3000 BC Spa is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

When is the Best Time to Tan Outside in the Sun?

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD

When we think of a lovely day at the beach or by the pool, we automatically think of the sun. 

Exposure to the sun means getting a tan, whether we’d like it or not.

Whether you’re thinking of your next tanning session or using spray tans, this article will tell you all you need to know about the RIGHT TIME to tan.

Today, we keep in mind the power of sunscreen, the different UV rays, and the way to achieve the perfect sun tanning experience.

When is the Best Time to Tan Outside?

The best time to tan outside and under the sun is IN THE MORNING.

That’s from 8am to 11amThe sun’s rays in the morning are weakest and gentlest. 

This is also the best tanning time to get your Vitamin D.

If you have light or naturally fair skin, then that morning sun glow truly is for you. You wouldn’t need a trip to the tanning salon to get a tan.

Sun tanning under the morning rays will not only bring out that toasty, lovely skin color that you’ve always wanted but is a great time for a healthy tan. 

It’s much better than tanning past 5pm or in the late afternoon.

Speaking of a healthy tan, here are a few health benefits people get from having a tan outside.

10 Tan Benefits

10 Tan Benefits
  1. Being outside in the sun helps you feel good. Who thinks of the sun and sadness? It’s always sunny skies and wide smiles, especially on a day to tan.
  2. Natural and easy source of Vitamin D. We specifically get this from the UVB rays of the sun when we tan.
  3. UV Rays decrease cancer mortality. Research suggests the risk of developing lung, prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer may be decreased when exposed under the sun.
  4. Being under the sun is also good for our bones. This sounds absurd, but being exposed to the sun’s UV helps our bodies absorb calcium better, which is critical in maintaining good bone health.
  5. Getting a tan can help prevent high blood pressure. The UV exposure we get positively affects our blood pressure. People living in countries in places with less UV exposure have higher blood pressures in comparison to those who live in areas with lots of sun exposure.
  6. Prevention against autoimmune conditions. It is proven that certain autoimmune conditions are more common in countries with less UV exposure. And even if you did have an autoimmune condition, the sun would work wonders for your skin and overall health.
  7. You’ll get better sleep. Getting a tan and spending time under the sun can help regulate your circadian rhythm. This will mean your body clock will adjust to feeling sleepy when the sun is down and alert when it’s up.
  8. It’ll boost your immune system. What people forget is that one of the major benefits of being under UV is that it strengthens our immune systems from different diseases.
  9. Reduces depression. We’re not just talking about being happy anymore, but tackling those imbalanced chemicals in your brain. Sun rays urge your brain to release serotonin, which is excellent for feeling calm and an instant mood boost.
  10. Lowers the risk of preterm labor. This part is for our expecting mothers who want a little tan or two. As the immune system is strengthened, the risk of preterm labor diminishes, as well as other infections associated with pregnancy.

Tips When Getting a Tan Outside

1. Tan at the Right Time

At the right time

We’re pretty darn sure that by now, you know the best times to develop a tan and avoid a burn.

When picking a time in the day to tan, like anything else, it is good to plan it. Tanning out of spite, especially if you’re late to rise, may lead to skin damage and uneven skin tones.

Best Time: 8am to 11am

This is when the sun is nice and bright, but not too bright it might burn.

Peak Hours: 12nn to 4pm

Peak hours talk about when the UV intensity is at its strongest. The sun is in the position of being directly above you too, so tanning at this time without proper protection will burn.

Tans are great when you don’t get skin cancer from being under the sun at the wrong times.


2. Use Protection

Use Protection

We’re talking about sunscreen here. Chill.

It goes without saying that a tan requires some sun protection. This will come in the form of sunscreen.

When we apply sunscreen, we give our skin that extra layer of love even if we want to achieve the perfect tan.

Just like anything else, tans require the best care. We expose our skin cells to the intensity of the heat and UV, so we should protect our skin.

So remember, sunscreens = safe skin.

Not all of them are the same, though. Here are some things to know and remember when picking the right sunscreen for the times you want a tan.

