Can You Tan in the Shade? A Simple Guide

tanning under umbrella

Whenever a person is sitting in the shade away from the sunlight, or it is just a cloudy day, they often think they are safe from tan. But, that’s not entirely true.

So, can you tan in the shade? The answer to this question is yes. You can get a tan even from sitting in the shade, but it also depends on the shade. Even if you are sitting under the shade of an umbrella, you might still get a tan.

Are you wondering how it is possible to get a tan in the shade? Looking for ways to avoid tanning too much when you are in the shade? Dive right in to learn everything about tanning in the shade and how it works. 

Why Do You Tan in the Shade?

Now that you have found the answer to can you get a tan in the shade, it is important to understand how the process works.

Even if you are sitting in the shade, the sunlight can get reflected from other objects in the environment. Many environmental factors such as snow or sand can also reflect the Ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun on your skin. It is among the most common reasons for tanning even though you are not under direct sunlight.

While you might be sitting under the shade of a building, tree, or even an umbrella, your skin can still come into contact with harmful UV radiation. If there is a reflective surface around you, such as a mirror, it can reflect sunlight onto your skin.

Although shade can provide some protection, it can never entirely prevent tanning. The extent of the tan that you might get depends significantly on the type of shade you are under. Therefore, in simple terms, no shade is completely safe.  

There are plenty of umbrellas and tents for the beach that allow UVB rays to pass through them and reach you. These rays can adversely impact your skin, leading to tanning and even sunburns.

You must take into account the UPF rating of the umbrella that you are taking to the beach to determine the level of protection you might get from it.  

What Are UV Rays?

If you are thinking of getting a natural tan, especially under the shade of a building or tent, it is pivotal to understand UV radiation and what UV gets a tan. Ultraviolet or UV is one of the many types of energy.

It is electromagnetic radiation that is longer than x-ray but tends to be shorter than visible light. UV radiation can be found majorly in sunlight.

There are three variations of UV rays:


UVA rays have the longest wavelength among the distinct types of UV radiation. While the UVA rays are abundant, they are not so potent.

They are transmitted through the atmosphere and can even penetrate through the middle layer of your skin. It can even pass through car windows and clouds to reach your skin. 


The UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays. A majority of UVB rays tend to get absorbed by the ozone layer of the earth. The rays that pass through the ozone layer can affect the top layer of your skin.

If you’re wondering what UV can you get tan in, it is UVB. It is the second most potent UV ray and can be responsible for sunburn.   


UVC rays tend to have the shortest wavelength. These rays can get completely absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t cause much damage to your skin.

UV radiation can cause tanning in two ways. In the first process, UVA radiation creates oxidative stress that causes the darkening of melanin. According to the second process, UVB radiation can trigger the skin cells that produce melanin and form a tan over your skin. 

Is Every Shade Equal?

No, not every shade is equal in terms of the protection offered against UV radiation. A thick shade from a building will certainly offer more protection to you than a beach umbrella or tent.

The difference here is because of the fact that some rays can still penetrate the material used in most products. While shade cloths and umbrellas will offer a certain degree of safety than standing in direct sunlight, they will not give you the required protection.

You still need to wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen to safeguard your skin from the harmful UV rays to avoid tanning. 

woman tanning in shade

How Can You Tan Safely in the Shade?

If you want to get a natural and smooth-tanned look, you don’t necessarily have to step into the sunlight to achieve that. You can get tanned even while being in the shade. In case you are wondering – can you get a tan through the clouds, the chances of that are also high.

However, you must still take some precautions to protect your skin against the harm caused by UV rays. Here are few effective tips to remember while tanning safely in the shade:

Prepare Your Skin:

Before you decide to tan outside, it is essential to prep your skin for it. Even if you are aiming for a natural tan in the shade or when it is cloudy, you must exfoliate your skin properly. It can help remove all the dead skin cells to give a good base to your tan and ensure it lasts long.  

After exfoliating, moisturize your skin well to keep it hydrated. It can keep your skin healthy and also offer protection from harmful UV rays. 

Use Sunscreen:

Just because you are lounging in the shade doesn’t imply that you don’t require sunscreen. The UV rays can still get reflected on your skin from various surfaces in the environment and cause skin damage.

In order to offer complete protection to your skin from UV rays, you must apply sunscreen with at least SPF 10 or 15. You may reapply the sunscreen every two hours to get maximum protection.

Wondering can you get a tan in cloudy weather? The answer is yes. Even if there is no sunlight, you must still apply sunscreen.  

We Recommend: EltaMD Sunscreen SPF 46

Wear Sunglasses:

Sunlight, whether direct or reflected, can adversely harm the cornea of your eye. Wear sunglasses even though you are lying under an umbrella to get protection from UV rays. It can help reduce the chances of damage and developing cataracts or macular degeneration.        

Exposure to sunlight can even thin the protection pigments in your eyes and lead to oxidative stress and radical damage. Sunglasses can help prevent UVA and UVB rays from entering your eyes to offer protection.  

Keep Changing Your Position:

When you are lounging in the open to get a tan, it is natural to forget to change your position. In order to achieve an even tan, you must change your body position after every 10 to 20 minutes. You can move your legs and arms or flip sides to tan evenly.

Use a timer to remind you to keep changing your position. For people with pale skin, tanning for five minutes on each side is ideal, but if you have dark or medium skin tone, then you can tan for 10 minutes. 

Schedule Your Tan:

Tanning during the peak hours of the day can increase the chances of sunburn. You can schedule your tan either before 10 am or after 4 pm these are the best times to tan outside safely. If you want to tan darker and faster outside it’s better to tan during the peak hours of 11am-1pm, though keep in mind you will be be prone to skin damage during these time. Ensure you don’t spend too much outside while tanning as it can increase the risk of sunburn.   

Related Questions:

How Long Will It Take to Tan in the Shade?

The time needed to get a tan in the shade can vary significantly on the shade you are using, the intensity of sunlight, and your skin. If you are not wearing a good sunscreen with SPF of at least 20 or lying under a shade cloth, you might tan faster.

Sometimes, you can even get a tan or a sunburn within 10 minutes, though typically most people will need much longer to tan in the shade. Usually most people can tan within a few hours in the shade. 

Can You Get Burnt in the Shade?

Yes, it is entirely possible to get sunburn even in the shade. While effective shade can offer you protection, there are situations where you can still get skin burns.

In case of gaps and holes in the shade, the UV rays may reach your skin and cause severe damage. Similarly, reflected UV radiation from light surfaces such as concrete, light paint, metals, and even sand could damage your skin.  

Only solid roof structures tend to offer great protection against UV radiation. 

Can You Tan Without Sun?

Can you get tan in overcast weather is something that most people aren’t sure about. Even on cloudy days when the sun is not out, you can still get tanned.

Around 90% of the UV rays can pass through the clouds. While grey clouds can easily filter 53% of the rays, white clouds only filter 10%.

The UV radiation can still reach the earth and interact with the skin to give a tan. Given the cloudy weather, people tend to overexpose themselves and even end up getting a sunburn. It is important to apply sunscreen and protect the skin even if the weather is cloudy to protect skin from damage. 

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