how to tan fast

How To Tan Fast (and Safely)?

Looking to sport a sun-kissed glow but pressed for time? The question of “How to Tan Fast” often arises, sparking curiosity among those who desire a richer skin tone without the long wait.

This guide will walk you through the steps to achieve a faster tan while minimizing the risks associated with UV exposure. Whether you prefer to bask in the natural sunlight, lie down in a tanning bed, or opt for a sunless tanner, understanding your skin type, the science of melanin, and safe tanning practices is crucial. 

We’ll provide you with savvy tips and tricks to enhance your tanning efficiency, ensuring that your quest for that perfect bronzed look doesn’t compromise the well-being of your skin. Let’s dive into the golden rules of tanning fast and safely.

What are the different types of tanning?

Tanning is the process by which skin color is darkened, typically as a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from artificial sources. Each tanning method comes with its own set of considerations regarding application, duration, and safety. Here’s an expanded look at the different types of tanning techniques:

Natural Sun Tan

Sun tanning is the traditional method of lying outdoors to absorb the sun’s natural rays. This process is mediated by the UVB rays, which trigger melanin production in the skin. While many pursue this for a ‘natural’ glow, it carries the risk of overexposure, leading to sunburn and increasing the risk of skin cancer. To mitigate this, using sunscreen and limiting exposure time are essential.

Tanning Beds

Tanning beds mimic the sun’s rays through a controlled environment that emits UVA and sometimes UVB rays. While they can provide a tan in a shorter time frame, they are not without risks. The concentrated exposure to UVA rays has been associated with a higher risk of skin cancers and photoaging. It’s recommended to use them sparingly and with caution.

Sunless Self-Tanner

Sunless tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a chemical that reacts with the amino acids in the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin’s appearance, simulating a tan. This method does not involve UV exposure, making it a safer alternative to traditional tanning. However, it requires careful application to avoid streaking and an unnatural orange tint.

Bronzing Lotions

Bronzers are a form of makeup that can be applied to give skin a tanned appearance without UV exposure. They are temporary and can be washed off, offering a quick fix for those seeking an immediate tan for an event or photoshoot. They’re available in powder, gel, and cream forms and require skillful application to look natural.

Spray Tan

Spray tanning involves applying a fine mist of DHA solution to the body. This method is often done professionally in salons, ensuring even coverage and reducing the risk of streaks. Spray tans can last about a week and fade as the skin naturally exfoliates. It’s a popular choice for its immediate results and the avoidance of UV exposure.

How Long Does It Take To Tan?

You might be curious about the time it takes to achieve a tan while basking in the sunshine. The answer to “how long does it take to tan under the sun” isn’t straightforward, as it hinges on a multitude of variables. The time frame for developing that sun-kissed look can differ greatly from person to person.

Skin Type

The primary determinant is your skin type, which is classified according to the Fitzpatrick scale. This scale ranges from Type I, which includes individuals with very fair skin that burns easily and rarely tans, to Type VI, which consists of those with dark skin that tans very quickly and is less prone to burning.

For those with fair skin (Types I and II), tanning can take longer, often requiring multiple short exposure sessions to build a base tan without burning. This could mean several days or weeks of gradually increasing exposure. 

For medium skin tones (Type III and IV), the process may be quicker, with some changes noticeable after just one or two sessions of careful sun exposure or indoor tanning. 

Those with darker complexions (Type V and VI) might see results in minutes and usually achieve a deeper tan more rapidly.

Sun Intensity

Sun intensity also plays a crucial role. Tanning under the midday sun, when UV rays are strongest (between 10 am and 4 pm), might yield quicker results but also increases the risk of skin damage. It’s recommended to start with 10-20 minutes of sun exposure per side if you’re fair-skinned, gradually increasing the time by a few minutes per session.

Skin Condition

The condition of your skin is another factor. Well-moisturized, exfoliated skin can tan more effectively because it’s evenly exposed and retains color better. Additionally, the use of tanning accelerators can stimulate melanin production, potentially speeding up the process, though their effectiveness varies.

Environmental Factors

Lastly, environmental factors such as geographical location, season, and cloud cover will affect the UV index and your skin’s ability to tan. In any case, the safest approach is to tan slowly, increasing exposure time gradually to avoid burns and skin damage. 

What Determines Your Tan Shade?

The shade of your tan is determined by a complex interplay of genetic, physiological, and environmental factors. Here’s a deep dive into what influences the color you achieve when you tan:

Melanin Production 

At the heart of your tan shade is melanin, the pigment responsible for coloring skin, hair, and eyes. Your genes dictate the amount and type of melanin your cells produce. Eumelanin leads to a brown or black tan, while pheomelanin results in a red or yellow hue. The proportion and production rate of these melanins in response to UV exposure ultimately determine the depth and tone of your tan.

