Can You Tan In the Shade?

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Maybe you’re really comfortable sitting on the beach, under the protection of an umbrella or tree. Or maybe it’s not quite as sunny as you had hoped. In this article, we’re going to answer the question, “Can you tan in the shade?

The short answer is yes, you can tan in the shade. But it depends on the shade!

Along with answering and explaining this, we’re going to take a deeper look at the mechanics of tanning and why it may be more possible in the shade than you expect it to be. Finally, we’ll also explore whether it’s safer for you to tan in the shade rather than exposing yourself to direct sunlight.


Can You Tan in the Shade?

Recent research shows that you may be able to tan in the shade, which can have the positive side effect of ensuring that you don’t have to expose yourself to too much UV radiation.

The UV rays emanating from the sun are responsible for making our skin tan, but they’re also the reason why the sun is so dangerous.

When you’re sitting in the shade on a sunny day (or even on a cloudy day!), the UV rays that are responsible for tanning you will reflect off of your surroundings and eventually come into contact with your skin.

So can you tank in the shade? The short answer is yes, you can. And you will be exposed to a lower UV-Index, which is helpful for your skin.

This is especially true if you’re tanning in the middle of the day when the UV-Index is highest. If possible, it’s best to tan in the morning.

Tanning in the shade is most effective when you’re surrounded by things that will reflect the sunlight back at you.

This means that you’ll want to be surrounded by things that are as light as possible because lighter objects reflect more of the sunlight that impacts them. For example, if you’re surrounded by white sand on a beach, you’ll get more of the reflected UV waves than you would if you were in darker surroundings.

You’ll still get the benefits of tanning, but with a lower intensity. Sitting out when the UV Index is high is dangerous, and often leads to sunburn.

Another thing to consider is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be summertime for your skin to tan because of this.

Since the snow and ice that is so prevalent during the winter will also reflect the sun, it will be giving you a form of indirect suntan, it’s just that your body will be mainly covered by bulky winter clothing.

Even if you’re sitting in your room near a mirror or pane of glass that is reflecting sunlight onto your skin, most of the UV rays will be reflected onto you for an indirect tan. 

Exposing yourself to sunlight and UV waves will result in a few negative side effects, the most serious of which is the potential for skin cancer. UV rays are one of the main causes of skin cancers worldwide, so tanning in the shade may be a smart way to keep yourself healthy.

Another advantage to tanning in the shade is that you won’t have to worry about getting sunburned or having your skin peel off. This is especially true if you’re fair-skinned and don’t take too well to tanning. You’re less likely to get a sunburn, which is the worst thing you can do.

See our tanning tips for more information.

While you still may experience some more minor side effects from the reflected UV rays, UV Exposure is lessened.

Do You Have to Wear Sunscreen in the Shade?

Since many of the UV rays bounce off of reflective surfaces and come into contact with your skin, does that mean that you’ll have to wear sunscreen when you’re tanning in the shade?

You’ll likely be able to get away with using much less sunscreen if you get in the shade during the hottest part of the day. In fact, it is probably better to get in the shade during the early afternoon rather than slather on sunscreen and stay in the sun.

As there is at least theoretical evidence that chemical sunscreens could possibly cause cancer, if you can just get out of the direct sun, you’ll be in better shape.

UV emissions from the sun are at their strongest at midday when most people try to go out and bronze their skin with the sun’s beams.

The best way to protect the sun from prematurely aging your skin and eventually causing complications is to stay out of it altogether.

How to Take Advantage of Shade When Sunbathing

There are a few techniques that you can use to make the most of shade when you’re trying to tan. The two ways of going about it are creating your own shade and using existing shade that’s already present in the environment.

Both of these methods have their pros and cons, so the ideal choice is really up to you.

Using Existing Shade

The quickest way to ensure that you aren’t exposed to the sunlight when you’re tanning is to take advantage of shade that’s already there. This shade can be formed by things like buildings or other obstacles that are there to impede the sun.

If you’re on a tropical beach, for example, you can seek some respite in the shade of a coconut tree or another convenient natural obstacle that will keep the harmful rays of the sun from touching you. The main advantage of using pre-existing shade is that you won’t have to pay for something like an umbrella.

Try Tan-Through Swimwear

Tan-through swimwear will help you tan your whole body using fabric that lets the sun’s rays through but retains its solid appearance.

Create Your Own Shade

If you’d rather be able to position yourself wherever you’d like while you’re getting a tan in the shade, you can bring something like an umbrella along to shelter you from the sun. If you’re going to the beach, you’d be better off with something like a beach umbrella that will be able to resist the saltwater.

The downside to bringing along an umbrella to create your own shade for tanning is that you have to carry it along with you. There are also mini beach umbrellas that you can carry along in a sling that won’t encumber you to an unnecessary extent.

While it may be a little inconvenient to carry around an umbrella whenever you want to enjoy a tanning session, it will save your skin from the aging effects of the sun.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).