
Additionally, exposure to the sun can sometimes help clear up skin conditions like acne, eczema, and keratosis. 6
Perhaps the most well known benefit: moderate sun exposure helps produce vitamin D. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is less common in the sunnier regions of the world. 7 Exposure to UVB is possibly connected to this lower prevalence of MS, potentially due to vitamin D synthesis. 8
Despite these benefits, excessive UV exposure can be extremely damaging to the skin. Tanning can increase your risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma forms of cancer. UVA rays cause cellular damage, while UVB rays can turn your skin pink and blistery.
Plus, if you’re concerned about your image, you will not like the long term effects of sun damaged skin. Over time, tanning leads to premature skin aging. This results in more wrinkles, leathery skin, and the development of sun spots. 9
Protect Your Hair and Eyes From Damage
Wear heat protectant spray in your hair (and wear a hat) to prevent heat damage from the sun. Don’t forget your sunglasses to protect your delicate eye area from the UV rays.
Understand Your Skin Type: Use The Fitzpatrick Scale As A Guide
Your natural complexion will impact how your skin reacts to UV ray exposure. Certain skin types burn or tan easier than others.
The Fitzpatrick scale is a rough guide to help determine the impact of UV on your skin type. Be extra cautious if you’re type 1, 11, or 111. Limit your time spent in the sun, and be sure to use enough (safe) sunblock protection. 10
Rethinking Everything You Already Know About Sunscreen
Perhaps the most common safety tanning tip is to apply your favorite SPF sunscreen to protect your skin. However, recent research suggests it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Is Using Sunscreen Like Smoking 50 Cigarettes A Day?!
Some journalists are now questioning the safety of sunblock… with some even questioning if sunscreen is the new margarine! This fear is predominantly based on a 2016 Swedish study that claims avoiding sun exposure (including through wearing sunscreen) could be as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes! 11 12
Before you rush to throw out all of your sunblock, do not worry. That particular study does not even ask the participants about their sunscreen habits! 13 (Cassandra Bankson‘s excellent video pokes even more holes in this analysis).
The claims made in that particular study can largely be dismissed. But is sunscreen really 100% safe?
Some worry that sunscreen could actually cause cancer because of upward trends in both sunblock use and skin cancer rates.
Although it’s true that sunscreen use and skin cancer diagnoses have both increased in recent times, this does not mean sunblock is causing the skin cancer. For one, it’s possible that we’re just getting better and better at detecting skin cancer. 13
Is Sunscreen Really Linked To Cancer Prevention?
A survey analysis conducted by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency revealed the lack of current research into the question of whether the active ingredients in sunscreen (discussed below) are carcinogens or not. 14
A 2019 analysis of four previous studies attempted to determine the relationship between sunscreen and cancer. It’s very difficult to find such a link. Because so many different factors influence the likelihood of contracting cancer, it’s virtually impossible to accurately control for all of them.
The main takeaway from the 2019 review is that sunscreen appears to reduce the likelihood of contracting squamous cell carcinoma (a less deadly form of skin cancer). However its impact on melanoma and basal cell carcinoma is less clear. 15
Other studies found a more clear impact of sunscreen on the prevention of melanoma. An Australian cross-sectional analysis followed 1,600 people over the course of 10 years to track their lifestyle habits, including their use of sunblock. The study concluded that melanoma may be preventable in adults by regularly applying sunscreen over a long period of time. 16
FDA Examining Ingredients In Sunscreens
Sunscreens have not been updated much since the 1970s. The FDA is looking into the safety of some of the active ingredients commonly used in sunscreens.
It’s important to know the active ingredient providing the actual sun protection in your sunblock.
14 different ingredients are approved by the FDA for sun protection. 12 are currently up for review by the FDA. 17 Some of those up for review include octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone, and oxybenzone. 18
All of these up for review are the ‘absorbing’ kind of ingredient, found in chemical (rather than mineral/physical) sunscreens. Trace amounts of these ingredients have been found in human fluids like breast milk, urine, and blood. 18 19
Certain active ingredients like oxybenzone and homosalate appear to influence our hormonal balance. Even baby weight is correlated with the level of oxybenzone in a mother’s system! 18 Because these ingredients seem to absorb into our systems, we need to be 100% sure that they are safe to use.
The FDA is going to closely examine whether or not these chemicals are safe to use. If they’re not completely safe, brands will need to change the way they add them to their products (either by combining them with other ingredients, or changing their formula completely).
Which Sunscreen Type Is Definitely Safe? Mineral Sunscreen vs Chemical Sunscreen
The 2 active sunscreen ingredients considered definitely safe by the FDA are titanium and zinc oxide. These two ingredients are used in mineral/physical sunscreens. As explained in our breakdown of the history of tanning, zinc and titanium oxide were some of the first ever active ingredients used in sunblock.
