How Long Does It Take To Tan? A Complete Guide

A bronzed and golden skin tone is the perfect representation of summer. However, some people generally enjoy tanning regardless of the season. In addition, taking a tropical vacation may be a reason to get your skin tanned.

Tanning under the sun has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the increase in melanin production helps form a protective barrier on the skin. In turn, this barrier prevents too much sun exposure and burning. However, prolonged sun exposure comes with some health risks.

This article will help you answer common tanning questions, from how long it takes to tan to how long it lasts. In addition, you will learn factors that determine natural tanning under the sun and how to make tanning faster, whether you are using tanning beds or spray tans.

How Long Does It Take To Tan Under the Sun?

Sun tanning involves darkening of your skin tone as a result of exposure to ultraviolet)UV) radiation from the sun. When done right, you end up with a golden skin tone. Unfortunately, sun tanning has risks such as burns, redness, flakiness and skin irritation, especially when not done right.

There isn't a specific time it will take to get your sun-kissed tan with sun tanning. Instead, several factors come into play, from your skin tone to the time and weather. In addition, these factors vary from person to person and affect whether you will get tanned faster or slower.

Factors That Determine How It Will Take to Tan in the Sun

1. Skin Type

Your skin type ultimately determines your skin's reaction when exposed to the sun. In turn, this will affect the tanning duration and results. For example, it will take about 20 minutes to an hour to tan if you have a dark complexion. In addition, there are lower chances of getting sunburn, although you should still wear sunscreen.

If you have a pale and fairer skin type, getting a tan may take you a while when exposed to UV rays. However, your tan will appear gradually as you sunbathe. In addition, people with pale skin and lighter skin have a high likelihood of experiencing sunburns. For this reason, it's advisable to wear and reapply a high SPF sunblock.

2. Melanin Level

Melanin is a natural pigmentation responsible for the color of your eyes, skin and hair. The different melanin levels determine how fast you will tan when exposed to the sun's rays. In general, the higher the melanin level, the quicker you will tan.

A darker skin type means that you have high melanin levels. This factor explains why people with a dark brown skin type tan faster than those with pale, light and fairer skin types.

3. Time, Weather and Climate

The time, weather and climate affect the tanning process. Simply put, you will tan faster when the weather is sunny than when cloudy. In addition, time becomes a factor as it determines when the weather is sunny and at its peak.

When looking at the climate, we focus on whether the air is dry or humid. Humidity accelerates the tanning process as the moisture in the air hydrates your skin. However, it will take you longer to tan in dry climate areas.

The UV rays index also plays a role in skin tanning. This index determines the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth at a specific time. In addition, it gives you an idea of when it's best to tan without overexposing your skin to the sun's rays.

4. Degree of Exposure

Proper tanning takes into account the time, complexion and products you use. For this reason, it is not to be confused with overexposure to the sun. Additionally, exposing your skin directly to UVB rays without any form of protection could harm your skin by causing burns and even skin cancer.

It is important to consider the degree of exposure to the sun when getting a natural tan. If you have a darker skin type, it is advisable to sunbathe for about 20 minutes and then shower to cool your body. After this, you can repeat the 20-minute tanning session until you get your desired results.

Similarly, if you have pale, light or sensitive skin, you want to pay attention to how much time you spend in the sun. To ensure that you do not overexpose your skin, you can time your tanning session to about 15 minutes while taking baths to cool your skin.

How To Get A Lasting Tan in the Sun

how long does it take to tan

While it takes several hours or days for skin tan lovers to achieve the perfect sun-kissed golden brown complexion, there are a few tips that could shorten this time. These include:

1. Hydrate Your Skin

Keeping your body and skin hydrated is key when tanning. First, drink at least two glasses of water to increase blood circulation before exposing yourself to the sun. Alternatively, you can take milk or drinks with electrolytes to keep your body hydrated. Next, you want to ensure that your skin has moisture, as this accelerates the tanning process.

It's advisable to take a shower before tanning. This way, your skin will tan rather than get damaged by prickly heat. In addition, ensure to take another shower after tanning to cool your body. This will also prevent redness, spotting and overcooking your skin.

2. Exfoliate

Exfoliating helps your skin to shed off dead skin cells. Tanning without exfoliating could result in bumps and spots on your skin as your body naturally gets rid of the dead skin cells. For this reason, it's advisable to exfoliate at least 5-7 days before tanning.

This period is important since getting a skin tan immediately after exfoliating could be harmful to your skin. Instead, you want to wait until the cells have renewed and rejuvenated before getting your tan.

3. Heat Your Body Up

Heating your body is another way to get your tan faster. This means jogging or doing a quick exercise to increase your blood circulation. In turn, your body will be more responsive to the sun.

4. Moisturize Your Skin

Moisturizing your skin helps to ensure the effectiveness of your tan while maintaining your skin's health. It is recommended to use a sodium-PCA-based moisturizer as it helps to hydrate, moisturize and nourish your skin. In addition, ensure to reapply your moisturizer after sunbathing to get that glowing golden brown color.

As you moisturize your skin, it is essential to remember your lips as they are also sensitive to UV rays. You can use a lip balm to hydrate your lips and prevent them from looking dry, chapped and burned by the harmful rays.