Skin Type

Your baseline skin color, determined by the Fitzpatrick skin type scale, influences how dark you can tan. Lighter skin types have less melanin and typically develop a lighter tan, while darker skin types, which naturally have more melanin, can achieve a deeper tan more readily.

Sun Exposure

The intensity and duration of UV exposure also play a significant role. Consistent, moderate exposure will increase melanin production over time, deepening the tan. However, excessive exposure can lead to sunburn, peeling, and even a reversal of the tanning process.

Geographical Location 

The closer you are to the equator, the more direct UV rays you receive, which can intensify the tanning process. Altitude also matters; UV radiation increases with elevation.

Season and Weather

The season affects the angle of the sun’s rays and the UV index. Summer months typically provide conditions more conducive to tanning. Cloud cover and pollution can filter UV rays, affecting how much reaches your skin.

Individual Health

Your overall health, including hormone levels, can affect how you tan. Certain conditions and medications can increase sensitivity to sunlight or alter melanin production.

Skin Care Routine

Pre-tan preparation, such as exfoliation, can remove dead skin cells, providing a smoother canvas for an even tan. Moisturizing helps maintain the tan for longer by preventing peeling.

How to get tan faster?

Achieving a fast and enduring tan requires more than just prolonged sun exposure; it calls for a calculated approach to skin care and lifestyle. Below are seven tanning tips that can help you obtain a deeper and longer-lasting tan.

Exfoliate Before Tanning

Exfoliation is the process of sloughing off dead skin cells from the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. By exfoliating, you can ensure a more even and longer-lasting tan, as the process reveals fresh skin that tans more efficiently and holds color for longer. Use a gentle exfoliating scrub or a loofah a day before tanning to prepare your skin. Focus on areas that are prone to rough skin, like the knees, elbows, and ankles.

Use Moisturizing Products

Moisturized skin tans better than dry, flaky skin. Keeping your skin hydrated by using moisturizers that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants can help you achieve a faster tan. Apply a hydrating lotion right after showering to lock in moisture, and consistently moisturize in the days leading up to and after tanning. This not only speeds up the tanning process but also helps preserve the tan for a longer period.

Stay Hydrated

Internal hydration is just as important as external moisturization. Drinking plenty of water keeps your skin cells plump and healthy, which can help you tan more quickly and ensure that your tan lasts longer. Proper hydration can also prevent the peeling that sometimes occurs after sun exposure, which can prematurely fade your tan.

Remove Makeup Before Tanning

Makeup can act as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. To tan faster, it’s essential to remove all makeup before exposing your skin to the sun. This ensures that the UV rays can penetrate your skin evenly and prevent the patchy tan that can result from makeup-covered areas.

Wear an SPF 30 Sunscreen or Higher

Contrary to popular belief, sunscreen doesn’t prevent tanning; it protects your skin from the harmful effects of too much UV exposure. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can help you achieve a tan more safely and sustainably. It reduces the risk of sunburn, which can stop your tanning process in its tracks.

Avoid Contact with Hot Water

After tanning, avoid hot showers or baths as they can strip away the natural oils that protect your tan. Instead, opt for lukewarm water and limit the time you spend washing. Also, gently pat your skin dry instead of rubbing to avoid exfoliating the tanned skin.

Eat Nutritious Foods

Certain foods are known to increase lycopene, the skin’s natural SPF. Tomatoes, for example, can boost your sun protection by a remarkable 33%. Foods rich in beta-carotene, like carrots and sweet potatoes, can also affect the skin’s melanin production and improve its ability to tan. Foods high in antioxidants can help protect skin cells from damage and assist in producing a quicker, deeper tan.


Achieving a quick tan while safeguarding your skin’s health is attainable with the right approach. By exfoliating beforehand, moisturizing regularly, staying hydrated, removing makeup, using adequate sun protection, avoiding hot water post-tan, and eating a nutrient-rich diet, you can encourage a faster, deeper, and more enduring tan. 

Remember, while the allure of a bronzed complexion is strong, the importance of protecting your skin against UV damage cannot be overstated. Tanning should be a gradual process, respecting your skin’s natural limits and health. 

With these tips in hand, you can enjoy the sun responsibly and bask in the glow of your safely acquired tan. Always listen to your skin, and don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if you have concerns, ensuring that your journey to a faster tan is both effective and secure.

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