Does Tanning Help Acne?

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Some people just feel great when they get a tan. Is it the actual sunshine and darkening of the skin that does it, or is it the carving out time to spend at the beach, or by the pool, relaxing?  

But apart from making you look and feel great, you might wonder about the other possible benefits of tanning. One idea circulating is the positive effects of tanning on acne-prone skin. 

So does tanning help acne? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we have no good evidence that it helps, other than some anecdotal reports. Tanning doesn’t seem to help with acne — and could even worsen it. 

What makes people think that tanning can help with acne? And how can tanning worsen your acne problem?

We’ll answer all those intriguing questions for you down below. 


Does Tanning Help Acne? No, It Does Not!

Whether you are simply finding other reasons to justify your tanning obsession, or you really want to figure out a way to help your acne-prone skin, you might have come across this idea. 

Some people say that tanning helps with acne. However, we have no evidence that this is true. It may only appear that tanning helps with acne due to the initial results you get.

However, as days pass you might see your acne getting worse. Even your acne scars can be negatively affected by tanning

UV Light

The reason why people think that tanning can help with acne is because of UV light. Whether you choose to tan under the sun or under UV tanning bed bulbs, UV is what your skin will be exposed to. 

UV lights can kill bacteria, as many of us have learned through our experience with the coronavirus.

UV Light can also kill the bacteria that could cause your acne.

Good, right?

However, you have to remember that acne isn’t just due to bacteria. There are other factors that affect your acne problem. 

Tanning Is Not A Solution For Acne

It can really be frustrating to have acne.

We know!

However, in order to improve your chances of clearing out acne, you should consult a professional for treatments. 

Dermatologists would never recommend tanning your skin as a solution for acne. It may kill the bacteria-causing acne, but it could also lead you to develop other problems. 

Remember that exposure to UV light when tanning increases your risk for skin cancer

How Can Tanning Worsen Your Acne

After tanning, it may seem that your skin has improved because the blemishes due to acne are less visible.

Even if it isn’t obvious, it doesn’t mean that the blemish is gone, it’s just less visible.

Your tan can mask the blemishes but it doesn’t cure them. This is where the idea comes from that tanning can fight acne.

But there’s more to the story.

Here’s how tanning can worsen your acne.

Causes Your Skin To Be Oily

You may feel that the skin is less oily after UV exposure. Well, that’s because UV exposure can dry up your skin.

That can lead to premature aging.

Plus it is just a temporary effect. 

Your skin will detect the dryness and that could trigger your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. So your skin will eventually produce even more oil. 

Sunburn Increases Dead Skin Cells

Additionally, sunburn is a risk from tanning. It’s really the biggest risk, and you should do everything you can to avoid sunburn.

Sometimes no matter how careful you are, you still get sunburned.

All those skin cells that are shed due to sunburn, mixed with the excess oils you have been producing, can clog your pores and cause breakouts.


UV Exposure Isn’t Good With Acne Treatments

If you are already actively treating your acne with medication, then you should definitely avoid sun exposure.

Many treatments for acne can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. 

Whether you are using oral treatments or topical treatments , they could both make your skin more sensitive to the sun or UV light from tanning beds.

That’s why most acne products have a clear warning against sun exposure. 

The reason for this is that acne treatments already help your skin to produce excess oil.

Plus they also help exfoliate your skin.

That’s why your skin is more prone to being sunburned when your treating acne. 

Effect Of Tanning On Acne Scars

You may not currently have acne breakouts but you can still have some acne scars. So does that mean you should still avoid sun exposure?

Yes, it certainly does. Tanning, even without active acne, can still worsen your acne scars. Acne scars are already highly-pigmented areas, that’s why they stand out from your skin. 

Exposure to UV light will cause your skin to tan. The acne scars are also tanned, and will still darken further.

Tanning won’t really hide your acne scars. 

Light Treatment For Acne

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If you are looking into light treatments for acne, UV lights from the sun or tanning beds aren’t the answer. However, there are light therapy machines like the No products found. (reviewed here) that can don’t use UV lights and can be used for acne treatments. 

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Blue light has the capability of killing different types of bacteria that could cause your breakouts. 

Apart from that, it also has anti-inflammatory capabilities, so it can help reduce the redness that you experience due to acne. 

Red light therapy  can also be used to aid in acne treatments.

It does not kill the bacteria just like blue light therapy does but it does promote healing. That could help you reduce the acne scars that you have.

Additionally, it also has anti-inflammatory effects to help your skin look better and feel better. 

Learn how to use light therapy to treat acne.


There are may anecdotal reports of people’s acne improving when they go out in the sun. But there’s no data that shows this, and there is some evidence that sun exposure can actually make acne worse.

Whether you are dealing with active acne or acne scars, tanning isn’t a good solution. Tanning can mask your blemishes or redness due to acne, and that’s helpful. But the acne is still there. 

Your acne can actually worsen because tanning could cause your skin to produce excess oils, have lots of dead skin cells, and react negatively to acne treatments. 

If you are into light therapy for acne, then you should go for light therapy that doesn’t use UV light. Red light therapy and blue light therapy can both help you deal with your acne problems. 

Here’s what to put on your face for indoor tanning.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).