Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning? 6 Biggest Sunscreen Myths You've Probably Fallen For

Written by: Allison Taylor



Time to read: 10 min

Everyone covets a sun-kissed glow when summer rolls around.

However, it's no secret that excessive sun exposure has its consequences, including premature aging and skin cancer - the most common form of cancer in the world.

It's more important than ever to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays, and we're here to debunk the most common (and some harmful) sunscreen myths that you may have fallen for - and may be harming you.

Myth #1: Sunscreen Prevents Tanning

Verdict: False

While sunscreen does protect against UV rays, it is not a complete barrier. Tanning is caused by UVA rays, of which smaller amounts can still penetrate through sunscreen. This means you can still get a tan while wearing sunscreen.

However, it's important to note that a tan is actually a sign of skin damage. When exposed to UV rays, the skin produces more melanin in an attempt to protect itself from further damage. This is why tanning is often called "skin burning" by dermatologists.

On top of this - many people still get sunburned while wearing sunscreen because they think they are fully protected and stay out in the sun for longer periods of time. Make sure to keep reapplying every 2 hours - it won't stop you from achieving a sun-kissed glow.

Myth #2: The Lower the SPF, the More You'll Tan

Verdict: False

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the measure of a sunscreen's ability to protect your skin from UVB rays - the type of UV radiation that causes sunburns.

Many people believe that using a lower SPF will allow them to tan more, but this isn't necessarily true. In fact, using a low SPF (under 30 SPF) sunscreen can put you at risk for sunburns and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. 

Always opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays.

Our 6x award-winning Plumscreen™ is specifically formulated to be the perfect daily sunscreen.

It feels more like a refreshing moisturizer than a thick and greasy summer sunscreen.

It’s a 4-in-1:

  • Physical sunscreen
  • Moisturizer
  • Makeup primer 
  • Anti-aging skincare

Myth #3: The Higher the SPF, the Better

Verdict: False

Many people believe that the higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) in their sunscreen, the better protection they have against the sun's rays. However, this is not entirely true.

While a higher SPF does provide more protection against UVB rays, it does not necessarily mean that you are fully protected.

For example, an SPF of 30 blocks around 97% of UVB rays while an SPF of 50 only blocks about 98%.

Additionally, higher SPF sunscreens can give a false sense of security, leading people to neglect reapplying sunscreen or seeking shade when needed.

As a baseline, an SPF of 30 is great for daily wear and provides adequate protection. Anything higher will only add about 1% more protection - so don't slack on reapplying and staying in the shade when needed.

Myth #4: Darker Skin Tones Don't Need Sunscreen

Verdict: False

It's true that melanin offers natural protection from UV rays. However, it's not enough to fully protect you from the sun's harmful rays.

People with darker skin can still develop sunburns, premature aging, and even skin cancer if they are not protected from the sun.

It's important for everyone to wear sunscreen, regardless of their skin color.

Tip: If you're looking for a clean, broad-spectrum daily sunscreen that won't leave a white cast - check out our cult-favorite, anti-aging Plumscreen™

It's a clean, mineral sunscreen obsessively formulated to blend seamlessly into all skin tones.

Woman applying plumscreen on her face

Myth #5: You Don't Need Sunscreen on Cloudy Days

Verdict: False

Don't let the weather fool you: just because the sun isn't shining doesn't mean its harmful UV rays aren't reaching your skin. Up to 80% of the sun's rays can penetrate through clouds and still cause damage to your skin. 

Additionally, some types of clouds can actually reflect and intensify UV rays. It's important to wear sunscreen every day, even if it's cloudy. Don't forget to reapply every 2 hours for maximum protection.

Myth #6: Sunscreen Clogs Pores and Causes Acne

Verdict: True and False

Some people may avoid wearing sunscreen because they believe it will clog their pores and cause acne. However, this is not necessarily true.

Why It's True: Sunscreens That Cause Acne

Certain sunscreens can clog pores and cause breakouts, especially for those with acne-prone skin.

Avoid these common sunscreen ingredients to avoid breakouts:

✗ Oxybenzone and avobenzone (the main active ingredients in chemical sunscreens that cause irritation)

✗ Mineral oil

✗ Soy oil

✗ Lanolin (this heavy ingredient clogs pores)

✗ Fragrances

bubbles in orange liquid

Why It's False: Sunscreens That Don't Cause Acne

While everyone's skin reacts differently to products (not just sunscreens), sunscreens labeled "non-comedogenic" are a safe bet - they provide protection and don't contain ingredients that clog pores and cause acne.

Sunscreen: Acne's Best Friend

Sun exposure can actually worsen acne by increasing inflammation and causing redness. UV rays can also worsen acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

This is why applying noncomedogenic sunscreen can greatly benefit those with acne-prone skin.

Using sunscreen can even help improve acne.

Our 6x award-winning Plumscreen contains:

  • Antioxidant-rich Plum Superfruit Complex®
  • Zonaria Tournefoti Extract
  • Gentle non-nano zinc oxide

These key ingredients help fight inflammation and heal acne breakouts.

Plumscreen™ is noncomedogenic, providing broad-spectrum protection against acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Don't let the fear of acne stop you from using sunscreen – choosing the right one may actually help to improve it!

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

When shopping for sunscreen, look for sunscreens labeled as "broad-spectrum" - this will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays.

It's also essential to choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This will provide adequate protection against UVB rays and help prevent sunburns.

We recommend choosing mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens can irritate the skin, while mineral sunscreens are much more gentle on the skin and less likely to cause irritation.

