Can You Tan When It’s Cloudy or Get Sunburned When It’s Overcast?

woman tanning under clouds

Yes, it is possible to tan in cloudy weather and even to get burned if you’re not careful. Depending on the thickness of the clouds, there’s a chance that UV index levels are enhanced because light and thin clouds cause them to scatter.

Up to 80% of UV radiation is transmitted to the Earth’s surface even on cloudy days.

Lest we forget that tanning is even possible in the shade and that your surroundings can make all of the difference.

Grass, soil, and water reflect less than 10% of UV radiation, whereas sand reflects about 15% and sea foam 25% on average.

Read on to find out exactly why you can tan when it’s cloudy and for more tips on getting and maintaining the tan.

How Tanning Works

The first process is oxidation of the melanin in our skin due to absorbing UVA radiation, the quantity of melanin remains the same but it is activated in order to protect your skin against sunburn.

The second process is when UVB radiation triggers the melanocytes in your skin, the cells that produce melanin, which takes a few days and is the reason it takes some time for your skin to show its tan.

Unfortunately, a lot of tanners aren’t aware as to how tanning actually works and so they will often overexpose their skin, not taking into consideration that our skin needs time before any changes can be visible.

Amongst other things, the right time of day is also crucial to avoid sunburn.

Tan at The Right Times

It’s important to keep in mind that it is not visible light that causes our skin to tan. Our skin darkening is the result of two processes.

It may seem like between mid-morning and late afternoon are the ideal times for tanning, but this is quite the contrary. Tanning at these times, whether it’s cloudy or not, is a high risk when it comes to getting burned.

Sunburn is painful, irritating, and ruins your tan. So, when actively tanning, it is recommended to do so before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., avoiding the times when the sun’s rays are at their peak.

How Long Should I Tan for?

Depending on the climate you are in and what your skin type is, anywhere between 10-30 minutes is a safe amount of time to spend in the sun, both to maintain a tan as well as get enough vitamin D.

You can check out this article here for a more in-depth understanding of skin types and to identify your own.

Wear Sunscreen

To get a lovely and bronzed suntan, you should always wear sunscreen even if it’s overcast. The sun’s rays can still penetrate clouds and cause harm to your skin.

Yet another unfortunate misconception is that sunscreen stops you from tanning, which is absolutely not the case.

In fact, FDA regulations state that a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15, should always be worn – applied 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied no less than every two hours.

Move Around While Tanning

Despite the clouds in the sky, only a short amount of time exposed to the sun is necessary to activate the process of tanning that was mentioned earlier. 

To ensure an even tan, without patches or streaks, be sure to move around and change your position every few minutes so that every nook and cranny of your skin gets exposed. 

Elongate your body, spread out your arms and legs, switching sides every now and then.  

Use a Tanning Accelerator

Tanning accelerators are a godsend for tanners as they speed up your skin’s natural tanning process with active ingredients that boost the production of melanin.

These are great to use whether it’s cloudy, overcast, or sunny because they aid you by reducing the amount of time spent needed in the sun, thus the amount of damage is reduced as well.

In addition, tanning accelerators usually come in the form of an SPF formula or a hydrating after sun lotion. These are good for all skin tones to use and are especially useful for those who find it difficult to get a tan.

They can be applied both before and after tanning in order to prepare your skin for the sun and also to prolong the effects.

Prep Your Skin Before & After Tanning

How you care for your skin after and in between tanning can influence how well your tan looks and also how long it will last.

There are several things that can be done before and after tanning, such as exfoliating and moisturizing.

Exfoliating is great because you help your skin remove any dead skin cells from the outer layer, leaving yourself with a clean slate for new skin cells with pigment so it’s a good idea to do this sometime before tanning.

Keeping your skin hydrated with moisturizer is also very important to do at all times, both before and after tanning so that your skin is always soft and smooth. This is not just beneficial for the health of your skin in the long run, but it also ensures that your tan won’t have any streaks because of dry spots.

Consider Using Oil for Tanning

Tanning oils attract UV rays to your skin, triggering melanocytes to produce melanin resulting in a deeper, darker tan.

If you’re having trouble getting a tan on cloudy and overcast days, consider using coconut oil, olive oil, baby oil, or making your own DIY tanning oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Only about 15 minutes or so a day is needed, whether the sky is cloudy or not. A tan need at least several days to develop before it can be visible to the naked eye, and it has to be achieved gradually in order to prevent burning.

Do you get more sunburn when overcast?

Clouds don’t completely block out UV rays, just like sunscreen cannot filter them all out and fully protect your skin, so while it is still possible to get sunburned when it’s overcast the chances are not higher.

Can you tan while smoky?

Yes, the sun’s rays can still penetrate and reach you even if you can’t really see them, that’s why wearing SPF is always important.

Can you still tan with sunscreen on?

Yes, you can still tan with sunscreen on. In fact, it is recommended, since no sunscreen is able to 100% block out UV rays yet some protection goes a long way.

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