Can You Put Sunscreen Over Self-Tanner?

Can You Put Sunscreen Over Self-Tanner
Self-tanners help you get that perfect sunless tan! Let’s see if we can use both together to protect you from the sun!

As summer is upon us, it is time to get that sun-kissed skin that you have been looking forward to all year round! But the problem with tanning under the sun is that you have to soak all the UV rays from it to actually get the tan. UV rays are known to cause many skin problems, especially skin cancer due to the UV reaction with the skin. This makes it impossible to get a suntan safely. That is why the beauty industry has produced something known as self-tanners to still achieve that suntan that you want!

However, can you put sunscreen over self-tanner? See, the problem with a tan is that it will not protect your skin from harmful UV rays so you will definitely need a bit of sunscreen to keep your skin well protected. But some beauty experts say that putting sunscreen over self-tanners is actually bad! So let’s dive into this topic and see exactly why this claim was made and if it is possible to combine both products together for safe and healthy skin!

Combining Sunscreen and Self-Tanner: Problems

Combining sunscreen and self tanner problems

The main problem with combining sunscreen and self-tanner is that it ruins the protection provided by the sunscreen. The tanning from self-tanners comes from an active ingredient known as DHA or dihydroxyacetone. This chemical reacts with the amino acid on the surface of the skin and causes a brown color to form on your skin. This is ultimately the tan that develops on your skin thanks to the formation of melanoidins on the skin.

This reaction takes a while to completely finish, needing anywhere from 4 to 8 hours depending on the tan you want to achieve on your skin. This works on the skin surface, where the sunscreen would also be needed to apply. The problem with it is that there are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. UVB is responsible for sunburns and skin cancer (malignant melanoma) and UVA causes all the photoaging and wrinkles to form on your skin and can even cause skin cancer as well!

The problem is that sunscreen with a broad-spectrum defense helps to block both UVA and UVB. But when combined with DHA present in self-tanners, it is known to diminish the effects of the sunscreen’s protection against UVA so you are still at risk from problems even if you were to combine the two together. That is why if you are to use a self-tanner, don’t use sunscreen along with it as it will ineffective and makes you exposed to harmful UVA rays!  However, this is the case for the first 8 hours or so, when the DHA is still active on your skin surface and not after the tan has fully developed. I will get to that part on how to put sunscreen after self tanner a bit later.

Self-Tanners with SPF Rating: Good or Bad?

Self tanners with spf rating good or bad

There are products on the market that boasts both self-tanner and SPF rating. The thing is that self-tanner inherently has a bit of SPF rating with it but it is only about 2 to 3 SPF rating. The real problem that lies with self-tanner and having sunscreen ingredients is that DHA, the main tanning ingredient, is an active ingredient. As an active ingredient, it reacts with the sunscreen ingredients and causes some problems.

When DHA reacts with sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it reacts such that it diminishes both tanning and sun protection properties. As I have said before, DHA lessens the UVA protection from broad-spectrum sunscreen. The same applies to self-tanners that have this sunscreen in them. The longer that the bottle remains unused, the less likely the self-tanner can give any UVA protection.

There is another method that people use to apply both a tanning ingredient with sunscreen is using tanning drops on sunscreen and then applying it on their skin. The same problem arises here as well because if the tanning drop has DHA, it will react with the sunscreen and not give you proper sun protection.

That is why if you are to use a self-tanner with an SPF rating or mix tanning drops with sunscreen, you will still need sunscreen to give full protection from all UV rays. But it will react on the skin itself causing the UVA protection to lessen drastically. That is why self-tanners cannot replace sunscreen and cannot be used with sunscreen either! The only way that is possible is after the self-tanner has tanned your skin. So ultimately, self-tanners with sunscreen are a bad idea. Instead, you can use sunscreen after your tan has fully developed!

Applying Sunscreen After Self Tanner

The DHA reaction on your skin needs anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to work completely to produce the tan. This is when the DHA from the self-tanner will have reacted with the amino acids on your skin and not be present on your skin. Only after this can you put on sunscreen on your newly tanned skin!

There are two types of sunscreen that you can use after a self-tanner which are mineral sunscreens and spray sunscreens. For mineral sunscreen, you will need one that is oil, alcohol, and paraben-free so that it does not smudge your tan. The same applies to spray sunscreen where you have to make sure that it contains no alcohol in it or else it will definitely smudge your tan. So let’s get to the part where you apply sunscreen after self-tanner.