Physical/mineral sunscreens work by reflecting UVA and UVB rays like a mirror, while chemical sunscreens actually absorb the rays.
It’s important to use sunblock that protects against both UVB and UVA everyday. Mineral/physical sunscreens do protect against both, however not all chemical sunblocks do.
Does Sunscreen Block Vitamin D absorption?
One of the key benefits of sun exposure is the fact that it provides a source of vitamin D. Vitamin D via a supplement does not have the same health impact. 20 21
Sunscreen does not block all of the vitamin D benefits from the sun. We need just 5 – 15 minutes a few times a week of sun exposure to prevent a vitamin D deficiency. 22 Research seems to confirm that a normal amount, and correct usage of sunscreen will not result in vitamin D deficiency. 23 24 25
SPF Score Is Somewhat Deceptive And Can Be Misleading To Consumers
One study compared the photoprotective efficacy and photostability (in natural sunlight) of 15 sunscreen products with the same SPF number on the label.
Even though the sunscreen products had the exact same SPF label on the bottle, they varied greatly in their actual level of UVA protection. Only 3 of the 15 complied with the UVA protection levels necessary for the advertised SPF level.
As the researchers point out, this makes choosing a sunscreen even more difficult for the consumer. You do not know the level of protection the sunscreen will truly give you. They conclude that the labelling on sunscreens needs to improve. 26
SPF acts purely as an indicator of how long the sunscreen product will protect your skin from UV rays until you need to reapply the product again.
The FDA is considering capping SPF levels at 50 or 60. This proposal is due to consumers thinking that the really high SPF levels will protect their skin all day following just one application. It will not.
Even though some consumers are confused about the need to reapply even high SPF sunscreens, there’s evidence that choosing very high SPF levels can be hugely beneficial.
Research has shown that sun protection products with SPF levels higher than 50 or 60 (in this case, SPF 85) are much more effective at preventing sunburn than SPF 50. The authors note that the FDA proposal to cap labelling at 50 or 60 could prevent consumers from accurately choosing an ultra high SPF level (often needed in certain environments). 27
SPF in Cosmetic Products Is Also Highly Misleading
The SPF protection in foundation or powder is usually not enough to actually protect your skin because you apply so little of the product to your face.
Dermatologist Leslie Baumann says you would need 7 times the regular amount of foundation, and 14 times the amount of powder to actually protect your skin from the sun with SPF makeup. 28
Sunscreen Tips: How To Use It Safely & How Often To Reapply
Rest assured that sunscreen is totally safe if you choose a mineral/physical formula with a high SPF level and reapply regularly. As long as you apply normal amounts of sunblock, sunscreen will not prevent vitamin D production.
Apply approximately one tablespoon of mineral sunscreen to the face and neck before you apply any makeup. 28
Mineral/physical sunscreens are better for your skin, your health, and the environment compared to chemical sunscreens.
However, some people think the chemical ones work better. Others like the spray format sunblocks that only really come in chemical form. Some people with darker skin tones find that the zinc oxide and titanium (mineral/physical) sunblocks leave a gray or white cast on their face.
The pros of using sunblock greatly outweigh the cons, even if you choose a chemical sunscreen. It’s better to use a chemical sunscreen than nothing at all, but opt for a mineral/physical one where you can.
Be sure to reapply a generous amount of sunscreen every 2 hours.29
Hope you enjoyed these tanning tips! Let us know your favorite tanning tips down in the comments!
1. ‘TYR gene‘ US National Library of Medicine
3. ‘The Relation between Sunscreen and Skin Pathochanges
Mini Review‘ by Elmarzugi et al.
6. ‘A Review of the Use of Tanning Beds as a Dermatological Treatment‘ by Radack et al.
7. ‘Multiple sclerosis: Geoepidemiology, genetics and the environment‘ by Milo et al.
8. ‘Environmental factors and their regulation of immunity in multiple sclerosis‘ by Koch et al.
10. ‘Fitzpatrick skin typing: Applications in dermatology‘ by Sachdeva
11. ‘Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?‘ by Jacobsen
13. ‘FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN‘ by Lashbrook
14. ‘Survey and health assessment of UV filters’ published by The Danish Environmental Protection Agency’
15. ‘The role of sunscreen in the prevention of cutaneous melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer‘ by Waldman et al.
16. ‘Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up.’ by Green et al.
17. ‘Shedding New Light on Sunscreen Absorption‘ by Woodcock et al.
18. ‘The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens‘ by EWA
20. ‘Vitamin D Supplements and Prevention of Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease‘ by Manson et al.
21. ‘Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Blood Pressure‘ by Khan et al.
23. ‘Does chronic sunscreen use reduce vitamin D production to insufficient levels?‘ by Norval et al.
24. ‘Photoprotection and vitamin D: a review.‘ by Kannan et al.