How to Get a Tan Fast

Jergens® Skincare Team:
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Self Tanning

How to Get a Tan Fast: Best Ways to Tan Quickly and Safely

Learn how to get an instant glow without the sun damage.

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, 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 you can show off your luminous, glowing skin year-round.

Self Tanners: The Best Way to Get a Safe Tan Year-Round

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 7-10 days of non-application.

Tips for Applying Instant Self Tanner

  • Prep your skin for self tanner by exfoliating your skin and doing 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 like elbows, knees, and ankles with a daily moisturizer to avoid dry patches. Dry skin can absorb tanning lotion and lead to an uneven look.

  • Instant tanners often dry faster than gradual tanners, so 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.

  • No matter how eager you are to show off your glowing skin, let the self tanning product dry completely before rushing out the door. This helps ensure a more even tan.

  • In the days after you apply your instant tanner, use a gradual self tanner to extend your tan and moisturize your skin.

  • For a little extra shimmer, use a body bronzer to enhance your tan.
If you’re interested in learning more about sunless tanners, please check out our self-tanning tips to help you achieve a perfect, sunless glow. Happy self-tanning!

How Outdoor Tanning Works

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.

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. 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.

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.

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 suntan is a sign 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.

Related Articles

From prepping your skin for self tanner to making your tan last longer, we've got your skin covered!

Tans tend to last 7 to 10 days due to skin turnover.

Turn to our tips for the best ways to apply sunless tanner.
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