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How Long Does a Tan Last? 8 Tips for a Long-Lasting Glow

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
How Long Does a Tan Last_ 8 Tips for a Long-Lasting Glow

When trying to get the perfect tan, sometimes the timing of it all can be a bit tricky.

After all, one body works differently from another, so your tan may last longer or shorter than someone else’s, even if you got them at the same time.

So, how long does a tan last overall?

In this guide, we will answer the age-old question and provide you with some essential tanning tips to make your golden tones last longer!

How Long Does a Tan Last?

How Long Does a Tan Last

On average, a normal suntan will last for about a week to 10 days before your skin starts shedding old cells.

Eventually, after then, your skin naturally exfoliates as new skin cells form and old, dead cells flake off.

You will likely return to your natural skin color in around 30 days.

However, it also depends on how long you tan yourself and what kind of method of tanning you use, whether it be sun tanning, spray tanning, or tanning beds.

A spray tan can even fade after 1 day if you do not treat it well! But with the proper care, it can last up to 10 days.

How Do Tans Occur in the First Place?

A tan occurs when your skin is hit by UV rays, whether from the sun or artificially through tanning beds.

  • The UV rays cause the production of a pigment called melanin, which all bodies produce about the same amount of.
  • Melanin production is what leads to the browning of the skin tone and eventually gives you darker skin, hence the tan.
  • Under your skin, your skin cells are called melanocytes, which are also responsible for more melanin production.
  • When melanocytes detect UV rays from sun exposure, they start forming melanin to protect your skin from such harmful rays.

Remember to keep your tanning to a minimum!

The skin absorbs both UVA and UVB rays. An excess of UVB rays can cause damage to or mix up your DNA and eventually cause skin cancer.

Additionally, melanin alone won’t be enough protection, so wear sunscreen before going through any sun exposure, especially if you have sensitive skin.

How Does a Tan Fade?

Your skin cells will naturally shed off the top layer and replace old skin cells with new ones regardless of what you’re doing, taking your tanned skin along.

When your tan fades, your skin undergoes a process called apoptosis.

Apoptosis is when dead skin cells naturally flake off as new ones replace them under your skin’s bottom layers, which is what naturally causes your tan to fade.

It’s a completely natural process that is probably going on as you are reading this!

If you live in colder climates where there is not much sun, melanin production will drop, so your skin will appear lighter.

What Factors Affect Fading Time?

Since everyone’s body is different, each person can have different factors that cause their tan to fade slower or faster.

Let’s break some down!


With every age, you get a different tan removal time since human skin is built differently depending on your age.

If you are in your late 20s, it may take around 2-3 weeks for your skin to produce brand new cells after tanning.

As you get older, around your 50s or 60s, the process will slow down over time, taking about 1-2 months!

The younger you are, the quicker your tan will fade.

Sun Exposure

Naturally, the more time you spend under the sun, the darker you will get, which means the longer it will take your tan to fade.

Not only that, but the more damage it will do to your skin as well!

The longer you stay out in the sun, the more skin damage it will cause since the sun’s UV rays penetrate deeper past the topmost layer of your skin.

  • Ideally, you would want the sun’s rays hitting the outer layer of your skin, but the next thing you know, it’s gone three layers further, increasing the risk of skin cancer from sun damage!
  • What’s more, is that excess UVA rays from the sun can lead to premature aging, and UVB rays can lead to skin cancers.

If you want to keep that youthful-looking skin, keep your sun exposure to a minimum.

If you must stay under the sun for a long time, remember to protect yourself with sunscreen with enough SPF protection for the whole day.

Of course, one application may not be enough, so reapply every so often for the best results!

How Do I Make My Tan Last Longer?

How Do I Make My Tan Last Longer

Luckily, if you think your tan is fading faster than you would like, there are ways to make your tan last longer!

1. Exfoliate Before Tanning

One of the most essential steps to a proper, natural tan is to exfoliate before tanning.

Exfoliation helps speed up the process of removing dead skin cells until you are left with fresh cells to absorb the sunlight OR your spray tan product.

You will also be left with smooth skin, which will only enhance your tan!

Even though your body will naturally exfoliate over time, it is still important to do it manually as an essential before a tan.