Another tip is to avoid wearing shiny lip gloss while tanning. This type of lip gloss absorbs light from the sun resulting in burned, dry and chapped lips. Avoid lip balms containing menthol as an ingredient as they could be drying.

Instead, go for a lip balm with SPF protection, as it will keep your lips hydrated and moisturized while protecting them from the sun's effects. Also, be sure to reapply your lip balm as you sweat, get into the water or wipe it off with a towel as you dry your face.

5. Apply SPF

You must wear sunscreen when tanning, regardless of your skin complexion. This is because sunscreen (SPF) helps protect your skin from severe damage due to the heat and radiation from the sun.

With the different formulations on the market, it is advisable to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It offers protection from UVA rays that accelerate aging and UVB rays that cause sunburn. In addition, ensure that you get a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. This is because it offers you protection from the sun while still allowing you to tan.

Another tip is to reapply sunscreen as often as you can. Although some sunscreens claim to be waterproof, it is important to reapply, especially after swimming. This ensures that your skin is always protected.

6. How to Tan

Knowing how to tan is also helpful in speeding up your tanning session. The first step is to look for the perfect humid and comfortable spot. Next, you want to apply your tanning bronzer, tan intensifier or maximize all over your body. The key is to ensure that you evenly apply the tanning lotion on your face, hands, body and feet.

As you enjoy skin tanning, it is essential to keep changing your body's position after a couple of minutes. This helps ensure that you don't tan more on one side than the other. In addition, schedule your tanning session between noon and 3 PM as this is when the sun's rays are strongest.

7. Diet

What you eat also contributes to how fast you get your tan. Foods rich in beta-carotene, such as carrots, help get your skin tanning fast. In addition, tomatoes and watermelons make your skin resistant to UV rays since they are lycopene-rich foods.

Tips to Keep Your Tan from Fading

Naturally, your tan will last anywhere between 7-10 days. This is because the skin sheds and generates new skin cells every other day. However, there are a few tips that help keep your tan longer. These are:

  1. Exfoliate your skin before tanning - This gives tanning a smooth base to stick on while preventing flaking.
  2. Keep your skin moisturized - Not only does it fasten tanning but also slows down the body's natural exfoliating process. In turn, your tan stays on longer.
  3. Take cold or lukewarm showers - This is because hot showers dehydrate your skin, prompting your tan to fade faster.
  4. Take supplements - Using supplements and extenders along with your tanning lotion helps your tan to last longer. This is because the supplements stimulate melanin production, therefore preventing fading.

How Long Does It Take To Tan Using A Tanning Bed

It is important to note that tanning beds are not recommended for tanning. This is because they pose significant health risks, such as the development of melanoma, a skin condition. In addition, tanning beds are considered carcinogenic, so it is important to avoid using them.

However, if you wish to go this route, you can save so much time by arriving at the beach with a tanned, brownish and glowing color. Furthermore, tanning beds have a maximum of about 10 to 20 minutes per session, depending on your skin color.

For example, it will take about 10 minutes for people with pale skin to start seeing results. However, you will require two more weekly sessions to achieve the perfect tan. Similarly, people with a lighter or fairer skin type will need several short weekly sessions.

Conversely, if you have a darker skin type, you will need maybe one or two long sessions. Again, this is because it is easier to tan and see results faster.

Tanning beds use either high or low levels of UVA bulbs. A tanning bed with high UVA levels gets you a faster, sun-kissed tan that lasts longer, all while protecting you from burns. However, you want to ensure that you use tanning lotions and maximizers to keep your tan longer.

How to Fasten Tanning Using A Tanning Bed

  1. Exfoliate the night before your sessions.
  2. Use indoor tanning lotions to speed up the process.
  3. Start with short sessions and observe how your skin reacts.
  4. Keep your skin hydrated and moisturized.

How Long Does It Take To Tan Using A Spray Tan

how long does it take to tan

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Using a spray tan is another way to achieve a golden, sun-kissed look without exposing your skin to the sun's harmful rays. Spray tans also have the benefit of showing results immediately. However, it will take up to 8 hours for the tan color to fully set in, or 3-4 hours when using express tan.

A spray tan will last up to 10 days, depending on the bronze color you are going for. Light tans will last up to 5 days, while darker tans take up to 10 days to fade.

How to Fasten and Lengthen the Duration of Your Spray Tan

  1. Exfoliate your skin.
  2. Ensure not to wax at least 3 days before your appointment.
  3. Avoid products not related to tanning during your session. This will include certain oils and makeup products.
  4. Do not take a hot shower before tanning.
  5. Avoid using deodorants with aluminum. These could make your tan look greenish.
  6. Avoid wearing tight clothes after your session. This helps to limit color transfer to your clothes.
  7. Wait for at least 6-24 hours before taking a shower. This time will also depend on the spray tan that you use.
  8. Keep your skin moisturized. However, be sure to stay away from oil-based products.


Proper tanning depends on several factors to get your desired results. First, however, it is important to ensure that you are taking care of your skin by ensuring it is hydrated and moisturized at all times. In addition, wearing sunscreen helps protect your skin from dangerous UV rays that could cause skin cancer.

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