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How to Tan Faster and Darker Outside in the Sun, Tanning Bed

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

If you’re pressed on time or you want to make the MOST out of your tanning sessions, you’ve come to the right place!

We know that a tanning session can get tricky at times – whether you’re working on your natural sun tan, doing DIY tanning at home, or spending hours in tanning beds.

Get to know how to tan faster but still get that dark tan!

We’ll share our outdoor tanning and self-tanning secrets on how to achieve that perfect, even, sun-kissed glow in a SHORT PERIOD of time!

How to Tan Faster and Better

For anyone who wants to get a tan, it’s important to know the basics and how the tanning process really works.

The concept behind our natural skin tone boils down to melanin production.

In a nutshell, melanin is our skin’s pigment.

  • People with light or fair skin have less melanin than darker colored people.
  • It’s the reason why some people rarely burn while some find it harder to make their skin darker.

Although this is caused by our genes – this doesn’t mean we cannot work our way around it. 

We’ve listed 11 SECRETS and TRICKS to help you tan faster safely in a short period of time!

1. Exfoliate Your Skin

1. Exfoliate

Your tanning results IMPROVE when the skin is fresh and clean. 

Skin regenerates regularly which causes dead skin cells to accumulate on the skin’s outer layer.

This serves as a protective layer against UV light. However, it also BLOCKS the darkening effect of the sun to our skin.

Gently exfoliate your skin every week or 10 days. 

  • This ensures the outer layer of the skin is always clean and free of any dead skin.
  • Doing so also allows a GOOD base tan, without the flaky or dry look.

2. Put on SPF

2. SPF

For all tanners out there, it’s CRUCIAL you apply sunscreen with sufficient SPF to avoid sunburn and protect your skin from other possible sun damage.

Never compromise your skin’s health no matter how much you want that bronze tan fast.

Rule of thumb is to choose a sunscreen that has at least 30 SPF. 

Also check if the formulation has broad-spectrum UV protection. 

This simply means that the product is capable of protecting you from harmful UV light and UVA rays.

3. Stock Up on Beta Carotene

3. Beta Carotene

You also might want to start including foods rich in beta-carotene in your diet.

There are a number of fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cantaloupe melon
  • Spinach
  • Kale

Studies show that people who incorporate these foods in their diet have more pronounced yellow pigment on their skin. 

It also contributes to a healthier and glowing skin.

Aside from this, the nutrients from these foods help protect your skin from oxidative stress – making it LESS prone to sunburns.

4. Splash Some Sea Water

4. Sea Water

Water activities are a good way to catch some serious sun.

In fact, the water is a good tan intensifier as it reflects light. 

This is the reason why tanning is much faster and darker after hours snorkeling or surfing. 

If you want to get a darker tan, take a dip on the water every half an hour. 

The minerals in sea salt water keep the skin moist and boost the tan development.

However, if you don’t have access to the beach, you can opt to spray a mixture of salt and water in a bottle when self tanning.

Spray it on and reapply every now and then to help speed up the process.

It isn’t totally at par with the actual sea water as the latter contains other minerals, but it helps!

5. Sweat It Out!

5. Sweat It Out!

Yes, it’s definitely possible to work out after getting a tan. Beach volleyball players have incredibly amazing tan.

Aside from the hours they spend under the heat, being ACTIVE is actually conducive to skin tanning.

Blood circulation helps increase skin moisture. When this happens, our skin’s ability to soak up the sun also increases, resulting in a faster tan.

Instead of just lying down, try to do some yoga or swimming

Compared to lying down, engaging in activities develop a more natural looking tan. 

As the sun hits and covers more body angles, it produces a more even tan.

6. Use Reflective Sheets

6. Use Reflective Sheets

If you are NOT a big fan of the water, an alternative way to speed up self tanning is making use of reflective sheets.

Just as going underwater is a secret to tanning faster, reflectors also offer the same tanning results. 

You only need a beach towel and a sunscreen with high SPF protection!

Remember to shift every now and then to cover all body angles.

7. Oil It Up

7. Oil It Up

If you are not a fan of reflectors, another way to get a dark tan faster is by applying tanning OIL.

Tanning oil does not only keep your skin moisturized, it allows the skin to tan quickly as the oil helps absorb the UV rays evenly.

