how to tan faster, two women sitting in sand

Many people like the way their skin looks with a tan, but prolonged exposure to the sun has a variety of risks, including skin cancer.

Even when wearing sunscreen, outdoor sunbathing is not risk-free. If you’re interested in tanning, you can reduce the risks by tanning faster in the sun. This will help you avoid prolonged UV exposure and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Here are some tips for getting a tan faster and some precautions to be aware of.

How to get a tan faster

Here are 10 ways to get a tan faster to avoid prolonged sun exposure.

  1. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30. Always wear a sunscreen with broad-spectrum UV protection of at least 30 SPF. Never use a tanning oil that does not contain sun protection. Be sure to apply sunscreen within 20 minutes of being outside. An SPF of 30 is strong enough to block UVA and UVB rays, but not so strong that you won’t get tan. Cover your body in at least a full ounce of sunscreen.
  2. Change positions frequently. This will help you avoid burning one part of your body.
  3. Eat foods that contain beta-carotene. Foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale can help you tan without burning. More research is needed, but studies show that beta-carotene can help reduce sun sensitivity in people with photosensitive diseases.
  4. Try using oils with naturally occurring SPF. While these should not replace your normal sunscreen, certain oils like avocado, coconut, raspberry, and carrot can be used for an extra dose of hydration and SPF protection.
  5. Don’t stay outside for longer than your skin can create melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for tanning. Everyone has a melanin cut-off point, which is usually 2 to 3 hours. After this amount of time, your skin will not get darker in a certain day. If you tan past that point, you’ll be putting your skin in harm’s way.
  6. Eat lycopene-rich foods. Examples include tomatoes, guava, and watermelon. Research has found that lycopene helps protect the skin naturally against UV rays.
  7. Choose your tanning time wisely. If your goal is to tan quickly, the sun is typically strongest between noon and 3 p.m. However, if you have extremely fair skin, it’s best to tan in the morning or after 3 p.m. to avoid burning.
  8. Consider wearing a strapless top. This can help you get an even tan without any lines.
  9. Seek shade. Taking breaks will make it less likely for you to burn, and it will give your skin a break from the intense heat.
  10. Prep before you tan. Preparing your skin before heading outdoors can help your tan last longer. Try exfoliating your skin before tanning. Skin that hasn’t been exfoliated is more likely to flake off. Using an aloe vera gel may also help your tan last longer.

Risks of tanning

Tanning and sunbathing may feel good, and even boost mood because of the exposure to vitamin D. However, tanning still has risks, especially if you forgo sunscreen. Risks associated with tanning include:

  • melanoma and other skin cancers
  • dehydration
  • sunburn
  • heat rash
  • premature skin aging
  • eye damage
  • immune system suppression

What determines your tan shade?

Each person is unique when it comes to how dark their skin will get in the sun. Some people will burn almost immediately, and some people will rarely burn. This is largely due to melanin, the pigment responsible for tanning that’s found in the hair, skin, and even the eyes.

People with lighter skin have less melanin and may burn or turn red in the sun. People with darker skin have more melanin and will get darker as they tan. However, darker-skinned people still have a risk of both sunburn and skin cancer.

Melanin is created naturally by the body to protect the deep layers of skin from damage. Keep in mind that even if you don’t burn, the sun is still causing damage to your skin.

A note on tanning beds

You’ve probably heard by now that tanning beds and booths aren’t safe. They actually present more risks than tanning outside in the sun. Indoor tanning beds expose the body to high levels of UVA and UVB rays.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes tanning beds as carcinogenic. According to Harvard Health, tanning beds have a UVA up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight. Even the UVB intensity may approach that of bright sunlight.

Tanning beds are extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Safer alternatives include spray tans or tanning lotion, which use dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to darken the skin.

Tanning precautions

Tanning can be done safely if you do it for a very short period of time, drink water, wear sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30 on your skin and lips, and protect your eyes. Avoid:

  • falling asleep in the sun
  • wearing an SPF of less than 30
  • drinking alcohol, which can be dehydrating

Don’t forget to:

  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after going in water.

  • Apply SPF to your scalp, the tops of your feet, ears, and other places you can easily miss.
  • Roll over frequently so you tan evenly without burning.
  • Drink plenty of water, wear a hat, and protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses.


Many people enjoy relaxing in the sun and the look of tanned skin, but it has a variety of risks, including skin cancer. To limit your exposure to the sun, there are ways you can tan faster. This includes wearing SPF 30, choosing the time of day wisely, and preparing your skin beforehand.

Tanning beds are known carcinogens and should be avoided. They’re worse than tanning outside because the UVA radiation is as much as three times more intense.