How Long Does It Take To Tan?

A bronzy, tan glow is always a good way to feel like the best version of yourself. Whether you use self-tan or just tan outside, you have great options…all of which are so much safer for your skin than others! (ahem anything but a tanning bed!) When you are tanning outside you always want to wear SPF because your skin is your largest organ and you need to protect it. Wearing SPF does not mean you won’t get color, it just means you’re protecting your skin from burning ( so it’s a must!). Here are several products that might help you out:

  1. Coppertone Tanning Sunscreen Lotion

    This Coppertone sunscreen tanning lotion is a lightweight formula that won’t make your skin feel greasy

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  2. Sun Bum SPF 15 Moisturizing Tanning Oil

    For those of us who love to get golden brown but still want our skin to be nourished, silky smooth, and protected

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  3. Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer

    Designed to provide ultimate hydration that deeply moisturizes the skin, and the Caramel Bronzer imparts a faux sun-kissed golden glow for an instant tinted look

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How long does it take to tan?

Most people tan in as little as 1-2 hours when they’re out in the sun! (Or unfortunately burn if you don’t tan!) You’re probably thinking an hour isn’t even close to enough for a deeper tan but it’s much more effective than you would think. Even after an hour spent outside, while not instantaneous, you’ll start to notice a tan a few hours later.

It’s safer to tan in increments like this to ensure that you’re not completely burning your skin. Multiple small sessions spent outside tanning are great for extending your tan without frying your skin.

What factors affect how long it takes to tan?

UV index, genetics and melanin are a few factors that affect how long it takes to tan. The UV index plays a huge role on how fast you tan! UV index is a measure of how intense the sun is and represents the risk of sunburn due to UV radiation. So, the higher the UV index, the more likely you are to burn! Technically, every time you tan that’s a burn, but you want to keep it where your skin is bronzed, not red.

When the UV index is high it can be good for tanning in a short amount of time if you don’t burn easily. For reference, a UV index of 6 or 7 takes an average of 30 minutes to burn. So wear sunscreen and don’t stay out all day!


Melanin is the primary pigment that determines skin tone. The more you have the darker your skin is! Melanin can help to shield the skin from UV rays which is why skin with more melanin tans better and does not burn. Having melanin is not a free pass to skip on SPF, it really just means you’ll tan well with less burn.

Genetics can also play a role in whether you tan or burn after time spent outside. Look at your parents and family, do they tan or burn when they’re outside? You’re probably not too far off from them.

Some say those with cool toned skin burn while those with warmed tone skin tan. It’s not one size fits all but it’s interesting to look at your undertone and see if you can tan or not!

Where you live

High altitudes and tropical climates tend to have the highest UV index, which means the sunlight is the most intense. This means faster tanning weather but it also means you can burn really easily and quickly! UV index represents the risk of sunburn due to UV rays, meaning a higher UV index is prime time for burning. When the UV index is high you don’t want to spend too much time outside. When the UV index is in the middle, that’s a great time to get a good tan without completely frying your skin!

If you’re wondering, the UV index is easily found on google or the weather app on your phone! Overall, it’s higher in tropical climates, high altitudes and during the summer.


Always, always, always wear sunscreen anytime you’re spending extended periods outside to tan! Aim for SPF 50 and apply your sunscreen every 40 minutes or as directed on the bottle. Contrary to belief, you can still get a tan while wearing sunscreen, it will just help to minimize the burn which is a win-win.

Be careful with applying spray sunscreen because they don’t cover the skin in an even layer. There have been horror stories where people get a sunburn in a zig zag in all the areas the spray missed! As for your face, use SPF 50 at the very least and protect your face with a hat and sunglasses. Getting sun on your face will lead to premature aging – aka wrinkles, fine lines and even skin cancer. If you’re healing any breakouts, exposing those to sun will turn those into pesky and lingering dark spots.

How long will it take to tan in the sun?

Tanning in the sun can take as little as an hour! But you may not notice it right away, so don’t discredit it thinking it’s not there because you can’t see it. Usually after an hour outside, you’ll start to notice a tan within another few hours. If you like to tan outside, you’re better off doing it in small sessions throughout the week versus one big, long session each week. Why? This way, you’re less likely to burn and your tan will last longer and look darker if you do a little bit each day.

How long will it take to tan in a tanning bed?

We always recommend a natural solution, but sometimes that isn’t possible. If you must use a tanning bed, here are a few tips. When you first start going to a tanning bed, your first session should be around 5-8 minutes so that you avoid burning. You should see some color on your skin after as little as 5 minutes during your first session.

Once you’ve gone to the bed a few times, 10-14 minutes at most is how much time you want to spend in the bed to avoid getting burned. Some people like to go daily to maintain their tan and, while it’s not necessary, make sure to keep time spent in the bed on the low if you’re going daily.

If you’re looking for another option that doesn’t require going outside, consider a spray tan. You can check out our thoughts on that topic here.

Tips to safely tan faster

To tan faster and safely definitely reapply SPF 50 every 40 minutes or as directed on the bottle. Cover your face from the sun as sun damage will cause wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation. Check the UV index and don’t spend too much time outside when the UV index is at its highest! Typically this runs between 10am and 4pm. If you are outside on a hot day, make sure to be diligent with your SPF (and don’t forget to hydrate!).

Final Thoughts

Tanning isn’t about how much time you spend outside because you can get a nice golden glow in as little as an hour! The most important thing when you tan is to make sure you’re not completely burning your skin and you’re doing it in small doses while wearing SPF. It’s not worth the risk of skin cancer and sun damage in the long run. If you’re prone to burning or have a history of skin cancer, skip outside tanning and tanning beds. You can get just as good of a tan with a bottle that is completely safe and will fool everyone!

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I tan faster with a tan oil?

Yes you will tan faster with an oil but it will also cause you to burn quicker. It’s high risk, high reward so make sure to keep time spent outside with tanning oil to a minimum. Look for a tanning oil with some SPF to help protect your skin from burning. With an oil you will tan faster, even on days with a low UV index.

How can I get my tan to last longer?

Tanning a few times a week in small sessions is good for maintaining your tan and keeping it dark. But, if you can’t go outside make sure to keep the skin hydrated because that will help your tan to last. You could also supplement with a gradual tanning lotion which will really help to keep you tan if you can’t find sun.

How long does it take to tan on a cloudy day?

A cloudy day is better for tanning than you would think! Many people get sun and even burn on cloudy days because no one expects the sun to be a problem if you can’t see it. This is not true, because the sun’s rays still penetrate through the clouds. So, on a cloudy day you can get a decent tan in a few hours. Make sure to monitor your time outside and wear sunscreen because a burn is not completely out of the question.