Wouldn’t it be nice to have a healthy bronze glow? Despite all the warnings against excessive UV exposure, we love having tanned skin. And one of the questions we hear a lot is, “How long does it take to tan?”
This is an important question to ask for two reasons. First, people want to get tan quickly. Second, most don’t want to end up sunburned or develop skin cancer or wrinkles later in life.
How do you get tan fast?
Here are the quickest ways to get a tan ASAP:
The quickest way to get tan is to use bronzer or body foundation. A fake tan with bronzer only takes a few minutes to apply. So, if you’re in a real hurry to look bronzed, turn to makeup.
Airbrush foundation is the most durable – some brands are waterproof so that you can be swimsuit-ready without even seeing the sun.
The next fastest way to get a tan is to use self-tanning products. Choose from mousse, lotion, serum, spray, or wipes to tan your skin within hours. DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is the active ingredient that interacts with the epidermis to turn it brown.
Even though you see self-tanner advertised as only taking one hour, that statement is kind of deceptive. It actually takes DHA about 8 to 12 hours to noticeably darken the skin. The one-hour limit is how long to leave it on the skin before washing it off. However, you don’t have to wash it off at all.
If you apply tanning mousse or use DHA-infused wipes at bedtime, your skin will be visibly darker in the morning. But lotion works gradually and will take 2 or 3 applications.
Following are two products that will bronze your skin without the need for indoor or outdoor tanning.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse
If you want to tan within 8 to 12 hours, here’s one of the most popular self-tanning mousses on the market. Apply it and wait 1, 2, or 3 hours depending on how deep of a color you desire. Then, shower and be patient for another few hours while the tan appears on your skin. (Pretty much everyone will see results within 4 to 8 hours).
The formula uses DHA, a natural tanning ingredient that was discovered by accident a few decades ago. It interacts with the upper layer of skin similar to the way that bacon turns brown in the skillet or sliced apples turn brown when exposed to air.
DHA has been cleared by the FDA. It’s a safe and simple way to get a natural-looking bronze without the risk of skin cancer or signs of premature aging. Moreover, the effect fades just like a real tan.
Nevertheless, there are a few things you should know about sunless tanning. For example, most products like this one contain a color guide so that you can see where you’ve put it. This is kind of like instant bronzer, but it washes off. Don’t worry; the DHA will still keep working behind the scenes.
Next, self-tanning products make the skin smell a little different for a few hours. We personally enjoy the aroma because it promises that we will have a healthy glow soon. Most manufacturers try to dampen the odor and so your experience may depend on which brand you try. St. Tropez does a pretty good job of managing the smell.
Remember to exfoliate before applying sunless tanning products. Otherwise, they will settle in and darken dry patches of skin deeper than surrounding areas. One trick is to apply a little lotion on knees, elbows, etc., and let that absorb before applying self-tanner. Also, don’t shave right before self-tanning or the product will settle in the pores and cause the same problem.
Lastly, you may have heard that self-tanning will turn you orange. That’s rarely true these days as modern formulas have overcome the problem. If you’re worried about it, skip the bar soap and switch to a pH-balanced body wash as the right amount of acid will prevent the orange from appearing.
Keep reading about the next product to learn even more about self-tanning.
- From a top self-tanning brand sold worldwide
- Rapid tanning solution with low to no odor, does not turn skin orange
- Develops light, medium, or dark color depending on how long it’s worn
- Has a guide tint to show where it’s been applied
- Takes 4 to 8 hours to develop a tan although you only have to wear the product for 1 to 3 hours
Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion
This is a natural tanning lotion made with organic ingredients to hydrate and soften the skin while it bronzes you. It’s even mild enough to use on the face.
The lotion comes in fair to medium or medium to dark options – choose the one that matches your current skin shade.
Featured ingredients include organic green tea, coconut oil, and shea butter. These are all packed with nutrients and antioxidants for healthy, smooth, elastic skin.
What’s more, the brand offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
How does it work? The lotion is made in the USA in an FDA-certified lab with pure DHA from natural sources. The DHA interacts with skin cells to deepen skin color gradually, so it will take about 8 hours to notice any change. But if you reapply the next day, the color will deepen.
How long will the color last? Fake tan usually looks good for at least 4 and up to 7 days before you need to touch it up. (Products like the St. Tropez mousse above last up to 10 days).
How to use it? Apply it just like lotion then wash your hands. If you want to tan your hands, wear a pair of gloves to rub on the lotion. After that, pull off the gloves and swipe the remaining lotion across the backs of your hands.
What’s the downside? After you put on lotion, don’t sweat or get wet for at least 8 hours so that the DHA has time to work and the tan doesn’t end up splotchy. On the bright side, you’re less likely to notice any kind of self-tanning odor with this product.
- Natural, organic ingredients like pure DHA, shea butter, and green tea
- Made for the face and body (although a face lotion is also available)
- Provides a rich healthy glow within hours
- Best applied at bedtime because it won’t turn out right if you get wet or sweat too much for 8 hours after applying it
- Deepens color gradually, may take repeated applications
Can you tan in 30 minutes?
If you mean can you tan with only 30 minutes of UV exposure, the answer is probably, depending on your natural skin color.
If you are fair-skinned, 30 minutes will probably give you a sunburn unless you’re wearing sunscreen. But melanin-rich people may not burn that fast unless the UV level is high.
For instance, we see people asking how long it takes to tan in UV 9. Please don’t lay out when the UV levels are that high! Think of it like cooking on the stove. A high temperature doesn’t do a better job when you’re in a hurry – it burns the food instead.