Natural oils such as coconut oil or olive oil are good choices for a self tanner.

8. Schedule Your Sessions

8. Schedule

If you want to tan faster, it is to tan SMART, not hard. 

The key to getting tanned fast is knowing WHEN you should schedule your tanning sessions.

You’ll get better results if you skip a day compared to doing it every day.

Give your skin the time to recuperate. As the skin cells recover, they also improve their ability to process direct sunlight.

You also want to do it at the right time.

The sun’s peak hours are 10-3PM. AVOID TANNING DURING THIS WINDOW.

  • Although the sun may be at its most intense, the risks for skin cancer are also higher.
  • The harmful UV rays are much stronger meaning higher risk of skin damage. 

Schedule your sessions in the morning or late afternoon (after 5pm).

In this way, you get the same results with less harmful rays. 

9. Relax in a Tanning Bed

9. Tanning Bed

If you only have a week’s time to improve your tan, a better option would be to visit a tanning salon.

Or get your own tanning bed. Tanning beds can control the amount of “sun” your skin can get. 

This also results in more even tan compared to just staying under the sun for hours.

Check with the staff on the number of lamps. Of course, the more lamps, the faster the progress.

Schedule regular tanning sessions. However, the same rule applies – have a “sun” break or a day off (pun intended) in order to get better results.

These tips also go the same if you’ll be having your session in a stand-up type and not a lay-down type.

10. Apply Some Tan Accelerator

10. Tan Accelerator

Applying tan accelerators when self tanning would help you get a dark tan faster.

The formula of most tan accelerators ensures a dark tan to help you get the most out of every tanning session. 

That way, you don’t have to slather on self tanners too much to get a dark tan.

This is a good trick on how to tan faster, especially for those with a lighter skin tone wishing to get a darker tan.

11. Try Self-Tanners

11. Self-Tanners

If you really need that quick tan, you can try self tanner products.

There are a number of self tanners available – tanning lotions, spray-ons, sticks, oils, creams and much more.

Here’s a quick run-through on how to self-tan:

  • To IMPROVE the results: shave and exfoliate before you apply the self tanning lotion or oil. These would definitely heighten the final results.
  • To AVOID a noticeable fake tan: apply less tanning lotion on your neck, joints and feet. Avoid your palms as much as possible.
  • If it is your first time using a self tanner, apply sparingly as you can easily apply more. It would be more difficult to remedy the DIY tan if you put too much self tanner.

To get you started, here’s a quick buying guide if you want a long-lasting self-tanner!

Dangers of Too Much Sun Exposure


Most want to have that post-beach, sun-kissed look. 

However, there are DANGERS to sun tanning or under the tanning bed IF you do not have ample skin protection.

1. Sunburn

The most common RISK is sunburn caused by the sun’s UVB rays.

Without sunscreen or sunblock, a sunburn is expected. Not only are these painful, they might ruin your tan altogether.

If there are no post-sun products (i.e. Aloe Vera) applied, expect discoloration or uneven tan in the affected area.

2. Premature Aging

UV exposure contributes to premature aging of the skin.

The sun’s rays destroy the skin barrier and make it thinner over time. 

This leads to fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

We cannot stress this enough – WEAR sunscreen.

3. Skin Cancer

Aside from attacking the skin barrier, prolonged and regular exposure alters the skin’s DNA which can lead to high risk of skin cancer

If it worsens and goes undetected, skin cancer can be fatal.

Importance of SPF

Importance of SPF

To combat the risks above, the only solution would be to apply sunscreen.

The secret to a great looking tan is applying sunscreens or sun blocks with high SPF or “sun protection”. 

Again, we highly discourage using sunscreen with low SPF.

We recommend going for 30 SPF and up with broad spectrum formulation (against all UV rays) if you plan to stay under the sun for hours.

Lather on a GENEROUS amount of sunscreen at least 10 minutes before tanning or 30 minutes ahead if you plan to swim.

Tan Away!

There you have it! These are the safest tricks and options on how to tan faster.

There is no problem with tanning fast. 

You just need to remember to tan safely by applying sun protection beforehand to prevent skin cancer. 

Make sure to follow these steps and you’ll be perfecting that tan in no time.

FINAL TIP: Tan lines are inevitable, but not permanent! You can get rid of your tan lines using any of these removal tips!