Best Time to Tan Outside – Tips and Advice

woman tanning

While sun tanning sounds like a great idea, it comes with potential danger to your skin. You become prone to these risks when you expose yourself to direct sunlight for a long time. 

Here, it becomes imperative to tan cautiously and respect the sun. You need to choose the right time for tanning outside and follow the necessary precautions.    

So, what is the best time to tan outside? Are you looking for tips and advice to tan outside safely? The safest time to go for tanning is before 10 am and after 4 pm, and certainly the time with the strongest tanning effect is between 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.

Read on to find your complete guide on getting a natural tan outside. 

Can Tan Time Really Make a Difference?

No matter the method of tanning you choose, time is going to make a huge impact on the results. It is more important in the case of natural outdoor tanning under the sun.

There is a significant difference in the environment outside throughout the day. While some hours prove to be the best time to sunbathe for tanning, others might have adverse effects on your skin as well as overall health.

So, time can make a huge difference in the level of tan, the time you need to spend in the sun, and also your skin health. 

What Is the Best Time to Tan Outside?

Sun is the most effective and the most affordable way to get a tan. These factors make natural tanning outside a popular choice for many.

Sunlight contains UV radiation that can penetrate your skin to reach the lower layers of your epidermis. It triggers melanocytes to produce melanin, which is a brown pigment that is responsible for tanning.

If your goal is to get a dark tan quickly, it is better to be out in the sun in the hours when the rays are the strongest or the UV index is highest. While it may vary depending on your location, ideally, the sun is the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.

Since the intensity of sun rays is quite high during that time frame, it is imperative to wear sunscreen if you are stepping outside from 10 am to 2 pm, as per a study by the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. At 12 pm, the sun is highest in the sky, which implies it is also the strongest as per the UV index. It is so because the sun rays have to travel the shortest distance to reach earth, making it the best time to tan today.

Although it is easier to develop a darker tan during this time, there is also a risk of overexposure and skin damage. When you leave your skin exposed to direct sun rays for a long time, it may lead to premature aging of skin and even sunburn. You must use sunscreen, cover your eyes with sunglasses, and stay hydrated while tanning outside.

In case you wish to minimize the risk of skin damage, you must opt to tan before 10 in the morning or in the evening after 4 as it is the best time to tan safely. The rays of the sun aren’t that direct or strong during this time and can help you tan more safely. However, it might take more time to tan.

It is possible to tan or even sunburn when the sun is not there. Around 80% of the UV rays can penetrate through the clouds and reach your skin to give you a tan. Some people might even sunburn during early mornings, late afternoons, or on cloudy days.   

How Much Time Do You Need to Tan Outside?

Natural tanning is a slow process when compared to the artificial measures popular today. The time you need to tan outside can depend on a series of factors like your skin type, the intensity of UV radiation, and the shade you want to achieve.

For most people they will tan within 1-2 hours in the sun. It’s important to keep in mind that any tanning or burning won’t immediately show on the skin so if you aren’t sure it’s best to not stay in the sun too long due to the risk of overexposing yourself to the sun.

Some people can burn their skin in even a span of 30 minutes if their skin is not covered with sunscreen having SPF or Sun Protection Factor though this is more typical for people with fair skin. 

Sometimes, you might not even see any change in your skin color right after tanning outside. When UV rays react with your skin, it produces melanin which is a slow process. Owing to it, you might be able to witness it only after a little while.

Besides the climate of your place, your skin type can also play a pivotal role in determining the time you will require to tan. People with fair skin might burn quickly, whereas the other person with dark skin will only develop a rich tan in the same time duration.

If you are wondering whether you will only develop a tan or get a sunburn, it depends primarily on your skin color, as per the American Academy of Dermatology. 

Which Factors Influence Tanning?

Artificial methods of tanning can deliver even results simply because there aren’t many factors affecting it. Tanning outside in the sun is a tricky affair because there are a lot of factors that can affect the results. However, once you are well aware of these factors, you can keep them in control to get the desired results.

Here are 8 factors that can affect the tanning process:


Even though most people don’t realize it, altitude can have a significant impact on the tanning process. The rays of the sun are stronger at higher altitudes and can offer you a dark tan quickly. But, you must also remember the chances of skin burns are also more likely here, so be cautious. 

Skin Color:

Your natural skin color can determine the level of tan you can achieve. Darker skin color has more melanin which is triggered by sunlight to darken your skin. Due to this, people who have a darker shade of skin tend to darken faster.  


The climatic condition can also play a pivotal role in the tanning process. Humid air offers the best tanning weather as it contains moisture in the air, which can prevent the tan from fading. It might help you tan faster in a humid place than in an area with dry weather. 

The Angle of Sun:

It might sound shocking, but the time of the day and the angle of the sun at that time will impact how you tan outside. If you’re close to the equator, you can get a deeper tan and might even become prone to sunburns.

