How Long Does a Tan Last? & Do Sun Tans Go Away?

woman tanning

A tan typically lasts around 7-10 days’ time, this is around the point when the skin gradually starts to shed and exfoliate naturally which will often leads the tan to gradually fade. After the point when the tan starts to fade you can expect it to last up to 30 days depending on how deeply the tan had developed and your skin shedding timeframe.

The same can be said for a spray tan which typically lasts 5-8 days’ time. Spray tans can be more quickly and easily faded than a real tan usually. So, when you shower with a spray tan it’s more likely to fade it quicker than if it where a natural tan or from a tanning bed.

Below we will jump into more detail on how long a tan actually lasts and how long sun tans really take to go away along with advice on how to make your tan last even longer and more.

Understanding How Tanning Works

Before we talk more about how long a tan lasts we will first explain how tanning actually works.

When sun tanning the skin is exposed to UV rays which cause something in the skin called melanin to form. When melanin forms this makes the skin start to show of a brown glow which causes a tan in the first place.

The same type of effect happens when using a tanning bed as when you are laying in the sun – an effect where the UV rays namely UVA and UVB are used to create that same effect which causes the skin to tan.

In comparison though a tanning bed is more intense and will tan your skin more quickly than laying in the sun.

The third option for tanning is spray tanning or self-tanning. Typically, these kinds of products have two kinds of effects with them.

One is a bronzer than will instantly give the skin a bronzed look. Bronzer will immediately wash off while in the shower though. The other is something called DHA (dihydroxyacetone) which reacts with the skin to temporarily tan or darken the skin cells. DHA takes time to develop so it’s best to not shower soon after a spray tan to interrupt the time when the DHA is developing (4-6 hours).

How Long Does a Tan Last?

We will break down each of the different tanning methods and how long you can expect your tan to last for –

Sun tanning (natural tan) – a tan that is created naturally from the sun typically starts to fade around 7-10 days; this is the point where it will gradually start to fade as the old skin starts to replace itself with new skin. Typically, if the tan is a more deep rich color it will last to the longer end of this timeframe.

If you have a more minimal tan it’s less likely to last for as long.

Tanning bed – Tanning in a tanning bed has much the same effect as when you are tanning under the sun. The main difference is in a tanning bed the UV rays that are generated are artificial and have a much higher intensity than the sun. Actually, they are around 3 times more intense.

What this means is that you will tan more quickly but this doesn’t affect how long the tan lasts and you can expect the similar timeframe as with natural tanning of around 7-10 days when it starts to fade.

Spray tanning or self-tanning – how long a spray tan or self-tanner lasts depends on what how it is made up.

For example, you have bronzer which gives the instant color but will wash of quickly in 1 wash. The other part is DHA which takes some time to develop but can withstand taking a shower or the like.

So typically, if you have used a tanner with DHA you can expect it to last 5-8 days’ time. It will not last quite as long as a natural tan, but you can expect not too much shorter in comparison.

Can a Tan Be Permanent?

Sometimes we are asked the question if a tan can be permanent either from a self-tanner or naturally.

The simple answer is no, because the skin is constantly self-exfoliating and renewing, this means that any tan you have should fade over time as long as you stop or prevent any way you could be tanning such as naturally from the sun.

How to Keep a Tan from Fading

If you want to make your tan last as long as possible here we have a few tips and recommendations on how to get the most of your tan and prevent it from fading as quickly.

  • Exfoliate your skin before going to tan whether that be tanning in the sun, using a tanning bed or a spray tan. When you exfoliate this helps remove the older skin. When the skin is newer when it tans it should last longer and not fade as quickly.
  • Keep the skin moisturized. Skin that is dry is more likely to shed and be replaced with new skin. This means that when the skin is more moist it will take longer to naturally exfoliate which means retaining a tan for longer. We recommend: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • Avoid hot showers or baths. This is because hot water causes the skin to dry out more with ties in with our last point that dry skin needs to replace itself more often. Go for lukewarm instead or cold.
  • Obviously the best way to keep it from fading is tanning some more or topping up the tan with something like a tan extender or tan accelerator.

Why is My Tan Not Going Away?

A final question we want to cover is why is my tan not going away, and why does my tan last for months.

If you are still exposing yourself to too much sun light this can obviously prevent a tan from fading if you are still exposing yourself too it.

Another factor is a thing called hyperpigmentation which can lead to a tan lasting much longer if not permanently. It’s highly recommended that you see a medical professional such as a dermatologist to ask their advice on what their best form of treatment should be. This is important as each person may need a different approach.

Related Questions

How Long Does a Tan Last for Brown or Asian Skin?

The same can be expected for someone with brown or Asian skin as someone with lighter skin that a tan usually starts to fade after 7-10 days’ time and can last up to 30 days’ time.

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