Looking for bronzed skin glowing like you’ve just spent the last couple of weeks basking in the rays of the French Riviera? Don’t have the time to get a tan the old-fashioned way? We are going to look at a few different ways of how to get a tan in one day.
Before we get into all of that, it’s important to know how your skin develops a tan and how SPF works in different products, to fully understand the associated risks of different tanning methods. This way you can choose the safest and most effective way for you to get your desired results.
How Does Skin Tan?
The sun’s UVA rays penetrate the lower layers of the skin where they trigger cells called melanocytes to produce melanin. Melanin is your body’s defense against Ultraviolet rays and reacts by producing a brownish pigment on your skin (i.e. your tan).
That “healthy glow” is your body’s reaction to skin damage from the sun. Yes, there are many significant benefits to tanning, and they’re often overlooked.
But there are significant risks to tanning too, including melanoma.
How long does it take to get a tan?
Your skin tone will dictate how long it takes for you to tan and/or burn. Someone with darker-toned skin could get a noticeable color change in their skin within 30 minutes of sun exposure, whereas someone who has a lighter skin tone may take a lot longer.
Someone who is very fair and has, for example, very light skin, blue eyes, and red hair may not even tan. They just burn and become a lobster.
Yes, many of us have been there. Many times.
See outdoor tanning tips for how to tan better outside.
SPF in tanning/sunscreen products
The way SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, works is that if your unprotected skin would normally take 10 minutes to get a sunburn, then applying a sunscreen with SPF 15 would take your skin 15 times longer to burn, i.e. you could spend 150 minutes longer in the sun without burning.
SPF is only the measure of the blocking power of Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which will give you a sunburn. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are the deeper penetrating rays that tan your skin. What this means is that, contrary to popular belief, you can use sunscreen and still tan.
The SPF doesn’t affect your tanning time or the color you develop. It just means you can spend longer in the sun before you show signs of burning.
Now if you are looking for quick results, normal sunscreen with an SPF is not going to get you a dark tan in one day, so let’s look at some other products that can.
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.
Tanning oil actually attracts and focuses UV rays onto the skin and accelerates the production of melanin, which gives your skin a darker color.
Although tanning oil is a quick tanning solution, it’s important to make sure that any tanning oil you use has an SPF of 15-50. The level of SPF will depend on your skin tone and your propensity to getting sunburnt.
A lot of tanning oils on the market do not have adequate SPF, but here are a couple that do:
is one of the few tanning oils with such a high SPF. Hawaiian Tropic Tanning Oil has been around for decades, but they now produce higher SPF versions with the same unmistakable coconut fragrance.
Now tanning oil can seem like the perfect solution – less exposure with a darker, faster tan! Yes, this is true, but the one thing you need to take into consideration is that covering yourself in oil, even one with a higher SPF, refracts UV light from the sun, amplifying the intensity of the sun’s UV rays.
If you are planning to spend an entire day in the sun, you can start off with tanning oil, and after a couple of hours, switch to a sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30 (or higher of you are extremely fair).
To get the full scoop on tanning oil and whether it’s the right choice for you, check out our other blog article is tanning oil bad for you?
It is estimated that 20 minutes on a sunbed 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 and indoor UV lights 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 Dematology, 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%).
The only reason we added tanning beds to the list, is to advise against them.
Sunless Self Tanners
Now if you are looking for a quick tan with zero sun exposure, a sunless self-tanner aka a fake tan is the way to go.
The active ingredient in most 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.
We’ve looked at several great self-tanners. Here’s a resource to get you started:
- Tan Physics Review: Beautiful True Color Sunless Tanner
- Mystic Tan Reviews. Find the Perfect Mystic Tan for Your Needs!
- Beauty By Earth Self Tanner Review
- 7 Best Self Tanners For Beginners
The final piece to getting tan in one day is to employ bronzers. Bronzers are essentially makeup that produces a tanned glow. Unlike self-tanners, bronzers wash off in the shower.
Many self-tanners and tanning lotions contain bronzers. They give you instant color while the self-tanner does its thing overnight, or the tanning lotion helps you tan in the sun. So you may not need to add a separate bronzer on top.
How to Get a Tan in One Day – Wrap up
Tanning oil is one your best bets for a fast, dark 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 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 15
- 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.
Sunless self-tanners are a perfectly safe way to get a tan in a day. They usually take from 6 to 10 hours to work and most use DHA that reacts with your surface skin cells to get a tanned look, instead of UV rays.
Your sunless tan should last around 7-10 days.
Bronzers will provide instant color while the self-tanner does its thing. They may be part of the self-tanner formula or may be applied separately.
It’s important to note that a tan from self tanners does not provide you with an increase in sun protection. You still need to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 if you are spending time outside in the sun.
So whether you get your tan from the sun or out of a bottle, you can get a tan in a day. Just be mindful of sun overexposure and stay away from tanning beds. Regardless of how great you think you look with a tan, it’s not worth risking your long term health.