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Nothing can spoil your summer fun like a bad sunburn. Not only does it hurt terribly, but also, blending in with your red dress is never a good look. And, we know, you want to avoid that at all costs.

For that reason, it's vital to learn the truth behind spray tans. Are they merely for aesthetics, or do they hold protective value as well? Can you use your spray tan in place of sunscreen? Tag along as we uncover the answers.

The Short Answer

A spray tan is no alternative to sunscreen.  The sunless tanning solution simply lays on top of your skin as makeup would and typically doesn't include any SPF (Sun Protection Factor) like sunscreen would.  You should always be cautious and wear something to protect yourself from the sun, whether it be sunscreen or SPF clothing.

Dissecting the Myth

We may have debunked the myth already, but why is it commonly believed that spray tans prevent sunburns in the first place? Perhaps that’s because spray tans are often likened to base tans, and base tans are assumed to protect you against sunburns.

However, this assumption is entirely baseless. A tanning bed might give you that bronzed summer look, but it won't give you the needed protection against the sun. Quite the opposite, actually – the darker skin you get from a base tan is a sign of skin damage caused by UV radiation exposure because tanning is a natural response to DNA damage within skin cells.

Accordingly, base tans don’t act as a protective layer against the sun, and so, it’d be wise to regard spray tans in the same light. 

Tips and Tricks on Sunburn Prevention

Now that you know what not to do if you don’t want to get sunburnt, here’s what you should do:

Apply Sunscreen Every 2 Hours


Use sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the house, and then apply it again every 2 hours (or more if you’re going swimming or sweating a lot).


When you put sunscreen on, be generous with it. We're talking about two tablespoons of lotion. Moreover, make sure you're using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (ideally 30, according to the American Academy of Dermatology).

Tip: If you can get your hand on a tinted SPF product, it’ll protect your skin against the sun and simultaneously give you a more tanned look.

Don’t Go Out From 10 AM to 4 PM

The sun is at its strongest from 10 AM to 4 PM, so steer clear of going out at that time to avoid sun exposure.

Cover Your Skin

You can wear tightly woven clothes to cover your legs and arms. Also, a wide hat and sunglasses can work wonders.

FAQs About Spray Tans Preventing Sunburns

Is It a Good Idea To Get a Spray Tan Before a Vacation?

In terms of UV protection, you need to use sunscreen. But if we’re talking look-wise, spray tans can make your skin glow if you get them 1 or 2 days beforehand and continuously apply self-tanner so that it doesn’t fade fast. 

What Happens if You Sunbathe With Fake Tan On?

Since spray tans don’t protect your skin from the sun, you can, and probably will, tan through a spray tan. As your fake tan starts fading, you’ll notice your real tan showing.

Why Do I Burn and Not Tan?

This can be traced back to genetics, for the most part. Generally, fair-skinned people are more likely to get sun-burnt rather than tan. However, darker-skinned people tend not to get sunburnt because their skin has higher melanin degrees. It’s still not immune to UV damage, though.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, exposure to UV radiation can cause sunburns, skin damage, premature skin aging, and skin cancer. Spray tanning can’t prevent that, much like base tans. Instead, it would be best if you used sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, applied frequently and generously on your skin, along with a sunless tanner for extra protection.

I hope this article was helpful for you.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me directly - [email protected].


Grant Kantsios

Sunless tanning business & marketing coach

Hey everyone!  My name is Grant and I've been in the sunless tanning industry for over 9 years.  I started in the industry working for Sjolie Sunless, one of the largest companies in the sunless tanning industry.  Since then, I've had a passion for helping sunless tanning business owners through my work at happytans, with the happytans podcast and website builder. In addition, I created Sunless Evolution with world-renowned spray tan artist Jimmy Coco, who sprays A-list celebrities like the Kardashians and Ashley Graham.

Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. I do have experience with each of the products or services listed below so I feel fully comfortable recommending them. Please do not spend any money on the products unless you feel you need them to achieve your goals. It turns out a lot of the things I use are free so you should be able to do the same.

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