How Long To Tan On A Cloudy Day: A Guide To Tanning Through Clouds

cloudy beach girl
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When your beautiful tan has already faded and you’re left with your usual pale skin tone, you can either flaunt your porcelain white skin or go for a tan. Either choice is great but if you’re more inclined to go for a tan, below is some useful information that’s great to know.

So you’ve decided to soak up the sun on your day off to achieve the bronze goddess complexion you’ve been dreaming of. The only problem is you can’t control the weather! Instead of seeing the sun shining brightly, you see clouds everywhere. 

You may start to frown and think that your sun tanning day is over. But have you ever asked yourself the question can you tan when it’s cloudy?

Yes, you can tan when it’s cloudy.

In this article, we’ll explain how clouds impact the UV Index, and how long to tan on a cloudy day.


Tanning Under The Sun

We all know that exposing the skin to the sun for quite some time can result in the darkening of its color and all the benefits (and well-known drawbacks) of tanning outside. This is due to the reaction of the skin to the ultraviolet radiation exposure that is present in the sunlight. 

Melanin is the pigment in the skin that is responsible for making it look darker. These pigments are naturally present in the skin and are there to protect the body against ultraviolet radiation. When the skin detects that it is exposed to UV light, it has a natural reaction to produce more melanin pigments, eventually to the point where you’re as tan as you can get.

This is the skin’s way of protecting itself so the tan color is just a side effect of the skin trying to protect itself from being exposed to UV rays. 

Sunning on the Sand

The beautiful tan color of the skin due to melanin is actually a combination of two processes. The first process is the actual oxidation of the melanin that is already in the skin due to absorbing UVA radiation.

In this process, the quantity of melanin remains the same, the melanin is just activated to protect against sunburn. 

The second process involves UVB radiation. With this type of ultraviolet light, the melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin, are triggered. With this process, the darkening of the skin doesn’t immediately show up.

The effects will usually become visible after a couple of days as the production of melanin also takes time. However, the tan from this process is more likely to last from a few weeks to months. 

Can You Tan When It’s Cloudy?

The sun’s rays are needed to produce tanned skin. But what happens when it is cloudy outside? You can still get a tan even when it is cloudy and overcast.

Here’s why.

As we discussed above, the skin gets tanned due to exposure to UVA and UVB rays. The sun’s rays are made of those, plus visible light as well. The ultraviolet rays can still penetrate the clouds. So even if it’s cloudy and overcast, your skin still gets exposed to them.

The skin gets tanned due to exposure to UVA and UVB rays. The sun’s rays are made of those, plus visible light as well. The ultraviolet rays can still penetrate the clouds. So even if it’s cloudy and overcast, your skin still gets exposed to them.

Remember that it is not the visible light that causes the tan.

That’s also the reason why you should take the same precautions while tanning on a sunny day when you’re tanning on a cloudy day. 

Some people make the mistake of exposing themselves for too long, tanning at the wrong time of day, or skipping on the sunscreen, thinking that they won’t get burned because the clouds provide some shade.

Precaution should still be practiced even if you are sun tanning on a cloudy day. If you don’t, you would be at higher risk of developing more serious health problems. 

You can even potentially tan in the shade, if you’re in a reflective environment like a beach.

Do you tan better with clouds?

Sometimes it can feel like you get more tan on a cloudy day. But the reality is that you don’t tan better with clouds. Although you can still tan even if there are clouds hiding the visible light from the sun, the ultraviolet rays that reach your skin are more or less the same as when there are no clouds.

Although you can still tan even if there are clouds hiding the visible light from the sun, the ultraviolet rays that reach your skin are more or less the same as when there are no clouds.

The clouds do not magnify the effects of the ultraviolet rays.

You won’t tan faster, and your tan won’t look better even if it’s cloudy. But what you may do without realizing it is to change your behavior. You may spend more time outside getting exposed than you realize, particularly if you don’t have that feedback of the sun’s rays visually on your skin.

Can You Tan Through Heavy Clouds?

The thicker the cloud cover, the less UV will hit your skin. Really heavy clouds will block most of the UV light as well, and you won’t get much of a tan.

