Tanning Tips for Pale Skin That You Wish You Knew Sooner

pale skin tanning

Having a fair complexion is not something that should stop anyone from achieving a tanned look, be it just for the summer or all year round.

Pale skin does need to be approached with caution though when it comes to tanning due to how easily it can burn.

Read on to understand how to approach tanning if you burn easily and tips that you’re going to wish you knew sooner.

Choose Your Method

The first thing when it comes to tanning for pale skin is choosing your method of tan. Each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages and have to be done with caution when you have skin that burns so easily.

There’s the natural way with the sun, tanning beds, or means of fake tans such as sprays and lotions.

The Sun

With the sun, it’s important to choose the right hours; before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. is when the sun’s rays are less damaging on the skin, and the timing is key. For more on this check out our article – best time to tan outside.

You don’t need to spend long at all in the sun to get a tan, you only need 10-15 minutes a day at most to start with.

Always wear protection, even when tanning, of at least SPF 30 sunscreen.

After about a week, you can increase the time by just five minutes up to 15-20 minutes in total. Let another week or more pass until you can cap out at 30 minutes, but this is the maximum amount of time you should spend in the sun.

Moreover, it is not always necessary to be directly in the sun to get a tan. UV rays, similarly, to light, can bounce and reflect off surfaces such as water and sand so it’s a good idea to be weary as you can tan/burn much more quickly in these places. And believe it or not you can even tan in the shade.

Sun Beds

Getting a tan with fair skin when using a sunbed might seem tricky or complicated but it’s not really. Simply start with a tanning session of only 2-3 minutes, and space out the sessions between – it’s important not to go every day even the FDA has a 24-hour tanning rule.

Keep in mind that the production of melanin in your skin cells does not stop once you get out of the sunbed (or stop sunbathing in the sun) and continues for a couple of hours after.

What matters is that your cells get stimulated by the rays to start the tanning process, which is why that rest period between sessions is ever so important.

Begin increasing the number of minutes gradually (by 1-2 minutes at a time) once you start seeing a tan develop.

For some people with pale skin, you may instead start to burn when using a tanning bed instead of actually tanning, in this case stop tanning bed use and instead opt for our next recommended option. 


Sprays, lotions, and other forms of fake tan are a great method of getting a tan without any harm to our skin, especially for those who can’t tan due to fair skin that burns too easily.

Visiting a beauty salon each time for a high-quality spray does provide a good result but this can be costly with time – luckily there are other alternatives for those who wish to utilize them.

If you’d like a more in-depth look and some more tips regarding spray tan specifically, check out this article on Spray Tan Tips For Pale and Fair Skin.

One such example of an alternative is with the use of natural vegetable dyes that stain the skin, although these only last a few days, any method of tanning cannot last longer than about a week due to our skin ‘shedding’ off dead cells from its outer layer.

Also, this article – Permanent Self Tanner, goes into more detail as to why a tan of any kind cannot last for very long.

There are plenty of DIY self-tanner recipes out there – if that’s your thing.

Bronzers, on the other hand, wash off with soap and water but provide a lot of flexibility, and there are lotions that you can apply yourself at home with a tanning mitt. Don’t forget to check out our own specially made tanning mitt – blackout tanning mitt.

Don’t forget that none of these methods provide any sort of protection from the sun, so a good quality SPF sunscreen is still important if you find yourself exposed to the sun.

Exfoliate & Moisturize

Exfoliating before a tanning session is crucial as it helps your skin get rid of any dead skin cells that it hasn’t yet, providing a clean slate for your tan. This also ensures that you won’t have any patches in your tan due to mismatching pigments.

Keeping yourself hydrated works in your favor; this needs to be done inside and out so you also need to drink plenty of water.

Moisturize is important, not just once but this should be a daily routine. The more nourished your skin is, the better the tan can set and develop. By keeping your skin moisturized, you also make your tan last longer since you’ll lose cells at a slower rate.

Pay extra attention to your drier areas, such as your knees, elbows, hands, and feet. Otherwise, the tan will be streaky due to the dryness or even become orange.

Tan Accelerators

Using a tan accelerator can be really helpful for those with fair skin and freckles because it speeds up the process of tanning by kick-starting your own natural process.

If you’re tanning with the sun, you should apply a tan accelerator over your SPF sunscreen whereas if you’re using a sunbed, you should apply it before going in.

You should opt for tan accelerators with carrot and/or coconut or watermelon in the ingredients as they work well with tanning and have many benefits for your skin and body as a whole.

Eat Well

A person’s diet doesn’t always have anything to do with how well they tan but when you have sensitive and pale skin that loves to burn, it can really make a huge difference.

The production of melanin is thought to be promoted by food rich in antioxidants such as dark, leafy greens, dark berries, dark chocolate, and vegetables.

Scientific data is continuously emerging based on this. One such study by Ross D. Whitehead et.al, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes, published on The National Center for Biotechnology Information, is a good example of this.

Plenty of flavonoids or polyphenols are also great, which can be found in green tea and turmeric, as well as Vitamin A (carrots, spinach, peas, squash, sweet potatoes, fish, & meat), Vitamin C (citrus, berries, leafy greens), and Vitamin E (grains, seeds, nuts) so make sure that all of these are in your usual diet.

Scroll to Top