Besides using an umbrella or extra clothing for yourself when you’re going to work or on the beach, having an added protection against the sun’s powerful UV rays can be extremely beneficial for your skin. Using sunscreen will help you prevent painful sunburns, premature skin aging, and even skin cancer.
However, it can be quite confusing for you to choose the right one. There are many factors involved when it comes to selecting the right sunscreen or tanning lotion to use.
You have to consider your skin type, allergies, and — most importantly — the amount of sun exposure you get every day. In addition to selecting the right one, it’s also important for you to know other ways to protect yourself from the sun.
Whether you want to protect yourself from direct sun exposure or you want to achieve that perfect golden tan you always wanted, there’s an option for you.
Fortunately, we made a list of the best sunscreen and tanning lotion recommendations for you at the end to try out. Before you get too excited on your vacation or on sunbathing, first check out our complete guide, which includes everything you need to know when it comes to sunscreens.
Why Is It Important To Use Sunscreen?
It’s an understatement to say sunscreens are primarily only used for vacations or going to a beach town. That said, there are several reasons or benefits for you to consider in using sunscreen, even when you’re not heading to an exotic location.
Sunscreen can lower your chances of being diagnosed with different types of skin cancer. It can also save you the trouble of temporary sunburns or irreversible damage to your skin. Other benefits you can get from using sunscreen includes:
- Preventing uneven skin tone
- Avoiding early signs of aging
- Minimizing the risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke
The climate is unpredictable, especially with the continuous depletion of our planet’s ozone layer, so when in doubt, always use sunscreen.
Knowing the Main Differences between Sunscreens and Tanning Lotions
There are so many options right now in the market, making it common for most folks to buy the wrong product for their intended purpose. In addition to having countless options to choose from, it’s also a difficult task trying to figure out what distinguishes the terms used by marketing teams.
Among the many terms used by companies, the most prominent ones being sunscreens and tanning lotions. So, what’s the difference between sunscreens and tanning lotions, and why does it matter?
Sunscreens are more of a general term for a wide range of products dedicated to sun protection. And although they’re focused on sun protection, you can’t avoid a little tan when using sunscreen. In contrast, tanning lotions often come into mind when your attention is focused on tanning itself.
To know more, here are the main differences between the two:
- Although a low-SPF sunscreen can give you a little golden glow, sunscreens are generally used for sun protection, whereas tanning lotions are used for more dedicated or instant tanning.
- Sunscreens are less stressful to deal with when you’re only considering getting a little tan and more sun protection, whereas with tanning lotions, most products will demand that you have a base tan and a reasonable knowledge when it comes to tanning products.
- When it comes to tanning, tanning lotions tend to be safer because of the minimum exposure from the sun’s UV rays, whereas sunscreens may require you to spend many hours directly exposed to the sun – increasing your chances of getting skin cancer and other irreversible damage. Just remember to be more careful and pickier when it comes to tanning lotions.
- The list of ingredients between the two also gives a crucial difference. Tanning lotions have what we call DHA (DHA is the chemical responsible for the sunless tans you get from tanning accelerators and sunless tanning lotions), whereas sunscreens typically have SPF.
Understanding the Different Types of Sunscreens
Like almost any other skincare product, it can be hard to understand the two main types of sunscreens. That is, chemical and mineral sunscreens. Having said that, it’s important for you to know the main differences between them.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the differences between these two types of sunscreens so you can easily find the right sunscreen for you.
A mineral sunscreen, commonly known as sunblock, is a type of sunscreen that reflects the UV rays away from your skin. In other words, it acts as a barrier or shield for your skin. A sunblock may include ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which work by deflecting or scattering any potentially dangerous UV rays away from your skin.
The main advantage of using a mineral sunscreen over a chemical sunscreen is that mineral sunscreens often block a wide range of UV rays, making them a bit more preferred by dermatologists when it comes to sun protection.
