Are you currently using some form of self-tanner, and wondering if you’ll still be able to get a natural tan? Curious if it’s dangerous to wear a self-tanner in the sun or perhaps wondering if you’ll burn faster? Well in this article we’ll talk about exactly how self-tanner works, how naturally tanning works, and why you can indeed combine the two for the ideal summer glow.
Can you still tan with self-tanner on? Yes, self-tanners and sunbathing darken the skin in different ways, and one will not affect the other. Just be sure to wear sunscreen when you are out in the sun, as a self-tanner usually does not contain it.
Ok, let’s get into this in a bit more detail.
Can You Still Get Naturally Tan From The Sun While Self-Tanning?
Yes! Self-tanners simply artificially, and temporarily, darken the skin. Natural sunbathing causes pigments to form and rise to the surface, also darkening the skin but for much longer.
Most quality sunless tanners (Like my favorite from St. Tropez) work through a chemical called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA reacts with the amino acids in the dead skin cells on the upper layer of your skin, called the epidermis. This reaction causes the skin to darken and simulates a tan.
The epidermis has two layers, the stratum basale, which is the deepest layer and is affected by natural sunbathing, and the stratum corneum, the outermost layer where the chemical reaction from self-tanning products occurs.
So sunless products, and natural sunbathing, both darken and brown the skin, but in different ways and they occur at different layers of the skin.
Since the dead skin cells gradually release from your skin during the constant and healthy cell renewal process, the fake tan you achieve from self-tanning products will also disappear. Which is why you have to reapply self-tanner fairly often (see my complete guide on this). With self-tanning, nothing actually happens with the pigment in the skin, just coloring of the outermost layer of the skin due to a chemical reaction.
When your tanning either from tanning beds or from the sun, the pigment of your skin actually develops a color. When your skin is exposed to UV light, pigment develops in the stratum basale, the innermost layer of the epidermis. This pigment slowly works it’s way to the surface of your skin, which is why tans slowly develop even after you’re out of the sun.
Melanin in the pigment is what actually browns the skin, and this does offer some protection from UV rays. Although only about the protection of an SPF 2 or 3, so don’t think your skin is safe!
Is It Safe To Sunbathe With Self-Tanner or Fake Tan?
Self-tanner will not make sunbathing or tanning at a tanning salon any more dangerous. However, unfortunately, the browning from self-tanner provides absolutely no protection from the harmful UV rays from the sun. The vast majority of self-tanners also don’t contain any sort of SPF sunscreen (unless they happen to specifically state that they do), so tanning while wearing fake tan will not provide you with any protection. Even if the self-tanner does say it contains some SPF, this should not be used in place of a real protective sunscreen.
If you are going to sunbathe while wearing self-tanner, be sure to apply sunscreen with at least SPF 20 after the self-tanner has had a chance to dry.
Since self-tanner and natural sunbathing tan different parts of the skin, you can actually obtain a very nice natural looking glow. However, it’s really important to remember to use a quality sunscreen with both UV-A and UV-B protection. This will protect you from burning, and from premature aging, and keep your skin looking fresh and healthy.
Will Sunless Tanner Affect Tanning At A Salon?
Tanning in a bed, although not exactly the same as laying out under the sun, changes your skin color through the same mechanisms. So no, self-tanner will not impact your ability to get a tan from a tanning bed. Just remember that the primary reason people opt for sunless tanners is that they are much safer for your skin. Tanning beds, just like being out in the sun without sunscreen, will likely cause premature aging as well as increase your chances of getting skin cancer.
Transitioning From Fake Tan To Natural Tan
It’s very common for people to apply self-tanner early on in the year so that they already have some fantastic color before summer even begins. However, as you are able to get sun (be sure to wear sunscreen) and a natural tan begins to develop, how do you make sure you don’t have patchy or streaky skin during the transition?
Well, there are two really easy things you can do to make this a seamless transition:
- Be sure to keep your skin well moisturized, as the dry skin will shed skin cells unevenly, often resulting in a patch looking tan that is hard to fix.
- Use a quality tan accelerator meant for the sun (I really like this one that you can get on Amazon). This will help you to develop a beautiful natural tan quicker and bypass any awkward phase between a fake tan and a natural one.
Using Self-Tanner has tons of benefits, including avoiding the damage that comes from tanning and obtaining color quicker. It is perfectly fine to use self-tanner and work towards obtaining a tan from the sun. Just be sure you use a good quality sunscreen when you are in the sun, and make sure you use a quality self-tanner, like my favorite, St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse that you can get from Amazon. I’d encourage you to add the self-application tanning mitt for a few dollars extra.