But, if you are away from the equator, the results might not be as intense. 


The length of exposure to the sunlight can determine the level of tan you can achieve. In case you are lounging in the sun for hours without any break or shade in between, you will be able to get a darker tan in less time.

On the other hand, if you spend only a limited time in the sun with frequent breaks, it will limit your exposure to radiation. It might lead to a light and uneven tan. 


While sunscreen is recommended while tanning outside, the SPF level of the sunscreen you are using might affect the results. The higher the SPF level, the more time you will have to spend in the sun to achieve a tan.

For instance, in case you have sunscreen with SPF 30, it will offer you 30 times more protection than not wearing anything. 

We Recommend: Sun Bum SPF 30


The clothes that you are wearing while tanning can also block the UV rays that reach your skin. Although they don’t act as a complete barrier, they can restrict the rays that penetrate through and reduce the level of tanning.    

If you’re residing in an area that permits you to tan naked, you can opt for that. If not, you can choose cotton clothes in darker shades that reflect more light and help you tan faster. 


Much like clothes, makeup can also work as a barrier while tanning. If you have put on anything from a base foundation to eyeshadow or blush, it will restrict the UV rays from reaching your skin.

Tanning with makeup on can even lead to uneven results. You might end up with patches, streaks, or even have red spots. It is wise to only use a tinted moisturizer or sunscreen while tanning outside.    

Tips to Tan Outside Faster and Safely:

Tanning outside in the sun is a fairly easy process. All you need to do is lie down in the direct sunlight and let the UV radiation do the work for you. Still, you can do a few things before and after tanning in the sun to get better results. If you want to tan darker and faster it’s also important to follow these suggestions:

Prep Your Skin:

No matter the method of tanning you opt for, it is vital to prepare your skin. You must exfoliate your skin 24 hours prior to the tanning process to ensure your tan turns out smooth and not flaky. It can also give your skin enough time to settle before tanning.

If you need to shave, you must also do it prior to tanning. Shaving or waxing after tan might strip away the tan, which defeats the whole purpose of the process.

Protect Your Skin:

Even though sunlight is essential for you, it comes with a range of risks. It is very crucial to take necessary measures to protect your skin to reduce the chances of side effects.

Make sure you apply sunscreen with SPF 30 all over your skin before stepping out in the sun. Not only that, but you must also use a lip balm with SPF to protect the delicate skin from damage. It is essential to re-apply sunscreen after every 2 hours to keep yourself safe.   

Stay Hydrated:

Being out in the sun can often dehydrate you. Make sure you keep water with you, whether you are tanning on your terrace or on the beach. Keep drinking water throughout to ensure you stay hydrated.

Also, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol as it can dehydrate you and even impair your ability to feel the discomfort of a sunburn. 

Keep Changing Your Position:

The essential thing to remember while tanning in the sun is to frequently change your position. When you expose a particular body part to the sunlight for too long, there is an increased risk of sunburn. To avoid that, you must change your position every 20-30 minutes.

Keep moving your arms and legs to ensure you get an even tanned look. 

Eat the Right Food:

Your diet can also change how you tan. There are certain foods that can naturally help darken your skin. Consuming these foods before tanning can help you achieve a better tan.

You can have foods containing beta-carotene like carrots to darken the skin. Besides that, watermelon, tomato paste, and tomatoes can help fight UV rays.   

Choose the Appropriate Time:

If there is only one thing you need to remember during the natural tanning process, it is to choose the right time. The best time of day to tan will be from 12 noon to 3 pm, but it is also the riskiest time for your skin. Therefore, you must take all precautions and use sunscreen before stepping out during this time.

In case you want a safer option, you can tan before 10 am or after 4 pm. You will need to spend more time getting a tan during this period, but it will reduce the chances of skin damage.  

Related Questions:

How Long Do You Have to Be Outside to Get a Tan?

The time required by your skin to tan safely can depend on a series of factors. While some skin types such as people with pale skin or freckles can burn their skin within 10 minutes of being out in the sun, others may require hours to develop a tan.

You can start by spending 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight and then check the results. It is enough to give you a tan. If not, you can come outside for another session of outdoor tan.   

Is Morning Sun Better for Tanning?

The ideal time to get a natural tan is in the morning. The best hours are from 8 am to 11 am since the sun is not at the highest. It can ensure you get a tan without causing you skin damage.

The morning sun can also help enhance and strengthen your skin. It can also be a good source of Vitamin D and help you maintain overall health.   

Can You Tan at 10 am?

Yes, you can tan at 10 am in the morning. The sun rays are not that harsh during this time and might help you get a tan more safely.

Even though it is safe to be out in this time period, do not skip on sunscreen. Make sure you apply good sunscreen with SPF evenly all over your skin to prevent any skin damage. You can also moisturize your skin after tanning to build and protect the tan.   

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