The best sunscreen to use while spray tanning is:

  • one your client will wear, and reapply regularly, as needed (every 2 hours when outdoors)
  • 30 spf or greater (for daily wear) –  (minimum recommended by Medical Doctors and Dermatologists worldwide)
  • 45-50 plus SPF for longer term outdoor wear
  • waterproof or sport screen formulas for swimming, out door sports, sweating etc
  • adequate UVA AND UVB protection (look for Broad Spectrum products)
  • PA++++ – not a requirement, but recommended for best UVA blockage, if this is a client concern (not in USA products)


That’s the starting point, then it comes down to type, cost, personal preference.

Any well formulated sunscreen is fine for use when spray tanning, after your tan has developed. If you must apply a sunscreen right after tan application – before showering, you can carefully use an aerosol. But you will not have the best coverage. The best option is to create a lod of spray and walk through it, rather then spraying skin directly. I would not personally consider this good coverage for adequate UV protection. But this would work for limited UV exposure situations, going to and from your car for example.

Personally, I limit the use of aerosols, because they can be very drying to the skin, and dry out my skin more (and my spray tan) – I do use them on occasion to cover my back for example, when no other hands are available. :)  I also find they do not provide adequate protection, unless applied VERY liberally, which leaves a tight feeling to the skin.  And they can be very messy. So for personal reasons, I limit their use. (but they are terrific when trying to apply product to a small wiggly child!)

While doing outdoor activities or chores, swimming, sports, or heavy sweating – focus more on a water proof product. This link HERE provides some great tips for spray tan preservation while swimming.

For Daily use, I would personally use a lighter weight product (for comfort, as I live in a humid location), but for dry locations, a heavier moisturizing  option may work well for you.

UVA, UVB, SPF, PA – whats this mean?

Sunlight is composed of different radiation types (or rays) Ultraviolet Radiation is the type that causes sunburns (and suntans), skin damage, skin cancers and UV related skin aging. Ultraviolet radiation can be broken into three ray types. UVA, UVB and UVC.

UVA is the “aging” ray , which penetrates into deeper skin layers, and is most commonly associated with the damage that cause the appearance of aged skin. (sun spots, sagging, pigment patches, hyper pigmentation, wrinkles, premature aging) The majority of UV radiation hitting the Earth is UVA.

UVB is the “burning” radiation that penetrates the upper skin layers, and makes the skin appear tanned, or red and sunburned. This is the ray associated with most skin cancers.

UVC are very deadly and strong. The earths Ozone layer prevents these rays from reaching the earth.

Both UVA and UVB radiation types can contribute to skin cancer, skin damage, aging, and other UV related medical concerns. UVB is the ray most commonly associated with most skin cancers.



SPF (Sun Protective Factor) is a measurement of the UVB (Ultraviolet B Radiation) protective coverage only. UVA (Ultraviolet B Radiation) coverage is not measured in most USA formulated sunscreens. The SPF number in a product measures the protective level in reference to UVB rays only.

SPF rating is based on how long your sunscreen protected skin takes to redden when exposed to UV, compared to unprotected skin. So it is the multiplication in time of exposure, you can expect before you burn.  If your unprotected skin burns in 10 minutes when you are outdoors, an application of a 30 SPF product will provide 30X the protection time you had originally. (assuming you have applied product correctly)

So now you can stay outdoors roughly 300 minutes (or 5 hours) before you start to burn.

SPF 15 broad spectrum products block about 94% of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of UVB rays. The differences (protective improvements) in SPF (UVB) protection, over 45 is small, though it will offer better long term protection.

The higher the SPF number, the LONGER the product will provide protection during outdoor UV exposure activities. (heavy sweat and water exposure will remove this protection) In general, a product should be reapplied about every 2-3 hours, and after sweating or swimming to maintain best protection, as it can break down with continuous direct UV exposure, or dissipate from heavy sweating or water exposure.

No product blocks all UV at 100% levels (even a 100 SPF product allows some UV penetration)

PA (Protection Grade of UVA)  is used in Asian sunscreens, primarily those from Japan. You will see this rating in some European and many Japanese and South Korean sunscreen brands. It ranges from PA+ through PA++++ This measures the protection level against UVA radiation. 4 plus is the highest rating, which corresponds with a PPD ( persistent pigment darkening) of above 16. (some lines have not yet added the newer 4+ into their product labels, so may use 3+ to reflect their highest rating)

PA rating is based on how long your sunscreen protected skin takes to produce pigment when exposed to UVA, compared to unprotected skin. So it is the multiplication in time of exposure, you can expect before you show brown pigment coloration.   If your unprotected skin darkens in 100 minutes when you are exposed to UVA, an application of a PA++++ product will provide 16X the protection time you had originally. (assuming you have applied product correctly)

If UVA protective level measurements are a concern for your client,  they will need to look to international lines, PA protective scaling will be the products that provide an easy to use visual scale to gauge their effective ranges.

