Can pale people tan?
Yes, all but the palest of people can.
It just takes a little patience and care to avoid burning.
If so, what is the best tanning oil for fair skin? Which gets you the darkest?
How can a fair-skinned person get a tan?
Let’s make a plan now.
How to tan fair skin without burning
We know you’re going to try it anyway. It’s hard to resist the lure of looking like a sun god.
Here’s the TLDR summary:
- Take it slow – start with only a few minutes in a UV bed or under the sun.
- Skip a couple of days between sessions. It takes time for the melanin to develop and darken the skin.
- Use tanning oil, preferably with sunscreen to prevent burning.
Now, here are the details of how to tan pale skin as safely as possible.
Determine if tanning is right for you
Do you know which Fitzpatrick skin type you are? If you’ve been to a tanning salon, chances are you’ve taken the test to determine what kind of tanning bed is best for you and how long your session should be.
For example, type 1 people usually have red hair with freckles. They always burn and rarely tan. Therefore, most tanning salons will recommend a spray tan instead of a tanning bed.
Type 2 burns easily but can achieve a sun-kissed glow. They usually have blonde hair, some freckles, and light-colored eyes.
Then, Type 3 can tan light brown but may burn. They typically have dark blonde or brown hair and brown or light-colored eyes.
Start with brief exposure to UV rays
If you are Type 2 or 3, you can begin tanning for two or three minutes in the bed or 15 to 20 minutes outdoors. Use tanning lotion, preferably with sunscreen, to protect the skin.
If you are Type 1, you can try tanning outdoors, but use tanning oil with at least SPF 30 sunscreen. Don’t lay out between noon and 4pm because that’s when the sun’s rays are strongest (1).
If you’re trying to tan, why would we recommend SPF 30? It’s because this amount of sunscreen blocks 97% of harmful rays, yet you can still gradually tan with it. As you probably know, sunburn is no fun, and neither are wrinkles and skin cancer years down the road.
Also, cloudy days are no protection against getting sunburned (2).
Worse, the reflection off sand, snow, and water can intensify the sun’s rays and broil your skin faster.
How to wear sunscreen while tanning
If you’ll be wearing makeup, put on sunscreen first and foundation on top.
Don’t be skimpy – you’ll need about 2 tablespoons or a golf ball-sized glob for your whole body.
The idea is to NOT BURN so that you can enjoy tanning. Therefore you need enough sunscreen to protect yourself.
Even if you don’t look pink by the end of 15 or 20 minutes, go inside. It takes hours for the skin’s pigment to develop a tan.
How long does it take to get a tan with fair skin?
Pale skin takes about a week to develop a golden tan. This includes 3 sessions of UV exposure, with a 2-day rest between each one.
Types 2 and 3 are likely to notice a sun-kissed glow after the first session.
How can you tan fair skin faster?
More time in the sun is not going to tan you faster. It’s going to burn you. Instead, use tanning oil with intensifiers and accelerators. They stimulate the skin to make melanin more quickly. They also protect against photo-aging.
Also, be sure to use moisturizer daily and drink plenty of water. Hydrated skin darkens faster.
How to stay comfortable while tanning
Tanning oil helps with moisturizing. Meanwhile, protect your lips and scalp from burning.
Use a lip balm with sunscreen because sunburned lips hurt.
Also, wear a hat or use a UV protectant on your head. Otherwise, you could end up with a painful red scalp that unleashes a storm of dandruff in a few days.
Skip to the end of the tanning oil reviews to see our recommendations.
Best Tanning Oil for Fair Skin in 2023
Outdoor tanning oil with sunscreen
Which is the best tanning oil for outside? One that has enough sunscreen to keep you from roasting, of course.
Hampton Sun SPF 30
We know this isn’t an oil. It’s a spray gel that’s silky and moisturizing without feeling greasy. It will leave your skin soft and subtly glistening.
We had to include it as it’s a luxury sunscreen enhanced with tanning accelerators. It’s a smart way to get bronzed outdoors.
The formula includes a vitamin cocktail with potent antioxidants. It dampens the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Smooth it on half an hour before you go outdoors and enjoy the sunshine.
Bronzo Sensuale SPF 15 Deep Golden Tanning Organic Carrot Oil
Seriously, carrot oil is surprisingly good for tanning. It won’t even turn you orange as you’d expect.
This award-winning tanning oil is packed with organic ingredients that make the skin happy. It smells delicious, too.
It’s like a spa treatment in a bottle.
Some of the highlights include shea butter, hemp, aloe, and vitamin E.
Sun Bum SPF 15 Moisturizing Tanning Oil
Here’s a new take on the classic tropical-scented tanning oil. It was developed by a Florida company where employees actually use the products they sell.
The formula filters out harmful UVA and UVB rays. It prevents sunburn and wards off wrinkles.
Meanwhile, it nourishes the skin and speeds up pigment production. To that end, it contains coconut, macadamia nut, and argan oils, and other goodies.
It’s for outdoor use only as it also has mineral oil.
Banana Boat Protective Tanning Oil Spray – SPF 15
Which is the best drugstore tanning oil? Currently, it’s a tie between Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic. They’re both inexpensive and effective.
Moreover, they are available with different amounts of sunscreen. Choose SPF 15 or 30 to protect fair skin.
Banana Boat’s oil is reef-safe. It does not contain octinoxate or oxybenzone, which could poison wildlife and corals. Also, it features carrot extract, vitamins, and aloe to accelerate tanning without nasty side effects.
Thankfully, it’s a “dry oil”, which isn’t nearly as greasy as you’d expect. And you’ll get to enjoy the tropical coconut and banana scent.
Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
Hawaiian Tropic also offers different levels of sunscreen. Their tanning oil feels lightweight on the skin.
Even after you shower, your skin will likely feel soft from wearing it.
It’s fortified with antioxidants to prevent photo-aging, too.
Warning: don’t try these tanning oils without wearing sunscreen underneath.
Otherwise, wait until you’ve developed a base tan. They intensify the sun’s effects, which makes it more likely that you’ll burn.
Carroten Intensive Tanning Oil
This extreme tanning oil will take you as dark as you can go.
It has a Deep Tan System with walnut, Brazil nut, and carrot oils. The blend kicks melanin production into high gear. It also moisturizes the skin without making it oily.
Happily, it also has calendula to soothe irritation.
Take note that some reviewers weren’t thrilled with the coconut fragrance, and they wished the bottle were larger.
Hawaiian Beachcomber Budd Pure Coconut Oil
If ancient Polynesians could tan using only coconut oil, can pale people do the same?
You can find out for yourself when you try this Hawaiian treat. Coconut oil keeps the skin hydrated and healthy. It’s also excellent for conditioning the hair.
Choose from scented and unscented versions.
Tanning oil with bronzer
If you feel embarrassed about how pale you are in a swimsuit, we have a solution. Use tanning oil with bronzer.
There are two types of bronzer. One is cosmetic and washes off easily. It provides instant color.
The second type takes a few hours to develop a golden tan. But then you can enjoy the bronze for a few days.
Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer SPF 15
This sunscreen has it all.
First, it has a caramel bronzer for an instant glow.
Next, it offers broad-spectrum protection against sunburn and premature aging. At the same time, it’s water-resistant. You can swim or sweat for up to 80 minutes before you need to put it on again.
Finally, it’s packed with potent botanicals like tea tree oil and kakadu plum. It’s vegan and gluten-free as well.
Did we mention it smells like an orange Creamsicle?
Scroll through the reviews, and you’ll see people repeatedly praising it for helping them get a tan.
Hempz Yuzu & Starfruit Touch of Summer Self-Tanning Crème, SPF 30
Here we go again on a little detour. It’s a cream, not an oil. But this one is perfect for tanning fair skin.
It’s a gradual sunless tanner that ensure you get bronzed whether or not you see the sun. At the same time, it accelerates natural tan development.
The formula is based on hemp seed oil, an excellent moisturizer that doesn’t clog pores. Plus, it’s vegan, paraben-free, and gluten-free.
Users say it has a mild fruity fragrance.
Indoor tanning oil
Please don’t wear products with mineral oil in a tanning bed. It will damage the acrylic.
Instead, choose indoor tanning oil designed for salon use.
Just Nutritive Tanning Bed Oil
This American brand crafts its products with exotic oils from around the world. They don’t include silicone, mineral oil, or alcohol.
Instead, their tanning oil encourages melanin production for a deep, dark tan. It contains raspberry, pumpkin seed, macadamia, and black cumin. With these delicious ingredients, the tan you develop is all your own.
There’s no artificial fragrance or bronzer in the bottle.
TANOVATIONS Oh Pale No Skin Perfecting Dark Intensifier
This indoor tanning lotion is ideal for fair skin. No, it’s not an oil. In fact, it’s not greasy at all, yet it leaves the skin silken.
It’s described as a BB cream formula because it perfects the skin’s appearance. At the same time that it helps you tan, it also clears up acne with white birch.
But even if breakouts aren’t a problem, it’s hard to resist anti-aging ingredients like dragonfruit and pineapple.
Lastly, it defends tattoos from fading while camouflaging cellulite.
If you just can’t seem to tan, it’s time to bend the rules.
You don’t need no stinking UV to get bronzed. A little DHA will take you further.
Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Self Tanning Dry Oil
This magical dry oil absorbs in seconds. You’ll only know you put it on by how soft your skin will feel.
Give it three hours, and you’ll discover you’ve developed a light golden bronze.
Apply it again the next day, and go darker. Since it’s like a moisturizer, there’s no need to wash it off like a spray tan.
It features coconut and argan oil to keep the skin happy.
Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops
Are you reluctant to forgo your regular body lotion in favor of a self-tanner? Then, simply add a few drops of this elixir to your moisturizer.
Choose from light, medium, or dark versions. You can use the drops in face cream and body butter – it doesn’t matter.
Since the formula has nutrients from chia, avocado, and coconut, it will boost any skincare product.
Protect hair and lips
You’ll thank yourself for remembering the lip balm.
Sun Bum Lip Balm, SPF 30
Keep your lips safe from sunburn and chapping while you tan outdoors.
(Did you know you can also protect nipples with lip balm in the tanning bed)?
This assorted pack has three tasty flavors. Each has vitamin E and aloe for extra nourishment.
COOLA Organic Scalp & Hair Sunscreen Mist SPF 30
Have you ever forgotten to protect your head from the sun? Now you don’t need to wear a hat. Mist your hair and scalp with sunscreen instead.
COOLA’s spray doesn’t just prevent sunburn, but it also keeps hair color from fading. Plus, it stands up to sweat and water for 80 minutes without making the hair greasy.
It features Monoi, a blend of Tahitian gardenia and coconut oil. But what you’ll remember the most is the relaxing ocean and salted sage scent.
If you’re going to tan that pale skin, take it slow. Use tanning oil with sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
The best tanning products will help you make the most of your time in the sun.
It’s worth it to enjoy a healthy glow.
1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/5240-sun-damage-protecting-yourself Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/10/2019, accessed February 2, 2021
2. https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/sunburn/ Reviewed by Anna Chien, MD and Heidi Jacobe, MD, last reviewed June 2019, accessed February 2, 2021