Sun Tan Lotion Without Sunblock-What Does It Do?

I was buying some suntan lotion, and I noticed a bottle of lotion-that had no SPF rating-reading the label, I saw it contained no sunblock.
I thought the whole purpose of using suntan lotion was to protect your skin from ultraviolet light, which causes sunburn.
So what is the purpose of it without any sunblock? Does it perform any function?

I believe you are referring to a tanning lotion which is intended to help you develop a tan, which necessarily requires that UV light penetrate your skin.

Right—when I was a little kid we didn’t have sunblock lotions, but we did have suntan lotion. The most common one was Coppertone. The company used a classic ad that is straight out of Mad Men, and which never changed as I was growing up—a drawing of a puppy chasing a little girl and tugging on her bathing suit bottom, which partially revealed the untanned skin below it. But that doesn’t really answer your question, which is a damn good one—what did these products do? Were they actually an anti-sunblock that accelerated the tanning process? If so, how did they achieve this?

It helped…a little…against sunburn, by moisturizing the skin.

A moist sunburn hurts a little less! Slightly less likely to blister or peel.

(Would you rather be shot with a .38 or a .45? Um…)

I think the industry lately has had to refine the verbiage for these products. They are not allowed to use the term “sunblock” any more, since none of the lotions or sprays are effective at blocking the sun’s rays 100%. So, they are all called “sunscreen” now.

Anything not displaying the SPF rating is considered “suntan lotion”, as Michael63129 mentioned. What these products “do” is not really clear to me - perhaps they keep you from drying out, or enhance the sun’s rays to help you tan faster.

Do yourself a favor and stick with those products that have SPF and screen UVA/UVB rays, or call out “broad spectrum”.

As a kid I remember seeing suntan lotion marketed as SPF 2 or 3. I thought it always had some small SPF, but never advertised it until real sun block became popular.

So my guess is that suntan lotion has a small SPF which slows the tanning process to prevent burns but doesn’t actually protect you.

I just came in to say that I use SPF 100+ when I hit the beach (south Florida). I am very fair skinned and usually come home burn free. SPF 2 would be a death sentence.

That’s probably the answer:

The tanning lotions are completely and totally seperate products from sunscreens. They are used in order to accelerate, darken and deepen the tans people obtain from tanning beds and outdoor tanning. How this is achieved I can’t say; but if you flip over one of those bottles and scan the ingredient list, you will be overwhelmed with one long chemical-y sounding word after another (I use them for brief periods when tanning for bodybuilding competitions).

It’s supposed to help tan without burning. It is also apparently a mystery lost in time. Wikipedia calls Coppertone a suntan lotion, but their link to suntan lotion takes you to indoor tanning lotion, which is completely different. Some of them contained cocoa butter, which is reputed to be good for the skin. It has been recommended to prevent stretch marks, but according to Wikipedia it worked no better than a placebo in a test of that. This site states that suntan lotion prevents UV light from damaging skin cells instead of reflecting the light the way sunscreens do. I suspect most people who now use Coppertone are using one of the indoor tanning formulas or one containing sunscreens. What we used as a sublock in the olden days was zinc oxide, known for making people incredibly dorky looking. It was probably someone who spent a summer slathered in white paint who invented sunscreen.

Wouldn’t that be 2x or 3x your natural resistance to tan/burn? While 45 or higher may be in vogue now at one time 15 was considered extreme, 8 was still high so 2 or 3 was moderate.

Check out the Hawaiian Tropic website. They make both tanning oils, which have no sunblock but are made to moisturize the skin while you tan, and tanning lotions, which have spf ratings.
(founder Ron Rice was my neighbor in Ormond Beach)

Right, I have some which in small print sez SPF 4. Mild protection.

Sea and Ski is a fragrance that always hits me and brings back memories the beach and the first sunburn of the year. One theory says those burns increased my chances of getting melanoma. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve had three of those bastards cut out of me.

Does suntan have pigments? I thought they have colors that diffuse into you and turn brown, like a marinade.

Those are bronzers.

Several of my older relatives used to cover themselves with olive oil (bought from the pharmacy) while sunbathing. I might have to ask them why.

Are they virgins?

To lock in the flavor.

Yeah, as a kid in the 80s, I remember SPF numbers like 2, 4, 8, 15. I’m not sure they even went higher than that at the time. Maybe 30. Now there’s 100+? Huh. Obviously, that shows how often I use sunblock.