Then, to complete the contouring effect, a sunscreen formula with a higher SPF is applied where concealer or highlighter is typically layered, leaving those areas lighter after time in the sun. The idea is that by creating artificial tan lines across the face, the user will be left naturally contoured by the power of the sun — all without the use of makeup.

Is SPF contouring safe?

Naturally, we asked dermatologists ab out this hack and they are less than thrilled at the thought of their patients tanning any parts of their face. Those UV rays responsible for your summer tan are the exact same rays that cause skin damage, including wrinkles, age spots, and most concerning skin cancers.

“Patients are putting their skin in danger when they choose to expose [it] to the sun with no sunscreen protection. When you are contouring with sunscreen, you are exposing your skin to radiation,” says Jeanne Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

There is also a common misconception that tanned skin helps to prevent sunburns and, therefore, will also prevent the other damaging effects of the sun. That’s another myth that dermatologists can easily debunk.

“It is the simple truth that no tan is safe for your skin, any tan means your DNA has been harmed,” says Sheilagh Maguiness, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “The areas that tan have been damaged and will be more prone to photo-aging and skin cancers in the long run.”

Yes, some SPF contour advocates apply a base layer of SPF 30 across the whole area of the face and technically, this does meet the minimum SPF recommendation by dermatologists. So if an SPF 30 sunscreen is used across the entire face, could dermatologists lend their approval to this trend? In short: Most dermatologists would still be against it.

“Using a lower SPF on the entire face is certainly better than nothing,” Dr. Maguiness states. “However, if you are intentionally getting a tan by using a low SPF sunscreen, you will still end up with photo damage.” That photo damage can ultimately result in wrinkles, sun spots, and even skin cancer. An additional problem with this trend is that reapplying sunscreen to maintain the contour throughout the day isn’t exactly user-friendly.

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