If using USA based screens only, Opt for 30-45 SPF and above, which will provide UVA protection, you will just find it more difficult to guage the level.

For additional information on how sunscreens are tested and rating, and other ratings scales used World wide, see this great link:

My personal preference in products

For all sunscreens used, I personally always opt for 45 SPF or higher, then pick one that is comfortable for wear, and the situation. For face, neck and chest I prefer PA++++ products when possible.

I have a few different sunscreens I keep on hand year round, for myself and my family.

I use a thinner lightweight product on the face, as it looks and feels better, and allows easier makeup application over the top. You can purchase many very good facial moisturizers with built-in SPF of 30 plus. Aim for 30-55 SPF for best comfort.

I have different products I use, for daily facial use.  I personally prefer this product:  Biore Sarasara Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+/PA++++ 50g Sunscreen which is an imported brand from Asia. Because this is shipped from Asia, the product takes about 3-4 weeks to arrive. So I usually order a two container pack, and always have an extra or two on hand. You can find international sunscreens on many web stores, Ebay, Amazon, and online Specialty Beauty sites such as Sephora and Ulta.

I like the better formulation provided by many Asian lines, which provides better UVA protective coverage, (the PA++++) and this specific product is very lightweight, sinks into skin quickly, and works well under my facial foundation. It works similar to a pimer when used under my makeup, helping to fill lines and pores, and provide a velvety finish.  I cannot feel this product on my skin, nor does it create any oily look. Also does not contribute to acne issues, which is  concern for myself.

Any USA product over SPF 30 will also block some UVA as well, but you have no protective indicator range listed. Not all protect equally in this area.

For a USA facial product I recommend, Neurtogena Ultra Sheen Dry Touch or Neutrogena Clear face as my goto for a USA Brand.  But I personally like the Biore better, because of the PA rating.

I also keep a bottle or two of a tinted sunscreen or BB Cream with sunscreen on hand for facial use when my sunless tan has faded significantly, and I don’t want to apply a full face of makeup.  I can mix this in hand with my Biore sunscreen to customize the tint level needed, based on how much my facial tan has faded.  (do not mix a plain, non SPF foundation with your sunscreen, as you will lower the SPF rating in your sunscreen)

For body use, I opt for lower cost USA drugstore based products, in 55-70 SPF or higher (I get the highest to maximize protective wear time, and UVA blockage) both due to easier availability, larger sizes, and lower cost.  Note: I am not an active Sun worshiper, though I do spend a good amount of time outdoors, but I use sunscreen and sungalsses, hats, and clothing options to protect my skin (and hair). Based on activities etc.  I also try to limit outdoor chores and such to non-peak UV levels, (when possible) both for comfort (its less hot then!) and for limiting the amount of UV exposure I experience.

But I certainly am not an Indoor only gal, being from Southern California originally – I do enjoy a nice warm sunny day.  :) And I participate in outdoor sports regularly, including running and Outdoor WODs, scuba diving and snorkeling, regular yard work,  and daily ball fetch games with my two Australian Shepard’s.

I find I tend to pick up a lot of Coppertone, and Neutrogena, for whatever reason. But there are certainly a number of great drugstore lines.

Which type of product would suit you best?

You can certainly use the same sunscreen products on face and body. You do not need a special face and a special body product. Both will work well on ether area, for protective reasons. But comfort will often dictate one option as being better then another, for a specific area. Children’s tear free versions are nice on the face if you will be swimming or sweating and find your eyes sting from sunscreen transfer.

Facial products often come in smaller packages with higher cost per ounce. They tend to differ in fragrances used, moisturizing levels, other add-on, or treatment additives.  I prefer a thinner product for daily use that is shine free, sheer, and wears well under foundation. So at least when wearing makeup – I opt for a more specialized product type.

If you are dry skinned a cream or lotion will usually work better for you. Oily skin types will like gels or serum type products. Keep in mind powders, though nice for facial touch-up are not a very good option for your only sunscreen layer on the face, as you need to apply very thickly to provide correct coverage amounts for the SPF range on the label.

