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Please, Oh Please, Stop Getting "Beer Tans" — A Derm Explains The Dangers

Jamie Schneider
August 9, 2023
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by Paff / Stocksy
August 9, 2023
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At this point, TikTok beauty trends rarely shock me. Foundation frothing? Sure. "I'm cold" makeup? Sounds just like "sunburn blush" with a seasonal twist, but fine, carry on. As soon as one clever name catches on, another routine dominates my algorithm; so to avoid digital whiplash, I tend to scroll past these microtrends and wait for them to naturally lose steam. 

But "beer tans" did give me pause. No, it's not a type of lager: People are actually soaking their skin in beer in the hopes of a golden glow. Does the hack really work, and—more importantly—is it safe? A derm weighs in below. 

What in the world is a beer tan? 

Like its name suggests, the trend involves lathering your body in beer before lying out in the sun. The theory is that the hops in the beer activate the melanin in your skin and help you achieve a deeper tan. 

It's unclear which specific type of beer works best, but I'd assume a hoppy beer, like an IPA, would make the most sense. Some folks choose to spray the beer all over their body, while others pour it into their hands and rub it into their skin like a DIY tanning oil. Barkeeper's choice, I guess?

Does it actually work? 

As you can probably guess, derms have pretty strong feelings about this trend. First things first: It doesn't actually work. 

"'Beer tanning' is a misconception," board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D., founder of Skin & Aesthetics Surgery of Manhattan, tells mindbodygreen. "The process of tanning occurs due to exposure to UV radiation from the sun, leading to the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. The notion that beer's sugars or acids interact with melanin to accelerate tanning is not backed by scientific research." 

You might recall folks dousing their hair in beer to temporarily lighten their strands (I admit I was one of those eager teenagers). This DIY trick does technically work but for a totally different reason—and, still, it's not something we would recommend.

"Beer contains alcohol, which acts as a solvent and can help remove some color from the hair strands, resulting in a subtle lightening effect," Henry explains. But in terms of the pigment in your skin, there's no reason beer would help enhance your tan. 

It's also not safe to sunbathe for sport, especially without proper sun protection. Make no mistake: Beer does not shield you against UV rays. "Relying on beer or other unconventional methods for tanning can be both ineffective and risky," notes Henry, resulting in skin damage, burns, premature aging, and increased risk of skin cancer down the line. 

Beer may even exacerbate irritation, especially for those with sensitive, easily reactive skin. "Ingredients in beer like hops or yeast can lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions upon contact," Henry adds. 

The bottom line? Skip the beer tans and practice safer sun habits. Your healthy skin will thank you in the long run. 

Safer ways to tan 

So beer tans are scary, but I do understand the allure of a sun-kissed glow. The good news? There are plenty of safer methods you can use to achieve a healthy bronze, sans sun damage. 

"For those seeking a tan appearance, consider using self-tanning products or spray tans that do not involve UV radiation," offers Henry. I personally swear by Coco & Eve's Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam, but you can also find serums, drops, sprays, and lotions to secure an at-home self-tan—and they're easier to master than you think. 

Here's a full, expert-backed guide to nailing the faux glow. 

The takeaway 

Beer tans may sound harmless and fun, but derms strongly advise against partaking in the TikTok trend of the moment. "Prioritizing the health and safety of your skin is crucial when it comes to sun exposure and tanning practices," says Henry, and a mere layer of beer will not protect your skin. Stick to SPF when slathering on—beer is meant for sipping. 

Jamie Schneider author page.
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.