How Can I Tan My Legs Fast?

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Your legs look like you’ve been vacationing at a research base in Antarctica, but you want to wear a cute mini skirt or that great bathing suit! What do you do? You don’t want to blind everyone with your pasty white legs, so you’re wondering how can I tan my legs fast?

If you’re looking for glowing, bronzed, tanned legs like you’ve just spent the last couple of weeks basking in the rays of the French Riviera, but you want them tanned, like right now! – we are going to look at some different options available to accelerate tanning your legs.

In our list, we go over some tanning methods out there that we do not recommend, and we’re going to tell you why.

And of course, we’ll also touch on a few tips for those wondering how to tan legs quickly in the sun.

You can be fully informed to make a decision about the safest and most effective way for you to get your desired results.


How Can I Tan My Legs Fast?

Beauty By Earth Self Tanner

Gah, why won’t my legs tan?! Many ask that question, as sometimes the legs tan at a different rate than the rest of the body.

We are going to get into the different ways to accelerate your leg tanning below and give you the benefits and drawbacks of each of the options available, as well as the approximate times required for these options to work their magic.

But before we dive into fake tans and bronzers, let’s check in with the sun!


How to Tan My Legs Quickly in the Sun

When you tan in the sun, sometimes your legs don’t tan at the same rate as the rest of your body. This may be because your legs have less melanin in them than other parts of your body. Or maybe you’re using poor technique and forgetting to regularly reposition your body.

And did you remember to exfoliate and shave your legs before you hit the beach? Both of these will help improve the tan on your legs. What about moisturizing after tanning?

All of these factors, and more, can play into how fast your legs tan at the beach.

See our article on outdoor tanning tips for some expert guidance on how to tan your legs naturally.

The bottom line is that there’s no easy way to make your legs tanner in the sun. If you try to push things too far, you’ll just burn. Burned skin doesn’t look good, is unhealthy, and won’t turn into a tan.

Building a base tan takes time, and there are no shortcuts.

If you need your legs tan now, your best bet is to go the fake bake route and explore tanning waters, self-tanners, and bronzers.

If you need your legs tan now, your best bet is to go the fake bake route and explore tanning waters, self-tanners, and bronzers.


Sunless Self-Tanners

Tanning Mousse

A sunless self-tanner is basically a suntan in a bottle.

There are lots of different varieties of sunless self tanners on the market, from lotions  and mists  to  foams , mousses  and serums .

Here are a few starter recommendations:

The active ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which works by reacting with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

If you are looking for a quick leg tan with zero sun exposure, a sunless self-tanner is a perfect option.

If you are looking for a quick leg tan with zero sun exposure, a sunless self-tanner is a perfect option.

There is a formula of self-tanner out there for everyone. This is one of the safest ways to get a quick tan because there is no UV exposure.

But sunless self-tanners come with their own set of drawbacks.

A self-tanner can give you a streaky uneven result if you are not applying it properly (use a mitt if you can). They’re hard to apply to your back. They take a while to dry. They can also get messy.

You run the risk of staining clothes and bedsheets if you don’t give them enough time to dry. During application, it can stain your hands, floors, cabinets, etc. if you’re not careful.

If you are using a mist, it’s best to get into the tub or shower that has surfaces that are easily wiped down to do it because there will be overspray.

How Fast Does A Sunless Self-Tanner Work?

Self-tanners take around 4-8 hours to develop. Usually it’s best to apply them before bed, and shower in the morning.


Self-Tanning Water

Fake Bake Tanning water

Self-tanning water is a water-based clear spray, blended with moisturizing ingredients and dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. It hydrates the skin while creating a temporary simulated tan.

Sounds a lot like a self-tanner, right? Well it is actually. It works the same way, by using DHA to simulate a tan, but there are some key differences:

  1. It’s transparent. There’s no mess and no staining.
  2. It’s lightweight. While it’s on, you don’t even know it’s there
  3. It’s hydrating. Unlike self-tanners that leave your skin feeling dry, tanning water is packed with hydrating ingredients that keep your skin moisturized.
  4. No waiting. Once applied it gets absorbed quickly and dries fast.

Self-tanning water eliminates a lot of the drawbacks of self-tanners. But it comes with a few of its own.

Uneven Coverage

Because tanning water often comes in a spritz bottle, it can sometimes be hard to spray at certain angles to get hard-to-reach places. If you are only doing your legs, it should not be as much of a problem as it would be if you were doing your whole body.

Hard To Tell Where You’ve Already Covered

With bronzing self-tanners, it’s pretty easy to tell where you’ve already hit with the tanner, and where you still have unexposed skin. With tanning water, your skin doesn’t change color at all, so it’s hard to tell if you’ve missed a spot.

Clinginess

Self-tanning water seems to be even more ‘clingy’ than self-tanners, so you really need to make sure any extra dry areas of skin are sorted before application. 

Exfoliation

One of the keys to sunless self-tanning, whether you are using a self-tanning water or a sunless self-tanner, is to exfoliate and make sure your skin is properly hydrated.

Areas like knees and elbows need special attention. These products will cling to dry skin, resulting in darker areas and an uneven tan.

Awkward hands and feet are always a giveaway for a bad spray tan or sunless tan.

Now, this may not be an issue for the more experienced sunless tanner. But because tanning water is clear, it’s hard to see if you’ve missed a spot, which can result in a patchy finish.

