How Long Does it Take to Tan in the Sun?

It’s strange just how many sun worshipers striving for that coveted golden glow know so little about the tanning process, especially as there are so many dangers involved.

Overexposure to the sun doesn’t just put you at risk from burns, dehydration, sunstroke, heat rash, eye damage, and premature aging, it’s also the leading cause of skin cancer, so learning how to tan safely is essential.

So, How Long Does it Take to Tan?

Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Everyone reacts to the sun’s UV rays differently, and the potency of the sun is inconsistent from place to place. Generally speaking, most people will tan within an hour; others may tan after two.

That said, on a reasonably bright day, If you’re not wearing sunscreen, it’s highly possible you’ll tan or burn after as little as 10 minutes of exposure.

It’s important to remember that a good, safe tan is a marathon, not a sprint. You should build up shades over the course of many short sunbathing sessions to avoid harming your skin.

If you’re fair-skinned, you shouldn’t sunbathe in excess of 30 minutes a day, and if you have darker skin, you should allow yourself an hour max, and always wear high strength sunscreen!

Tips on tanning faster

Limiting your time in the sun is key to staying safe, so getting your tanning done efficiently is a must. Here are a few pointers for speeding up the process.

  • A lot of people believe that too much sunscreen will actually prevent you from tanning at all, but wearing at least an ounce of SPF 30 will offer plenty of burn protection without sacrificing the potential for a great tan.
  • Carrots don’t just help you see in the dark, brightening the night, they also darken the skin too. It’s because they and other foods such as sweet potatoes and spinach contain beta carotene, a dark orangey pigment.
  • You can also try eating plenty of watermelon, fresh tomatoes, or any lycopene-rich food. Lycopene, much like beta carotene, fortifies the skin and communicates with melanin pigments.
  • Exfoliating thoroughly before and after tanning can help to keep your skin in top shape and reduce flaking that slows the tanning process.
  • Keep changing your position. Repeated small amounts of exposure are better than extended periods of exposure.

What time of day is best to tan?

You’d be forgiven for thinking the best time of day for some quality sunbathing is when the sun is highest in the sky between 12 O’clock and noon (3 O’clock), but that’s not actually the case.

During this period, the sun’s rays can be so intense that they pose a real danger to your skin, vastly increasing your chances of burning.

Instead, try and find a bit of spare time early in the morning, between 8 and 10 O’clock, or in the late afternoon between 4 and 6 O’clock. The sun’s rays are milder at these times, reducing the chance of burning, while still being more than sufficient to give you a great tan.

Why do some people tan faster than others?

Some people, usually with darker skin tones, have more melanocytes than others. These are neural crest-derived cells situated, among other places, in the base layer of the skin’s epidermis. These cells produce melanin, a brown pigment that helps to protect against the sun’s UV rays.

So, scientifically speaking, the involuntary ability to tan well or quickly has absolutely nothing to do with the skin’s ability to soak up sun, rather its ability to fend it off.

What climate is best for tanning?

Another mistake people make hunting for their dream tan is assuming that lazing around in hot climates is the only way to achieve them. The sun’s rays are dangerous enough as it is. Adding heat to the situation doesn’t speed things up; it only causes more problems.

Apart from leaving you feeling incredibly sluggish and uncomfortable, sunbathing in scorching hot climates will dehydrate you and your skin in minutes. Better choices include bright but cool climates and humid climates.

Bright, cool climates offer plenty of sun without the inescapable hot dry air, and humid climates help to keep your skin moisturized as you bronze.

Can you still tan during an overcast day?

Many seasoned sunbathers won’t even attempt to get a good tanning session in if there’s so much of a rag of cloud up in the big blue, but even if there’s relatively little open sky, you can still work on your tan.

Cloud coverage or haze does stop the sun’s rays in their tracks to a certain extent, accosting some UV light in the process, but the vast majority of the sun’s rays can still pass through, giving you the go-ahead to soak some of it up. However, it’s still important to wear strong sunscreen.

How long exactly it will take to get your tan on on a cloudy day is dependent on multiple variables such as the opacity of the overcast, the season, the sunscreen you’re using, and your skin.

Can you get a tan in the shade?

We all know at least one person that hides from the sun on holidays rather than chases it. They slink around from shadow to shadow like some sort of vampiric abomination, donning hats with ecliptic brims, wearing so much sunscreen that their entire face looks like a life-guards nose.

The truth is, though, if they can see the sun reflecting off objects, the UV rays are still reaching their skin. Chilling in the shade will definitely drastically slow down developing a tan, but it will happen eventually if only in the form of a mild darkening of the skin.

Final Thoughts

Almost everyone will tan within two hours depending on the climate, but to tan safely, you should spread your sunbathing out into smaller sessions.

The truth is that suntanning is inherently dangerous. Even those who rarely burn, and tan quickly are at risk from the damaging nature of the sun’s rays.

The best you can do is to study up and learn your body’s limits and how to keep those risks at a minimum. Wear sunscreen, wear sunglasses, stay safe.

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