How Long Does It Take to Tan in the Sun?

woman tanning in the sun

Nothing beats the feel and look of a natural tan achieved by lounging in the sun. Considering this it’s important to know how long you need to stay in the sun and therefore what is the best time to tan comes into account.

So how long does it actually take? Well, it can be as little as 20 minutes to as long as 2+ hours depending on many factors such as skin type and UV strength. Below we will delve into the details now. 

How Long Can It Take to Tan in the Sun?

The time you will need can depend on plenty of factors and may vary from person to person. While most people need hours to achieve a deeper and darker tan, some might even get it within a span of 15 minutes.

Oftentimes, the tan might not show up on your skin instantly. Your skin will need time to produce melanin after exposure to UV radiation from the sun. If you overexpose your skin, it might lead to skin damage and sunburn.

Therefore, it is essential to start with less time, especially if you’re a beginner. Start with 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at once, and then wait to check the results. In case you’re aiming for a darker shade, you can again step out in the sun after the break for another 15 minutes. It will help you get a tan more safely without damaging your skin.     

What Factors Affect the Tan Duration?

Tanning in the sun can be a tricky affair since you have to time it right. The perfect duration can depend on a wide array of factors, and some of them are:

Your Skin Tone:

The tone or shade of your skin can have a significant impact on it. People who have a lighter skin tone will need more time to develop a tan. It can take anywhere near an hour to see a visible tan, but using sunscreen with SPF 15 is recommended.

If you have light or even pale skin, you are also more prone to skin burning. It is wise to tan for a shorter span of time and keep changing your position frequently to avoid damaging your skin.

Alternatively, in case you have a darker skin tone, you can achieve a flawless tan in a shorter span of time. Just 30-45 minutes of exposure to sunlight might give you a darker tan. While the chances of getting a sunburn are less, you should still apply sunscreen all over your body. 

Sun Exposure:

There is a massive difference between tanning and overexposure. You can just go and sit under the sunlight, but if you stay for too long, you might end up getting skin damage. Here, it is imperative to use caution while tanning.

The angle of the sun and the time of the day can impact the level of tan you get. If you are in an area closer to the equator, you are more likely to get a more deep and dark tan. On the contrary, if you’re away from it, you will require more time to develop a tan.  Moreover, if the sun exposure is direct and without any shade, you will tan quickly.

The best way to judge sun exposure is by the UV index which measures the strength of the UV depending on where you live and the time of the day etc. The higher this number the faster you can tan. The best index level for tanning is around 3-5 without being too high for risk of burning, check out our article for more information – what UV index is best for tanning.

The time of the day you decide to step out can also affect how long you will need to tan. Sunlight is the strongest between 10 am in the morning and 4 pm in the evening, making it the best time to tan.

You can tan much quicker if you are out within this period; however, you are also more prone to damage. If you want to tan safely, you must do so before 10 am or post 4 pm, but it will require much more time. 

Climatic Conditions:

The answer to the common doubt of how long to tan depends on the climate and environment of your area. Snow can strongly reflect the sunlight, forcing the people who want to ski to wear a strong sunblock to prevent damage.

Similarly, humid conditions around the beach can impact your tanning sessions. Both sand and water are good reflectors and can reflect the sunlight back to your body, thus fastening the tanning process. You will be able to achieve a darker and deeper tan on a sandy beach than a park.  

Dry climates can often strip moisture from your skin, making it difficult to get an even tan. You must moisturize your skin well before and after tanning to get the desired results. 

Safety Precautions:

While sunlight is good for your skin and overall health, it also poses risks. The Ultraviolet (UV) radiation present in the sunlight brings with it can cause severe skin damage, sunburns and even lead to early signs of aging. It becomes imperative to wear sunblock to minimize the harmful effects of sunlight and get a darker tan without burning.

How to Tan in the Sun?

In case you want to get a natural tan by lounging in the sunlight, you must take the necessary measures to prevent any skin damage and tan safely. Some of them are:

Take a Shower:

Start by taking a shower to cleanse your skin. It can help remove dirt, grime, and oil from your skin pores and make it smooth. Showering also hydrates your skin which is essential since tanning in the sun can dehydrate you.   


Exfoliating your skin can remove the build-up of dead cells from the top layer of your skin called the epidermis. Use a gentle organic scrub to exfoliate your skin while showering to rejuvenate skin. It will ensure you can get a smooth and even skin to tan. 

We Recommend: First Botany Himalayan Salt Detox Scrub


Dry skin is the hardest to tan, which is why you might face difficulty in tanning your knees or elbows. You must keep your skin nourished by using an organic moisturizer. Make sure it doesn’t contain artificial ingredients that can irritate your skin.    

Use Sunscreen:

An essential thing to remember while you’re going to tan in the sun is investing in a high-grade sunscreen with high SPF. Apply it generously over your skin before stepping out and reapply after every 2 hours. Keep changing your position to get an even tan and prevent damage from overexposure. 

We Recommend: Sun Bum SPF 30 Spray

Related Questions:

How Can I Tan Faster in the Sun?

If you want to tan faster in the sun, you must step out between 10 am to 4 pm but make sure you wear sunscreen and tan only for short intervals. You can also use tanning lotion, tanning oil or baby oil to accelerate the tanning process.  

Are 30 Minutes Enough to Tan in the Sun?

If you have dark skin tone, you might be able to get a base tan within 30 minutes. But, for people with light skin, 30 minutes of sun exposure might not give a darker tan. You can schedule a 30 minutes session daily to build it up. 

How Many Degrees Does It Have to Be to Get a Tan?

The degrees, air temperature, or heat have no connection with the UV radiation you get from the sunlight. You can tan even if there are cold climatic conditions or it is snowing. There is certainly no minimum temperature for getting a tan as it will have no impact on UV rays. For more on this check our article – how hot does it have to be to tan.

How Long Can It Take To Build a Base Tan?

The time you will need to develop a base tan depends on your skin type and sun exposure. Ideally, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour to build a base tan.  

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