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Why Experts Say To Avoid Beer Tanning

You’re putting your skin at risk of sunburn and even skin cancer when you pour on the beer

Glass of beer on table at beach with beach-goers

There’s a good chance you think a golden tan makes you look more youthful, healthier and more attractive. And while there are many ways to achieve a faux bronzed glow — think bronzers and sunless tanners — you might be tempted to try an unsafe way to get a suntan.


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One of those dangerous trends is beer tanning (yes, you read that right!). The idea is that slathering your skin with beer will help you achieve a darker, richer color.

You can thank social media for spreading the concept of beer tanning. But just because TikTok or Instagram influencers are touting the results of something, doesn’t mean it’s not without its risks (Exhibit A: nasal tanning sprays).

Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, explains how beer tanning can harm your skin and why it’s so important to protect your skin.

What is beer tanning?

Instead of using sunscreen, people use the alcoholic beverage like a tanning lotion. The thought process is that hops — one of the main ingredients in beer — increase your skin’s melatonin.

But Dr. Khetarpal wants to be very clear: There’s no scientific evidence to support this theory. And you’re leaving your skin in a vulnerable state with no SPF protection at all.

“There are many issues with this idea of beer tanning,” she continues. “The first is that if you’re not applying sunscreen, the skin is not protected. It can also increase the chance of getting a sunburn and lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.”

The dangers of beer tanning

Just like tanning beds and using tanning oil, beer tanning is NOT good for you or your skin.

Beer tanning essentially leaves your skin unprotected. Exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to:

And what might be most concerning is who is following this unsafe idea.

“The age groups that are following these trends are 15- to 34-year-olds — and it’s also the same age group that has a disproportionately high incidence of skin cancer and that’s on the rise,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “We’re going to see that number go up as this population ages.”

The facts on skin cancer — the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. — paint a scary picture. Here are just some of the alarming stats:

“We get most of our sun exposure during childhood, so it’s important to wear sunscreen every day even if you’re not outdoors,” stresses Dr. Khetarpal. “The increase in UV exposure and tanning beds is why there is an increase in skin cancer that we’re seeing today.”

How to keep your skin protected

Dr. Khetarpal can’t over-emphasize the importance of protecting your skin when you’re outside. So, what should you do? Here are her tips:

  • Wear sunscreen. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s UVA/UVB SPF 30 or higher.
  • Wear UPF clothing. UPF stands for “ultraviolet protection factor,” and certain clothing is made with UPF fabric.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses. These items can help protect your face, the back of your neck and your eyes.
  • Seek out shady areas when you can. Not only can this help protect your skin, but getting a break from the hot sun can also reduce your chance of dehydration and heat stroke. Consider an umbrella when you’re at the beach.


“Protect your skin by wearing an SPF 30 or higher daily, regardless of the weather and reapply every 2 hours when outdoors,” reiterates Dr. Khetarpal. “You can also look for UPF-protected clothing and seek shade during peak sun hours, which are typically 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”

Bottom line?

Sure, we get it — our society is somewhat obsessed with suntans and having a bronzed look. But as with most viral trends, beer tanning can do more harm than good. Ask yourself: Is having a tan worth the potential for skin cancer down the road?

And if you’re like us and Dr. Khetarpal, not only is it not worth the risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion and skin cancer, but it’s also not worth the mess it creates.

“Besides everything we know about ultraviolet exposure and putting yourself outside without sunscreen, why would you want to put something sticky and messy all over your body?” asks Dr. Khetarpal.


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