How To Get A Tan Faster: Best Ways To Tan Safely And Quickly

Woman getting her feet tan at the pool

When you have a special occasion or an upcoming vacation, getting your skin to glow is often at the top of your list. If you’re trying to get a tan fast, you may be tempted to bake in the sun for hours or even use a tanning bed. While both these options can get you tan, they can easily give you a sunburn or lead to long-term damage like skin cancer and aging skin.

Instead, an instant self-tanner is your best bet for a quick and beautiful tan that doesn’t damage your skin. The results of instant tanner show up in just a few hours so it’s the perfect option for a last-minute event! Use our tips below to learn how to get a tan quickly and safely so that you can show off your luminous, glowing skin year-round.

Self Tanners: The Best Way to Get a Safe Tan

Self tanning products, also called sunless tanners, are a practical, effective solution for getting a tanned look without exposing your skin to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The results of sunless tanners tend to last 7-10 days depending on how you care for your tan. These products are commonly available as mousses, sprays, and towelettes that you can apply directly to your skin.

Popular self-tanning options are split into two main categories:

Instant Tanners

Instant tanners contain dyes that show up instantly. The long-lasting tan begins to appear a few hours later. In the case of clear instant tanners, you won't see instant color; it will appear a few hours after applying,” says Hailey Hemmer, a scientist at Jergens® Skincare.

Gradual Tanners

Dihydroxyacetone (or DHA), a color additive, is the active ingredient in most sunless tanning products available today. When applied to clean, dry skin, it reacts with dead cells on the skin's surface to temporarily simulate a tan. Gradual tanners typically take three days to darken your skin and wear off after 7 days of non-application.

However, we know that self-tanning isn’t as easy as you may think

Tips for Applying Instant Self Tanner

If you’re new to using self tanner, it may seem daunting, but with the right products and steps you! Self-tanner isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Here are some tips for applying instant self-tanner before you get started:

  • Prep your skin for self tanner by exfoliating your skin. Do any shaving or waxing before applying the product. All of these can cause your tan to fade if used after application.
  • Make sure you moisturize common dry spots. Common spots like elbows, knees, and ankles are good targets for a daily moisturizer in order to avoid dry patches. Dry skin can absorb tanning lotion and lead to an uneven look.
  • Instant tanners often dry faster than gradual tanners. This means that it can leave unwanted residue on your palms. When applying instant tanners, use a tanning mitt or wash your hands immediately after you’re done applying the product to avoid tanning residue on your hands.
  • Let the self tanning product dry completely. No matter how eager you are to show off your glowing skin, This drying process helps ensure a more even tan.
  • In the days after you apply your instant tanner, use a gradual self tanner. This helps to extend your tan and moisturize your skin.
But what about if you want to self-tan in a more natural way? We’ve also taken note of the best ways for you to tan fast naturally and with the best tips.


Is Outdoor Tanning Fast?

Anytime your skin is exposed to sunlight, melanocytes are activated by the sun’s UVA rays. Melanocytes are skin cells that produce melanin, a brown pigment responsible for tanning the skin. So basically, a natural tan is your skin defending itself from the sun.

But is outdoor tanning fast? If you’re exposed to the sun’s UVA rays, it’s easy to build a tan, but it won’t be noticeable for a few days. Remember, you do not want to be exposed for too long in one period of time.

Sunshine helps your skin produce vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones and teeth. But, too much sun damages your skin and can lead to wrinkles, sagging skin, and skin cancer. Due to these negative side effects, it’s key to learn how to tan safely to avoid long term damage. 

Here are some tips when preparing to tan outdoors:

  • Anytime your skin is exposed to sunlight, it’s essential to protect it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
  • Sun protection should be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure to let it bind to your skin.
  • Broad-spectrum sunscreens can protect your skin from the harmful effects of both UVA and UVB rays.
  • For maximum protection, re-apply every 1-2 hours, after swimming, or excessive sweating.
  • If you are outdoors for any length of time, it’s also a good idea to wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Anytime your skin is exposed to sunlight, melanocytes are activated by the sun’s UVA rays. Melanocytes are skin cells that produce melanin, a brown pigment responsible for tanning the skin.

Avoid Tanning Beds at All Costs

Tanning beds use ultraviolet light bulbs to tan the skin in a similar way the UV light from the sun does. Artificial tanning bombards the skin with harmful UVA radiation approximately three to six times more intense than natural sunlight, which causes your skin to produce melanin at a much faster rate. Out of all tanning options, tanning bed tans may give you the quickest tan but are the most damaging to your skin.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that people who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, a malignant form of skin cancer, than those who do not. Due to the scientifically proven connection between tanning beds and cancer, we strongly recommend that you avoid tanning beds. Instead, stick with a natural tan in the sun or safe self-tanning products

Tanning Using Airbrushing and Spray Tans

Professional spray tans use the same active ingredient (DHA) as at home self-tanning products, but you’ll need to make an appointment. For this sunless tanning option, either a machine or a tanning professional sprays your entire body front and back. Spray tans typically develop over a four to eight hour period after application.

Depending on the quality of the product and the skill of application, airbrushing and spray tanners can give similar results to at-home self-tanning mousses and lotions. Self tanners tend to be more affordable and easier to apply at home compared to spray tanners.



Key Takeaways


  • A natural sun tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged by UV radiation.
  • Sunless tanning lotions, mousses, and sprays are a fast, affordable, and safe alternative to sunbathing.
  • You should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ year-round to protect your skin.
  • People who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who do not, —so ditch the tanning bed!
  • Airbrushing and spray tanning is a safe, but expensive and less convenient, alternative to sunless tanning products.