How Long To Tan On A Cloudy Day

The more cloudy and overcast the day, the longer you can get UV exposure without burning. Really heavy cloud cover will slow your tanning rate to the point where you will barely notice any tanning going on at all.

The more cloudy and overcast the day, the longer you can get UV exposure without burning.

But mild, partly cloudy weather will make almost no difference in your tanning time. Again, the UV rays will pass through mild cloud cover (though some visual rays are blocked) so you’ll still get nearly full UV exposure through passing clouds.

Due to that, you should not spend long outside in the sun without sunscreen, even if there is some cloud cover.

If you’ve been out for more than 15-30 minutes without any sunscreen or sun protection, even on a cloudy day, it’s time to lather on some sunscreen or cover up, because you will likely start to burn shortly after that.

The UV Index And Clouds

The best way to judge your sun exposure is to look at the UV Index for your area for the day. When the UV index is high, you should be protected from the sun.

If the clouds roll in, you could think of it as the UV index being dialed down a bit. If your UV index is 8 with no clouds, but some light clouds roll in, maybe that brings the UV index down to 6. Heavy clouds might drop it to 3.

But remember, that you can certainly still get a tan while the UV index is 5 or 6, and you should be out of the sun when the UV index is high. So you still need to be cautious, even when it’s cloudy.

Dangers Of Tanning Under The Sun

The UV rays from the sun cause a reaction in the skin to darken it. However, that is not the only effect of UV rays. The darkening or tanning of the skin is the only obvious change, but there is also damage that happens to the skin.

The damage can increase the risk of developing different issues in the body involving the skin, the eyes, and the immune system. 


Sunburn is the skin’s reaction to UV exposure when it gets damaged. There might be immediate redness in the exposed area and peeling that follows after a few days. It is short-term damage and can go away on its own. 

However, it can also be painful. Some suggest taking cool baths to help soothe it. If the sunburn is severe, you might need to be medically examined and treated. Those with severe sunburn don’t only have reddish areas of the skin but also blistered skin. They may also experience fever and headache. 

It’s really easy to overdo it when laying out in the sun while it is cloudy. The sun is still there, and your body is still soaking in those rays, but it doesn’t quite feel like it. Bad sunburns are a frequent result of tanning too long on a cloudy day, so be careful.

The one thing that virtually all medical specialists agree on is that you really want to avoid sunburns as much as possible.

The one thing that virtually all medical specialists agree on is that you really want to avoid sunburns as much as possible.

And when your battered sunburned skin starts to peel, you’ll lose your color anyway.

Premature Aging

A tan can look great, but getting it often could increase the risk of premature aging. This photoaging can bring wrinkled skin and dark spots. The reason why this happens is that UV radiation can also damage collagen and elastin in the skin.

When this happens often, the skin loses elasticity, and folds or wrinkles are formed. Additionally, dark spots can also show up permanently. 

Solar Keratoses

This skin condition is a concern because it can develop into skin cancer. Like skin cancer, you should watch out for scaly bumps that are raised and rough.

These will usually be treated and removed by a dermatologist by using chemical peels or even liquid nitrogen.

Skin Cancer

There are many different factors that can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. It can be hereditary but exposure to ultraviolet rays can also cause it. This is because ultraviolet radiation damages the DNA of the skin cells, which could lead to abnormal growth.

Additionally, ultraviolet radiation can weaken the body’s immune system which helps fight cancer cells.

Treatment varies depending on the severity and type of skin cancer. However, it would be best to prevent it from happening in the first place. That’s why it is important to protect your skin when exposing it to ultraviolet rays. 

How To Tan Safely And Efficiently

Tanning under the sun always comes with risks.

As discussed earlier, we now know that the tanning of the skin is a sign of skin damage. The best way to avoid those risks is not to have a tan through sun exposure. There are alternatives like self-tanners and bronzers, like the L’Oreal Sublime Bronzer shown below, that could help you achieve a bronze glow.

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer Self-Tanning Lotion, 6.7 oz.

But these just aren’t the same as the real deal. If you really like to have a tan under the sun, there are ways to minimize the risks.