Our 6x award-winning Plumscreen, featured in Allure and Vogue, is the perfect daily sunscreen. Its gentle, non-comedogenic, and anti-aging formula actively heals the skin while providing mineral-based broad-spectrum protection.

Unlike other sunscreens that feel heavy and greasy, Plumscreen™ is so light and silky - like your favorite moisturizer - you'll hardly notice it's there.

applying plumscreen on back of hand from tube


"It smells like plums and feels more like a light face oil than a sunscreen, which makes it something I actually want to use on my skin each morning."

How Sunscreen Works

To understand how sunscreen works, it's important to know the difference between UVA and UVB rays. Both types of rays can cause skin damage, but they do so in different ways.

UVA Rays

  • Longer and can penetrate deeper into the skin.
  • Cause premature aging, wrinkles, dark spotsand skin cancer.
  • PA+ ratings measure a product's ability to block UVA rays, not SPF.

UVB Rays

  • Shorter and cause sunburns.
  • SPF only blocks UVB rays.

Sunscreen usually contains ingredients that block or absorb these harmful UV rays. Some common sunscreen ingredients include titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, and octinoxate (however, we highly recommend choosing a sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide like our Plumscreen™).

These ingredients work by creating a barrier on the skin that reflects or absorbs the UV rays, preventing them from reaching deeper layers of the skin.

How SPF Works

SPF refers to the amount of time it takes for your skin to burn when wearing sunscreen compared to when you're not wearing any protection at all.

For example, if it takes 10 minutes for your skin to burn without sunscreen, an SPF 15 will theoretically protect your skin for 150 minutes (10 minutes x 15 SPF).

However, this does not take into account other factors such as sweat, water, and rubbing which can decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen. It's important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours regardless of the SPF level.

woman with plumscreen on her face posing with a tube of plumscreen

Safer Ways to Tan

As tempting as it may be to achieve a bronzed glow, it's important to tan safely to minimize lasting skin damage. Here are some tips for safe tanning:

  1. Avoid peak sun hours (10 am-4 pm) when the sun's rays are strongest.

  2. Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before sun exposure, and reapply every 2 hours.

  3. Consider using non-toxic self-tanning products or getting a non-toxic spray tan instead of using tanning beds or laying out in the sun for prolonged periods.

  4. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, can give your skin a natural glow without the harmful effects of UV rays. Studies have even shown that beta-carotene can also help boost your skin's natural SPF! [1]

Remember, there is no safe way to tan. Any change in color is a sign of skin damage. Try to minimize sun damage for healthier and younger-looking skin in the long run.

How to Properly Apply Sunscreen

To get the maximum benefits of sunscreen, it's crucial to apply it correctly. Here are some tips for proper application:

  1. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors to allow it to fully absorb into the skin.
  2. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

  3. Pay attention to commonly missed areas like the tops of your feet, ears, and back of your neck.

  4. Don't forget to apply sunscreen on cloudy days as UV rays can still penetrate through clouds and cause sun damage.

woman applying plumscreen on her face


There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding sunscreen which can be harmful to your skin. While tanning may seem like a desirable way to achieve a sun-kissed look, it's important to prioritize your skin's health and safety.

Protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays is crucial for maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin and reducing the risk of skin cancer. Remember to apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily, even on cloudy days. Reapply every 2 hours for maximum protection.

Doing so will preserve the vitality of your skin for a lifetime of glowing radiance.

Featured in this Article

Our Heritage

4 Generations. 3 Sisters. 1 Farm.

Welcome to Le Prunier, a skincare revolution rooted in a century-old family farming legacy. Since 1916, we've cultivated purple-red plums in Northern California, defining our heritage for four generations. In 1985, our commitment to sustainable, organic farming expanded globally with the discovery of the dried plum as the "Fruit of Life" in Western Asia. In 2014, we partnered with world-renowned labs to create our flagship product, Plum Beauty Oil, harnessing the skincare potential of our sun-drenched plums. With a 2,500-acre regenerative farm in Northern California, we practice herbicide-free cultivation and use 100% up-cycled plum kernels to eliminate waste. The Power Of Plum® is delivered through our patent-pending Plum Beauty Oil, cold-pressed on our farm. It's 6x more potent than Marula and 8x more robust than Argan oil against hydroxyl radicals.® Experience radiant, youthful skin with our fragrance-free, USDA-Certified Organic Plum Beauty Oil. Our cruelty-free, clinically-tested products redefine beauty with simplicity.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you still get tan with sunscreen?

Yes, you can still get a tan with sunscreen. Sunscreen does not completely block UV rays, which cause your skin to tan. However, the process may take longer and the tan will be gradual and healthier for your skin.

Can you get vitamin D while wearing sunscreen?

Yes, you can still get enough vitamin D from sunlight while wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen does not completely block out UV rays, so some vitamin D production can still occur.

What prevents tanning?

The best way to prevent tanning is by wearing physical protection such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves. Using sunscreen with at least SPF 30, avoiding the sun during peak hours (10 am - 4 pm), and seeking shade can also help prevent tanning.

Can I still get a tan with SPF 50?

Yes, you can still get a tan with SPF 50. While SPF 50 offers slightly more protection than lower SPF levels, it does not completely block out UV rays. Therefore, some tanning may still occur.

What SPF is best for tanning?

A lower SPF does not necessarily mean a better tan. In fact, using a higher SPF can help protect your skin from the sun's damaging effects and prevent premature aging and skin cancer, while still allowing for a gradual and healthy tan. An SPF of at least 30 is good enough for adequate protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Does sunscreen prevent tanning?

No, sunscreen does not prevent tanning. It helps protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV rays but will not completely block them. Overexposure to the sun can still lead to a tan, even with sunscreen on.