How To Have Healthy Summer Skin, AKA Can You Tan With SPF 50 Sunblock?

Can you tan with sunblock on?

Yes, but like your relationship status, it’s complicated. The main way sunscreen protects you is by prolonging the amount of time you can spend in the sun without getting burnt. So whilst sunscreen delays your skin’s reaction to sun exposure, it won’t determine how dark your tan is or how long it will take to show up. 

How long does it take for your skin to tan?

It depends on how much pigment, or melanin, is naturally in your skin to begin with. Someone with lighter skin (and therefore less melanin) will burn much quicker than someone with more melanin in their skin, who might be able to spend hours tanning and bypass the burn phase. Of course, the timing of your tan will also depend on your various applications of sun cream.

Is tanning safe?

Ummm...remember the ad on the telly that was all like “Tanning is skin cells in trauma”? When you experience sun exposure, those golden beams damage cellular DNA, which causes genetic mutations. That’s why tanning puts you at risk for skin cancer, whether you burn or tan (or both). TL; DR: enjoy the sun, but please be safe. 

"For maximum protection, always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields you from both UVA & UVB rays"

How does sunblock work?

Ah, yes, an answer that actually would have been helpful to learn in high school science...here we go! So the first thing you should know is that there are two different kinds of sunscreens, and they work in different ways. Chemical-based sunscreens (which use ingredients like octisalate and oxybenzone) absorb the aforementioned UV rays and change them before they cause skin damage. On the other hand, physical-based sunscreens (containing ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide) block and then scatter those same rays away from your skin.

What’s the difference between SPF and UV protection?

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is the amount of protected time you can spend in the sun before you start to burn. This does require some maths, so here’s an example. If you can usually spend 10 minutes outside before your skin starts to burn (which is a good rule of thumb), a thorough application of SPF 50 would allow you to spend 50 times as long outdoors, or 500 minutes (8.3 hours). 

UV protection refers to two different types of ultraviolet rays. UVA are longer wavelengths of light that deeply penetrate the skin to cause burns and cancers, whereas UVB rays are shorter and cause burns, but also signs of photoaging, such as spots and wrinkles.

The two do work together - an SPF 15 will block 93% of UVB radiation, whereas an SPF 30 will block 97% of the same rays. For maximum protection, always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields you from both UVA & UVB rays, like the Coconut Sunscreen Lotion from We Are Feel Good Inc. (They also have a product for sensitive skin, or their signature scent if that’s more your thing!)

What else should I do to protect my skin?

Always choose a water-resistant formula so your sunscreen doesn’t slide off when you’re paddling in the ocean. Also, remember that even small amounts of sun exposure (i.e. less than ten minutes) add up over time - it’s worth using a daily face moisturiser with SPF, so you’re always covered.

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