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Can You Tan When It’s Cloudy? (Tanning Through Clouds)

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
Can You Tan When It’s Cloudy, Can You Tan Through Clouds

A cloudy day is not the best time for tanning, but it is still possible to get a tan. However, the clouds will block and absorb some UV rays from the sun, which means your skin won’t have full sun exposure, and you won’t get the best tan.

In this case, you’ll need to spend more time outside on a cloudy day to achieve a good tan.

Read on to understand the science behind tanning on a cloudy day and how you can tan through clouds effectively!

How Is It Possible to Tan Even When It’s Cloudy?

The sun’s rays are made of UVA rays, UVB rays, and visible light. The common misconception is you have to be under visible light to tan. This is WRONG.

Even when the sun is hiding, you can still get your tan. This is all thanks to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which can penetrate through the clouds.

Explaining UV Radiation and UV Rays

Ultraviolet radiation is from invisible rays that are part of the energy from the sun. Being invisible, you cannot see them with your naked eye.

Scientific instruments will detect them, but this means that you will have NO IDEA how many rays you are getting until you see their effect.

There are three types of UV rays: ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC). These rays have been replicated and are utilized in our tanning beds and other instruments for tanning.

UVA and UVB can both penetrate the ozone layer and have the following additional effects:

  • UVA has a LONGER wavelength and is associated with skin aging. This ray is the cause of skin wrinkles.
  • UVB rays have a SHORTER  wavelength and are associated with skin burning. This type of radiation affects the top layer of the skin.

Unprotected exposure from both rays can damage the DNA in our skin cells, which can also lead to premature aging and even skin cancer.

Is It Better to Tan When It’s Cloudy?

No, it is not better to tan on a cloudy day. Thick clouds will absorb some UV rays from the sun (even more so for darker/gray clouds), which means there would not be as much UV light that can pass through compared to clearer skies.

Less direct sunlight means your skin will have reduced exposure to the sun’s UV rays and prevent you from tanning more effectively. Although you will still be able to tan, it will take a bit longer under darker clouds.

BUT TAKE NOTE: Ultraviolet rays can still harm your skin the same way as when there are no clouds present.

This is why you ALWAYS NEED to protect your skin. No matter how cloudy, hazy, rainy, or misty a day is, the rays of the sun can still reach you. They can still gradually contribute to causing skin cancer if you don’t use sunscreen!

How Long to Tan on a Cloudy Day?

Since the clouds will interfere with the amount of UV light exposure your skin will get, you will need to tan for a longer period.

Tan for 5-10 minutes on each side under the least amount of cover you can find. This is ample time to get enough tan while not overexposing your skin to the harmful rays of the sun. Avoid tanning for more than 15 minutes, even when it’s cloudy.

Make sure to keep your tan even by turning to your front, back, and sides, spending the same amount of time on each position.

How to Get a Tan on a Cloudy Day?

Now that you understand the science of UV rays and tanning, it’s time to learn how to tan more effectively on a cloudy, overcast day!

Below are the 6 simple steps to follow to get a tan on a cloudy day.

  1. Preparing your skin
  2. Choosing the right time
  3. Picking the right location to tan
  4. Using a tanning lotion
  5. Making yourself comfortable
  6. Staying hydrated

1. Prep Your Skin

1. Prep Your Skin

There is still a possibility that you get a sunburn even on a cloudy day.

I suggest that you exfoliate, moisturize, and put on sunscreen before getting a tan. You should also protect your eyes and lips, as they’re the most neglected areas for sun protection!

  • Exfoliate – Exfoliation helps remove dead skin cells, which reveals the fresh skin underneath. The fresh skin is primed to absorb your spray tan better, which leads to long-lasting results. A day before your tanning session, take a shower and scrub gently with your favorite exfoliating scrub.
  • Moisturize – Applying lotion will lock in the moisture after a shower, which improves the general health of your skin. Apply the lotion twice a day before your tanning day.
  • Wear Sunscreen – UV rays are still present on cloudy days. NEVER FORGET to put on a broad-spectrum tanning sunscreen. This will help keep the harmful rays of the sun from burning your skin. To avoid a burn, remember to apply when you have reached your allotted time under the sun. Do this after every two hours.
  • Protecting Your Eyes – Even though you are tanning on a cloudy day,  I advise you to still wear sunglasses. This is to protect the sensitive skin around your eyes. The skin around the eyes is THINNER and MORE DELICATE than the rest of your skin. Make sure to also apply a gentle sunscreen that is suitable for the skin in the eye area.
  • Protecting Your Lips – To keep your lips moist and soft, apply a lip balm that contains SPF. Your lips will be exposed the whole time you’re tanning, which makes them also susceptible to the rays from the sun. Long-term damage may lead to discoloration, and this does not go away even when the burn does!

What If I Go Swimming While Tanning on a Cloudy Day?

Even if the label of the sunscreen product says it’s waterproof, the sunscreen has probably been washed off already after your water activities.

There might be thick clouds present, but to ensure that your skin is still protected, reapply your sunscreen after getting wet.  

You can continue your tanning without the possibility of developing a burn.

2. Choose the Right Time

2. Choose the Right Time

Part of avoiding skin damage is choosing the right time to tan. The perfect time to tan is early in the morning, before 10 am, or in the evening after 4 pm.

The sun is at its peak during the mid-morning, between 10 am and 4 pm. This means that during this window, the UV rays are at their STRONGEST.

Choosing to tan before and after this time frame reduces your UV exposure. Tanning past 5 pm is usually not as advisable as tanning in the early morning.

