How Long Does It Take To Tan?

Tanning is the process in which your skin changes its pigmentation due to exposure to the sun. You will notice that the parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun become browner than the other parts. This is because of an increase in melanin. People participate in activities like sunbathing to get a tan. However, there are other artificial methods as well, to obtain a tan.

For some people, a tan on their body is a sign that they have vacationed well! Thus, they may want to know how long does it take to tan.


Factors on which tanning depends

The time taken to tan not only depends on your complexion. It also depends on several other factors. How long does it take to tan in the sun?

  • During tanning, the sun triggers melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin. Melanin is responsible for your pigmentation. People with darker skin have more melanin and thus get tanned faster.
  • Your geographical location is a factor that influences the time taken to tan. Those near the equator experience a tropical climate. Your skin tends to tan faster when you are near the equator.
  • The time of the day also matters. The sun’s rays are not the same at all times of the day. Late mornings are the best time to go out for a tan. The sun rays at noon are aggressive and can harm your skin if you stay out for too long.
  • If you are at a high altitude, your skin is exposed to stronger rays. This is because the sun rays become stronger as you move higher. Again, you will get tanned quickly. So, do not stay in the sun for too long. You could take breaks in-between and move to the shade. This will increase the time taken to tan. But you reduce the chances of burning your skin.
  • If you want to quickly get a tan, do not take breaks; but make sure to stay outside only for 15-20 minutes.
  • Tanning also happens quickly if you are in a humid climate. This is due to the moisture in the air.
  • Lastly, the SPF in your sunscreen is also responsible for how long your skin takes to tan. If your sunscreen has a higher SPF value, it means that it can better protect your skin against harmful UV rays. Thus, you may have to wait longer until you get a tan. For users of sunscreen with lower SPFs, tanning happens quickly.


Frequently Asked Questions


How long does it take to tan outside?

Every person has a different complexion and skin type. Thus, it is difficult to tell a fixed number of minutes it will take to tan. If two people, one with a light complexion and the other with a dark complexion, spend the same amount of time outdoors, the former’s skin will burn while the latter’s most likely won’t. Another factor is whether you have applied sunscreen. Without sunscreen, you can get tanned within minutes. Exposing your skin to the sun rays for a long time can be harmful too. Therefore, always use sunscreen.

If you are trying out tanning for the first time, it is better to lay in the sun for 15-20 minutes. Otherwise, a maximum of 40-60 minutes would be enough. You may not see the tan developing instantly. Thus, do not be misled by the fact that your skin doesn’t ‘look’ tanned yet.

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

If the sun is not out, how long does it take to tan on a cloudy day? Even if you cannot see the sun or feel the heat, you can get tanned. UV rays are responsible for tanning your skin. These rays can penetrate through the clouds. Thus, you are exposed to these rays even on a cloudy day.

If the clouds are thick or grey, they absorb most of the rays and do not let much of it pass. Thus, it will take longer to tan if you are under thick clouds. On the other hand, fluffy clouds let most of the UV rays pass through them. Therefore, if you have planned for a tanning session and the sun isn’t out, that shouldn’t stop you from going out. Keep in mind that the rays are still as harmful as they are on a sunny day. Thus, take your sunscreen along.

For quicker tanning, select a place that has the least amount of cloud coverage. If you have lighter skin, 20-30 minutes should be enough. People with darker skin can spend a maximum of 60 minutes outside. If you feel that that it is too cloudy and there are thick clouds, you can build your tan by going out for short periods. Applying a tanning lotion or oil can help obtain a tan faster. This way, you can ensure that your skin doesn’t burn.

How long does it take to tan through the window?

If you spend too many hours sitting by the window, you may wonder if your skin can get tanned because of that. Well, that depends on the kind of window.

Most of the old windows in homes, offices, and cars do not filter the UV rays that penetrate through the glass. If you spend several hours sitting by the window in your car or office, you may not only get tanned; but, have a burn as well. If you continue the same, there is a risk of developing skin cancer.

Getting tanned through a window will certainly take longer than direct exposure to the sun. But it is still harmful to your skin. There is a term ‘cabbie cancer’ for skin cancer that cab drivers develop from spending too many hours inside their cars.

Newer windows have two or three panes and filters to protect your skin from UV rays. With these, your skin is better protected and takes longer to tan.

Sun rays are the most intense from 10 am to 4 pm. Thus, you can suffer from a skin burn if you spend time outdoors during these hours of the day.

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

Due to various circumstances, one cannot always go out/bathe in the sun to get direct exposure to sun rays. Thus, we have artificial means to get tanned.

A tanning bed is built to imitate the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Tanning beds mostly emit UVA rays and some amount of UVB rays. The lamps in the bed can emit anywhere between 93 to 99 percent UVA rays. The higher the percentage, the more quickly you tan.

You should book multiple appointments to the salon, to get tanned through the tanning bed. Each session lasts a few minutes. The exact time depends on the type of skin you have.

How long does it take to tan in the sun?

The more you spend time under the sun, the higher is the risk of sunburn and exposing your skin to harmful rays. So, if you can tan in lesser time, it is safer for you. What are the ways to achieve that?

  • Rotate your body position so that all parts get tanned evenly. If the same part comes under direct exposure to the sun rays for a long time, you risk getting a sunburn.
  • Prepare your skin for the session. If you directly lay under the sun without any preparation, your skin will start flaking off. Exfoliate your skin before tanning and apply aloe vera gel afterward, to make it last longer.
  • Eat foods that are rich in beta-carotene. They naturally make the skin darker.
  • Use a sunscreen with SPF 30. The higher the SPF, the longer it will take to get a tan. With an SPF 30 sunscreen, you have enough protection from the harmful effects of UV rays. But it also allows the rays to tan your skin faster.

Precautions to take

Due to the risks involved in tanning, one must take precautions to safeguard their skin. Discussed below are some safety measures to take while sun tanning.

  • Reapply sunscreen at regular two-hour intervals. Never think of going for a sunbath without sunscreen. Use sunglasses with UV filters to protect your eyes.
  • Do not fall asleep in the sun.
  • Take short breaks and move to a place that has shade. Hydrate yourself during these breaks. Avoid alcohol or other substances that can cause dehydration.
  • Avoid hot showers after you are done tanning. It damages the natural barrier of the skin. So, have cold showers only, to let your body cool off.
  • Consume foods rich in lycopene (tomato, watermelon) as they can protect your skin against UV rays.

The take-home message

Sunbathing to get a tan can be a fun activity with its benefits. But it has its set of risks. Never sunbathe without adequate protection even on cloudy days. If you are using artificial means to get a tan, ensure that the place is clean and well-maintained. If you take enough precautions, you can flaunt your shiny bronze skin without worrying about the risks.


Hi, I am Purtika. I am a Beauty and Fashion vlogger. I like to try out beauty products and experiment with makeup ideas. My hobbies include reading, cooking and obviously shopping.

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