Hold my beer. And pour it all over your body. That’s essentially what some people on social media like TikTok have been advocating that you do to get a better tan. The argument is that the hops in beer can help activate melanin, a substance in your skin that gives it pigmentation. But before you hop off and cover your body in beer to basically toast yourself, there are four big problems with this trend.
First of all, these aren’t dermatologists or other verifiable medical experts who are telling you to do this. Instead, these are like random people on social media such as a TikToker who posted the following video that said “Try beer for tanning, thank me later,” and showed her pouring beer on her leg:
There was also this guy who presented four steps—buy the cheapest beer, take a dive (meaning into the water), take a beer shower, enjoy the sun—in the following TikTok post along with the hashtags #sunbathinghack #sunbathing #tanhacks:
This trend has been brewing for quite a while. In fact, Jessica Lindsay reported for Metro that in the U.K. online searches for “beer tan” have jumped by over 137% since March.
But again these are not verifiable medical experts. Some of the people pushing this trend on social media are not even verifiable human beings. Getting health advice from social media can be like getting health advice from the walls of a public bathroom toilet stall. You may have no idea who the person really is, why that person may be recommending something and whether that person has even tried the hack himself or herself.
Secondly, beer has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of like zero. While covering yourself in beer may protect you against other things such as getting dates, jobs, and other opportunities, it’s not going to protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. In fact, even if you are wearing sunscreen at the time, pouring beer on yourself could basically wash the protective sunscreen off yourself.
Plus, getting a tan will not protect your skin against sunburn or other types of skin damage. When your exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes in your skin will increase melanin production to try to protect your skin from further damage. But this extra melanin will only give a SPF of around two to four. This would be way below the minimum recommended SPF of 15, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Such exposure to UV radiation can lead to all sorts of problems. There is, of course, sunburn. This is when sunlight exposure damages cells in your epidermis. Your body then increases blood flow to the damaged area, giving it a reddish appearance and making it feel warm. Cells in that area then release various chemicals to give that wonderful burning sensation. Yeah, no one typically says, “I want to get a good sunburn so that I look great for that date.” Eventually, white blood cells swoop in and remove the damaged skin cells, which can leave that area itchy and peeling, making you look a bit like an onion.
While sunburn is a short-term effect, there are plenty of longer-term effects of too much UV light exposure. Premature aging—otherwise known as “photoaging”—can result. Over time, such exposure can leave your skin looking more like a leather couch with coffee stains. UV light exposure can lead to pre-cancerous growths such as actinic keratoses as well. And, of course, there is skin cancer itself. Too much UV light exposure can lead to melanoma and non-melanomas such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The American Cancer Society estimates that sunlight exposure has played a role in most of the over one million skin cancers that get diagnosed each year in the U.S.
The third problem is that you are covering yourself with beer. That’s going to leave you smelling a bit like a keg, the floor of a bar, or the bathroom in a nightclub. This is not the type of smell that people tend to aim for to improve their social situations, unless your goal is to hang out with flies, bees, wasps, and other insects. There aren’t too many perfumes or colognes that are named “Carnal Keg”, “Bar Floor Number Five”, or “Nightclub Bathroom Obsession.”
Finally, it’s not a great idea to drink and tan at the same time. Presumably, some of that beer that you are pouring may go into your mouth as well. Studies have provided evidence that alcohol consumption may decrease the time it takes for you to get sunburnt and increase your risk of skin cancer. Plus, news flash, consuming alcohol can make you do stupid things. For example, you may forget to protect yourself and fall asleep in the sun while wearing something like a catchers mask on your face and a cheese grater on your chest. That can lead to not only some very interesting tan lines but also longer than intended exposure to sunlight.
Yeah, this whole draft idea of beer tanning can turn out to be a very daft idea. There are already safer ways to tan. You can cover yourself with sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and still get tanned. While an SPF of 30 will adequately block UV rays, it’s not like covering yourself with a slanket. You can still get bronzed. Foods rich in beta carotene such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale can help you get tan without burning as well. Of course, this means eating such foods rather than covering your body with them. Being more judicious in your tanning—such as changing positions frequently, limiting your time in the sun, and avoiding the most sunlight-intense hours in the mid-day—can promote tanning rather than burning too.
In general, beer aware of what people on social media tell you to do. Listening to such advice may not make your Budweiser or you wiser for that matter.