Do Sunburns Turn into Tans? (What You NEED to Know!)

woman skin sunburnt

If you have a gotten sunburnt you might be wondering if it will turn into in a tan after some time.

Whether your sunburn will turn into a tan is a bit unpredictable, for some people with certain skin types this might happen occasionally but for others it may almost never happen. There is no clear evidence one way or another but what you should know is that some sunburns can turn into a tan though often that is not that case depending on your skin type.

Below we will break down all the important details, so you know what to expect.

Understanding Tanning First

Before we break down when and why sunburns might turn into tans it’s first important we explain how tanning works in the first place to help you understand how this can happen.

If you get any burning or redness on your skin this is due to damage to the surface level of your skin. This causes an increased blood flow to the burned areas which is why sunburns often turn red and have a warm feeling.

The second part of this process in the tanning process itself. The body and the skin will increase melanin production in the skin which is to help protect the skin from damage. When you have more melanin in your skin your skin will darken and this is what causes the tanning effect in the skin.

Explaining UV Rays

If you sunburn your skin this will be due to a reaction to an overexposure of UV rays from the sun or even tanning beds.

There are 3 different kinds of UV rays, namely UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA rays are the rays which cause the tanning effect in the skin whereas UVB rays are the ones that can cause sunburn or skin redness or irritation.

Of course when you overexpose your skin to namely UVB rays this can lead to a sunburn on your skin. That’s happens due to skin inflammation and pain in the effected area. Sun burns can increase the chance of early aging of the skin and even skin cancer in the long run.

Skin Types & Sunburn

Depending on your skin type you may be much more prone to sunburn than tanning of the skin. Generally speaking the darker the skin the easier it will be too tan and the more fair the skin the easier it will be to burn.

For example if you have a pale white and very fair skin, it’s likely your skin will never tan and will only burn when exposed to too much UV light. For people with darker skin, it will be easier to tan with much less chance of sunburn.

The skin type that is most likely to burn and then for the burn to turn into a tan is the fair to beige skin type. People of this skin type usually have dark blond or light brown hair and typically have brown or hazel eyes.

Dealing With a Sunburn

If you have gotten a mild to moderate sunburn it’s recommended to treat it at home. Here are a few things you can do –

  • Take a cold shower multiple times per day to help cool out the burn.
  • Apply a cooling lotion to the affected area. An aloe vera gel is a particularly good choice because of its cooling effect, it will soothe the burning and also help prevent the skin from drying out.
  • Take medicine such an anti-inflammatories which will aid any swelling or pain.
  • If you have any skin blisters don’t pop them and if you have any skin peeling don’t pick or peel it.
  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water.

If you have a more severe sunburn such as many blisters or notice sensations of fever or chills then you should seek medical attention.

Tanning Advice

If you want to tan in the sun but are prone to burning then it’s recommended to apply a lotion with SPF of at least 15. This way at least a little UV rays will pass through and reach the skin but most likely not enough to cause your skin to burn. If you are planning on spending longer in the sun then you should be reapplying any sunscreen at least every 3 hours. If you want to stay protected in the sun check our article – Best Sunblock’s to Prevent Tanning.

Keep in mind that if you have very pale skin chances are that tanning in the sun to get a tan may not be possible for you. If you have tried it before and have only noticed your skin burning instead of tanning it may just be best to opt for another tanning alternative such as spray tanning or self-tanning.

Both spray tanning and self-tanning are good options if you want a tanning alternative that is both safe for the skin without any concern of burning the skin or over exposure to the sun. For some people with fair skin this will be the only option to get a natural looking tan.

How these products work is they have something in them called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA causes a reaction with the surface level of the skin which make the skin become darker and causes a tanned effect to the skin. This tanned effect usually lasts around 4-8 days’ time.


Some people’s sunburns may turn into a tan though this is not common for most skin types.

If your skin is burning before tanning this is a sign that you should find another way to tan your skin that won’t come with the negative effects of sunburnt skin in the long run.  

Important Questions

Do Sunburns Always Turn into a Tan?

No sunburns do not always turn into a tan. In fact, it’s more common that burns never turn into a tan.

How Long Does It Take for a Sunburn to Turn into a Tan?

If a sunburn does turn into a tan it will usually take a period of 1-4 days times. But this won’t always happen.

Does Sunburn Tan Go Away?

Yes a sunburn that turned into a tan will go away as quickly as any other tan. This is usually around 7-10 days for most people. But for certain skin types it could last for up to 30 days.

How Do I Make Sure Burn Turn to Tan?

There is no way to make sure that a burn will turn into a tan. It will only happen for certain skin types in certain situations.

Why Do I Tan Red Instead of Brown?

Some more fair skin types will turn red instead of brown. One common reason for this is because of something called pheomelanin. Pheomelanin is a kind of melanin that gives blonde or red hair it’s color. Pheomelanin is not as effective at protecting your skin from the UV than eumelanin. Eumelanin is what gives darker brown or black hair it’s color.

Therefore, when you spend too much time in the sun the pheomelanin will start to turn the skin red instead of brown. Another reason for the skin turning red is overexposure to the sun which causes the skin to burn and turn red.

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