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Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC Blog

The Dangers of Sunscreen Contouring

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 2, 2021 10:20:22 AM / by Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC

Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC

There is no shortage of skin care and beauty advice on social media. While some of these tips are fun and harmless, unfortunately, others are dangerous. Just consider TikTok’s newest viral beauty hack: sunscreen contouring. While this trick may appear legitimate, sunscreen contouring is not recommended by dermatologists because it can permanently damage your skin. Read on to learn more about the dangers of sunscreen contouring. 


Sunscreen contouring involves naturally contouring your face or body by applying a high SPF sunscreen to certain areas and tanning the rest. In a now-viral TikTok video, a TikTok user suggests using a base SPF 30 sunscreen on the face and applying SPF 90 sunscreen only on the high points of the face (where you would typically use highlighter). After two hours in the sun, the TikTok user reapplied the SPF 90 sunscreen to the high points of the face to keep those areas lighter. The supposed result is an effortless highlighted and bronzed look. But is that the case?

Our board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Michele Maouad says, “Even though it might appear aesthetically beautiful for the moment, the non-protected areas are at high risk for burn, thus leading to skin cancer and unevenly sun-damaged skin.” 


While sunscreen contouring may sound harmless — it is not; sunscreen contouring is dangerous. Remember, you cannot get a safe tan. Exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays over time adds up. Sun exposure can lead to premature skin aging (like wrinkles and age spots) and put you at risk for developing skin cancer in the future. 

Skin cancer is an out-of-control growth of abnormal skin cells. This form of cancer occurs when your skin cells’ DNA becomes damaged from UV radiation. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and all skin pigmentations can develop it. Skin cancer affects more than one million Americans each year. Furthermore, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Our dermatologist, Dr. Rola Gharib says, One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is with regular use of broad-spectrum sunscreen at any time that you may be exposed to UV rays. 


If you do not apply sunscreen correctly and often enough, it will not effectively protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends choosing a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that is water-resistant and provides broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays). 

When applying sunscreen, make sure to follow the AAD’s tips below: 

  • Apply sunscreen before going outside and give it time to work — it takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb it. 
  • Apply the correct amount of sunscreen; most adults need about one ounce to cover their bodies. 
  • Apply sunscreen to all skin not concealed by clothing. 
  • Use a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher to protect your lips.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or sweating.

You can learn more about all of the sunscreen products we offer at the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC, here.  


If you tried sunscreen contouring or maybe just spent time outside without the proper protection, the good news is that it is not too late to start protecting your skin. In most cases, some signs of sun damage are reversible with the correct treatments and lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that dermatologists often use more than one treatment type to give your skin a more natural and healthy appearance. 

Skin care solutions to reverse the signs of sun damage include: 

To learn more about how to restore your skin, check out our blog, Is Sun Damage Reversible?


To keep your skin glowing and healthy, our dermatologists at the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC, recommend using discretion when it comes to viral beauty hacks that encourage dangerous sun exposure. Remember, not all of the advice on social media is trustworthy or backed by dermatologists. If you are ever in doubt about a new skincare technique, you should consult with your dermatologist. 

If you have any questions or concerns about sun damage, or you would like to make an appointment, give us a call at (304) 598-3888 or click here. We are currently accepting new patients and encourage you to make your appointment soon. We look forward to hearing from you!



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The "Sunscreen Contouring" Hack Is All Over TikTok, but It Could Have Dangerous Consequences

How to apply sunscreen

Topics: sunscreen, skin cancer prevention, sunscreen contouring

Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC

Written by Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC

Our priority is to deliver complete, compassionate care to our patients while educating and assisting them as they make care decisions regarding the health and beauty of their skin.