Mineral sunscreen

For mineral sunscreen, you need about 1 ounce of sunscreen to effectively cover the whole body. So for the face, take enough to cover two fingers or about 1 tablespoon of sunscreen. Then apply it on your face, making sure to gently pat it on your face and then slightly rub it in a circular motion to cover your face in a thin even layer. For the rest of the body, you will have to be careful to not smudge your tan with the sunscreen so using it on your skin after 24 hours is the best option. That is when the tan is fully developed and rubbing your skin won’t smudge your tan. Once you have covered your entire body with sunscreen, let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes to absorb the cream into the skin and leave behind the mineral sunscreen on your skin to help protect your skin.

Mineral sunscreen

Spray sunscreen

Spray sunscreen is easier to put on the body because aren’t smudging the spray after applying it on your skin. So just make sure to cover the skin with the spray until you get a sheen on your skin. That is when you will know that the sunscreen is fully applied to your skin. To get a more even coverage of the sunscreen, you will need to gently rub the skin and get it to all parts of your skin. The same applies to the face where you cannot directly apply it on your skin. Instead, you will have to spray on your hand and then spread it across your face by patting it and then gently smoothing it across your face till you get a thin layer of the sunscreen on your face. Afterward, leave it to dry for 15 to 30 minutes before heading out in the sun.

For both mineral sunscreens and spray sunscreens, you will need to make sure that you reapply it every 2 hours. The problem with sunscreen is that its protection level drops over time and after 2 hours you won’t have any sunscreen left on the skin. So make sure to reapply every 2 hours so that you are fully protected from the sun! If you are applying after 24 hours, you won’t have any problem with the sunscreen smudging or streaking your tan so you can liberally apply the sunscreen.

Spray sunscreen

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DHA-Free Tanning

Dha free tanning

Because DHA can cause an adverse reaction on sensitive skin, there are no products that are free from any DHA but is still able to produce a tan on the skin! The main ingredient that helps to give the tan in these products is called erythrulose. This self-tanning ingredient works much in the same way DHA does by combining with the amino acids on the skin however it takes much longer to develop the tan.

This will not provide you with protection against the sun’s UV rays but it is safe to combine with sunscreen which is the important part! Erythrulose will give you a longer tan than DHA even if it takes longer to develop. But you can use sunscreen with the erythrulose while the tan is developing to help protect your skin against the sun! It might cause an uneven tan to be produced because the sunscreen will have to be rubbed on the skin but at least it will provide your skin with full protection from both UVA and UVB!


1. Will sunscreen ruin a spray tan?

If you apply sunscreen on a spray tan before 24 hours, the sunscreen will ruin the spray tan and cause it to give uneven tanning on your skin.

2. How do you get a dark tan with sunscreen?

For darker tan with sunscreen, you will need to spend more time under the sun because only 2% of the UV rays responsible for tanning are able to reach the skin. Just make sure that you reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when tanning with sunscreen.

3. Can I apply sunscreen without moisturizer?

While it is possible, the moisturizer helps keep the skin moisturized and protected from UV rays. What is even better is to use a moisturizing sunscreen to give you both benefits at once!

4. Can I use self-tanner on my lips?

It is possible but you should not apply self-tanner on your lips due to the possibility of ingesting the self-tanner. So don’t apply a self-tanner on your lips!

5. How long does a self-tanner tan last?

Most self-tanner tans last around 7 days. It mainly depends on how much you sweat as that can remove the tan on your skin over time.

Final Thoughts

Sunscreen and self-tanners cannot be used together because of the active ingredient DHA present in self-tanners. Even with self-tanners proclaiming any SPF rating on it, know that this protection is limited to only UVB and not UVA, even if you were to combine the sunscreen with a tanning drop. That is why it is important to let the tan fully develop and then apply sunscreen on your skin to give you full protection from the sun! If you want, you can also use erythrulose tanning products with sunscreen but you will have to apply the sunscreen so as not to ruin the tan while it is developing. I hope that with this, you have a complete idea of self-tanners and sunscreens together and avoid using them together until the tan has fully developed.

Key Points

  • Combining a self-tanner with sunscreen is a bad idea because it has the potential to both ruin the sunscreen’s effects and the tan itself.
  • Apply sunscreen after using a self-tanner is easy as long as you let the self-tanner darken the skin for up to 24 hours.
  • Self-tanners with SPF ratings are bad because they can only provide protection from UVB rays and not UVA rays.
  • Even with a tan, your skin will not be protected from the sun. That is why it is important to wear sunscreen over the tan to keep it well protected.
  • You can use mineral sunscreen or a spray sunscreen but make sure that you don’t ruin the tan itself due to rubbing the sunscreen on your skin.
  • There are self-tanning products that give you a tan without DHA. These are made with erythrulose which is good for even sensitive skin and can be used with sunscreen without diminishing the sun protection properties of the sunscreen.

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