Can You Fake Tan Over Sunburn? Can You Cover Sunburn With Self Tanner?

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You may have thought you could get away with not wearing sunscreen or covering up on the beach. But the sun quickly gave you a reality check.

Now you are left with a sunburn. Ouch.

Lobster skin. It’s only natural you’d want to cover it up.

But can you fake tan over sunburn? Is that a good idea?

No, you should not fake tan over sunburn. Your skin is going to peel after your sunburn fades, and your fake tan will peel off with it! You’ll end up with a splotchy fake tan and peeling skin, making the whole situation worse.

We’ll explain it all below.


How Sunless Tanners and Spray Tans Work

Coco and Eve Sunless Tanner

Before we explain how fake tans work with sunburned skin, let’s start by quickly going over how sunless tanners work.

The active ingredient in most spray tans and self-tanners like Beauty By Earth or Bondi Sands is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This chemical works by reacting with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer of your skin.

The DHA temporarily darkens the dead skin cells and simulates a tan.

Your fake tan will only last as long as it takes to shed those dead skin cells.

How Bad Is The Sunburn?

If your sunburn bad enough that it’s going to peel? If it’s only mild, and unlikely to peel, you may be able to get away with applying spray tan or sunless tanner. But it’s still not a good idea.

Can you hide sunburn with fake tan?

You can for a little while, but eventually, things can go wrong. Let’s go over the issues that can come up.

Can You Fake Tan Over Sunburn?

There are a lot of blogs out there that will tell you that putting a fake tan on a mild sunburn is okay.

But if you look at who’s writing the blog, it’s usually a tanning studio or a company that makes self-tanners. Information from these sources isn’t necessarily wrong, but they often have different priorities.

Whether you’re thinking about a self-tanner or a spray tan to hide your solar indiscretions, using a fake tan product over any type of sunburn is a bad idea for several reasons.

1. Self-Tanner on Blistering Skin can Cause Infection

Even the tanning salons and the manufacturers of self-tanners will agree to NEVER put fake tan on really badly sunburned skin. This is particularly true for any type of blistering, oozing, or raw patches.

Getting a fake tanning product into open skin can cause serious infections.

2. Self-Tanner Can Aggravate Your Sunburned Skin

Even if you have a mild sunburn, your skin is damaged. Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to the skin’s outermost layers. The redness, swelling, and inflammation that come with sunburn are a result of your body triggering blood vessels to dilate.

They increase blood flow and bring immune cells to repair that damage.

Putting any topical products that are not meant for healing sunburned skin is likely going to aggravate your skin’s sensitive condition and prolong the healing process.

3. Spray Tans and Sunless Tans Dry Skin

Spray tanning or self-tanners with DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is drying to the skin. This will accelerate the peeling process. This added drying effect will further aggravate your already sensitive skin.

4. Your Fake Tan Won’t Last as Long

Because the DHA in fake tanners reacts with the top layer of skin cells, those cells, which are now sunburned and dry, are just about to be purged to make way for the new cells underneath.

And with this purge, goes your tan.

5. Peeling Skin Will Result in a Patchy Tan

When your sunburn peels, it will take your fake tan with it! But the sunburned skin doesn’t peel off all at once. You’ll end up with patches of tanned skin, and areas with fresh, natural skin.

You really want to exfoliate before your sunless tan, in order to remove any skin that is about to fall off. But if you apply self-tanner to sunburned skin, you’re doing the opposite of that.

How Do You Get Rid of a Sunburn?

Now that we’ve established fake tanning over a burn is not a good idea, regardless of how mild, you can focus instead on healing your skin.

Then you can apply your self-tanner once your skin has recovered.

There are a lot of ways you can speed up the healing process of a sunburn.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

They say hindsight’s 20/20, so best learn from your mistakes and not get sunburned again! Best way to do that if you are spending time outdoors is to use sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Alternatively, plan to cover up once you’ve tanned the appropriate amount.

See these for more information:

Take a cool shower or bath

A cool (not hot or cold) shower or bath can help relieve burning and reduce inflammation. 


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Use a moisturizer or after sun care product that contains aloe vera to help soothe sunburned skin. The Seven Minerals one shown above is a great choice.

Avoid products that contain alcohol, petroleum jelly, or products ending in “-caine”. Alcohol is drying and can cause further irritation. And petroleum jelly traps heat.

Treatments that work as a numbing agent, like benzocaine and lidocaine, can irritate the skin.

Drink lots of water 

A sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration and also helps to rehydrate your skin to speed up the healing process.

Don’t break blisters!

The thin layer of skin covering a blister is there to prevent dirt and bacteria from causing infection.

The fluid that collects under the damaged skin is there to promote healing and cushion the raw tissue underneath.

Does Fake Tan Protect From Sunburn?

No, fake tanners provide no protection against sunburn. They are not a base tan, even though your fake tan may make you look super dark.

And in fact, the UV rays from the sun will degrade your fake tan, so you should not be tanning in the sun or in a tanning bed with a fake tan on.

Take Away

Can you put fake tan over sunburn?

It’s a bad idea to apply any fake tanning products over a sunburn. Give your skin time to heal before applying any type of spray tan or self-tanner, and learn to avoid sunburn in the future.

Use a bronzer to even out your skin

If you want to balance out the color tone on your sunburned skin, you could consider using a bronzer  to even out the color tone.

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).