- Normally less irritating and more effective
- Great for sensitive skin types
- Less likely to clog pores
- Can feel thicker or heavy on the skin
- Usually leaves a white cast
- Prone to wearing off easily, forcing you to reapply often
If you want a sunscreen that is ideal for everyday use, a chemical sunscreen might just be for you. Unlike a mineral sunblock’s way of sun protection, a chemical sunscreen works by filtering the sun’s UV rays and eventually releasing the heat absorbed from your skin.
The active ingredients of a chemical sunscreen include:
The main advantage of using chemical sunscreen is that less of it is needed to protect your skin. There are no risks of gaps between the sunscreen molecules after application because, rather than reflecting UV rays, it filters them.
- Tend to be thinner and can be easily spread on the skin
- Often have more skin-benefiting ingredients
- Water-resistant, great for outdoor activities such as swimming
- Can cause an increase in existing brown spots and discoloration
- Becomes effective only after 10-15 minutes from application
- Often give an increased chance of irritation due to different combined ingredients
So, Which One Is Better? Chemical or Mineral Sunscreen?
Although both types of sunscreens differ when it comes to how they work, you should choose the product that feels the most comfortable to use, rather than restricting yourself from trying out a particular type of sunscreen.
A great way of selecting the best sunscreen for you is to try it out and see if your skin has any problems with it. After that, it’s just a trial and error phase for you to try out different similar sunscreens.
Understanding the Different Types of Tanning Lotions
Besides the types of sunscreens, there are also three main types of tanning lotions that come into mind when you do your own research, namely:
- Accelerators and maximizer lotions
- Hot action and tingle lotions
- Self-tanning bronzers
Accelerators and Maximizer Lotions
Accelerators and maximizer lotions usually provide a darker, faster tan than you would be lying outdoor in the sun. These types of tanning lotions are formulated to help people venture out towards their first experience with indoor tanning.
They typically provide high levels of moisturization, making them smooth and comfortable to use. Accelerators and maximizer lotions work by intensifying the effects of UV rays to accelerate the tanning process. The main advantage of accelerators and maximizer lotions over tingle lotions and self-tanning bronzers is that it’s the ideal indoor tanning lotion for beginners to try out.
- Very quick
- Moisturizing and comfortable
- Easy to use for beginners
- Might not have SPF
- Can increase the risk of sun damage
Hot Action and Tingle Lotions
On the other hand, hot action and tingle lotions are often used by people who visit tanning salons frequently. These products often include a wide range of powerful active ingredients that provide more oxygen to our skin cells. They are often preferred over the other tanning lotions because of the enjoyment you can have with a long-lasting tan.
- Long-lasting tan
- Even, uniform tanning
- Perfect if you want to protect your tattoos
- Should be used by advanced tanners
- Can be painful or extremely uncomfortable for beginners
- Not meant for sensitive skin types or skin conditions
Arguably the most popular type of tanning lotion amongst the three, self-tanning bronzers give you the option of an instant tan. They usually contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which darkens your skin and increases melanin production. They moisturize your skin to enhance its appearance.
- Quick production application
- Intense tanning results obtained in hours
- Healthy tanning
- No marks are left on the skin
- They’re usually somewhat expensive
- Short-term results can only last a week
- If not paired with a great moisturizer, the skin might look splotchy/uneven once it wears off
How to Find the Best Sunscreen
You have to consider a few factors when it comes to finding the best sunscreen for you to use, such as:
- Do you swim or sweat a lot?
- Are you allergic to any particular fragrances?
- How often, on a day-to-day basis, are you directly exposed to the sun?
With these considerations in mind, here are some helpful tips for you to get started on your search for the right sunscreen.
Make Sure it has Broad-Spectrum Protection
There are two types of UV lights, namely, UVA and UVB. UVA rays can drastically affect the age of your skin, while UVB rays can cause skin cancer.
Whether you’re at the beach with your friends or you’re having a vacation with your family, it’s important to remember that your sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on its label.
A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both types of UV rays. This can also help you with determining if the product you’re using can be applied for kids, as sunscreens with a lower SPF are not meant for kids.
Tanning lotions (or what others call “suntan lotions”) are usually sunscreens that have an SPF of 4 to 8. Thanks to its lower levels of SPF, suntan lotions usually don’t provide enough sun protection to safeguard you from the damaging effects of the sun’s rays.
