How Long Does It Take To Get A Tan?


Apr 07, 20235 min read

  • Sunlight intensity aka UV index, your altitude, whether you’re near water or snow, Your skin type, and how long you’re spending outside.
  • Your skin can start tanning immediately after exposure to UV light however if you’re after a deeper and darker tan – that’s likely going to take 2-3 days to get noticeable.
  • A day? 2 days? A week? Will your skin tan straight away? Will your first day of sunbathing get you a visible tan by the evening? By tomorrow? Or will you see it later and if so, how much later? How long does it take to get a noticeable tan? Understanding the science behind these questions is what will save you from sunburn plus get you the tan you long for.

    Your tanning time depends on these 5 factors

    So summer is here, and you want to tan fast. You’re staying outside for longer and it’s easy to assume this is why you tan faster or explain your painful burns. But there's much more at play here than just physical time outside. How long in takes to tan largely depends on the following;

    • Sunlight intensity aka UV index
    • Your altitude
    • Whether you’re near water or snow
    • Your skin type
    • And lastly (of course) - how long you’re spending outside

      Altitude is enormously important as is if you’re near water or snow. 

      Fact; for every 1000 meters your altitude increases your skin is exposed to up to 12% more UV light. If you’re near fresh snow (not likely at the moment, however worth keeping in mind) your sun burning UV exposure could be magnified by up to 80% and if you’re near water up to 15%[i]. Meaning that enjoying a sunny day in your garden compared to at the beach can have vastly different effects– leading to a sunburn in less than 5 minutes depending on your skin tone. Obviously nobody wants a sunburn, so you'll want to avoid this by using the right SPF designed specifically for tanning.


      Does SPF impact your tanning time?

      Great question. Scientists have recently discovered tanning every other day actually helps your skin to tan faster[ii]. The theory behind this shocking result is that your skin only has limited protective resources. It can use them to heal a sunburn or it can use them to tan. Yes SPF could delay your tanning time, however it’s much more likely to help you tan better, quicker by allowing your skin to divert all its energy into melanogenesis (the generation of melanin pigment which gives your skin it's colour).


      How long does it take to get a tan?

      There are 2 ways your skin can get browner and darker. One, by ‘oxidising’ pigment it already has – this pigment is called melanin. Or two, by creating more melanin making cells. One of these ways causes your skin to tan within hours and the other in days. It’s also a different kind of UV light which kicks each type of tanning off.

      To break it down further, UVA light causes what scientists have named immediate pigmentation darkening and its UVB light which causes delayed tanning. Your tanning time is determined by both and it’s likely you’ll be waiting 2 days for a deeper and darker tan to develop, in some people it can even be longer, so be patient!


      The bottom line

      How long does it take to get a tan?

      Your skin can start tanning immediately after exposure to UV light however if you’re after a deeper and darker tan – that’s likely going to take 2-3 days to get noticeable. You can, however, speed up this process using a tan accelerator like Base Tan.




      [ii] Mol Cell. 2018 Nov 1;72(3):444-456.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2018.09.022. Epub 2018 Oct 25.



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