How long does it take to get a tan? Natural sun vs tanning lotion or spray

How long does it take to get a tan naturally? And when will it fade?

If you’re living in the northern hemisphere, the chances are that you’re looking forward to the summer after having your body sun-starved by the dark, cold winter. 

For many people in Western cultures, tanning is high up in the list of priorities during the warm days as almost everyone wants to have that glowing bronzed skin tone; it’s considered attractive and protects you from the UV rays.

Naturally, certain questions arise among those interested in the art of tanning, and in today’s article, I will try to answer some of the most common ones. So, how long does it take the average caucasian to get a tan?

The quick answer:
Getting a tan may take you anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, depending on your skin type. Fair-skinned folks will take much longer to bronze than those with a slightly darker complexion.

The fastest and most effective way to get some color is to get a spray tan or use a self-tanning product.

However, if you really want to do it naturally and quickly, put on some sunblock, lay in the sun early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and apply moisturizer after each session.

How long does it take to tan?

The answer to the question above is very simple - it depends on your skin tone. To clarify, people with darker skin can get a tan much more quickly than those with pale skin.

The main culprit here is a pigment called melanin which affects our hair, eye, and skin colors.

Folks who have more melanin can see signs of bronzing after a couple of hours, while those with less might take a few days.

Blond woman in bikini and sunglasses putting on sunscreen

Another factor that has somewhat effect on this is the type of sunblock that you’re using. For example, an SPF 30 filters out around 95.5% of UV rays, while SPF 50 can block 98%.

As you can see, the difference is very small, but it will have a slight impact on how quickly you darken (or burn).

Tanning effectively means not getting burnt, and there are several factors that one needs to consider in order to do it right. Let’s take a look at the section below:

Tan in the right time of the day

To avoid getting the infamous lobster-tan, it is crucial that you tan early in the morning or late in the afternoon; pale people, take special notice.

The reason for this is that the sun is the strongest from around 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and you should avoid exposing yourself to it during these hours.

Put on sunscreen

It is recommended that you put on some sunscreen at least 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun.

sunbum spf-15 sun tan lotion

As for the SPF factor, I prefer to go for SPF-15, as this gives me a nice balance of getting a tan without burning too easily. This depends of course on your skin and the intensity of the sun, so your milage may vary.

As for choosing a sunscreen, get one like the Sun Bum SPF-15 that is water resistant for up to 80 min if you plan to swim in between tanning sessions.

Apply around a shot glass’ worth of it on the parts of your body that will be directly exposed to sunlight, and rub it in well. Repeat this every two hours or so to avoid getting burnt.

Limit your time

It is important to start slow, especially if your skin hasn’t had the opportunity to catch a few rays of sun earlier during the year.

If you were planning to roast your body for 30 minutes each side, forget about it. Instead, start with 10, maybe 15 if you don’t get red easily and then gradually increase when you see some bronze beginning to appear.

Get out of the water sooner

If you’ve just arrived at your vacation spot, tired and pale, looking for a tan, don’t spend too much time in the water.

Water reflects the sun’s rays, and you will burn more easily if you stay in for too long, no matter how many gallons of sunscreen you put on.

Instead, go for a short burst of swimming and get back to the shade to rejuvenate.

Get on a “tanning diet”

According to some researchers, eating foods that contain beta-carotene can actually help you tan faster and not burn so easily.

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which decreases the amount of oxidation the skin experiences in the sun and limits the damage from the UV radiation.  

Some of the foods that you should be eating include cantaloupes, carrots, kale, and spinach

How to tan faster

Trying to get a fast tan is like driving faster than the speed limit - it will get you to your destination, but it’s going to be more dangerous. So for those reasons, I suggest to those who are impatient to get dark too, well, fake it.

There are several ways to get a “fake” tan, and I’m going to elaborate on them a bit further now.

Bronzer

If you’re in a big hurry to get tanned, then a viable solution might be to apply color only to the part of your body that gets the most attention - your face.

If this sounds good, then there’s no better product to use than a bronzer.

bronzer tanning lotion

Tanning salons will tell you that you should never buy a bronzer from the internet, but this bronzer from LUAU is as good if not better than the lotions they will try to sell you.

Once you read other user's reviews on Amazon and you will be sold, the Island Black Bronzer is mild and moderate and doesn't smell like a typical bronzer. Just remember to wash your hands after application or you will make stains everywhere!

There are many do’s and don’ts when putting on the bronzer, so make sure to learn the right way to do it.

Spray tan

This is one of the most popular and quickest ways of getting tanned without the sun.

Spray tans contain a chemical called DHA which reacts with the amino acids in your skin and add color to it.

They are safe, and you’ll be able to choose the tone that you want. Here are a few useful tips if you decide to get sprayed.