  • SPF 30 or higher. It’s the same during morning sun or peak hours. The more you protect your skin, the better.
  • SPF 15 is okay for naturally darker skin. The more melanin your skin has, the better adjusted it is to all the bright sun rays.
  • Your sunscreen contains zinc oxide. We know it gets a little scary when we namedrop chemicals. Don’t worry, zinc oxide is a great ingredient to have in your sunscreen because it helps prevent skin irritation with zero DNA damage whatsoever.
  • Moisturize if you can. Not only do we want to prevent excessive UVA and UVB radiation, but we also want to keep your skin at its best at all times. Beautiful people get sunscreen with AT LEAST SPF 30 and is also a moisturizer. 

You are a sundae, and your sunscreen is the syrup. 

We want our ice cream sundaes to be almost dripping with syrup right? The same goes for our bodies.

Cover all your exposed skin when you tan, for the perfect amount of safe and toasty. And yes, even when you tan on cloudy days.

Apply sunscreen always!

3. Know Your Skin Type

Know Your Skin Type

We’ve mentioned natural skin type and color a few times now, but this is when we take a closer look.

No matter the amount of knowledge you have on UV rays and tanning tips, nothing is the same as knowing your own skin and body.

Different people have different natural skin tones. This means that exposing your skin to the sun’s rays while tanning will have a different effect depending on your skin type.

When you get a tan, you must know your skin.

When we look at skin color we look at the amount of melanin a person has within their skin cells. 

The general rule of thumb is, the more melanin a person has, the darker their skin will naturally be.

Now taking that into consideration, we look at the list of skin type according to natural shade:

  • Pale Skin – always burns, can never tan.
  • Pale to Light Beige Skin – burns easily, can tan mildly.
  • Beige Skin – burns moderately, can tan gradually to a light brown.
  • Light Brown skin – burns minimally, can tan well to a moderate brown.
  • Moderate Brown Skin – rarely burns, can properly tan to a dark brown or dark tan.
  • Dark Brown to Black Skin – never burns, can tan extremely well.

4. Go Under Your Umbrella-ella-ella

Go Under Your Umbrella-ella-ella

“Hey, I wanna tan, why do I need an umbrella?”

Because whether you have sensitive skin or not, you need some shade from time to time.

When you get a tan on the beach, your body will sometimes get tired of being exposed under the sun’s rays for too long. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Too much of everything is never a good thing. Change your position from time to time. 

People forget when tanning that one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is NOT to avoid the sun completely but stay under it moderately.

Stay under the shade for a bit. On your day to tan, keep healthy. Tanning isn’t skin abuse, it’s skin love, so please be sure to act like it.

5. What is a Base Tan?

What is a Base Tan

Yes, there is more than one kind of tan.

base tan is the result of gradual tanning of the skin under either natural or artificial UV rays. 

This is the tan people get from spending quite some time tanning RATHER than a short time.

This type of tan is achieved in prolonged sun exposure. It’s our body’s natural way of building up resistance to sunburn.

Having a base tan is essentially healthier for the body as it gives your skin cells need time to adjust to the tanning.

When is It Time to Consider a Tanning Bed?

Time to Consider

Now that we’ve covered all that we need to know with a natural tanning experience, we move on to the artificial side of your day to tan.

Anytime is tanning time when we consider tanning beds. It lasts longer too!

The thing is, some people don’t have the luxury of the magnificence of the golden rays to get our skin glowing.

For those of you that want to develop a tan but don’t have the magic of the sun rays on your side, we bring in the tanning bed.

Basically, the ideal time to tan with a tanning bed is when we don’t have access to those natural UV rays.

Think twice if you have a scheduled vacation at the beach.

Sometimes, when we’re on holiday in colder places with higher altitudes and thinner air, we still want the sun’s magnificence to crawl into our skin.

We don’t need to worry about the weather or the season, or even the UV index when we go to tanning salons. 

Despite this, there are a few tips and things we must remember when using tanning beds.

How Do Tanning Beds…Tan?

Tanning beds generated high, intense radiation similar to what one might get from sun exposure. 

UV Radiation is produced by UV bulbs within the tanning beds.

This leads to faster melanin production, for all skin types.

What might take 60 minutes under the sun might take around 10 minutes in a tanning bed. 

Artificial tans are instant but remember to be careful. This is different from a day at the beach.

