Does Sunscreen Make Your Skin Lighter?

does sunscreen make your skin lighter
It is a myth that sunscreen makes your skin lighter. See if there is any truth to this claim by taking a closer look at the topic.

Without sunscreens, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beaches as much. It provides you with the confidence that your skin will remain protected when you are out and about in the sun as it will either absorb or scatter the UV rays from reaching your skin. Regardless, there has been a myth going around that people are slowly starting to accept themselves.

So let’s ask the burning question: does sunscreen make your skin lighter? While this might have some truth to it, it is a bit more complicated than that! There are body whitening or lightening lotions that help to brighten your skin, but most if not all of them have sunscreen. The skin-lightening effect may not come from sunscreen itself but people still believe it is their sunscreen that is making their skin lighter. To tackle this issue, let’s take a more in-depth look at what caused this myth and if we can disprove it or not!

Sunscreen and Fairer Skin: Fact or Fiction

Sunscreen and fairer skin fact or fiction

Let’s start off by stating the answer right here. No, sunscreen does not make your skin fairer. But, there are body whitening lotions out there like the Nivea Extra Whitening Cell Repair Body Lotion SPF 15 which helps to make the skin fairer and has an SPF rating. This means that it can both make your skin lighter and give you a bit of sun protection!

But let’s dive a little deeper into sunscreen and fairer skin topics a bit deeper because there is a bit of misconception about it. The sunscreen itself does not make your skin fairer, but the effects that it provides do. As you might be aware, you get a tan on your skin if you are out in the sun for too long. This is because the UV rays from the sun react with your skin causing your skin to produce melanin. Melanin is what makes your skin darker. Now, if you have sunscreen on, you are going to tan less out in the sun. That is exactly where the misconception comes from! The fact that you can less makes you have skin ‘seem’ lighter than it could have been.

Then there is sun-related damage to the skin which causes photoaging. This photoaging can range from dark spots or age spots to wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, etc. But let’s focus on the age spots. This is something that will happen to your skin naturally as you grow older. The UV rays from the sun can make your skin age faster causing age spots to appear earlier than usual. If you were to have sunscreen most of the time that you are outside, then you are relatively safe from the UV rays of the sun. This means that fewer age spots will appear on your skin as a result!

You can expect the effect of sunscreen to be plainly visible after 10 days. But that is only if you are already spending the majority of your time outside and noticed your skin tanning because you have been outside in the sun. In that case, you can expect that your skin will remain protected with sunscreen whenever you are outside. And after 10 days of being outside, you can expect that your skin is fairer than when you didn’t have it on.

Hopefully, this has brought to light about the myth between fairer or lighter skin and sunscreen and helped dispel the myth!

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Long-Term Effects of Wearing Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen can be really beneficial for you in the long term so let’s take a closer look at how they can help your skin, especially keeping your skin fairer.

Long term effects of wearing sunscreen

Lighter skin tone

An SPF 50 sunscreen is able to block about 98% of UV rays. This means that only 2% of the UV rays are able to react with the skin to produce melanin! If you were to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside, you are more likely to have a lighter skin tone as a result. Of course, this does mean that you will also need to reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours or so to keep the effectiveness of the sunscreen at 98%.

Less photoaging

With more protection against UV rays, the less those pesky rays will be able to make your skin age prematurely! This means that you will have fewer wrinkles, less appearance of age spots, less loss of skin tone, and fewer spider veins appearing on your skin! So to prevent premature aging of the skin, make sure to wear sunscreen and reapply it from time to time.

Less hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a big problem that is caused by extended exposure to the sun. By continuing to wear sunscreen, you can prevent the blemishes and scarring that come with hyperpigmentation. There are also some really good face washes for hyperpigmentation you can check out!

Moisturized skin

Let’s face it, whatever the time of year, your skin needs to remain moisturized and hydrated. If you continue to wear moisturizing sunscreen, not only will you remain protected against the sun but also have moisturized skin that won’t dry out! Dry skin can be really problematic so make sure that your sunscreen doubles as a moisturizing lotion too!

Wearing Sunscreen Everyday: Downsides

Wearing sunscreen everyday downsides

While wearing sunscreen every day could be really beneficial for your skin, there are some downsides to putting sunscreen every day. Sunscreen is known to be irritating to the skin because of its active ingredients (especially chemical sunscreen) and fragrances. If you have sensitive skin or acne-prone skin, then sunscreen could be problematic because it can cause breakouts of the skin.

Not only that but sunscreen can also be worn off very easily. This can lead to a false sense of security that you are protected from the sun when you aren’t! Sweating and contact with water can rub off sunscreen and leave the area unprotected from the sun. You will also have to reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours because its effectiveness decreases with time. If you forget to reapply the sunscreen, then you run into the same problem as before with a false sense of security. And constant reapplication of the sunscreen can clog the pores of your skin.

So if you want good sunscreen, make sure it is non-comedogenic, gives long-term protection, is moisturizing, water-resistant, and if possible fragrance-free! I suggest the Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion and the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen!


1. What can sunscreen bleach?

While sunscreen is not able to bleach your skin, they are able to bleach corals along reefs of beaches. These can have devastating effects on the coral ecosystem as a result!

2. What does Hydroquinone do to the skin?

Hydroquinone is a drug that helps to lighten skin caused by pregnancy and hormonal imbalance. However, they make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

3. What is the best sunscreen?

The best sunscreen out there is mineral sunscreen made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They are safe for the skin and eyes, and do not bleach coral reefs!

4. Should I wear sunscreen indoors?

If the sunscreen is moisturizing and non-comedogenic then you definitely can and should! Just because you are inside do not prevent UV rays from entering your house. With sunscreen, you are safe from sun damage as well!

5. How long does sunscreen take to work?

For sunscreen to be as effective as possible, it needs somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes to absorb into the skin so that the UV filter ingredients are left on the surface of the skin to protect you from the sun. Make sure to reapply every 2 hours so that you are well protected from the sun!

Final Thoughts

While sunscreens are good for you, constantly having them on your face and body could be problematic. That is why it is important to have it on days when you will be spending the majority of the day outside in the sun like the beach or out in the open. Regardless, sunscreen doesn’t make your skin fairer but they make sure that your skin doesn’t darken too much when you are out in the sun. Regardless, make sure that you reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or so when you are out on the beach so that you can enjoy the sun without compromising your skin to the potential dangers of UV rays!

Key Points

  • While the sunscreen does not make the skin lighter, it can help to block UV rays that cause the skin to darken in the first place.
  • There are long-term benefits that come with having sunscreen every day and it might be beneficial for you!
  • However, there are also downsides to wearing sunscreen every day that you should be aware of.

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