When spending all day outdoor, watersports and such, I would more likely opt for a thicker sport only water proof sunscreen lotion or cream, which WILL be thicker.  I am not wearing makeup, so I sacrifice the nice look and feel, for better protection and coverage.

For maximum protection from both UVA and UVB, always use broad spectrum sunscreens, 30 SPF and above. Most SPF 30 and above will provide broad spectrum protection in both the UVA and UVB range. Higher SPF option will provide longer coverage for extended wear outdoors.

Which ingredients should I use or avoid?

The active ingredients for best UVA protection in USA based products are: (look in ACTIVE INGREDIENTS area of the product label)

  • Ecamsule(Mexoryl SX)
  • avobenzone(Helioplex or Parsol 1789),
  • titanium dioxide
  • zinc oxide

There are a few other UVA protective ingredients, that may also be included in the active ingredients  Enzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone (all are chemical based)

But won’t the chemicals cause cancer, tumors, or other issues?

Based on current information from Published Peer Reviewed clinical testing with supporting studies and documentation, on human test subjects. Chemical sunscreen ingredients do not pose a cancer, or tumor, etc risk. Note that animal testing, or cell test studies, are not conclusive proof that an ingredient poses the same health threat to human use, when applied topically to intact human skin.

Based on long-term historical use, and supporting human studies, Most Scientists and Medical Practitioners, do not feel that sunscreen use is a danger to human heath. And their lack of use, or misuse (not enough product being applied) is much more troubling and dangerous to health.

See this link HERE for more information on Sunscreen Myth, including how harmful they are.

Tips to helps your sunscreen work its best:

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen at-least 20 minutes BEFORE going out (apply before you dress) Be aware that you can burn through clothing. A tee-shirt only provides a SPF or about 7. (A UV Tan or Fresh Sunless tan provide approximately 4 SPF, depending on depth of darkness)

Most people only apply 20-50 percent of recommended sunscreen amounts, which means the SPF number will be cut in half for you, if incorrectly applied. Apply liberally,  you should see a sheen on the skin surface. Then you can rub in, after an even layer is applied to ALL exposed skin. Using a higher SPF than needed, provides a bit extra protection to compensate for uneven “non optimal” application coverage.

It makes me scream when someone raves about how they only apply a pea sized amount of sunscreen for their entire face. Unless you are a Barbie Doll you should be applying at least 1 ounce or more, of sunscreen for face, ears, neck, chest, arms legs (normally exposed body in summer clothing. That’s 1 shot glass full or two tablespoons.

For face only that’s approximately a nickle sized dollop, or 1/2 teaspoon, based on face size. For myself, a good nickle size will cover face, and neck (front and back) and ears. See image, my nickle dollop is a bit on the large size here, as the product started to spread out a bit. This is the Biore sunscreen. The pea size in this example covered one cheek from below eye to edge of jawline (on myself), when I applied with correct coverage amounts.

When using a spray product, you should see a visible even sheen over the entire skin surface. Apply in a non windy location (if indoors, stand on a towel to protect flooring and prevent slick spots)

Products formulated with Anti-oxidants (Vitamins C and E, Green tea and other AO rich plant extracts) help provide addition sun damage protection, or just apply an anti-oxidant serum as the first step before topping off with your sunscreen product.  (my daily skincare already incorporates both a Vit C serum and AO rich facial serum before my sunscreen)

Always apply sunscreen throughout the year, not just the summer months. UV damage occurs year round, in all locations, sunny or rainy days.

Sunscreen should be used everyday, indoors and out. Sunlight penetrates window glass in homes, offices, and car windows, and can damage skin. UVA and UVB can penetrate through cloud cover even on rainy days, (up to 80% penetration) and is present all day long, year round. UV damage is cumulative over  a lifetime, and builds up over years of minute by minute, from day to day exposure, your entire life.

Reapply after water submersion, swimming, or heavy sweating.

Reapply about every 2 hours when used continually outdoors. (If you are in the shade, then you have more flexibility here, but be conscience that UV reflects from sand, pavement and concrete, and can still reflect onto your skin, even though you are in the shade)

Incorporate clothing, glasses, and hats, whenever realistically possible, for additional protection, based on your activities.

Best Options for sensitive skin:

If your skin is sensitive or easily irritated look for formulas which are free of alcohol, fragrances or or preservatives.
Opt for screens which use a mineral based active ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Avoid chemical sunscreens such as para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone which can irritate sensitive skin.

Many products designed for use for children, and are PABA free, are well suited to skin that can be easily irritated.

Some good options for sensitive skin:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50

Coppertone Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50


Have a great day~! – Vicki



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