Tan After a Workout

Should you tan before or after a workout?

After an exercise of whatever intensity, our pores tend to open up. This is the perfect state your skin will be in to get the intense, amazing color.

A huge bonus is that exposing your skin after a workout to the UV rays of a tanning bed means you’d need less tanning sessions afterward.

Extra Tip: Work out under the sun if you can. You’d be hitting two birds with one stone, getting those gains, and tanning to establish a base tan. Though remember to use sunscreens if you do this.

Depending on the tanning you’re doing, you should probably wait for a few moments before you hit the shower.

Tanning Beds Can Turn You into a Tomato

We’re pretty sure that whatever skin tone you’re going for is not red.

One of the major side effects of spending too much time in a tanning bed is turning bright red. Sometimes, with accessibility, we forget UV intensity.

We have to consider your natural skin color, meaning how much melanin you have and if you have sensitive skin.

It’s best to start with a “low dosage” to see how your skin responds to the artificial UVA and UVB rays before raising its intensity for that perfect shade.

Cover Your Eyes

People tend to forget sometimes that UV rays are pretty harsh on the eyes.

Our eyes are super sensitive when it comes to those kinds of rays, so we have to protect them with tanning goggles!

Tanning salons normally offer you goggles when going in for a tanning bed session.

It’s always good to not just protect your skin, but also your eyes.

Tanning Lotion, Not Sunscreen

Tanning lotions work by promoting the production of melanin on your skin.

This could help you get that lovely, even fake tan that you want. It even aids in lessening the number of sessions you have to have or the tanning time you have to spend on the tanning bed.

Using a tanning lotion is a huge plus is because it keeps your skin moisturized as you develop a fake tan. That’s what’s great about a tanning lotion.

Sunscreen, just like what we talked about earlier, contains SPF. Staying inside a tanning bed is different from being under the sun.

Using this while going for a tan in a tanning bed could hinder your fake tan goals.

 Applying some amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen could result in an uneven tan.

Tanning lotion not only helps the artificial tan but also serves as a  SHIELD from skin damage while having the indoor, tanning bed tan.

Rays for Days: Know Your UV

Rays for Days

This whole article will mean nothing to you if you didn’t know about the different UV light and UV rays. Here, we don’t just encourage you to protect your skin, but also let you know what it’s under.

There are 3 kinds of UV rays we get from the sun:

  • UVA Rays
  • UVB Rays
  • UVC Rays

Because of the Earth’s amazing atmosphere, we don’t have to worry about UVC. So now let’s take a close look at the other two.

UVA Rays

UVA  is what most of the light from the sun is made of. UVA Rays have a longer wavelength and impact the epidermis (outer layer of the skin).

This is what usually gives us a nice, lovely tan, and it is the least intense among the three.

UVB Rays

UVB is the reason we wear sunscreen.

The SPF in the sunscreen helps us lessen whatever damage these kinds of rays may cause in our skin. 

Sunscreens are also there to help prevent the risk of skin cancer, which may be from UVB without protection.

UVB rays have a short wavelength that reaches the inner layer of your skin (the dermis). 

This is why unprotected exposure from this may cause a sunburn.

Don’t Worry, It Has Its Benefits!

The biggest benefit we get from UVB is Vitamin D.

If we recall, most of the benefits of tanning come from the large amounts of the natural D Vitamin we’re getting from the sun. 

It keeps our immune systems strong and aids in our body’s calcium absorption.

In moderation and careful safe keeping, UVB could be one of our best friends.

Packing the Beach Blanket Up

Packing Up

In conclusion, we love the sun! And we love a good tan even more.

The best time to tan is not the only thing we consider before laying out in the sun. 

Like many of the best things, it takes careful planning and preparation.

Know your skin, know the rays, and know the best ways to lie under the sun… or in a bed. 

For tanning. No matter how you want to achieve that perfect summer glow, remember all we’ve said before you go.

Tanning isn’t just an activity, it’s an experience.

Protect your skin, and rest yourself in the shade when you need to. 

FINAL TIP: Sometimes we tan at the wrong times or make other mistakes that make us unhappy with it. Luckily, there are easy ways to get rid of a tan, which you can find in this guide!