How Long to Tan in the Sun – Tips on How to Tan More Safely & Faster

How does tanning in the sun work, like how does tanning happen really? It’s the rays of the sun, both the UVB and UVA rays, that penetrate deep into your skin’s layers and increase the production of melanin – a brown-colored pigment that creates the tan shade. In that case, how long to tan in the sun to get that perfect, desirable bronzed color?

If you think that your skin’s darker version looks and feels more attractive to you, then you may just be a tanning enthusiast. And since you are one, there are certain rules and instructions you absolutely must follow in order to keep your tanning sessions both safe and effective.

How Long Should I Tan Outside In the Sun?

Skin starts to tan (or burn in a way) in less than 10 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen (but never skip sunscreen, even for your tanning sessions). However, there are some who take a longer time to tan outside, maybe a few hours. It all depends on how long YOUR skin takes to boost melanin production when it reacts with the sun’s UV rays.

Does this mean that how soon the skin color changes depends on the type of skin you have? Yes, of course it does. That is why dark skin tans while light skin burns as a result of sun exposure (although in both scenarios, skin is still getting subjected to damage).

So how soon you tan under the sun on a bright, lovely day at the beach is based on your natural skin color. Your skin type decides whether you’ll tan or burn.

For How Long Is It Safe to Tan Per Day?

Tanning per day means following some basic guidelines…

  • Those with lighter or fairer skin should limit their tanning sessions to just 10-15 minutes per day. That’s how long should you tan for on each side.

Short increments are the most advisable, and so is tanning during the morning hours. And that’s mainly because a lighter complexion is more susceptible to sunburn, which is why self-tanners for fair skin are a safer alternative.

  • Then once your base tan is formed after around a week of tanning 10-15 minutes each day, you can increase the length of time of your sun exposure to 20-25 minutes. And this you can do every day for another week.
  • After that, based on your skin type and body, max out your sun tanning session – 30 minutes of sun a day tan! And whatever you do, don’t skip that broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen.

What Factors Determine Tanning Results?

To be honest, there are quite a few factors that have an impact on how long it takes to tan. This includes both factors you can control (applying sunscreen) and ones that are not under your control (climate, your natural skin complexion, etc.).

1. Skin Tone

What is your natural skin color? If it’s darker, then your skin is inevitably going to tan faster since there is already a greater amount of melanin (brown pigment) present in your skin. And these pigments cause more darkening/tanning when exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

2. Weather Conditions

When the climate is humid, there’s more moisture. And more moisture/hydration does indeed make the tan last longer as well as accelerate the process of tanning.

Likewise, the higher the altitude, the stronger the sun rays. Thus, quicker tan!

3. Sun Exposure

By this, I mean when the sun exposure is direct (no shade at all), then you’re obviously going to burn/tan faster.

And then there’s also the question of how close you live to the equator. The nearer to that equator you are, the higher the chances of tanning or burning. Much the same way, time of day also matters because of the angle of the sun.

4. Sunscreen SPF

Needless to say, how quick or deep your tan is influenced by sunscreen SPF rating as well. With a higher SPF value, your skin takes a longer time to develop a tanned look. For instance, SPF 30 will protect the skin 30x more in comparison to not applying any sunscreen at all.

How to Tan Faster In the Sun – Tips for A Quick Tan Under the Sun!

How Long to Tan in the Sun

The truth of the matter is that any type of tanning, sun or sunless, gives rise to skin damage. So it’s important to not go overboard, even if you want your tan to develop faster.

So here are some very useful tips for both a quick and safe tan in the sun that you know will last for a longer time and also look perfect and luscious…

Shower & Exfoliate Before Tanning

Start your every tanning session, indoor or outdoor, with a shower and exfoliation, and then also don’t forget to moisturize your skin. You want your skin to be feeling clean, rejuvenated, and healthy before you expose it to harsh UV rays.

Exfoliation, in particular, is a must since it makes sure that dead skin cells are eliminated, so only the new, fresh ones form the tan faster and for a longer-lasting effect. And since exfoliation tends to make your skin a little fragile/sensitive, moisturizing the skin after is a must to keep it feeling nourished and hydrated.

Apply Sunscreen

Now you have to protect your skin from the sun’s UVB and UVA rays, even when tanning. Because these are harmful rays that can lead to skin damage. In that case, go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen formula (regular ones only offer UVB protection and not also UVA). ‘Broad-spectrum’ safeguards your skin against both UVA and UVB.

And it obviously does not need to be said that a higher SPF rating is very, very important (SPF 30 or higher). But, once again, SPF takes care of UVB protection. You also want to look at the PPD rating i.e. Persistent Pigment Darkening. This is exactly what provides UVA protection. So a broad-spectrum sunscreen will surely have both!

Other Additional Tips

Change your positions frequently in order to prevent any single part of the body from burning.

The best time to tan outside is when those UV rays of the sun are the strongest – between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. However, the strongest also means the most damaging.

Eat foods with plenty of beta-carotene (natural skin-darkener), such as carrots.

And also neutralize the harmful effects of harsh UV rays by eating foods rich in lycopene, like tomatoes (fights UV rays naturally). But don’t think that you can replace SPF with these foods. Sunscreen is non-optional no matter what!

About Tanning Bed Tanning

Certainly not the first time you’re hearing this – tanning beds increase the chances of melanoma (skin cancer). Because what tanning beds do is expose your skin to a high level of UVA radiation, and UVA rays are associated with skin cancer.

So are tanning beds carcinogenic? According to IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), they are.

Tanning Time Chart

(very high)
Shadenot requiredyesyesyesyes
SunscreenSPF 15SPF 30SPF 50SPF 50+SPF 50+
UV-blocking sunglassesyesyesyesyesyes
Protective clothingyesyesyesyesyes
Limit sun exposurenot requirednot requiredyesyesyes
Avoid sun exposurenot requirednot requirednot requiredyesyes

The Takeaway

Your skin tone, what time of day it is, weather conditions, and more such factors have a direct influence on how much and how fast you tan. For most people though, 1-2 hours under the sun are more than enough for getting that perfect bronzed look.

And how tans work is that they take a good amount of time to develop. So don’t be too hasty to see the color immediately and, in the process, make the mistake of using a lower SPF rating.

Also, you cannot argue with the well-established fact that tanning comes with its own risks, and some of them are linked to skin cancer. So make sure you’re following the general safety guidelines, such as avoiding the sun when it’s emitting the strongest UV rays (between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.), applying broad-spectrum and high-SPF sunscreen, etc.

Lastly, avoid tanning beds because they expose the skin to a large amount of skin-damaging UV radiation.

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