In this post we’ll discuss whether using sunscreen makes the skin lighter. Sunscreen is a tricky product to use, but we all know its importance for anti ageing and protecting the skin from harmful uv rays.

If you’re exploring ways to lighten the skin, you might be wondering if sunscreen is a viable option. Lightening creams can be very risky to use and harsh on the skin, so if lightening is what you’re looking for – could sunscreen be the answer?

When it comes to using sunscreen, the best sunscreen is the one you like enough to use everyday. Even if the protection is slightly lower than you like, it’s still better to apply that than not applying sunscreen at all. In light of that, let’s first begin by exploring the different types of sunscreens available and what the benefits of each are.

Chemical sunscreens

Sunscreens in general are known for giving an unfavourable white cast, however chemical sunscreens are often best for both darker skin tones and lighter skin tones. This is because they tend to avoid the mineral sunscreen filters, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both of these common ingredients known to cause a white cast, and is often why chemical sunscreens are preferred by darker skin tones.

Like nearly all sunscreens, chemical SPFs protect against premature aging of the skin when used consistently all year round. Not only do they protect against cosmetic factors like fine lines, but their primary usage is to prevent damage caused by the harmful effects of the sun. I often feel that sunscreen is now so popular for cosmetic purposes, that its original purpose (preventing cancer) is forgotten about!

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into the skin, so the rays are still absorbed by the body, instead of being reflected. Once the rays are absorbed, the sunscreen filters convert them into heat and release them from the body. For this reason, chemical sunscreens can sometimes be problematic for those with sensitive skin, due to the chemical reaction that occurs on the skin.

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Mineral sunscreens

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Mineral sunscreens are often also known as physical sunscreens. They are one and the same thing, and are often most suitable for lighter skin tones or those with sensitive skin. Mineral sunscreens form more of a physical barrier between the sun’s rays and your skin. Of course some of the product is still absorbed into the skin, however the action of blocking the sun rays takes place on the surface. For this reason, they’re often better tolerated by those with sensitive skin or other skin conditions such as:

One thing you need to be careful of when selecting a sunscreen, whether mineral or chemical, is that it needs to protect against both UVA rays and UVB rays. Often this is called broad-spectrum protection.

Common myths associated with sunscreen

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So does sunscreen actually make skin lighter? Let’s address this along with several other sunscreen facts and myths, starting with the benefits of using sunscreen consistently.

Benefits of using sunscreen

  1. Sunscreen can prevent dark spots and age spots from forming due to excess sun exposure.
  2. Using sunscreen in your daily routine can prevent uneven skin tone, and reverse it with prolonged use!
  3. Sunscreen as part of your daily skincare routine can reduce the likelihood of acne leaving skin pigmentation or dark marks behind.
  4. Sun damage will be greatly reduced, and you are likely to have more youthful skin as you age
  5. The obvious one: you’re less likely to develop skin cancer!

With all of this being said, you sill need to make sure you’re following a few rules to get the true sun protection factor from your sunscreen:

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Common misconceptions surrounding sunscreen

There is so much misinformation about sunscreen that it can be hard to know where to start. Claims that sunscreen is toxic, contains endocrine disruptors or the age old myth that dark skin doesn’t require SPF.

Whilst it’s true that dark skin does not burn as easily, due to a higher level of melanin already present in the skin, the myth that sunscreen isn’t required is simply not true. So, let’s break down some more common misconceptions.

​Vitamin D and sunscreen

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The sun’s rays allow our bodies to produce vitamin D, so it makes sense that if the rays are blocked, we might not produce enough vitamin D. In theory this sounds reasonable, but a 2009 study has shown this not to be entirely true. LabMuffin, a beauty creator, also explains well that this is because most people don’t apply sunscreen well enough, and so the rays that do slip through the gaps are often enough for our bodies on their own. There are also foods and supplements we can take, which are particularly helpful if you live in a country with few sunlight hours.

Can you tan through sunscreen?

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Or in other words, is there such a thing as a ‘safe’ tan? I get asked this all the time, and the answer is that tanning without sunscreen is categorically unsafe. Even if it’s obtained slowly, and even if you don’t burn, if you do not use sunscreen you are still increasing your risk of skin cancer and you are ultimately damaging your skin.

However, it is known that a small amount of UV rays pass through even SPF50 sunscreen, which might mean you develop a very mild tan (in comparison to what you would without the sunscreen).

Does sunscreen cause skin whitening?

Knowing what we know, we can see that it is a common misconception that sunscreen makes the skin lighter. In reality it is not the sunscreen that causes skin lightening, it is actually the sunscreen’s prevention of melanin production that means the skin does not darken in sunlight.

Therefore, if you did wish to lighten your skin tone, you might achieve this just as well by staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen all year round. Sunscreen will not lighten your natural skin tone, instead the lack of exposure to uv light will simply revert your skin to its true, natural tone.

Try a search on maeva to discover your next holy grail SPF.