How to Not Get Tan: 5 Tips to Stay Tan Free All Summer Long

While the rest of the rest of the world eagerly looks forward to the beach trips and copious amounts of sun exposure that summer brings, skincare aficionados are scrambling for shade lest their hard work to keep their skin light and luminous all year round goes to waste.

So how does one survive the sun soaked season? Read on for our fool proof tips for not getting tanned this summer!

A strong sunscreen is a must

Don’t get us wrong, sunscreen is a necessity all year round, but consider switching to one with higher SPF for the summer season. Sunscreen is your most important armor against sun, so make sure to choose a good one. The labels on sunscreen can be confusing so here’s a breakdown of the important things.

  • SPF

First up is the sun protection factor or SPF. SPF 15 is the minimum, but consider doubling or even tripling up for maximum protection. While SPF 15 can protect you from 96% of the sun’s rays, too often we don’t apply enough on our bodies (the recommended application is a golfball-sized amount for the whole body) to get the full benefit.

A higher SPF will protect you from not slathering on enough.

  • Broad Spectrum

Next, make sure the sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. The sun is a lot sneakier than you thought, and it causes both short and long term effects on your skin all day. UVB rays are the sunlight that causes more immediate effects like burning or peeling.

The rays get stronger in tropical climates or places with higher elevation (time to check your vacation spots on the map!) and is only partially blocked by clouds.

UVA is UVB’s more sinister cousin. It causes long term effects such as signs of skin aging and can even heighten risk of skin cancer. To ward off these nasty effects from the sun, and to preserve your well-earned light complexion, be religious in your sunscreen application (and don’t forget to re-apply every couple of hours!)

  • Active Ingredients

It might be useful to check out the active ingredients as well. If you have sensitive skin, or are in a hurry to get out of the house. Physical sunscreen is your best bet. Look for Zinc Dioxide and Titanium Dioxide in the label to make sure it’s a physical sunscreen. It provides immediate protection, and doesn’t penetrate the skin and cause adverse reactions.

If you’re particular about a lightweight feel, on the other hand, chemical sunscreens may be for you. Active ingredients include Avobenzone or Octisalate.

Lastly, a lot of makeup products tout having SPF protection, but don’t think that lets you off the hook. It’s still best to apply a separate layer of sunscreen on your face and your lips (lip balm with SPF) right after moisturizer. Women do not apply nearly enough foundation to provide full protection (it has to be at least 2 tablespoons to fully protect the face and neck), so take whatever SPF in your makeup as bonus.

Wondering which sunscreens are the best? Here are our top picks...​


whitening sunscreens

This isn't your average sunscreen - not only does it offer a whopping SPF of 50 and Pa+++ (which means that it protects you against UVA rays up to 8 times more than if you go out without protection), but it also whitens at the same time.

That means you get all the prerequisite ingredients to protect against UVA and UVB rays plus M-Tranexamic acid, a proven ingredient for skin lightening. Oh, and did we mention it's also packing skin boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen?

It's also very lightweight, easily absorbed and wonderfully comfortable on your skin. It also has the added benefit of being sweat resistant so this means you don't have to reapply too often.

It also has a noticeable effect on lightening hyper pigmentation caused by acne scars, so if you're a former acne sufferer looking for a multi-tasking sunscreen - this one is a winner. Want more whitening sunscreens?


best sunscreen for acne

Rejoice, acne sufferers! Here's a good, strong sunscreen that won't break you out.

Obagi's sunscreen goes on matte (read: absolutely no shine) and provides SPF 50, PA+++ protection without the pore-clogging, oily feeling that most sunscreens have. 

It's formulated for acne prone skin so you can rest assured that not only will you not break out - but it'll leave your skin looking and feeling fresher and cleaner. 

Read what users have to say!


Want to keep your skin lightening progress while engaging in water sports? You need a strong sunscreen that won't wash off no matter how sweaty and wet you get!

Enter EltaMD's Sport Sunscreen. This stuff is like a second skin. It's SPF 50, offers broad spectrum protection and it holds up very well on the beach or in the water. 

It is a mineral sunscreen so it'll go on with a bit of a whitish cast but you can't beat it for all around, sweat-resistant protection. Plus, it's all-natural so if you're trying to avoid chemicals in your skin care - this one's a winner! Read user reviews!

Clothing can have UV too!