If you want to see how long it takes to get a dark tan, you’re going to have to be patient. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston didn’t get bronzed from a single intense session. They don’t want sunburn, wrinkles, or skin cancer. Instead, they go back again and again for short periods to deepen their color and maintain it, and they don’t enjoy the outdoors for hours at a time without appropriate sun protection.
If you’re interested in indoor tanning, check out the next section below.
Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
Here’s the best indoor tanning lotion for pale skin. It contains no artificial bronzers so the color you achieve with it is all-natural.
Countless reviewers tell how it gives them a beautiful golden glow. It smells great and doesn’t stain anything. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful moisturizer that leaves skin comfortable and soft.
How long does it take you to tan indoors? Indoor tanning lotion can significantly speed up how fast you bronze. Again, it depends on your natural skin color and how dark you want to go.
For instance, people with pale skin who want a nice vacation-like tan may need 2 or 3 short sessions in a high-pressure UVA bed. Since you’ll need to wait a couple of days between visits (to protect your skin from damage and allow the tan to develop), it could take a week or two. For more details, speak with your local tanning salon.
In the meantime, this lotion works well because hydrated skin tans easier than dry skin, plus it features tanning accelerators. It contains proprietary blends like Quad Tyrosine and Melano Bronze to stimulate pigment production. What’s more, it protects tattoo ink from fading and helps to firm the skin.
All you need to do is apply it and let it absorb just before your tanning session. There’s no need to shower afterward as it has no DHA or bronzer, plus it prevents that typical after-tanning odor.
The scent is called Coconut Paradise with a hint of vanilla. The creamy texture comes from coconut milk, cocoa butter, and coconut oil.
- Accelerates tanning by stimulating pigment production
- Keeps skin hydrated and soft
- Protects tattoo ink from fading, firms the skin
- Pleasant coconut and vanilla fragrance
- No SPF protection – not safe for tanning outdoors without sunscreen
Maui Babe Browning Lotion
Outdoor tanning enthusiasts love this lotion that comes from Maui, Hawaii. The simple formula consists of lightweight mineral oil, Kukui nut oil, vitamins, Kona coffee plant extract, aloe, and potassium iodide. It was the genius idea of a fellow who needed to come up with a way to earn money for his family.
Yes, it may stain your swimsuit and towels, but the discoloration should come out in the wash. On the bright side, it gives you an instant dose of bronze so that your winter pale skin doesn’t blind anyone. Happily, the natural Hawaiian ingredients protect against sun damage. With that said, the brand still recommends applying sunscreen first, then the tanning lotion on top.
Reviewers are thrilled that the lotion manages to tan in difficult places like their legs to a golden caramel shade. They also love the pleasant coffee coconut scent and buttery texture.
- Uncomplicated formula accelerates tanning and guards against sun damage
- Features vitamins, Kukui nut oil, and Kona coffee plant extract
- Pleasant scent
- May stain clothing and towels temporarily (until they’re washed)
How long does it take to tan without sunscreen?
It’s proven that sun exposure is crucial to good health, but it’s not the same as tanning without sunscreen.
You need to catch some rays for your body to make vitamin D for strong bones and a healthy immune system (1). We recommend going out in the morning or at the end of the day when the UV is lower and spending a few minutes out in the sun. But this won’t give you a tan.
However, you can still get a tan while wearing sunscreen. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and then spend about half an hour to 45 minutes in the sun. Turn over after halfway through your time (2).
Wait a couple of days and repeat until you’re satisfied with your color.
We suggest sunscreen with SPF 30 because it filters out approximately 97% of the harmful UV. Also, SPF50 filters out 98%. In either case, that little leftover percentage is enough to stimulate melanin production and darken your skin (unless you happen to have red hair and freckles and don’t tan at all).
The sunscreen allows you to spend more time out in the sun without burning or risking other undesirable consequences. (Remember you can still burn in the shade if you don’t have sunscreen.) (And don’t forget the lip balm!)
BLUE LIZARD Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen
Here’s a sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin. It uses only mineral filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect harmful rays. It’s also free of parabens and artificial fragrances.
Remember to reapply every couple of hours outdoors. Fortunately, it’s resistant to sweat and swimming for up to 80 minutes.
It’ll even remind you to put more on because it comes in a bottle that turns blue in bright sunlight.
The only con is that reviewers say it leaves a white cast on dark skin.
- No artificial fragrance, parabens, or chemical filters
- Uses minerals to reflect harmful UV rays
- Water-resistant up to 80 minutes
- Likely to leave a white residue on dark skin
Classic Liplux Organic Lip Balm Sunscreen SPF 30
COOLA’s lip balm with sunscreen is reef-safe because it uses chemical filters that are safe for corals and wildlife and waterways.
Reviewers say this is one of the most moisturizing lip sunscreens they’ve ever tried. That’s not surprising as it has aloe, jojoba seed oil, and raspberry plus cupuaçu butter. In fact, 70% of the formula is certified organic.
- Reef-safe and extra moisturizing
- 70% certified organic ingredients
- For those who prefer to avoid chemical sunscreen, try Badger’s SPF15 lip balm with zinc oxide
Tanning products mentioned in this article
|Why we love them|
|St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse||
|Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion||
|Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion||
|Maui Babe Browning Lotion||
|BLUE LIZARD Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen||
|Classic Liplux® Organic Lip Balm Sunscreen SPF 30||
1. https://luxeluminous.com/benefits-of-tanning/ The Benefits of Tanning. Sunscreen, Skin Exposure, and the Latest Research, updated November 4, 2021, 6:18 pm
2. https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/5/1548.full Vitamin D and Sunlight: Strategies for Cancer Prevention and Other Health Benefits, by Michael F. Holick, CJASN September 2008, 3 (5) 1548-1554; DOI: https://doi.org/10.2215/CJN.01350308