1. Check DHA levels

It is suggested to choose the spray with a lower amount of DHA so that you are able to add color gradually.

It would also be great if you could find a product that contains erythrulose, a type of sugar from raspberries which will help the tan last longer.

2. How many layers

The next thing that you’ll need to figure out is how many layers you want to apply. If your skin is very fair, one layer should do it.

Those who have tan or slightly darker skin might require several layers to achieve a nice glow.

Be careful not to overdo it because you’ll end up looking more orange than tan, and you definitely don’t want that.

3. Exfoliate

Exfoliate your skin with an exfoliating scrub to remove dead cells and rough skin from you.

4. Leave it to a pro

Go to a tanning salon or hire a professional to do it for you at your home. The reason for this is to make sure that the spray is evenly spread and that the right amount is used.

Self-tanning lotion

If you are more of a DIY kind of person, then try one of the many self-tanning lotions available out there.

They work on the same principle as the spray tans, employing the DHA compound to give you some color.

To those who are worried about applying chemicals to their skin - you can relax, as these products are FDA approved and safe.

1. Buy a quality lotion

Choosing a product might prove difficult as there are a lot of options. Your safest bet is to go with one of the big brands such as L’Oreal, Lorac, Neutrogena, Earth and Clarins.

self tanning lotion from beauty and earth


When getting ready and look good for an important occasion, a self-tanning lotion is the quickest possible way to get a glowing bronze tone. The process is fast, and the results are immediate.

Beauty by Earth is the the self-tanning lotion I would recommend, fas I can personally vouch for it giving me and my wife a nice even tone without looking fake.

All of the before mentioned have gotten good reviews from beauty magazines. Whichever you buy, make sure to follow the provided instructions when applying.

2. Wear gloves

A good idea would be to use medical gloves when smearing the lotion over your body.

This will prevent your hands from absorbing the lotion and them becoming darker than the rest of your body. After your done, remove the gloves and then apply some lotion to your hands.

3. Spread evenly

Try to spread the lotion evenly if this proves to be too big of a challenge, as a friend or family member to help you out.

This is important so don’t rush, or you’ll end up with discolored skin. Cover every inch of the body, even the parts that are typically hidden from public sight.

How long does it take for a tan to fade away

This is a question that bothers many tanning enthusiasts, and I’m afraid that there is no definitive answer to it.

Everybody is different and how long a tan lasts varies from person to person, but everyone will inevitably lose it after a while.

In essence, your tan will start fading the moment you leave your sunbed, but it won’t be noticeable until a few days later.

Some individuals may lose their tan after a week, some after two weeks, while others can maintain it for three or more.

One thing is for sure, old cells are replaced by new ones, and the top layer of your skin is the first one to shed. The skin renewal cycle lasts for 28 days so after this time, even the most persistent of tans will see some loss of color.

If you are desperate for prolonging your tan’s life, there are a few tricks that you could try.

The first one would be to scrub your skin before exposing yourself to the sun so that the cells which carry the pigments don’t get shed so quickly.

Another thing you could do is use an extending moisturizing product after each tanning session as keeping your skin nice and moist will help to maintain a healthy, glowing look.

Pros and cons of self-tanning lotion

Woman sitting on deck chair by the swimming pool applying sun cream onto her legs. Female model sunbathing at the poolside.

Just like most cosmetics products, self-tanning lotions have their good as well as not-so-great sides, and I think it’s essential that you take a look at the entire picture before choosing whether you want or don’t want to use them.

First the good

The biggest advantage of these products is that they provide you with a lot of conveniences.

You can apply them by yourself in your home so, you don’t have to worry about paying someone to do it for you or trying to fit in a tanning session into a busy schedule.

Self-tanning is way cheaper than getting a spray tan, so if you do not want to spend too much money on improving your looks, go for this option.

Of course, the lotion prices vary, but on average this is the most affordable method.

Now, the bad

The thing that you have to realize is that fake tan can (almost) never look like the real thing, so folks will probably be able to tell that it isn’t natural.

However, this largely depends on the quality of the product you use and how well you apply it.

Remember to always go for a lotion from a reputable brand and check out some tutorials on how to use it.

DHA, the active ingredient in self-tanning products, creates a chemical reaction with your skin that can give off quite an odor, and it’s not a pleasant one.

This problem can be solved by taking a shower, and some manufacturers have even started adding scents to the lotion to mitigate this effect.

Conclusion

As you can see, tanning is more of an art than a science, and it will take you a bit of time and effort to figure out what works best for you.

Even though this article offers some quick fixes, I’d advise you to take things slowly, listen to your body, and put safety above looks. Also, since we are in the summer spirit, I recommend the ladies reading this article checks out our posts on:
How To Get A Jiggly Butt
How To Get Rid Of Your Hip Dips With These Easy Steps​​​

Before you go, let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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