Consider the Purpose of the Sunscreen
Some people may only use sunscreen occasionally when they’re on vacation, while others may find themselves using it every day because of their work or lifestyle. As part of selecting the best sunscreen, it’s important to consider the main purpose of why you’re buying one.
Other factors may be involved include:
- The level of sun exposure you get every day
- How long are you exposed,
- The activities you’ll perform while being exposed to the sun
If you’re into sports such as beach volleyball or swimming, it’s highly recommended that you should use a sweat-resistant or water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF of 30. On the other hand, if you’re using sunscreen for the usual office work, it’s enough to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15.
Pick a Water-Resistant Sunscreen
Having access to a regular type of sunscreen when you’re working is very useful, but it can be bothersome if you realize that you’re using the wrong type of sunscreen. If your job or lifestyle demands a lot of physical activity or a lot of sweat or water involved, it’s best to consider a water-resistant sunscreen.
Pay Close Attention to Your Skin Type
Are you allergic to fragrances? Is there a certain ingredient or chemical that your skin hates? The best sunscreen for you to use will mostly depend on your skin type and the things you’re allergic to. If your afraid of possible allergies or irritations, consider using hypoallergenic and fragrance-free sunscreen.
Other Ways to Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Sunscreens might be the most obvious solution to preventing skin damage, but research showed in 2015 that 14% of American men and only 30% of American women often put sunscreen on their skin before heading out for more than an hour.
So, what do you have to do to further protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun? In addition to slathering on a healthy layer of sunscreen, it’s important to note that there are other ways to protecting your skin from the sun. Here are a few tips that you need to keep in mind in order to give your skin the best care it deserves.
Seek some shade
You can further protect your skin from direct sun exposure by seeking some shade near you. Whether there’s a coconut tree or a beach umbrella nearby, it’s best to consider having some little shade for you to help prevent any unwanted damage to your skin.
Think of your outfit
Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and skirts can provide a little extra protection against UV rays. A darker shirt or outfit will protect you more than lighter ones, and there are some specifically manufactured clothing brands out there that can provide you with UV protection.
Use a hat with a wide brim
Hats that can cover your head, ears, face, and neck provide some extra protection against UV rays. Although they may not be as effective as sunscreens, they can help you prevent sunburns.
Wear anti-UV glasses or sunglasses
Ordinary glasses are impractical to wear at the beach. In contrast, wearing glasses with UV protection will save you the trouble of getting eye damage from the sun. Whether it’s a sunny or a cloudy day, glasses with UV protection will help your eyes stay safe from UV rays.
Avoid too much direct exposure during peak hours
Performing outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. can be extremely dangerous for your skin. The sun’s UV rays are at their strongest during these hours. It’s best to schedule your sunbathing or other outdoor activities at an earlier or later time.
Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds
Tanning beds and sunlamps are often overlooked when it comes to avoiding UV rays. Although many people believe that they are harmless, they do, in fact, give out UVA and UVB rays. Many health experts, including the World Health Organization, advises people to avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. Frequent use of a tanning bed or sunlamp is especially harmful to teenagers because of the continuing rapid growth at the cellular level of their skin.
Be more careful around water and sand
Surfaces such as water and sand reflect the UV rays of the sun, increasing your chances of getting a sunburn.
Our Top Recommendations Overall
Having said all that, if you already have a reasonable understanding of how everything works with sunscreens and tanning lotions, it’s probably time for you to find the right product that will suit your needs.
We know that it can be very stressful shopping for sunscreens, sunless tanning lotions, or tanning accelerators, so take a look at our top recommendations down below.
What Were Our Evaluation Criteria?
Regardless if you’re shopping for some extra sun protection or tanning, it can be a difficult task trying to come up with great choices for you to pick from. We know that it can be very frustrating if you bought a product that only made it worse for your skin.
So, with that in mind, here are some of the few things we considered when selecting our recommendations:
- The products were backed by a reputable brand
- Will they work for almost everyone? (I.e., is the smell good? Are they friendly for any particular skin type?)
- How often are these products recommended by dermatologists and other experts?