Doing so will yield the best results both in terms of look, fading time, and skin health!

2. Apply Moisturizer

Keeping your skin moisturized is important not just for general skin care but for the whole tanning process!

Staying outdoors for too long, especially in direct sunlight, can cause your skin to be more sensitive, so it is best to take the appropriate measures and moisturize!

Moisturized skin leads to hydrated skin, which is key in making your tan stay on longer!

If you don’t want your skin to shed prematurely, moisturizing also helps prevent the shedding of skin cells, so you can bet your tan will last longer!

Remember to moisturize with natural products that are healthy for the skin, like coconut oil or avocado oil.

3. Avoid Certain Skincare Products

There are some skincare products that could remove your tan prematurely. These products include body scrubs, lotions, and face masks.

Additionally, products with salicylic acid can also cause premature cell loss.

4. Lukewarm or Semi-Cold Showers

Take a lukewarm or semi-cold shower. Relax your body and skin so that it will exfoliate naturally and avoid early flaking or shedding.

No one is made of bulletproof skin, so extremely hot or cold showers are not good for you.

Some sunless tanning products do not do well in hot water and can cause your tan to fade quicker, resulting in an uneven tan.

Of course, extremely cold showers will not do your skin or body any good either!

5. Tan Extender or Supplement

If you want to easily extend your tan, you can just double up and use a tan extender or self-tanner.

Luckily, some tan extenders and supplements promote the production of melanin and provide extra protection from the sun’s UVA rays that sunscreen alone cannot.

Furthermore, there are also tan extenders with moisturizing properties and can also replenish nutrients lost throughout the tanning process.

6. Drink Lots of Water

As mentioned earlier, keeping your skin hydrated is SUPER important!

Water can help keep the deeper layers of your skin healthy and toxin-free and also make your tan stay on LONGER!

Since your skin exfoliates naturally, water can help your skin stay healthy and prevent premature shedding.

7. Cheat With Your Clothes!

This tip is an interesting one! How can clothes possibly make your tan stay on longer?

Believe it or not, wearing white or pastel-colored clothes can give the illusion of a nice dark, even tan!

What’s more, is that those with dark hair and black clothes can give your tanned skin a little boost! Your clothes won’t exactly prolong your tan’s life, but they will highlight your skin.

8. Avoid Chlorinated Water

Keep your tan and skin safe by avoiding chemicals, including chlorine.

Save yourself a swim in a swimming pool as it can cause your tan to fade away. If you must take a dip, keep your swimming time to a minimum.

Otherwise, a better alternative would be a nice shower. Avoid products with unwanted chemicals and pat your body gently with a towel as rubbing could be too harsh on the skin.

Additionally, you can get yourself a long-lasting self-tanner if you want your golden glow to stay on!

How to Make a Tan Fade Permanently

How to Make a Tan Fade Permanently

If you decide that tanning is not for you and you want to get rid of it permanently, you can follow these tips!

1. Limit Sunlight Time

If you want to prevent getting darker than you already have, stay out of the sun!

If you must stay outside for a long time, protect yourself from UV damage with sunscreen and reapply every so often.

With the proper protection, you can go outside safely!

Try to avoid direct UV exposure from around noon to the afternoon, which is when the sun’s rays are at their highest point, making it the hottest time of the day, especially in the summer.

2. Exfoliate

Exfoliation helps get rid of old cells to make room for new cells. You can also do this step to speed up the process and make your tan wear off faster!

Use a gentle exfoliant, one that will nourish the outer layer of your skin, resulting in a brighter skin tone.

On the other hand, do not exfoliate RIGHT BEFORE going out into the sun! Only exfoliate if you PLAN TO TAN.

Otherwise, your dead skin cells serve as one last line of defense from UV damage, and if you scrub those off, the greater the risk of sunburn or skin damage.

3. Lightening Skin Products

There are a bunch of skin-lightening products that are guaranteed to restore your formerly tanned skin back to its brighter look.

Find a brightening product that contains vitamin C or glycolic acid, as these can help brighten dark spots and tans.

Some products also slow down the production of melanin and do exfoliate as well, so be sure to find one that does all the work you need to regain your natural skin color.

