Close up of smiling young woman is applying a sunscreen or sun tanning lotion on a shoulder to take ...
4 Great Sunscreens That Actually Help You Tan

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Sunscreen is a staple no matter what time of year it is, because sun protection is paramount to your skin's health. But while you're protecting yourself from burning, you may still desire a bronze-y glow. Getting a tan is still something a lot of people go outdoors for. And if you're one of those people, you're probably looking for the best sunscreens for tanning — SPFs with numbers that are high enough to protect you from the sun but low enough that you can still get some color.

The Risk Factor To Keep In Mind — & How To Be Safer In The Sun

That said, there's something important to keep in mind. Even if you don't get a sunburn, tanning is still considered a form of skin damage. That's why dermatologists recommend spending time in the shade and wearing a sunscreen with a high SPF as often as possible. Any coloring of your skin by the sun puts you at risk for skin cancer, whether you turn red or brown.

A few tips? Look for a sunscreen with high SPF that pairs with a browning lotion. Or find one that applies in oil-form. Just ensure the lowest SPF you're reaching for is 15 — those oils with SPFs of 5 or 8 are dangerous, and offer basically no protection.

If tan skin is still something you're aiming for, scroll on. We've rounded up the best sunscreens for tanning that you can shop right now. Just remember: The SPF in these sunscreens is lower, so they require regular reapplication. Have (safe!) fun in the sun, and your skin will thank you.

Shop The Best Sunscreens For Tanning

In a hurry? Here are the best sunscreens for tanning.

1. A Great Sunscreen/Browning Lotion Combo: Sun Bum Browning Lotion And Tanning Oil With Aloe Vera

2. A Tan-Accelerating Dry Oil With SPF 50: YOUTH LAB. Dry Touch Tanning Oil Body Spray — SPF 50

3. An Oil-Free Sunscreen That Also Contains An Instant Bronzer: Australian Gold Continuous Spray Sunscreen With Instant Bronzer SPF 30

4. A Lightweight Milk That's Formulated For Tanning: Lancaster Sun Beauty Melting Tanning Milk

A Great Sunscreen/Browning Lotion Combo

The best way to combat potential burns is with a combo like Sun Bum Browning Lotion and Tanning Oil. The SPF 15 protects your skin from the sun, while the browning and tanning lotion serves as a tan accelerant. That means you'll get tanner in a shorter amount of time than you would if you didn't apply the browning lotion. The lotion itself is packed with moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, marula oil, and aloe vera. Both formulas are made to be hypoallergenic, vegan, and reef-friendly, so you can feel good about swiping them on your skin. Here's a tip: Apply your SPF at least 10 minutes before your browning lotion to get maximum results.

A glowing review: “I wasn’t expecting the browning lotion to be similar to a self tanner but I love it. My daughter gets fried and has a severe sun allergy. Using this, it’s the first year she’s ever tanned (21). It gives you enough color that you don’t burn but still allows you to get sun. The entire fam loves it.”

SPF: 15 | Size: 8.5 oz. per bottle | Reef-Safe? Yes | Cruelty-free? Yes

A Tan-Accelerating Dry Oil With SPF 50

Oil is the classic go-to formula for most tanners, and Youth Lab’s tanning oil is getting high marks for its quick drying time (“It literally dried as I was rubbing it in,” one reviewer wrote) and protection against sunburns. It has that oil texture to attract the sun's rays for a gorgeous tan, but instead of a measly SPF like most tanning oils, this one has an SPF of 50, which means you're way more protected. The non-comedogenic formula is noted for being free of parabens, gluten, and petrochemicals. It’s also jam-packed with antioxidants to protect your skin, as well as beta carotene, an antioxidant that increases melanin production for a faster, deeper tan. The brand suggests reapplying every two hours — and after sweating or swimming — to ensure good protection.

A glowing review: “I swam at high sun for 90 minutes and came out with a noticeably darker tan. Normally being out at that time of day without product, for that length of time, I would be burned and have itchiness/discomfort into the next day. Being out at the same time using the typical spray on waterproof SPF on the market, does prevent burn, but also prevents a nice tan look. This spray has me looking like I was out just hours before sunset, it’s the no burn plus tan effect we all want.”

SPF: 15 | Size: 6.7 oz. | Reef-safe? Unsure | Cruelty-free? Yes

An Oil-Free Sunscreen That Also Contains An Instant Bronzer

Even though oil is synonymous with tanning, people with oily skin might want to stay away from those types of formulas, since they can be pore-clogging. Enter: Australian Gold Continuous Spray Sunscreen With Instant Bronzer. It's an oil-free spray-on formula, which means it shouldn't clog your pores. And since it has a relatively low SPF (30), it still gives your skin the ability to tan. The formula also boasts plant-derived antioxidants, which is an important inclusion since antioxidants have been found to combat free radicals in case you have a little too much fun in the sun. What's more? The lotion is infused with bronzers, which gives your skin an instant glow the second you spray it on and makes it easy to see where you missed a spot.

A glowing review: “This is an easy spray on that gives a tiny bit of color before heading to the beach. Will transfer a little if sprayed while in bathing suit; be careful, stand on a towel as it will make the floor slippery. Love this stuff. Sun protection is good but I reapply fairly often. Again, be careful if reapplying on beach and your suit is a light color. Otherwise, it’s awesome!”

SPF: 30 | Size: 6 oz. | Reef-safe? Yes | Cruelty-free? Yes

A Lightweight Milk That's Formulated For Tanning

The beauty of Lancaster Sun Beauty Sublime Tan Melting Milk was that it was especially formulated for a deep, rich tan. It's formulated with a tan activating complex that protects your skin while promoting a healthy glow. Thanks to its SPF of 15, it protects your skin from infrared rays — just don't forget to reapply often. Lancaster Sun's formula is also water-resistant and dermatologically-tested, meaning it's healthy for your skin and shouldn't cause any irritation. Swipe it on and watch that tan develop.

A glowing review: “So, if you’re looking for an elegant sunscreen that easily melts into the skin, provides good coverage, leaves no greasy residue or remnants of product color on your skin, is lightly and pleasantly scented, and that you can use while playing sport or if you have a tendency to perspire in the hot sun, I highly recommend this Lancaster product.”

SPF: 30 | Size: 6 oz. | Reef-safe? Yes | Cruelty-free? Yes

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