Will Getting a Tan Help Your Acne Breakouts?

In this series, we take common beauty questions, of which we've heard about 23,464 conflicting answers to over the years, and myth-bust 'em once and for all.

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Maybe you’ve heard this theory that laying on a lawn chair and soaking up the sun actually helps clear out breakouts. It sounds like the most glorious acne treatment ever, right? Sure beats slathering on spot treatment every night and being meticulous about your foundation being oil-free. But before you go and ditch the SPF for a day in the sun, let’s first find out if there’s any truth to this remedy.

Is tanning helpful for your acne, or is this a total myth that might just result in further skin damage?

"UV rays are lethal to P. Acnes, the main bacteria that contributes to acne, but they also injure the skin, causing brown spots, wrinkles, and sagging," explains dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban. "So, you trade one problem for another longer lasting one."

There is truth to the fact that ultraviolet A rays can zap zits, but it’s not anything you’d ever want to do, explains Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, the Founder and Director of Capital Laser and Skin Care and Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center.

In fact, using tanning as a solution for acne could have much more serious implications. Dr. Tanzi says "you’ll never find a dermatologist who recommends this approach because both the sun and indoor tanning damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer."

On top of that, she explains that often getting a tan can camouflage the acne, so people think it’s better when it’s not. "The problem with this approach is that once the tan fades, the skin is left looking more discolored than before."

Another lose-lose situation.

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So how does a derm suggest caring for acne? Dr. Shamban suggests products that contain salicylic acne and niacinamide, and of course, protecting skin from the sun with sunscreen.

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