Sun Tanning vs. Tanning Beds vs. Spray Tanning

Sun Tanning vs. Tanning Beds vs. Spray Tanning

If you’re trying to find the best way to get that nice bronzed skin that lasts as long as you want, you have to look at which tanning method is the best for you.

Let’s break down these three tanning methods to see which one is best for you!

Sun Tanning

Sun tanning is probably the most common way to get a natural tan. Not to mention it does not cost anything! It’s easy as all you have to do is go outside!

No need to spend on light bulbs or tanning lotions!

Provided that you stay under the sun for a limited time, your tan will look just fine and as natural as possible.

On the flip side, direct exposure to the sun is quite harmful and uncomfortable for some. If you are not careful with how long you are under the sun, the effects can be dreadful.

Tanning Beds

Unfortunately, tanning with a tanning bed is probably the least recommended way to get a tan. Sure, the results are fast, and you can easily customize the settings to your liking.

But in the long run, the risks outweigh the pros. With a tanning bed, you still get direct exposure to UV rays and much closer at that with little protection.

Direct exposure via a tanning bed can lead to early skin diseases and premature aging. You’ll also need some more preparations if you opt for one.

Spray Tan

If you’re looking for an easy way to get a tan, consider sunless tanning with a spray tan!

Spray tans are quick and easy to use, and if you pick a good one, it can last quite a long time. There are also a lot of options to match your skin.

The best part is you don’t have to expose yourself to sunlight! It may be a fake tan, but it’s a nice glow nonetheless!

Spray tans do not require you to go outside, as you can resort to indoor tanning at your local tanning salon.

On the other hand, if you are not careful with the spray tan you choose, it could cause some allergic reactions.

It also requires more maintenance, including complications with your clothes and whatnot.

You can leave your tan up to your own devices, but be sure to prepare beforehand and get ready for any future consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions-

How Do I Get Rid of Tan Lines?

Tan lines can make you quite conscious, especially if they’re quite obvious. Luckily, you can conceal them easily with just a few products.

You can use a body bronzer on the lightened areas and blend it into the affected areas. You can also put on some additional self-tanning products to even out the shade.

AVOID products with skin irritants like baking soda or lemon juice.

What Foods Should I Eat for Glowing Skin?

Fish and vegetables are some of the best skin boosters!

Specifically, fatty fish like salmon are good sources of the fatty acids your skin needs to remain elastic and strong against UV rays. They also reduce inflammation and redness!

Avocados and carrots also contain the necessary vitamins to supply nutrients and prevent sunburn.

If you’re not a fan of these foods, dark chocolate is also a good source of cocoa powder, a powerful antioxidant that hydrates and smoothes skin.

How Do Self-Tanners Work?

Most sunless tanning products have a secret ingredient that is both safe and natural, called dihydroxyacetone or DHA.

DHA reacts with the amino acids in your cells, causing the production of melanoidin, which is what causes your skin to turn into that brown-orange color.

Self-tanners will only react to the topmost layer and dead cells, unlike ultraviolet rays that penetrate deeper.

Thanks to DHA, your tan lasts longer!

Does Sunscreen Help You Tan Faster?

No, sunscreen does not help you tan faster.

In fact, it is quite the opposite!

Think about it; exposure to sunlight is supposed to make you darker and tanner, but applying sunscreen will prevent that.

If you do not want to be too tanned, perhaps an application of sunscreen will slow down the darkening process.

But if you are looking to speed up the process, sunscreen will NOT really be of any help.

Sunscreen may actually be better for your body as it can still offer protection from the sun and not leave you looking all cooked up!

What Ingredients are Good for Tanning?

Aloe vera gel, shea butter, and jojoba seed oil are a few ingredients that are great for your skin, so you definitely want them in your tanning lotion or spray tanner.

These ingredients are great for moisturizing and hydrating the skin. If you are unlucky to get sunburn (ouchie), aloe vera is also a great choice for soothing burns.


That’s a wrap on our guide on tanning time!

We hope this article gave you a better understanding of how tanning works and how to properly apply the tips to keep your skin healthy on your next tan!

Happy tanning!