For Consumers

Sunscreens and Tanning

Your skin is exposed to the sun when you spend time outside like walking to the store, taking your kids to the park, or eating lunch at an outdoor cafe.  The sun has ultraviolet (UV) rays that can harm your skin.  Wear sunscreen to lower your risk of skin cancer or skin damage. Wear a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher every day.

Learn more about how to protect your skin.

Sun Protection Starts at the Store

Look for these label claims when you buy sunscreen:

  • Broad Spectrum: Sunscreen that contains broad spectrum protects you from UVA and UVB rays - types of light rays from the sun and tanning beds that damage your skin.
  • SPF: Sun Protection Factor. Choose an SPF of 15 or higher. Higher SPFs mean higher sunburn protection.
  • Water resistant: These sunscreens protect your skin for 40-80 minutes when exposed to water.  Water reduces suncreen protection.
How Should I Apply Sunscreen?
  • Test a small amount on the back of your hand to check for an allergy.
  • Apply sunscreen evenly on parts of your body that will be in the sun. It takes at least 1 ounce of sunscreen lotion, the size of a golf ball, to cover your entire body.
  • Use your hands to apply spray sunscreen to your face. Do not spray sunscreen directly onto your face.
When Should I Apply Sunscreen?
  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you will be outdoors.
  • Put on more sunscreen every 2 hours or sooner.
  • Wear sunscreen even on a cloudy day.
  • When swimming or sweating you should reapply water-resistant sunscreen every 40 or 80 minutes.
Other Sunscreen Tips
  • Do not apply spray sunscreen near an open flame.
  • Avoid breathing in spray sunscreen.
  • Keep sunscreen containers away from direct sunlight and heat.
  • Do not rely on sunscreens alone for sun protection. Wear protective clothing and limit your time in the sun from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Tanning

You may chose to get tan skin by going to an indoor tanning salon or using sunless tanning lotion or spray. FDA recommends carefully reading the instructions and warnings before using tanning beds.

Tanning pills and accelerators

These products are not approved by the FDA. Their safety has not been reviewed.

Spray tans, bronzers, and tanning lotions

Sunless tanning products use special colors to darken your skin. FDA approves these colors to use on your skin at home but not for spraying on your body at spray tan salons.

Remember these tips when using these products.

  • Avoid using sunless tanning products around your eyes and mouth.
  • Do not breathe in the spray at the spray tan locations.  You should cover your mouth, eyes, and nose and ask the salon for protection like nose plugs or swimmers goggles.
Tanning beds

The light in a tanning bed can be more intense and harmful than the sun.  You may lower some of your risk of harm if you:

  • Wear eye goggles
  • Follow UV exposure times for your skin.  Look for these exposure times on the tanning bed.
Protect your Family

Use these tips to ensure your whole family is safe in the sun.

Young Children and Teens
  • Strongly consider the risks of using a tanning bed.  Some states have laws that do not allow children under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed.
Babies
  • You should not usually put sunscreens on babies 6 months old or younger.
  • Keeping babies covered and in the shade is best.

Page Last Updated: 03/25/2014
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