Tanning 101: Essential Tips for Beginners

Tips and tricks to tanning for beginners

Who doesn't want a glowing tan all year round?

Tanning, if you did not know, is the process of darkening the skin through exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When the skin is exposed to UV rays, it produces melanin, a pigment that gives the skin its color. This melanin helps to protect the skin from further damage caused by UV radiation. 

What Are The Different Types of Tanning Methods?

There are various methods of tanning, including indoor tanning and outdoor tanning. Indoor tanning involves the use of tanning beds or booths that emit UV radiation to darken the skin. Outdoor tanning, on the other hand, involves exposing the skin to natural sunlight.

Tanning beds are popular due to their convenience and ability to provide a controlled environment for tanning. However, they have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and premature aging. Spray tans, on the other hand, provide a safer alternative to traditional tanning methods. They involve applying a tanning solution to the skin, which then develops into a tan over a few hours.

Both have their pros and cons. Indoor tanning allows for more control over the tanning process, but it comes with the risks associated with UV radiation. Spray tans, on the other hand, provide a safer alternative but may not provide the same level of customization as indoor tanning. (Check out my 5 favourite spray tanning solutions)

Preparing Your Skin for Tanning

How should I prepare my skin for tanning?

You should exfoliate your skin to remove any dead skin cells. This will help ensure an even tan and prevent patchiness. You can use a body scrub or exfoliating mitt to gently scrub your skin in the shower.

Should I moisturize before tanning?

Yes because this will help hydrate your skin and create a smooth surface for the tanning product to be applied. Choose a lightweight, non-greasy moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type.

Can I shave before tanning?

It is best to shave at least 24 hours before to allow any potential irritation or redness to subside. Shaving helps remove any unwanted hair and allows the tanning product to be applied directly to the skin.

Should I wear sunscreen while tanning?

You should always protect your skin from harmful UV rays, so wearing sunscreen is recommended. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it generously all over your body before going out in the sun.

How long should I wait after applying self-tanner before showering?

The waiting time after applying self-tanner can vary depending on the product instructions. Generally, it is recommended to wait at least 4-6 hours before showering or getting wet to allow the self-tanner to fully develop on your skin.

Can I tan with makeup on?

It is not recommended to tan with makeup on as it can create an uneven tan and may cause clogged pores or breakouts. It is best to remove all makeup  and apply a lightweight sunscreen.

How often should I exfoliate my skin when tanning?

Exfoliating your skin once or twice a week is generally sufficient. Over-exfoliating can strip away the natural oils and moisture from your skin, so it is important to find a balance. Pay attention to how your skin reacts and adjust your exfoliation routine accordingly.

Can I tan if I have sensitive skin?

If you have sensitive skin, choose products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin types. Patch test the product on a small area of your skin before applying it all over to check for any adverse reactions. 

How long should I wait between tanning sessions?

Try and wait at least 48 hours between sessions to allow your skin time to recover and maintain its health. Overexposure to UV rays can increase the risk of sunburn, premature aging, and skin damage.

Can I tan if I have acne or blemishes on my skin?

If you have acne or blemishes on your skin, it is best to consult with a dermatologist beforehand. They can provide personalized advice and recommend suitable products or treatments that will not aggravate your condition. Always prioritize the health of your skin and avoid any potential irritants or triggers.

Choosing the Right Tanning Products

When it comes to tanning products, there are two main options: sunscreen and lotion. Sunscreen is essential for protecting the skin from harmful UV rays and should be applied before any outdoor tanning. Lotions, on the other hand, are specifically designed to enhance and prolong a tan.

There are different types of lotions available, including bronzers, accelerators, and intensifiers. Bronzers provide an instant tan that washes off, while accelerators help to speed up the process by stimulating melanin production. Intensifiers are designed to deepen and prolong an existing tan.

When choosing a tanning product, consider your skin type and desired results. Those with fair skin may benefit from using a higher SPF sunscreen and a gradual lotion to build up a tan slowly. Those with darker skin may opt for a lower SPF sunscreen and a more intense lotion to achieve a deeper tan.

Tips for Safe and Effective Tanning

Gradually build up your tan: 

Start with short exposure times and gradually increase them over time. This will help your skin adjust to the sun and reduce the risk of burning.

Use sunscreen: 

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating.

Seek shade during peak hours: 

The sun's rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so try to limit your sun exposure during these hours. Find shade under an umbrella or tree to give your skin a break.

Wear protective clothing: 

Cover up with lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to shield your skin and eyes from the sun.

Use self-tanning products: 

If you want a tan without the sun exposure, consider using self-tanning products such as lotions, sprays, or mousses. These products can give you a natural-looking tan without the risks associated with UV exposure.

Stay hydrated: 

Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Proper hydration can also help prevent sunburn and promote an even tan.

Take breaks from the sun: 

Give your skin regular breaks from the sun by spending time indoors or in shaded areas. This will help prevent overexposure and reduce the risk of sunburn.

Monitor your skin: 

Keep an eye on any changes in your skin, such as new moles, freckles, or spots that appear irregular in shape or color. If you notice any concerning changes, consult a dermatologist.

Maintaining Your Tan: Aftercare Tips

Stay hydrated: 

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after to keep your skin hydrated and prevent dehydration.


Apply a moisturizer or after-sun lotion to your skin to replenish moisture and prevent dryness. Look for products that contain aloe vera or other soothing ingredients.

Avoid hot showers: 

Take lukewarm showers instead of hot ones, as hot water can strip away the natural oils in your skin and cause dryness.

Wear loose clothing: 

Opt for loose-fitting clothing to allow your skin to breathe and prevent irritation.

Protect your skin: 

Use sunscreen with a high SPF when going outside, even if you already have a tan. This will help protect your skin from further damage and maintain your tan.

Exfoliate gently: 

Use a gentle exfoliating scrub or loofah to remove dead skin cells and keep your tan looking fresh. Avoid harsh exfoliants that can strip away your tan.

Avoid excessive sweating: 

Try to avoid activities that cause excessive sweating, as sweat can cause streaking or uneven fading of your tan.

Maintain a healthy diet: 

Eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can help promote healthy skin and maintain your tan.

Monitor your skin: 

Keep an eye out for any changes in moles or new spots on your skin. If you notice anything unusual, consult a dermatologist for further evaluation.

Common Tanning Mistakes to Avoid

Not applying sunscreen: 

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not applying sunscreen. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays, which can lead to sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer.

Tanning for too long: 

Another common mistake is tanning for too long. Spending excessive time in the sun can increase the risk of sunburn and damage to the skin.

Not reapplying sunscreen: 

Even if you initially apply sunscreen, you need to reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Failure to do so can leave the skin vulnerable to sunburn and damage.

Neglecting to protect sensitive areas:

Try and protect sensitive areas of the body, such as the face, ears, and lips, from sun exposure. These areas are often forgotten or not adequately protected, leading to sunburn and potential long-term damage.

Not hydrating enough: 

Spending time in the sun can dehydrate the body, so it is important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Ignoring warning signs: 

If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or develop a headache, it may be a sign of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Seek shade and cool down immediately.

Overexposing fair skin: 

Fair-skinned individuals are more susceptible to sunburn and should take extra precautions when tanning. Gradual exposure and using higher SPF sunscreen are recommended for fair skin.

Not wearing protective clothing: 

Wearing protective clothing, such as hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts, can help shield the skin from harmful UV rays. Neglecting to wear these items can increase the risk of sunburn and damage to the skin.

Remember, moderation is key when it comes to tanning. Overexposure to UV rays can increase the risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Always prioritize your skin's health and take necessary precautions to protect it.

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