Getting the right sunscreen or tanning lotion should be a careful and considerate investment in yourself, after all. However, some of us may be very economical when it comes to beauty or skincare products.
But whether you’re browsing through various shops online or on your local malls or grocery store, our recommendations come in different price points, allowing you to pick the right option that will best suit your needs of achieving that healthy-looking skin you always wanted.
Our Favorite Three Sunscreens and Sunblocks
Ultra-Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70
The Ultra Sheer line by Neutrogena will surely provide you with powerful sun protection you’ll love to wear. Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and fast-absorbing, this sunscreen offers plenty of benefits when it comes to caring for your skin.
- Won’t clog pores
- High SPF levels
- Can be worn under makeup
- Can appear greasy on the skin
- Can burn/sting in eyes
Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen
A highly recommended lightweight sunscreen by many dermatologists, this product is a great choice if your skin is prone to breakouts associated with acne. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, making it a good product when it comes to achieving healthy-looking skin.
- Recommended by dermatologists
- Broad-spectrum UV protection
- Quite costly
- Can harm corals
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+
Being a mineral sunscreen, this sunscreen is free of irritating chemicals, parabens, and fragrances. It’s a super gentle, water-resistant sunscreen made without oxybenzone or octinate, making it an environment-friendly sunscreen.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Won’t harm corals
- Fairly affordable
- Has a “white cast” (can make you look paler)
- Might cause breakouts
The Best Three Sunless Tanning Products
Express Tan Tinted Mousse By ULTA
If you’re looking for an affordable yet effective tanning self-tanner, consider this self-tanner by ULTA. Whether you’re looking for a light tan, medium tan, or deep tan, this self-tanner is super easy to apply and use. Just make sure to remember that it doesn’t contain any sunscreen or protection against sunburn.
- Creates a natural-looking glow
- Has no SPF
- Can cause acne breakouts
Beauty By Earth
Probably the most popular self-tanner on Amazon, this lotion-based tanner is free from any potentially dangerous chemicals used in conventional self-tanners. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a subtle coconut scent.
- Won’t make you look orange
- Pleasant scent
- No dangerous chemicals
- Develops quickly
- No UV protection
- Fades quickly
Isle of Paradise
If you’re having trouble with uneven skin tone or dryness, try Isle of Paradise. This self-tanning water comes in either a peach (light), green (medium), or violet (dark). Each water comes with its own formulation. If you want a golden glow, try the green water. It’s perfect for calming the skin and reducing redness.
- Lets you choose the depth of color
- Can reduce redness
- Vegan formula
- Great for paler skins
- Somewhat expensive product
- Can cause breakouts
- No SPF/UV protection
Our Top Three Tanning Accelerators
Onyx Magnifique Sunbed Dark Tanning Lotion Bronzing Accelerating Dark Tan
Developed and created in sunny Florida, this self-tanning lotion will help you achieve the desired dark tan you always wanted. With the use of vitamin E and lemongrass, it’s a great option amongst tanning accelerators when it comes to skin softness and youthful appearance.
- Very moisturizing
- Can reduce the appearance of cellulite
- Pleasant citrusy scent
- Not good for skin
- Can lead to a “patchy” tan
SunGodZ Artemis/Apollo Sun Tanning Lotion
A shower-proof, effective tanning accelerator by SunGodz, this tanning lotion comes with anti-fading ingredients that will help you stay darker longer. It’s also a tattoo protectant, good for hydration and moisturization, relaxing, and has a silky feel. It’s a very effective product if you’re looking for a beautiful and dark tan fast.
- Soft and silky formula
- Can protect tattoos
- Quick developing
- Doesn’t fade quickly
- Hard to find in stores
- No UV protection
Australian Gold Sinfully Black 15x Deep Dark Bronzing Tanning Lotion
If you want an affordable product that will quickly darken your skin, this tanning lotion might just be the one for you. The formula for this lotion has a blend of powerful bronzers that increases the effects of UV rays, causing your skin cells to accelerate their production of melanin.