Such would involve the following: 

1. Do Not Rush Your Tan

Although you can see your skin darken a bit after tanning under the sun, you shouldn’t stay under the sun until you achieve the color you want. Take it slow and build up your color. You just can’t achieve that tan you want in just a single day, in one sitting. 

It is best to only spend about 10 to 15 minutes exposed directly under the sun, even if it’s cloudy. Use sunscreen after that point (see our article on how long to tan for more information).

And of course, you’ll still tan while wearing sunscreen. It will just take longer.

Remember that your skin can still darken even if you’re not in the sun as a result of the increase in melanin production. 

2. Prepare The Skin

Preparing the skin is a very important step in tanning. Whether you are planning to go under the sun or use products for a fake tan, preparation is key. The skin is prepared by gentle exfoliation and moisturizing it. 

Use an exfoliating scrub to help remove the dead skin cells. You can use exfoliating scrubs regularly as a weekly regimen to help make your skin smoother. Also, don’t forget to keep your skin nourished by using a moisturizer or lotion. Keep yourself well-hydrated too!

Drink a lot of water because it also helps keep your skin hydrated. 

3. Apply Sunscreen or Cover Up


Covering up is one option, and it’s a good one. But often you still want to be in the sun, so its time to put on an appropriate amount of sunscreen. This will help prevent too much exposure from the damaging ultraviolet rays. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen and of at least SPF-30 (we love the Blue Lizard sunscreen shown above). Apply it when you’ve reached your allotted time in the sun, and reapply every two hours.

If you get wet, reapply it.

Even if the sunscreen says it’s waterproof, it’s not.

Covering up is an excellent solution, but keep in mind that a great deal of beach clothing doesn’t provide much sun protection. You can still get sun exposure through clothing.

Protect Your Scalp, Eyes & Lips

Supergoop! Poof Part Powder SPF 45, 0.71 oz

The skin on your body isn’t the only part of your body that you should protect from the sun, you should also think about your scalp, eyes, and lips. A hat can help provide shade for your head and you can also use sprays like Coola’s mist hair sunscreen or powders like Supergoop that are specifically made for that purpose.

There are sunscreens (like Elta’s Clear Facial Sunscreen) suitable and gentle for the face that you can also apply around the eye area. However, remember that the skin on the eye area is very sensitive. You can wear some sunglasses to protect the skin around the eyes and to shield your eyes from the bright light of the sun too. 

Additionally, you shouldn’t forget to protect your lips from the sun too. There are lip balms that also contain SPF so you can also prevent your lips from painful sunburns.

Care For Your Skin After Sun Exposure

Even with sunscreen, you can still get some areas sunburned due to various factors. It’s possible that you missed a few spots, you didn’t reapply the sunscreen as needed, you didn’t give the sunscreen enough time for them to work or you exposed your skin under the sun for far too long. 

Whether you accidentally have sunburned parts or not, it is best to apply after-sun care products to help soothe and cool down the skin. 

Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Vera Gel | Vegan After Sun Care with Cocoa Butter to Soothe and Hydrate Sunburn | 8 oz
  • PROTECT YOUR SKIN. The key to practicing...
  • TRUST THE BUM. What does that mean? It...
  • TRUST THE BUM. What does that mean? It...

Drink Fluids And Hydrate

After exposing your body to the sun, you have to hydrate. You can even do this while sunbathing. This helps you from being dehydrated and overheated. If you don’t do this, you could feel lightheaded and dizzy.

Final Thoughts: Can You Tan Through Clouds?

Tanning under the sun is possible whether it’s a clear sunny day or a cloudy one. You absolutely can tan when it’s cloudy out! The UV rays are still able to penetrate through the clouds so you can still get a luscious tan.

However, you have to remember that tanning, even when it’s cloudy, causes damage to the skin, and overexposure to UV rays has its risks. 

The best way to minimize those risks is to avoid exposing the skin to the sun just to get a tan. However, if you’d really like to have that sunkissed glow, you can still minimize the risks by using the various products discussed above and applying precautions while sunbathing. 

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).