TikTok’s ‘Beer Tanning’ Beauty Hack Can Increase Your Risk of Sunburn and Cancer

A woman on a beach holding a beer.
A new viral trend on TikTok encourages people to slather their skin with beer before sunbathing for a speedy tan, but health experts say this can increase your risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and cancer. Swiss Media Division/Getty Images
  • The beer tanning trend on TikTok sees users covering their bodies in beer before sunbathing. 
  • Proponents say the hops in beer stimulate the production of melatonin which leads to a tan, however, there is no evidence to support this. 
  • This TikTok hack is incredibly dangerous and can increase your risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and skin cancer. 
  • Experts say there is no such thing as a safe tan.

TikTok is filled with beauty hacks. Some of them are brilliant, others not so much. But one of the latest viral beauty trends to emerge from the platform is beer tanning – and it’s a terrible idea. 

People on the social media site are using beer as a tanning lotion. The hashtag #beertan has almost 300,000 views and includes videos of people covering their bodies in beer before lying in the sun. 

Content creators say the hack speeds up the tanning process. 

It probably won’t come as a surprise that skincare experts aren’t on board with this new trend. Dr. Rutsnei Schmitz, a cosmetic dermatologist at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, describes it as “disastrous.” 

He says the first problem with TikTok’s beer tanning trend is that it’s been devised by people who aren’t skincare experts.

Schmitz always recommends seeking the advice of a skincare professional, particularly when it comes to sun safety.

The second – and biggest – concern is that it offers zero protection against sun damage.

“The problem with this trend is that if you’re not using a sunscreen and you are solely applying beer to the skin, you are not protecting the skin whatsoever,” Schmitz warns.

“If you are applying it over a physical sunscreen, which acts like a barrier to protect the skin, you are in great danger of washing the sunscreen – and therefore the protection – off.”

Like Schmitz, Dr. Katherine Armour, dermatologist and founder of Bespoke Skin Technology, believes this trend is incredibly dangerous. “The idea of letting a liquid fry on your skin is absolutely crazy,” she says.

“It has been postulated that the hops in beer stimulate the skin’s melanocytes to make more melanin, which leads to tanning. However, this has not been systematically studied, and is a complete myth as far as I can see,” she surmises.

The risks of beer tanning

Both experts agree that any potential for a tan is far outweighed by the negative implications of this trend. In the short term, you leave yourself at risk of sunburn and heat exhaustion.

Sunburn isn’t just painful, it can lead to unwanted pigmentation and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Schmitz says this risk increases with every sunburn you get.

“Just one blistering sunburn in your younger years can more than double your chances of developing melanoma in later life, while more than five or more sunburns more than doubles your risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma,” he warns.

Heat exhaustion, meanwhile, can also be incredibly dangerous. During a bout of heat exhaustion, you may become sleepy or floppy and may suffer from headaches, dizziness,  and confusion.

Other symptoms can include:

  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick
  • excessive sweating
  • pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs, and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • excessive thirst

If these symptoms do not alleviate after 30 minutes you should seek medical assistance.  

If you’re tanning with beer, chances are you’re drinking it too – and this can only further compound these risks.

“Alcohol can make you drowsy, which increases the chances of you falling asleep in the sun,” Schmitz points out.

“If you’re drinking you may not make not the wisest decisions either, and when it comes to sun safety, you have to be wise to ensure your skin’s health,” he warns.

There’s no such thing as a safe tan

So it’s clear: TikTok’s beer tanning hack isn’t worth the risk. But what about tanning in general?

Both experts are in agreement: there is no such thing as a safe tan.

“As a dermatologist, I can tell you that any tan means that the DNA of your skin has been damaged, and this markedly increases the risk of skin cancers,” warns Armour.

“Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid skin cancers, you will definitely develop photo-aging. This manifests as a ‘leathered’ look – rough textured skin, covered in blotchy brown marks and bumps, and wrinkles aplenty.”

Schmitz says developing a tan is actually a sign of skin damage.

“Once the skin is exposed to UV radiation, it increases the production of melanin in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage – and this is why your skin changes color,” he explains.

You might prefer the way you look when you have a golden glow. If this is the case, Schmitz and Armour suggest fake tans are the only way to go.

“We are so spoilt with a multitude of amazing self-tanning products on the market. Whether you want an express tan or a gradually buildable tan, there is something for everyone,” Armour points out.

“Self-tanners are now so elegant and easy to use, that there is no excuse to lie out in the sun without protection.”

Some even contain skin-nourishing ingredients, so you’ll be looking after your skin, rather than actively damaging it, too.

How to stay safe in the sun

Self-tan may be the way to go, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo sun protection. In fact, you don’t need to sunbathe to experience sun damage.

Schmitz says you should always use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher if you plan to be outside longer than 20 minutes. That includes overcast days too.

Armour says you’ll need approximately one teaspoon of product for each body area, for example, the face, neck, ears, and each of your arms. You’ll need to reapply every two hours and after swimming and sweating too.

Ultimately the risks of not using sun protection simply aren’t worth it.

Despite what some people on TikTok may tell you, beer should never be used as a tanning aid. Layer on sunscreen instead and save the beer for enjoying – in moderation – with friends.

Takeaway

The beer tanning trend on TikTok sees users covering their bodies in beer before sunbathing. 

Proponents say the hops in beer stimulate the production of melatonin which leads to a tan, however, there is no evidence to support this. 

This TikTok hack is incredibly dangerous and can increase your risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and skin cancer. 

Experts say there is no such thing as a safe tan.

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