Can You Tan With Makeup On (& Why You Shouldn’t Try)

Can you tan with makeup on? Sure. Should you? Definitely not. Uncover the truth behind why it's bad and what makeup artists are doing to get around it.

Updated June 6, 2024
Beautiful brown hair woman near water wearing bikini.

It's common to wonder whether you can tan with makeup on and if it's bad to. While you can naturally tan with makeup on, it doesn't always have the desired effect. From splotchy patches to increased skin irritation, there are many side effects to wearing makeup while tanning. So, before you forgo the sunblock and put that full face on, make sure you understand exactly what to expect and why it's probably not the best idea. 

Can You Tan With Makeup On? 

Whether you can tan with your makeup on isn't as clear-cut of a question as you might think. There are four major ways that people achieve a tanned look, and each one reacts differently to beauty products. 

Natural Tanning 

Yes, you can tan with makeup on. Even beauty products with SPF can wear thin throughout the day without reapplication, which can lead to natural sun tanning. Now, whether you should or shouldn't tan with makeup on is another question entirely — and we won't make you wait too long to discover the answer. 

Spray Tanning 

Spray tanning is a popular, artificial, non-UV way to get a tanned complexion. It's a great way to achieve a sunkissed look without exposing yourself to the harsh UV radiation that accumulates over time. Since spray tanning solution needs to work its chemical magic on the skin for some time after the application, you're advised not to put makeup on before your session. 

Need to Know

Be careful about how soon you apply makeup after your spray tan. If you apply it right afterward, the moisture in your products will cause streaking and splotching. It's best to wait about six hours afterward before putting on a full face. 


Self-tanners work similarly to spray tanners in that it's a pigmented lotion that stains the skin for some time, leaving behind a sunkissed glow. Just like with spray tans, you don't want to apply self-tanning lotion on your face with makeup on. 

Indoor Tanning 

Indoor tanning, which includes both tanning beds and sunbeds, is a concentrated way to achieve that sunkissed look. However, you should remove all makeup before an indoor tanning session because it can block the UV you get on your face and leave it unevenly tanned. 

Things to Know About Wearing Makeup While Tanning

Makeup can act as a barrier between your skin and the sun and cause uneven tanning. Think about makeup like the t-shirts that cause "farmer tan lines." The sun's UV rays will penetrate your skin to varying degrees depending on what products you have on. The reason why makeup can sometimes block natural tanning comes from the ingredients. Certain chemicals are hard to break down and won't let the UV rays penetrate to your skin. 

However, just because makeup products can block UV rays doesn't mean they're an alternative to SPF protection. Even with makeup on, sun exposure can:

  • Cause sunburn
  • Damage your skin
  • Increase your risk of skin cancer
Fast Fact

If you don't wear sunscreen because you think you can't tan without it, never fear! Experts say that your skin will still tan with sunscreen on, just at a slower rate.

Related: 14 Cute Bright Summer Nail Ideas & Colors for Fun in the Sun

How Will Makeup Affect My Tan?

Wearing makeup and tanning isn't the black-and-white situation some might claim it to be. A few variables greatly impact the effect makeup can have on tanning skin.

portrait of a beautiful woman in snow with application of the protective cream in winter
  • SPF makeup vs. non-SPF makeup: SPF in your makeup might not be high enough to cancel out the sun's harmful rays completely, but it can keep your face from tanning as dark as the rest of your unprotected skin.
  • Skin type: Sensitive skin is more prone to sunburn. Be especially careful if you're taking medication as some types can make your skin extra sensitive, makeup or not. 
  • Time of day: The sun's at its strongest between 11 AM and 3 PM, so your skin will be the most affected during that window. If you're wearing makeup and tanning during this time of the day, you'll likely notice a difference in how much you tan on your face versus the rest of your body. 

How Can Wearing Makeup While Tanning Affect My Skin? 

As well as affecting the end result, wearing makeup while you're tanning can also cause other skin problems you don't want to deal with. Baking under hot summer temperatures increases your skin's oil production and can lead to: 

  • Clogged pores 
  • Breakouts and irritation
  • Blotchiness 

How to Properly Tan With Makeup On

If you still want to take the chance and try to tan with makeup on, opt for an SPF makeup product such as:

  • Tinted sunscreen
  • A face primer that contains SPF 
  • A tinted moisturizer containing SPF
  • An oil-free, lightweight foundation with SPF
Need to Know

Unfortunately, SPF makeup doesn't last all day. Make sure you reapply your SPF product regularly throughout the day to keep yourself protected from the sun's harmful rays. Since you can't reapply your base over your powders and creams, try to wear makeup and tan for a short period. 

Let Your Face Breathe When Tanning 

Everyone wants to feel confident during their summertime adventures. But if tanning is on the menu, you need to let your face breathe. Because wearing makeup on your face in the sun can prevent your face from tanning evenly, opt for sunscreen plus a product that has lightweight coverage if you want to get that coveted, sunkissed, flawless finish. 

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Can You Tan With Makeup On (& Why You Shouldn’t Try)