How Long Does a Tan Last?

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Laying on the beach, soaking up the rays, listening to the sound of the ocean… it’s all magic. You’ve got luscious, beautiful tanned skin, and you wish you could keep that look forever! But you can’t.

It fades, fast!

How long does a tan last? A tan isn’t going to last forever, of course! But by following a few tips, we’ll show you how to get extra mileage out of your beach color.

How Long Does a Tan Last?

A tan will last 7-10 days.

A tan is just a bunch of extra pigment (melanin) settled in the outermost layer of your skin. Because your skin naturally generates and shed millions of cells every day, the average life expectancy of a tan left is around 7-10 days, once you’re no longer regularly getting more sun.

Can a tan last forever?

Your tan can last essentially forever if you keep exposing yourself to more sun, and keep building your tan. But as soon as you stop, you’ll find your tan fading in a little over a week.

How Your Skin Tans

The sun’s UVA rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. When your body recognizes damage to your skin cells, it attempts to protect itself by triggering cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin.

Melanin is your body’s defense against Ultraviolet rays and what produces that brownish pigment on your skin (a.k.a. a tan).

This process has many benefits, both physical and mental. But it clearly has drawbacks, too – well-known drawbacks like cancer and premature aging. Be safe out there!

How Long Should I Tan Outside?

This depends on the UV Index, the time of day, what you have for a base tan, and on your natural skin color. You want to tan earlier in the morning, if possible.

Cover up or seek shade after about 10 or 11 am.

A solid base tan, or naturally dark skin, will provide some sun protection. We’re talking about an SPF 3, not an SPF 30 like most sunscreens. But that isn’t zero. It provides protection for about 45 min or so. Get your benefits of tanning during this time, and then apply sunscreen or (even better) cover-up.

See our article on outdoor tanning tips to maximize your suntan.

Can I Still Tan While Wearing Sunscreen?

It’s a common misbelief that if you are using sunscreen, suntan lotion, or tanning oil with a high SPF factor, that you cannot tan. How are you supposed to get a tan if you are literally blocking the sun that’s supposed to be tanning you?

SPF, or sun protection factor, only measures the ability to filter out UVB rays, which are (more) related to sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays are the longer waves that penetrate deeper into the skin and are responsible for tanning.

Whether it’s 15 or 50 SPF, unless it’s labeled a “broad spectrum SPF” which protects you against both UVA and UVB rays, most sunscreens are protecting you against UVB rays only.

This means that you can tan, even if your sun protection product contains SPF.

How Can I Make My Tan Last Longer?

Don’t exfoliate!

Exfoliation BEFORE you tan is great and will help your tan last longer, but exfoliating once you’re already tanned will remove a lot of dead skin cells that are essentially part of your tan.

Avoid Swimming

Swimming in chlorinated or salt water will dry your skin faster, causing your skin cells to shed faster, taking your tan along with it.


Make sure you moisturize regularly to keep your skin hydrated. Though swimming can cause your tan to fade faster, if you moisturize enough, you can counter the drying effects of swimming, so you can still have your tan and swim with it too!

Take Cool Showers

taking hot showers causes your skin to dehydrate and shed those skin cells more quickly.

Drink Water

Water keeps the skin healthy, supple and most importantly, hydrated, so make sure you’re drinking 2L a day.

Wear Sunscreen

There’s nothing that will get rid of a tan faster than a sunburn that dries out your skin. And if it peels, the sunburn will peel any tan you had with it. Your sunburn isn’t going to turn into a tan. It just will turn painful.

There’s only so much you can do to extend the life of your tan. Eventually, your skin cells will shed, along with your tan.

But here’s the good news: you can keep your bronzed appearance by using a Self Tanner or Bronzer.

Both self-tanners and bronzers add color to your skin to give you that sun-kissed look without the UV damage and threat of skin cancer.

Extending a Tan with Self-Tanners and Bronzers

Self-tanner is basically a suntan in a bottle. There are lots of different varieties of sunless self-tanners on the market, and they typically last about 7 days. We’ve looked at a whole bunch of them.

Start here:


Essentially bronzers are a topical cosmetic that contains a translucent color that temporarily darkens the surface of your skin and can be washed off. It’s makeup, not self-tanner (but sometimes self-tanners have bronzers in them.

Body bronzers come in many forms, including powder, mist, lotion, and spray formats. You can also choose between matte and shimmery finishes.

Take Away

How long do tans last, in the end?

A suntan will last 7 to 10 days before the skin starts to naturally exfoliate and regenerate. While no tan is permanent, with proper care you can extend the life of your tan by a few days.

Written by Kayla Young

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