While sunscreen might be a great armor in itself, it doesn’t hurt to have reinforcements. Your clothing choice can contribute to your sun protection as well. While it’s tempting to bare as much skin as possible for sweltering weather, resist the urge to expose too much skin when the sun is at its peak.

You can opt for lightweight cover-ups and long sleeved tops or rash guards as alternative beach attire. Color and choice of fabric plays a role here too. While darker and brighter colors absorb more UV radiation in general, fabrics labeled to contain “optical whitening agents” are infused with chemicals that absorb UV radiation, specifically UVA.

In terms of material, synthetic is king. Polyester, lycra and nylon are good news while bleached cotton on breezy gauzy fabric may not provide as much protection as their synthetic counterparts.

To ease the dilemma of choosing UV protective clothing, you can also shop for clothes with UPF labels, a standardized ranking on how well a piece of clothing blocks you from the sun’s radiation, think of it as SPF for clothes. 

It shouldn't be hard to find ones you like - there's a lot of variety in UPF clothes and you'll definitely be able to find cute stuff that suits your style, like...

sun protection clothing
sun protection clothing

To illustrate how it measures protectiveness, clothing with a UPF of 60 means that only 1/60th of the sun’s radiation in your environment seeps through your clothes. As a benchmark, a thin white cotton shirt has as little UPF of 5, while the aforementioned synthetic fabrics go up to at least 50.

To preserve UPF in clothes, also make sure to buy the right size, over stretching can lessen the UPF specified. Check out UPF clothing styles and colors here!

Accessorize wisely

sun protection hat
sun protection umbrella

Just like in fashion, accessory choice is also key in the war you’re waging against sun exposure. To maximize sun protection, go for wide brimmed hats of at least 3 inches in the brim diameter to give ample coverage to your face, ears, and neck.

Go for sunglasses that have UV filtering features to protect both your eyes and the thin under-eye skin. Lastly avoid very shiny accessories, especially if it’s too close to the face as it might cause UV radiation to reflect towards your face the entire day.

You might also want to add an umbrella as part of your look. It’s not just useful for rain showers! It can provide you with much needed protection and comfort, especially if there’s no shady areas in the vicinity.

What goes inside the body counts too!

sun protection foods
sun protection foods

Carbo-loading might not the best tip to achieve that bikini body, but pasta (or anything really) slathered in tomato sauce could help preserve your light complexion. Studies show that at least 55g of lycopene daily (equivalent to a little more than 3 tablespoons of tomato paste) can have positive effects against long term sun damage.

While you’re reevaluating your pantry, consider stocking up on foods rich in Vitamin D and Omega-3 as well, since they’re also backed by studies that prove that they can reduce damage from sun exposure

To keep you from feeling parched, green tea can be a good choice for both your tummy and your skin. Green tea has polyphenols that inhibit tumor formation and control inflammation from sun exposure. As an added bonus, you can also rub the empty tea bag on skin to provide additional photo protection.

Tip: Go for matcha, a powdered, more potent form of green tea that's ridiculously yummy and contains more EGCG. 

When happy hour sets in, wine is the most skin-friendly choice. It contains proanthocyanidins and reservatrol that can both serve as photoprotective agents that lower your risk of skin cancer.

Planning ahead is key

The tiniest details count if you’re looking to minimize your sun exposure. The smallest things such as choosing the right seat for a long road trip can have a significant effect on your post vacation tan (or the lack of).

As much as possible, choose the middle seat as a rule. Since UVA penetrates glass windows, the further you are from them the better. If you must go for a window seat (or if you’re the one driving), make sure the car is tinted. If you haven’t gotten around to tinting your car just yet, pick up some window sun shades to tide you over in the meantime - ShadeSox window shades are a great, easy to install option.

sun protection

When planning your itinerary, consider sun protection especially if your vacation will be filled with outdoor activities. High perspiration activities mean that you should consider buying an extra bottle of sunscreen since it basically slides off with sweat, so you have to reapply after every sweat session.

Activities involving water such as sailing or surfing with prolonged water exposure can have added effects on your skin due to all the UV rays bouncing off the water. Opt for a physical sunscreens that do a better job at blocking the sun’s rays instead of a chemical one that just absorbs and neutralizes UV’s effects on skin.

Timing is key too. Try to schedule all the heavy walking outside of the sun’s peak hours of 10am - 4pm. It would be comfortable and much more sun-safe inside a cool museum or a restaurant with indoor seating during these hours.