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Does Tanning Help Acne? [Skincare Tips You Need to Know]

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
Does Tanning Help Acne_ [Skincare Tips You Need to Know]

One of the claims of indoor tanning is that it will help you achieve clear skin.

But does it really?

While tanning salons help you get that sunkissed skin that you want, you need to know the effect tanning has on acne.

This article will answer the question “Does tanning help acne?” and other truths about acne and tanning that you need to know.

Does Tanning Help Get Rid of Acne?

In 2012, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce revealed that tanning salons advertised acne treatment as one of the benefits of tanning.

Is there some truth in this?

Unfortunately, tanning does NOT help get rid of acne.

A tanning booth provides you with tanned skin, which is falsely correlated with healthy skin. However, the UV rays that tanning beds emit may do much more harm than good!

Regardless if you get them from the tanning bed or direct sunlight, too much UV light increases the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and acne breakouts.

Why Do They Say Tanning Hides Blemishes?

It is true that after a tanning session, you will feel that the ultraviolet rays of the tanning bed have done wonders to your skin.

Suddenly, your dark spots and blemishes seem to be less noticeable. The truth is that tanning TEMPORARILY covers up redness, and acne blemishes appear less apparent.

The keyword is temporary and may backfire in the long term.

Contrary to the claim that tanning will heal acne scars and decrease blemishes, excessive sun exposure dries out the skin.

This prompts your skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which can lead to more skin issues and breakouts.

While the UV rays may give you the initial appearance of glowing and sunkissed skin, the sun damage is doing more harm than good in the long run.

Are Tanning Sessions Okay on Acne-Prone Skin?

You may be asking the question, “Does sun exposure have a direct effect on acne?” and the answer is no, sun exposure does not directly cause acne.

However, tanning may WORSEN breakouts for those with acne-prone skin.

Aside from dryness, excess sun exposure increases the risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancers.

Acne-prone skin means that your skin is naturally oily and often appears shiny. This means that your glands produce more oil than normal skin.

The excess oil results in clogged pores and inflamed acne.

Can Tanning Remove Acne Scars?

No, tanning cannot remove acne scars, nor do they help in the natural healing of the skin.

On the contrary, tanning beds may actually worsen acne scars and prolong the process of skin healing.

Tanning beds can dry out the skin, damaging the collagen and elastin fibers, two types of connective tissue that are necessary for helping the skin heal.

Collagen and elastin fibers are vulnerable to UV rays emitted by tanning beds, which will prolong the body’s natural response to dead skin cells and acne lesions.

Tanning beds may temporarily hide dark marks, but severe acne scars are better off with acne skin care rather than tanning.

Can Tanning Cover Up My Acne Scars?

At first, it will. However, please remember that acne scarring will appear again once the tan fades.

This will create an endless reliance on tanning beds to cover up your acne scars when tanning might be the main culprit of more acne breakouts.

Not to mention that excessive tanning may result in damaged skin cells. The short-lived reduction of the appearance of acne scars is not worth the long-term risks.

Does Tanning Make Acne Worse?

Yes, tanning makes acne scars worse!

Aside from dryness, tanning can also be the cause of several skin conditions such as:

  • Premature wrinkles
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Sagging skin
  • Premature aging
  • Skin cancer

The only benefit of UV radiation from a tanning booth is creating that sunkissed look. Otherwise, if you are struggling with acne, it is not advisable to tan.

Unhealthy amounts of sun exposure are known to cause multiple skin problems.

Can I Tan if I Am on Acne Medications?

Unfortunately, we do NOT recommend engaging in tanning sessions when you are on acne treatment.

The use of acne medications or being subject to acne treatments can result in sensitive skin, meaning that your skin will be more vulnerable than usual to UV rays.

Sun sensitivity is a common side effect of many acne treatments, including those who use the following:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Adapalene gel
  • Doxycycline

Topical treatments and procedures such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser treatments also increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays.

This is because treatments such as these increase the turnover of skin cells to replace damaged or dead skin cells, which in turn thins the skin.

Acne treatment reduces the ability of the skin to protect itself from sun damage, which is why all skin types need to partake in acne care and incorporate sun protection.

What Are Alternatives to Tanning for Acne?

Now that we know sunbeds do not help acne improve, there are many ways to address acne without risking your skin.

In this section, we’ll give you some tips and pieces of advice to prevent acne breakouts and help treat existing skin issues.

#1 Go to a Dermatologist

Instead of trying out all the newest skincare trends, we advise you to visit your skin expert first.

Your dermatologist will help you determine your skin type and prescribe the right dosage of medication or frequency of treatment.

Ask your dermatologist if you are eligible for laser acne treatment such as Blue Light and Red Light Therapy.

Both of these options reduce the size of sebaceous glands, which in turn will prevent excess oil production. This will help acne flare-ups to be less frequent, too.

Photodynamic therapy reduces acne-causing bacteria and reduces the appearance of inflammation on the surface of the skin.

There are also options for microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and other types of light therapy, which could help reduce acne breakouts.