If you are a person with pale skin, following this advice IS A MUST. If you tan during the peak hours of the sun, you are MORE LIKELY to develop red patches due to intense UV rays than a person with naturally darker skin.

3. Pick the Right Spot

3. Pick the Right Spot

When it comes to tanning sessions, picking the right spot plays an important role, too.

The key to choosing the right place to tan is to pick a place with minimal cloud coverage. During cloudy days, tanning under less cloudy spots will help you tan faster.

However, to achieve your desired results, your tanning sessions should be in short periods. This decreases the risk of getting sunburns on your exposed skin.

What Places Should I Avoid Tanning?

Avoid tanning under the shadows of buildings, fences, or even trees. Just because you are in the shade does not mean you are not receiving any sun exposure.

When you tan under the shadows, you might fall into the trap of thinking that your tanning sessions could be longer. I also don’t recommend that you get a tan through a window.

However, take note that you still run the risk of exposing yourself to unhealthy UV levels under the shade, even if it’s cloudy.

4. Use a Tanning Lotion

4. Use a Tanning Lotion

An effective tanning lotion helps you tan safely, wherever you are!

Moist skin tans are MUCH BETTER than dry skin. A tanning lotion keeps your skin moisturized and also reduces the drying effects of the sun’s UV rays.

Pick a tanning lotion that is appropriate for your skin tone. After you have done so, apply it to your entire body to avoid uneven patches.

What If I Have Dry Skin?

If you have dry skin, use tanning oil instead. Oils attract and focus the sun rays onto the skin to give you that perfect tanned skin. 

It’s a good idea to use hypoallergenic and non-greasy tanning oil. Aloe vera gel and vitamin E are what you should look for to achieve that even, sun-kissed glow!

Or, you can also consider buying a tanning lotion with low SPF. This ensures that your body is well-moisturized and protected during your tanning sessions.

Can I Use Baby Oil as Tanning Oil?

Using baby oil as tanning oil is not advisable because it absorbs MORE UV radiation. Even when you tan on a cloudy day, there is a higher risk of skin damage because this type of oil fastens the tanning process.

5. Make Yourself Comfortable

5. Make Yourself Comfortable

Achieving a perfect tan does not have to be stressful. Whether you are tanning on a sunny day or an overcast day, elongate your body.

This ensures that your tan remains even regardless of the weather. The way to achieve this is to look for a lounge chair or lay on a comfortable towel.

Just take note of the following tips:

  • Don’t get too comfortable on one side to avoid burning one side of your body.
  • Avoid staying in the same position for too long, as this can damage the exposed skin.
  • Keep on turning on your back and sides so that the entire body absorbs the same amount of sun exposure. 

How Long Should I Wait Before Turning?

To get something out of tanning on a cloudy day, tan each side for at least 10 minutes before turning. Use a timer if you are the type to forget how much time has already passed.

What If I Have Pale Skin?

If you have paler skin, it’s BEST if you tan during a cloudy day first. This prepares your skin to build a tan gradually, without the risk of sunburn.

REMEMBER: The more exposure to UV rays, the more the body is induced to produce melanin

Slowly preparing your skin to tan will give you enough time to build up protection against sun damage. Also, this ensures that there are lower risks of developing skin cancer. 

When your skin has been exposed to the UV rays of the sun, your body produces melanin for 48 hours. This means that the bronze hue you are aiming for will not show straight away.

Consider tanning for short intervals first. Maintain the same length of time for your next tanning session.

6. Stay Hydrated

6. Stay Hydrated

It does not matter if you have light or dark skin. Being under the sun dehydrates us!

Aside from getting sunburnt, excess exposure to the sun can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. 

The best way to avoid getting dehydrated is to constantly drink water during your tanning. If you do not keep yourself hydrated, there is a possibility of you feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys flavored drinksyou can consider preparing a fruit shake for yourself, too!

One of the best fruits during long exposures to heat is watermelon. This fruit is rich in lycopene, vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene.

When you blend watermelon into a drink, you maximize its sun-protective power. Watermelon is also really hydrating because it contains hydrating salts, minerals, and sugars!

How Do I Take Care of My Skin Post-Tanning?

There are only two important steps to remember after your tanning session – take a cold shower and moisturize.

Cold Showers Are a Must

After spending some time under the fluffy clouds, getting rid of sweat or lotion is necessary.

cold shower after tanning is better than a hot one to avoid drying out the skin. Besides, it is also refreshing after a long day under the clouds.

Avoid exfoliating after tanning. This can make the skin LIGHTER and interfere with the tanning process.

Don’t Forget Your Moisturizer

After your shower, make sure to apply moisturizer. Don’t just apply anything available on the market, though.

Use a moisturizer that is made from natural oils. This will not only hydrate your skin, but the oils will also bring some vitamins.

I suggest picking a product that contains shea butter and ginseng, which locks in moisture leading to SMOOTHER SKIN after a day of tanning.

Can I Use Petroleum Jelly to Moisturize My Skin?

NO. Do not apply petroleum jelly after tanning because it locks in excess heat. This can lead to dryness and wrinkles.

Some Last Words…

Some Last Words

On days when Mr. Sun is not shining as brightly, it is still possible to get a tan even if it’s cloudy. 

No matter your skin color, there is a real risk of developing a burn on your skin if you stay outside for too long, regardless if it’s a cloudy day.

So remember, SUNSCREEN IS YOUR BEST FRIEND when you are planning to get that bronzed look. Never forget to protect your skin from the sun.


FINAL TIP: If you are not happy with your tan, you can easily remove it using any of these tan-removal home remedies!