Tanning sessions can take five minutes or a couple of hours. Two main factors responsible are the source of light and your skin tone. If you have fair skin, you’ll take longer to see it change to a stunning darker tone, unlike people with naturally darker skin.
This unpredictable duration has people opting for different tanning methods. Though tanning in the sun is the first choice for many, others prefer tanning beds and spray tans.
So, how long does it take to get a noticeable tan using any of these methods?
Let’s answer that and other related questions.
How Long Does It Take to Tan Outside?
Tanning in the sun sounds like a more natural and easy process. The speed of the process depends on:
The time of day also affects how your skin darkens. The sun is hotter from 10 am, so if you’re outside around midday, you’re likely to tan faster than someone who sunbathes from 4 pm as the sun cools down.
You’ll also tan more when you stay outside longer. When it’s too hot, 45 minutes is the higher limit, and by that time, you’ll have some color.
You’ll tan faster when the sun is high than on overcast days. It’s always better to tan under an umbrella instead of taking on the sun directly. One of the concerns is the risk of overexposure because it can cause sunburns, premature aging, dehydration, heat rash, and melanoma.
Your Skin Type
Dark skin doesn’t burn as fast as light skin. Therefore, if you have pale white skin, you’ll tan slower and burn faster. If you have darker skin, it tans fast and never burns. If you’re in between these two extremes, you rarely burn, and your skin tans fast.
That’s why you may need a darkening lotion or bronzing cream if you have pale skin to hasten the process and reduce the time you’ll spend in the sun.
Wearing sunscreen blocks UV rays and reduces the risk of sunburns. It also slows down the tanning significantly depending on the sun protection factor of your sunscreen. For example, SPF 50+ blocks about 98% of UV rays, so it’ll take longer to tan when you use it.
However, it’s safer to use such a high SPF because UV rays can cause sun damage. Plus, blocking harmful rays lets your skin focus on increasing melanin production instead of worse problems like sunburns.
You’re likely to burn faster in high elevation as the atmosphere the sun travels is thinner. Thus, the intensity of UV rays jumps by about 10% for every 1,000 feet.
Can I Tan in the Shade?
Yes, you can tan in the shade because even though the rays bounce off surfaces, a shade won’t block scattered rays. That’s why it’s possible to tan under an umbrella. The sun reflects off items around you. It makes sunscreen a necessity even when you’re not tanning directly.
If you’re under a tree, chances are the branches are letting the rays through more than the tiny spaces of an umbrella. You’ll have less control over the intensity of such sunlight.
You can also tan when there’s cloud cover. The sun may not feel hot, but its rays pass through clouds.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Noticeable Tan Using a Tanning Bed?
In winter, you may consider a tanning bed if the sky stays overcast for long.
In most cases, you’ll get tanning beds with time limits of about 20 minutes. Your skin tone ought to guide you on how long you should tan. However, about 10 minutes can give you good results if you have pale, white skin.
It might take a few minutes to tan, but you’ll spend more time preparing your skin to remove dead cells before tanning. That’s necessary as smooth skin gives even results.
Even though the light used by tanning beds has less exposure to UVB rays, its UVA light is three times higher than UVA from sunlight.
The UVA light in some tanning beds is high, while others have low levels. The higher ones give you a faster tan in about 10 minutes and protect your skin from burns. You’ll probably take one session per week and see the results improve by the third session.
Further, a tanning lotion will speed up the work, enhance its quality, and prolong your tan. Apply the tanning lotion five minutes before getting into the tanning bed. If you have pale skin, have short tanning sessions of low or medium UVA light because the higher light levels can give you an unnatural outcome.
Are 30 Minutes in the Sun Enough to Tan?
Yes, and in some cases, it might be more than enough. The most important factor is not the duration but the heat and your tanning position. When you tan at midday, your skin will darken in a few minutes, faster than it’d take when you sunbathe before 10 am or towards sunset.
You’ll probably not need 30 minutes when tanning under direct sunlight, unlike when you do so under a shade. Direct sunlight will also overpower your sunscreen fast, so you’ll need to reapply it as soon as you start sweating.
Understanding the tanning process also helps you decide the duration your skin needs.
Your body darkens in two ways. It either oxidizes the existing melanin cells or creates new ones. When it does the former, your skin darkens within hours. However, it takes a few days for the latter. Tanning the legs is another thing though. Find out why it’s harder to tan the legs for some.
UVA rays are responsible for the oxidation process, while UVB rays delay pigmentation for days.
How Long Should I Tan Each Day?
The recommended time is five to 10 minutes when tanning outside. Overall, instead of only thinking about the time spent, consider the results you want and how your skin reacts to tanning.
Exposing your skin to sunlight causes some of the problems we highlighted, and when you tan frequently, you increase the risk.
Therefore, since you want to enjoy a tan, sunbathe in short, manageable sessions, or you’ll be treating sunburns when you should be showing off your tanned skin.
You’ll also tan better when you:
Prepare Your Skin
Tanning is intense because you’ll expose your skin deliberately, so prepare it for the session. Smooth skin absorbs moisturizing agents and sunscreen better than when you have a layer of dead cells.
Therefore, start by exfoliating, shaving, or waxing your skin at least a day in advance to remove dead cells that may hinder the process.
It’s better to do so before tanning as afterward, your skin will be too sensitive. Also, if you’ll use a spray tan or a tanning bed, exfoliating afterward will remove the tanned layer of your skin.
Before tanning, apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, and wear protective clothing.
Tan For the Least Time Possible
Find a spot under a shade where you can sunbathe without direct sunlight. Avoid basking around noon when the sun is high as it’s scorching. If you’re swimming or if you’re in an outdoor activity that makes you sweat, reapply your sunscreen every two hours.
Moisturize Your Skin After Tanning
Soothe and hydrate your skin to maintain the tan. It’ll also reduce or prevent flaking or the itch from overexposure.
Can I Get a Tan in 5 Minutes?
Yes, you can, when the sun is high and hot. Five minutes is within the recommended time to tan on a sunny day. But, you’ll have to turn over severally to get an even tan on all sides.
You’ll also need sunscreen when tanning that fast, as you’re likely to be doing so when the sun is hot.
If the sky is overcast with gray clouds, you can tan for about five minutes on either side. Your skin tone should guide you on how long to stay outdoors because if you do it too fast and leave before your desired tan, you’ll repeat the process and put your skin at risk of overexposure.
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