#2 Remember to Wear Sunscreen

If you are going to be under intense exposure to UV light, we are here to remind you to wear a high SPF sunscreen.

Both the sun and indoor tanning beds cause dry skin and put you at risk for skin cancer.

Most skin cancer cases are caused by ultraviolet ray damage, which results from prolonged sun exposure and direct UV wavelength to tan the skin.

If you have acne-prone skin, you can always ask your dermatologist for recommendations on which oil-free sunscreen to use.

#3 Strengthen Your Immune System

More than just the Blue Light and Red Light Therapy, taking care of one’s skin starts with proper nutrition and exercise.

Acne can be considered a type of inflammatory skin disease. To counter this, you can eat foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ask your dermatologist for recommendations in order to help your immune system fight the acne-causing bacteria.

To help clear up acne, foods that are rich in Omega-3 are recommended. You can find this in mackerel, salmon, sardines, pastured eggs, and almonds.

More than adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, it is also important to know which foods to limit.

The American Diabetes Association has created a list of foods with a high glycemic index (GI); these are the foods that you would want to AVOID if you are trying to combat acne:

  • Bread (such as white bread and bagels)
  • Instant cereals
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt)
  • Snacks (such as pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn)

It can be hard to start cutting foods that indirectly contribute to acne, especially if they are a food you like.

Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress!

#4 Learn All About Fake Tans

If you’re someone who wants to enjoy all the benefits of a tan without the risks, it’s time to explore fake tans!

Fake tan, sometimes called sunless tanning, works through an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

This chemical “stains” the skin, which causes a tan to develop.

This bronzed glow lasts for up to two weeks without all the possible risks of excessive sun exposure. This is perfect for you if you have an event at the beach for just the weekend!

Using a fake tan can sometimes help hide your acne scar or breakout, but please remember that some fake tanners can contain harsh chemicals.

Additionally, these chemicals may clog pores, irritate the skin, or make the skin oily.

If you are going to try out some fake tan, apply it first to a small patch of skin to check how it would react.

Alternatively, you can ask your dermatologist if they can recommend you a sunless tanning product that is right for your skin type. Make sure to follow their instructions!

#5 Adhere to Your Current Treatment

Lastly, if you are currently on medication or treatment, it is best to adhere to your treatment plan first before jumping to another solution.

Treatment plans work best when they follow a set schedule, so make sure to complete a plan first, evaluate it, and adjust accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

Here are the most commonly asked questions about tanning and its effect on acne!

Does Vitamin D From Sunlight Help Clear Acne?

A lot of tanning salons claim that Vitamin D from sunlight is important for a healthy lifestyle and overall skin care.

Yes, Vitamin D is an important vitamin, but what is often overlooked is that it must be met with Vitamin-D-rich foods.

Indeed, 5-20 minute sessions twice a week of sun exposure can be healthy, but so does eating foods such as salmon, herring, tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified milk.

You can still enjoy the benefits of Vitamin D without the risks of getting worse acne scars or the possibility of skin cancer!

I Have Dry Skin. Can I Still Tan?

Anyone can tan!

Depending on the skin type, the results of tanning may differ.

For dry skin, you must first distinguish between “simply flaky” and damaged skin. If you have cracked or chapped skin in some places, it must heal before tanning.

Dermatologists also recommend that you exfoliate first to remove the layer of dead skin cells. You can do this through scrubs or peels.

After that, don’t forget to moisturize!

Moisturization is essential to tanning, as the latter leaves the skin dry with its UV rays.

It also helps to maintain a good skin barrier. Not to mention that moist skin tans better and more evenly than flaky skin.

Choose a moisturizer with natural moisturizing factors (NMFs), as this helps increase the skin’s water content.

If you love hot showers, we recommend that you switch to cold showers in the meantime, as hotter bathing water strips the skin of NMFs.

Why Do a Lot of People Say Tanning Helped Their Acne?

It is possible that after some time, they may have become impatient with the timeline of medications and have heard someone who tried out tanning and now has clear skin.

Some medications and treatments also have their own side effects, and sensitivity to the sun is only one of them.

It can also be that some people do not wish to undergo acne medications or acne treatments as the medications are hard-to-find, or simply because of social or economic constraints.

Either way, they have found that tanning works for them, albeit with long-term risks to their skin.

If you want to try out tanning, we advise that you inform your dermatologist first, so you can be prepared, especially if you are currently on medication and treatment.

Will a Fake Tan Worsen My Acne?

It depends on the ingredients of your fake tan.

To determine if a fake tan will worsen one’s acne, you must understand how fake tan products work.

They react to dead cells, which may temporarily cover the blemishes you see on the surface.

However, most self-tanners can also clog one’s pores or dry out an already flaky spot.

Check the ingredients of the self-tanner and ensure that it does NOT contain any chemical or compound that may make your acne worse.

Final Thoughts

Tanning can be a temptation, especially when your peers claim it did wonders on their skin.

However, remember that it has been clinically proven that tanning does NOT help acne, so take their stories with a grain of salt.

Remember to consult with a professional before doing anything rash