Tanning and hot summer days go hand in hand. But does the hot weather mean you are tanning faster? How hot does it be to get a tan?
In fact, temperature has no impact on your ability to tan. Even if it’s cold outside, if the sun is in the sky, its rays will reach and penetrate your skin, causing it to change color (to tan).
Let’s have a more detailed look about why we tan, and whether temperature affects this.
Does Temperature Affect Tanning?
To understand whether temperature affects our ability to tan, we need to look at the tanning process and why our skin changes color in the first place.
Tanning occurs when skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays. Exposure to UV light triggers skin cells to produce melanin, and when this oxidizes, our skin changes color and becomes darker. Our bodies use melanin to protect cells from radiation injury, so whilst tanned skin is highly desirable, it is important to remember that it is also a sign of skin damage.
To return to the question, bearing in mind that a tan is a result of UV rays penetrating the skin, the outside temperature has no effect on how much you tan. The only thing that makes a difference is exposure to UV rays.
It is true that we tan more quickly in the middle of the day when the temperature is at its hottest. This is not, however, because of the heat, but rather because of the position of the sun in the sky. When the sun is at its highest point (in the middle of the day) the UV rays are at their most concentrated and therefore penetrate your skin faster (higher UV index).
It is also true that people tend to tan more in the summer than in the winter. But again, this is not because of the temperature itself, but rather the fact that warmer weather makes you more likely to expose more skin outdoors, allowing for more UV light to be absorbed by your skin. Those who have suffered from sunburn whilst skiing will agree that cold weather does not mean you won’t tan!
How Hot Does It Have to Be to Tan?
As discussed above, outside temperature will not have any effect on how much or how quickly you tan. The only thing to consider, then, is how comfortable you are being outside with your skin exposed.
For most of us who live through winters, the idea of lying outside in a bikini in the snow is not a pleasurable one. If you do have sunny days throughout the winter, however, and you don’t mind being cold, you can absolutely build a tan under the winter sun.
Personally, I like it to be a bit warmer before I dig out the sun lounger.
If you are tanning in cooler temperatures, make sure to keep a close eye on your skin to check for signs of burning. The same amount of damage will be happening even if you don’t feel heat from the day. Keep checking for redness in your skin and continue to apply sunscreen, just like when it’s hot.
Can You Tan in 18 Degrees?
Absolutely! Whilst it may not be the most comfortable temperature to lay outside in (we’re talking Celsius here, or 64 Fahrenheit), if your skin is exposed to UV rays, you will still tan.
Remember that colder weather makes it harder to realize when your skin is burning, so watch out for this if you plan to catch some sun on a cold day.
How Sunny Does It Have to Be to Tan?
Sun is the source of the UV rays that your skin absorbs to turn into tan. Bearing this in mind, you do need sun to tan naturally. It is, however, also possible to tan through cloud, and the effects can even be stronger because of the rays reflecting and magnifying off water droplets in the clouds.
Dermatologists recommend wearing a face cream with SPF30 year-round to protect your skin from sun damage, even in winter, suggesting that full sun is not needed to tan.