How to Get a Tan with Fair Skin: 4 Steps For Successful Bronzing

Achieve a tan-tastic sun-kissed glow!
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: March 23, 2023
In this guide, we'll explore various techniques to help you get a tan if you're got pale skin, from sun exposure tips to alternative tanning methods. Say goodbye to sunburns and hello to that desired golden glow.
Table of Contents

Having fair skin can make getting a tan seem like an uphill battle. You might have tried countless methods, only to end up with sunburns or minimal results. But don’t lose hope! There are ways to achieve a sun-kissed glow, even if you’re naturally pale.

While it is indeed harder to tan than those with darker complexions, not all is lost – you can still achieve a lovely, even sun tan with pale skin – you just need to take the right approach.

A note from the editor: too much UV exposure can seriously damage your skin and lead to some nasty health issues, so for the love of god, don’t go overboard. Consider exploring self-tanning products as an alternative to baking yourself in the sun or on a sunbed.

Step 1: Exfoliate Your Skin Before You Start Tanning

A smooth canvas is essential for an even and long-lasting tan, and exfoliation is the key to achieving it. Gently removing dead skin cells from the surface will not only allow your skin to tan more evenly but also make your glow last longer. Exfoliation also helps prevent patchy tanning, ensuring that your sun-kissed look is flawless from head to toe.

To exfoliate your skin, opt for a gentle scrub or exfoliating glove specifically designed for your body. It’s important to choose a product that’s not too abrasive, as this can cause irritation and redness. When shopping for an exfoliating scrub, look for ingredients like sugar or ground almonds, which are effective yet gentle on the skin.

Before you begin exfoliating, wet your skin with lukewarm water to soften and prepare it for the scrub. Apply the exfoliator in circular motions, focusing on areas that tend to be drier, like elbows, knees, and ankles. Make sure to exfoliate your entire body, paying special attention to these areas, a day or two before tanning. Remember to be gentle with your skin during this process, as over-exfoliation can cause irritation and redness.

After exfoliating, rinse your skin with lukewarm water to remove any leftover scrub particles. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing, which can cause irritation. Follow up with a hydrating moisturizer to keep your skin nourished and ready for that perfect tan. Look for a moisturizer with soothing ingredients, like aloe vera or shea butter, which can help calm and nourish your skin after exfoliation.

Step 2: Take a ‘Tanning Accelerator Supplement’ 1 Hour Before Tanning

A tanning accelerator supplement can be a game-changer for those with fair skin who want to speed up the tanning process. These supplements usually contain an ingredient called L-tyrosine, an amino acid that plays a crucial role in melanin production, the pigment responsible for your skin’s color. By boosting your body’s melanin production, these supplements may help you achieve a faster and deeper tan.

To get the most out of your tanning accelerator supplement, take it about an hour before you plan to tan. This timing ensures that the L-tyrosine has enough time to be absorbed and start working its magic. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage and guidelines, as these may vary from one product to another.

Step 3: Short, Controlled Bursts of UV Exposure!

When it comes to tanning fair skin, less is more. Short, controlled bursts of sun exposure can help you achieve a tan without the risk of burning. Gradually building up your sun exposure time allows your skin to develop a base tan, making it more resistant to sunburns in the future.

To start, limit your initial sun exposure to 10-15 minutes, especially during peak UV hours (usually between 10 am and 4 pm).

After the first few days, you can slowly increase your sun exposure time by 5 minutes each day, but never exceed 30 minutes at a time. This gradual exposure helps your skin adapt to the sun without causing damage or burning. Remember, the goal is to achieve a healthy glow, not to overexpose your skin to the sun.

To ensure an even tan, change your position frequently, and make sure all parts of your body receive equal sun exposure. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can help protect your face, which is often more sensitive than the rest of your body.

Finally, always be mindful of your skin’s limits. If you notice any signs of burning, such as redness or pain, immediately seek shade and give your skin a break from the sun. Protecting your skin is always the top priority.

Step 4: Wear Sunscreen With A High SPF Rating

Remember, it’s impossible to tan “safely”; the act of tanning is damaging your skin purposely. Despite this, you should still wear some sunscreen while you’re tanning, to help mitigate the harmful effects of UV rays damaging your skin cells.

Contrary to popular belief, wearing sunscreen doesn’t prevent you from getting a tan; it simply protects your skin from receiving harmful amounts of UV radiation. In fact, applying a high-SPF sunscreen is crucial, especially if you have fair skin.

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which will block about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Broad-spectrum sunscreens also protect against UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply and contribute to premature aging. For the best protection, opt for a water-resistant formula to prevent sweating or swimming from washing it away.

Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin about 15-20 minutes before going outside, allowing it to fully absorb. Don’t forget to cover often-neglected areas, such as the tops of your feet, the back of your neck, and the tips of your ears. Use about an ounce (a shot glass full) of sunscreen to cover your entire body.

Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. Even water-resistant sunscreens lose their effectiveness over time, so reapplication is key to maintaining adequate protection.

By wearing a high-SPF sunscreen, you’ll help your skin develop a gradual, even tan without causing damage or increasing your risk of long-term skin issues.

Tanning Beds or Sunbathing Outside?

When it comes to achieving a tan, you might wonder whether it’s better to use a tanning bed or sunbathe outside. Both methods have their pros and cons, but ultimately, it’s essential to consider the risks and benefits to determine the best option for your skin.

Tanning beds offer a controlled environment, with adjustable UV levels and exposure times, which can make them seem like an attractive option for fair-skinned individuals. However, tanning beds emit concentrated UVA and UVB rays, which can increase the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and other skin damage. The American Academy of Dermatology and the World Health Organization strongly discourage the use of tanning beds due to these risks.

Sunbathing outside, on the other hand, exposes you to natural sunlight. By following proper sun safety guidelines, such as wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, limiting sun exposure during peak UV hours, and gradually increasing your time in the sun, you can achieve a tan with less risk than using a tanning bed. However, it’s still essential to be cautious, as overexposure to the sun’s UV rays can also lead to sunburn and other unwanted effects.

Avoid Tanning Oils

While tanning oils are a good way to help you to get a deeper, darker tan, in reality, they are not for beginners, and using them on fair skin is a big mistake.

Tanning oils contain ingredients that attract UV rays, meaning that you’ll end up getting burnt a lot quicker if you use them, meaning you’ll need to allow time for your body to heal before going back into the sun, which leads us to our next point.

Stay Out of the Sun Until Your Skin Has Healed

Excessive UV exposure causes damage to your skin, which leads to sunburn. If you do get burnt, you must allow your skin to heal before going back into the sun again.

This gives your skin time to repair the damage that’s been done, and it also helps to prevent your body from getting overwhelmed and further damaging your skin cells.


Achieving a sun-kissed tan with fair skin is possible with the right approach. Exfoliating before tanning, taking a tanning accelerator supplement, using short, controlled bursts of sun exposure, and wearing high-SPF sunscreen are key steps in achieving an even, natural-looking tan while minimizing the risk of skin damage.

It is important to avoid tanning oils, stay out of the sun until your skin has healed, and always prioritize protecting your skin.

Finally, consider exploring self-tanning products as a safer alternative to UV exposure.

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