Why Does My Face Not Tan? Answered!

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We have all been there, it’s the end of the vacation and you have a beautiful golden tanned body, but the face is left pale and white, or red and burned. Many have wondered: Why does my face not tan?

What’s the deal, why does my body tan but not my face? 

It takes time to develop the perfect golden tan. And it is important to take the proper care when exposing the skin to direct UV rays.

Even with the risks and damage caused by sun exposure, there are safer ways to get a nice tan on the face and the body. 


How Does Skin Get Tanned?

First, how does skin get its tan color? Melanin is what gives skin its color. When we expose our skin to the UV rays from the sun or from tanning bed bulbs this causes a form of damage to the cells. This impacts melanin production, causing it to increase in reaction. 

There are benefits to this tanning process, but there are also well-known risks like skin cancer.

The more exposure to UV rays, the more melanin will be produced, causing the skin to get darker.

Different areas of the body have different textures of skin that contain different amounts of melanin. 

For example, the thicker areas of skin contain more melanin than thinner areas. With the different amounts of melanin, this can result in many areas of the body having a slightly different color tan, not only the face.

Why Does My Face Not Tan?

The skin of the face is quite a bit different than the skin on our body. The biggest difference is the amount of melanin found in the face. With less melanin in the face, there are not as many skin cells exposed to UV rays.

Another issue is the facial skin sensitivity and thickness. The skin on the face is typically thinner and more delicate.

This means there is usually a fine line between getting a sunburn and a nice tan.

How To Tan Your Face

Our body has thicker skin and likely tans more evenly. When exposing the face to UV rays, sometimes it is difficult to avoid sunburn and achieve a nice even tan.

Try some of these steps to take for a great tan on the face.

Start off slow

Considering the sensitive skin on the face, try a gradual approach to the perfect tan.

Only expose your face to UV rays in small increments, and use other methods of sun protection.

Apply an Accelerator

If you are in a tanning bed, using a tanning lotion will help boost the UV rays to the skin, while protecting from sunburn. We’ve looked at several, including Maui Babe, Paint it Black 50x, and Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses.

You can also apply a tanning lotion specifically designed for the face, like Millennium Facial Bronzer Lotion . This can help significantly.

Millennium Tanning Solid Black Facial Bronzer, Skin-Firming Tanning Lotion for Face, 4 ounces
Millennium Tanning Solid Black Facial Bronzer, Skin-Firming Tanning Lotion for Face, 4 ounces
Dedicated for Face Bronzing - A facial tanning bed lotion for a glowed up and bronzed face
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Apply tanning oil with SPF

The use of a tanning oil with SPF can protect the delicate skin of your face from burning, and actually encourage a healthy tan. Aussie Gold has some good tanning oils with SPF included.

Wear a Sun Hat

Wearing a hat will not only protect your skin from burning, but it can also allow for a diluted UV exposure for a more gradual tan.

Maintain Your Tan

After each tanning session, it is vital to hydrate. This means hydrate your skin and your body! Drinking fluids in a sure way to keep your skin healthy from the inside out.

Also, applying a daily moisturizer to the face will help maintain your tan.

Keeping your skin moisturized is one of the best ways to maintain your tan.

When the skin gets dry, it becomes flakey and may peel. In this case, any tan you have developed would also flake and peel off

Safe Sun Tanning

We all know the many risks associated with sun exposure. Including skin cancer, skin damage, and increased signs of aging. 

If you are having difficulty achieving a tan on your face, we would suggest avoiding sun exposure to that area to prevent this type of damage.

Some skin types will tan much easier. However, this still does not prevent damage caused.

When the skin is exposed to UV rays, this is causing damage to the melanocyte cells. When this type of damage is done, the melatonin cells in the skin become darker.

Avoid Sunburns

Although this process leaves us with an amazing tan, it does not erase the damage done to the skin.

As we age, we have natural signs of aging such as wrinkles, loss of collagen and elasticity, and sunspots or age spots.

If the skin is overly exposed to the sun, these signs of aging will rapidly increase. 

Most dermatologists will tell you to use a daily spf to prevent these signs of aging.

Whether you are planning to go out into the sun or not, wearing a daily spf will have a long-lasting impact on the skin’s appearance.

Face Tanning Hacks

So, you’ve spent countless hours in the sun and your body has a perfect golden glow, but your face is left pale. 

Try using a sunless tanner. There are many self-tanning products that can give you an (un)natural sun-kissed glow.

Yeah, it’s sorta cheating, but it works. You can pick up a facial self-tanner to specifically balance the skin tone on your face relative to your body. This technique offers a good deal more flexibility when applying makeup, etc., as well.

Here are a few to check out:

Take care to read the instructions on the product, as some will require you to wash your face after a few hours.

Another option is to use a topical bronzer or makeup. Instead of using the typical powder bronzer, opt for a cream bronzer or a shimmer stick.

These types of cream-based products will blend into the skin and leave you with a natural-looking glow.


Tanning is a gradual process. This is important to remember for safe tanning, to prevent burns or other types of skin damage. Tan in the morning, tan frequently for short durations. See this article for more tanning tips.

Understanding your skin type, and how the skin gets its tanned color is good to know before exposing your face to direct sun.

Be patient when tanning, particularly on your face. Take the necessary precautions before and after exposure to the sun or tanning bed. 

If you are having difficulty achieving that natural sun-kissed glow, don’t be afraid to try some other sunless tanning options.

These are sure to be safe, and can still give you a fairly natural-looking result.

Happy tanning everyone! 

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).