How Fast Does Self-Tanning Water Work?

Self-tanning water takes around 4-8 hours to develop


Bronzer

Sally Hansen Bronzer

Bronzer adds color to your skin to give you that sun-kissed look without the UV damage. You can also choose between matte and shimmery finishes.

Essentially, bronzers are a topical cosmetic that contains a translucent color that temporarily darkens your skin, that can be washed off.

Think of it like tanning makeup.

The best thing about bronzer is that it’s the fastest way to get a simulated tan on our list. You just apply and – voilà! All of the benefits of a suntan without the risks of UV exposure. 

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The only drawback is that although bronzer may make you look tanned, it does not protect you from UV damage if you are planning to spend time outdoors, showing off your gorgeous gams.

And you may not want to put sunscreen on top of bronzer because it could mess up your fake tan. But there’s a solution for that too!

There are several sunscreens that come with bronzer added that make you look tanned but protect you from the sun at the same time!

Australian Gold makes a spray gel sunscreen with Instant bronzer  that has an SPF of 50 and a waterproof sunscreen lotion with bronzer  with SPF 30. Pacifica makes a with 30 SPF.

How Fast Does Bronzer Work?

Instant results! Beautifully quickly tanned legs!

But it washes off in the shower.


Tanning Oil

Tanning Oil

Tanning oil intensifies your skin’s response to being exposed to the sun’s UV rays to help you develop a deeper and darker tan in a shorter period of time.

It works by attracting and focusing UV rays onto the skin and accelerating the production of melanin, which gives your skin a darker color.

Here are a few places to start:

The level of SPF in the tanning oil you should be using will depend on your skin tone and your frequency of getting sunburned.

And herein lies the drawback of tanning oil.

You are no doubt aware that tanning in the sun comes with both benefits and significant health risks. Like premature skin aging and cancer.

Most tanning oils have either inadequate or no SPF. The fairer your skin and prone to burning, the higher SPF you need.

Tanning oil does not come in SPF higher than 15.

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If you have a very fair complexion, you should not use tanning oil. Opt for one of the other quick tanning methods.

How Fast Does Tanning Oil Work?

How long it takes to tan is different for everyone. Your skin tone will dictate how long it takes for you to tan (see our tanning tips for more information)

Someone who is very fair and has very light skin, blue eyes and red hair, for example, may not even tan. They’ll just burn.

Tanning oil is not the best option for those with the fairest skin that burns quickly and easily. It won’t make you tan, it will just make you burn faster.

How fast you tan using tanning oil will also depend on where you are geographically. The closer you are to the equator, the closer you are to the sun and the stronger the UV rays (see the UV Index for more information).

Whereas if a particular person might take 20-30 minutes to get a noticeable color change in full sun in Northern Canada, that same person in Columbia, Kenya or Indonesia may be burned to a crisp in the same amount of time.

Likewise, the sun’s UV rays will be stronger in Southern Texas or Florida, than they are in North Dakota.


Fast Tanning Methods We DON’T Recommend

Tanning Beds

It is estimated that 20 minutes on a tanning bed or in a tanning booth can be equivalent to approximately four hours in the sun.

So if you are looking for the fast track to a tan, you might think this is the answer. What you also need to know is that tanning beds also put you on the fast track to skin cancers as well.

According to the Indoor tanning Fact Sheet released by the American Academy of Dermatology, just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%).

Tan Accelerators with Tyrosine

This supposed tanning boosting product is meant to be used for indoor tanning, in a tanning bed or booth. Even if you don’t heed our advice about not using tanning beds, you should know that most tan accelerators (sometimes called tan maximizers) contain the amino acid tyrosine or tyrosine derivatives as the active ingredient.

According to the American Cancer Society: “…lotions or pills that contain the amino acid tyrosine or its derivatives, do not work and may be dangerous. Marketers say these products stimulate the body’s own tanning process, but most evidence suggests they don’t work. The FDA considers them unapproved new drugs that have not been shown to be safe or effective.”


Wrap Up

If you’re asking – how can I tan my legs fast? – the fastest way is to use a Bronzer. It’s much less messy to apply than self-tanners. It’s also much safer than using tanning oil to tan in the sun.

Sunless self-tanners and self-tanning waters are also safe ways to tan your legs fast, though not as fast as bronzer. They usually take from 4-8 hours to work, and they both use DHA that reacts with your surface skin cells to get a tanned look, instead of harmful UV rays.

Tanning oil is your best bet for a fast, dark, natural tan from the sun. As there is no such thing as a safe suntan, there are a few things you can do to minimize the health risks of sun exposure when using tanning oil:

  • make sure your tanning oil has an SPF of at least 15 (more if you are fair-skinned)
  • change positions frequently so you get an even tan, about every 15-20 minutes
  • after a few hours in the sun, if you are planning to stay in the sun for an even more extended period of time, switch from the tanning oil to a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • try to avoid the sun at the hottest times of the day – between 10am and 2pm
  • apply a high level SPF sunblock or sunscreen to your lips and ears, which tend to burn more quickly than other parts
  • moisturize! Once you get your tan – don’t forget to moisturize in the following days. It will keep your tan looking better, longer and your skin hydrated.

Stay away from tanning beds/booths and tan accelerators. Regardless of how great you think you look with a tan, it’s not worth risking your long-term health.

Written by Kayla Young

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