The Truth About Contouring With Sunscreen

TikTok is at it again with its viral beauty hacks, only this time, the hack is pretty questionable. L.A. model Eli Withrow posted a TikTok on sunscreen contouring back in 2020, and it quickly went viral. What even is sunscreen contouring, you might ask? According to Withrow, it’s all about using the sun and sunscreen to give yourself a natural, bronzed look for the summer. “Haters will say it doesn’t work,” Withrow began in her video, “But I am convinced that if you put a base sunscreen of SPF 30 on and then SPF 90 on all the spots that you would put highlighter on, the sun will contour your face where you put bronzer and you’ll be naturally snatched all summer.”

Other TikTok users were quick to try out Withrow’s bronzer hack. User Esther Hong from New York, for instance, tried out the SPF application method and gave her review, via the NY Post. “It’s barely noticeable, [but] there’s a natural bronzed look below my cheekbones,” she said. Despite the many TikTokers who claim that sunscreen contouring works, dermatologists are strongly advising against it.

Why you shouldn't contour with sunscreen

According to dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry reporting for the NY Post, you should avoid sunscreen contouring. “This is not the way to go about contouring,” she said, noting that you don’t want to leave any part of your face more exposed to sun exposure, as it increases the risk of cancer. Other doctors pointed out that achieving the look from two different SPFs is nearly impossible, because sunlight does not create precision tans. Moreover, even an SPF as low as 30 will still protect your skin from most of the sun’s rays, and make it difficult to create even a slightly contoured look.

If you really want to create a bronzed look that lasts longer than one day, Into the Gloss suggests applying a fake tanner to the areas of your face where you would normally apply bronzer. TikTok user Olivia Eaton demonstrates the technique, using a fluffy brush to apply a mousse based, sunless tanner to her cheekbones, temples, and under her chin. Eaton also recommends applying a decent amount of tanner to your face, as it tends to fade overnight. Depending on the darkening level of your tanner, however, you may want to go lighter. You can always add more tanner, but it’s much harder to remove it if you applied too much. Hopefully, this sunless bronzer technique will scratch the itch for a natural contour and help keep your skin healthy and glowing.

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