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If you’re interested in tanning in the summer, you might give a second thought to the popular suggestion of wearing sunscreen when you’re outdoors. But does using sunscreen prevent tanning? What about the risk of skin cancer from prolonged sun exposure?

This article will look at how tanning works and what sunscreen can do to protect you against the sun. Next, we’ll talk about whether sunscreen can prevent tanning.

How Does Tanning Work?

Sunlight has several different components apart from the visible light that separates day from night. One of these components is ultraviolet or UV radiation. The UV radiation from the sun is composed of UVA and UVB radiation, which are different frequencies of ultraviolet light that work on the skin in different ways.

Your skin has a naturally-occurring pigment known as melanin, which protects the body against ultraviolet radiation by absorbing it. It’s also predominantly responsible for your skin color; darker skin contains more melanin. Special cells in the bottom layer of the epidermis called melanocytes produce melanin in response to UV light exposure.

UVA radiation darkens the existing melanin in your skin, although it does not trigger the production of more melanin. On the other hand, UVB radiation causes your skin to produce more melanin. This produces a darker tan that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to months.

It’s important to note, though, that prolonged exposure to sunlight and UV radiation causes skin cancer. That means that as long as you don’t stay in the sun long enough to get a sunburn, exposure to sunlight isn’t bad for you. However, moderate exposure to UV light can increase vitamin D production, which is essential for good health.

Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?

Sunscreen and other forms of sunblock protect your skin against the damaging effects of UV radiation. It contains chemicals that scatter and absorb ultraviolet light. Naturally, however, this can lessen the amount that reaches your skin and causes the melanin to darken. But since it does not eliminate the effect of UV rays on your skin, some tanning will still occur.

The SPF (sun protection factor) rating of sunscreen will determine the amount of UV radiation that reaches the skin. For example, SPF 30 sunscreen will only allow ¹⁄₃₀ of the UV radiation to reach the skin, while SPF 15 will allow ¹⁄₁₅ (double the amount that SPF 30 allows.) Dermatologists recommend wearing at least SPF 30 sunscreen and reapplying a thick layer every few hours.

Ultimately, even if you’re planning on tanning in the sun, it’s important to wear sunscreen to prevent the harmful effects of UV radiation. While it might take a little longer to get a tan, lowering your risk of skin cancer, wrinkles, and sagging skin is worth it.


This post is brought to you by Care Dermatology. We’re proud to offer the best dermatology in Florida. Our experts are always here to help you with all of your skin concerns. If you have any questions, please call one of our offices, and we’ll be happy to help.

You can reach us at (352) 612-1722 for our Fruitland Park location or (352) 218-3211 for our location at The Villages. You can reach our Kissimmee location at (407) 553-3979.

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