- Very affordable
- Can help you tan quickly
- Includes moisturizing sunflower oil
- Can be streaky
- No SPF
- May not work as well on deeper skin tones
Final Thoughts: Choosing the Best Sunscreen that feels Right for You
Selecting the right sunscreen or tanning lotion can be quite a tedious task, especially when you’re clueless about how the market works for these products.
Nevertheless, the research process is a crucial step for you to consider. Having said that, like any other beauty product, your choice of a great sunscreen or tanning lotion will ultimately depend on how comfortable you are with a given product.
However, if we had to choose just one sunscreen from our list for you to try out, we recommend that you try out Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen. It’s a great choice whether you’re planning to wear sunscreen with makeup on or you want a lightweight and silky sunscreen that will surely bless your skin with a healthy glow.
Whether you’re only buying an ordinary sunscreen for everyday use or selecting the right lotion to give you that golden or dark tan you always wanted to experience, we hope that our guide made it easier for you to understand how to find the best sunscreen and tanning lotion for you.
It’s important to never forget to always consider the overall safety and health of your skin when choosing the best sun protection product for yourself.
Question: Can sunscreen prevent tanning?
Answer: Absolutely not. Although sunscreens are effective as part of sun protection, no sunscreen can stop 100% of UV rays. With each direct sun exposure, there’s an important dose of UV rays that arrives to enter the skin, thus prompting your body to activate its melanin or natural skin pigment, and eventually the process of tanning.
Question: What’s the best kind of sunscreen to use?
Answer: As we said earlier, the main rule when it comes to selecting the best sunscreen to use is comfortability. If you find yourself using the same sunscreen over and over again without any troubles or dissatisfaction, you may have found your soulmate when it comes to sunscreens.
Having said that, make sure your sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF protection.
Creams are generally best if you have dry skin
Gels are a better option when it comes to hairy areas such as the male chest or the scalp
You can use sprays if you prefer an easy-to-apply sunscreen. Sprays are a great option if you want to easily apply some sunscreen on your children. Just make sure to use enough of it to cover all exposed areas of the skin.
Question: What are the differences between UVA and UVB?
Answer: UV exposure can have some strong effects on your skin, creating a wide range of different skin damages, from premature wrinkles to skin cancer. Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength and is often linked to skin aging, while Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength and is related to skin burning.
Although they differ in how they affect the skin, they both can do harm and contribute to the possibility of skin cancer. Let’s not forget that these rays can also cause eye damage too.
Question: How much should I apply and how often should I reapply sunscreen?
Answer: It’s important to remember that you should apply enough sunscreen to cover all areas of your skin that clothing can’t cover. Most people need about 1-2 ounces to fully cover their body. Always remember to apply the sunscreen at the tops of your feet, your ears, your neck, and the top of your head.
If your skin is dry, it’s highly recommended that you apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors. The standard to follow when it comes to reapplying sunscreen is approximately every two hours, but you should reapply your sunscreen sooner after swimming or sweating especially when it’s not water-resistant.
Question: Do sunscreens limit the amount of vitamin D I get?
Answer: Using sunscreen or sunblock may lower your skin’s production of vitamin D. If you have any concerns regarding getting enough vitamin D, you should consider talking to your doctor to try any other approaches to getting the vitamin D you need.
There are better alternatives for you to get vitamin D, such as in the form of foods or vitamin supplements. These approaches are far less harmful to your skin, given that an extended amount of direct exposure to the sun increases your risk of getting skin cancer.
Question: Are tanning lotions safe for kids and teenagers?
Answer: Tanning lotions are particularly dangerous or unsafe for kids & teenagers. This is due to the fact that the skin of teens or children is more vulnerable to potentially dangerous skin damage such as skin cancer. It’s highly recommended to use safer alternatives such as spray tanning and broad-spectrum sunscreens.
Question: Do sunscreens have an expiration date?
Answer: Yes, every sunscreen has an expiration date, even though some products won’t have one on their label. If your sunscreen seems to work differently than before, it may already be expired.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes that sunscreens usually hold their original strengths for at least three years. Just to be safe from any unwanted irritation or problems, make sure to throw your bottle away when it’s already three years past its manufacturing date or date of purchase.