The Ultimate Guide to Sun Tanning

If summertime means sun tanning time for you, it’s time to hit the beach or your backyard with a stack of your favorite books or magazines!

Sun tanning offers the perfect blend of rest and relaxation and improving your appearance. Read on to learn everything you need to know about sun tanning.

We’ll help you get bronzed and beautiful skin while avoiding the burn.

Gathering Your Sun Tanning Supplies

Don’t venture outdoors unprepared! Before you hit the front door, gather up all of your sunbathing supplies in a big bag.

We’ve compiled a list of the essentials, plus a handful of extras that will make your time in the sun more pleasurable.

  • Swimsuit
  • Cover-up
  • Flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties
  • Beach towel or blanket
  • SPF 10-15 sunscreen
  • Tanning Lotion / Tanning Oil
  • Lip balm with SPF protection
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Reading material
  • iPod
  • Refreshing Face / Body Wipes with Essential Oils

Sun Tanning Contraindications

Before you begin your summer sun tanning regime, it’s important to make sure that tanning isn’t contraindicated for you.

The following list covers many of the most common reasons that sunbathing should be avoided.

If you have any question about whether or not sun tanning is safe for you, be sure to consult your physician.

  • You have extremely fair skin that never tans, just burns – If you’ve tried sunbathing in the past, and no matter how little or how long you lay out you’ve never achieved a tan, than sun tanning is not for you. People with skin that skips tanning and goes straight to burning are more prone to developing skin cancer than those who do get tan, so slather on the high SPF sunscreen. If you can’t stand your pale skin, you can safely get the look of a great tan without exposing yourself to the sun. Try one of the dozens of self-tanners on the market, or get a spray tan to enjoy the sun kissed look of summer you desire.
  • You’ve had skin cancer – If you’ve ever had skin cancer or had a biopsy reveal precancerous cells, sunbathing is out of the question for you. You’re at an extremely increased risk of recurrence and should use high SPF sunscreen every time you head outdoors.
  • You take medications that cause photosensitivity – Many prescriptions, over the counter medications, and herbal remedies increase your sensitivity to the sun and can cause severe burning. Check all labels on your medications, and be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure. Birth control, blood pressure medications, ibuprofen, and many common cold and allergy medications fall into this category, so you’ve got to check every single thing you take.
  • You’re pregnant or think you might be pregnant – There is mounting evidence that increased body temperature may cause harm to fetuses, and can potentially cause miscarriage. If you’re pregnant or think that you might be, play it safe and stay out of the sun until your baby is born.
  • You have severe health complications – Certain health complications may put you at increased risk of heat stroke and other medical issues from overheating. If you currently have any serious medical conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks before deciding to sunbathe.

Common Tanning Myths and Mistakes to Avoid

  • I have to burn before I tan” – No, you don’t. A lot of people with fair skin believe this old myth because they spend too long in the sun during the early stages of the tanning process, and they were too impatient to do it correctly. The truth is that your burn might fade to a tan, but it actually slows down the tanning process, as your skin has to heal before you should sunbathe again, and it causes peeling, which strips away color.
  • Once you’ve got a tan, you can’t get burned – There is a kernel of truth in the center of this lie. The more tanned you are, the longer it will take for you to burn, but you can still get burned. Don’t get fooled into believing that just because you’ve established a base tan you can spend as long as you want in the sun without burning. You’ll end up paying a painful price.
  • You have to sunbathe every day for the best results – Not only is this false, it can cause unnecessary damage, and even potentially slow down the tanning process. Your skin needs time to recover in between tanning sessions. While you’re establishing your tan, it is recommended that you sunbathe every other day. Once you’ve reached the color you desire, you can decrease your tanning sessions to a few times a week.
  • Wearing sunscreen while you tan doesn’t make any sense – It might seem counterintuitive to wear sunblock when you’re trying to get a tan, but it’s actually an important part of the process. While it is true that wearing a high SPF sunscreen will prevent tanning, a low SPF of 10 or 15 will allow you to tan without burning. It will give your skin time to adjust to sun exposure while you’re melanin production is ramping up.
  • It’s best to sun tan during the sun’s peak hours – The sun’s peak hours vary slightly depending upon your location and the time of year. You should become acquainted with the peak hours where you are, and avoid sunbathing during this time. Some people mistakenly believe that because the sun is the most intense during this time, it’s the best time to tan. The truth is that it makes you more prone to burning, even if you already have a tan, increases your risk of developing skin cancer, and you’re more likely to have unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, symptoms of overexposure. Sunbathing while it is sunny, but not during the most intense hours, is a much safer and pleasant way to get a tan.
  • You don’t have to wear sunglasses as long as you keep your eyes closed while you’re lying on your back – This is one of the most dangerous and common sun tanning myths out there. Many people think of sunglasses as a fashion statement, not protective gear, but they serve a purpose far more important than making you look like a movie star. They protect your eyes from UV damage that can lead to all sorts of eye problems, including the development of cataracts, and visual disturbances like night blindness, becoming color blind, and in the most extreme cases, complete blindness. Your eyelids only block a small fraction of the UV rays you’re exposed to. The skin is thin, nearly transparent on some people, and closing your eyes is absolutely not a replacement for the protection offered by sunglasses. If you’re worried about the lines caused from wearing sunglasses, remember that it’s a very small price to pay compared to irreversible sight damage. You can minimize lines by choosing shades that are smaller, and you can always use bronzers and other cosmetics to help minimize the contrast.
  • Tanning oils are a waste of money – While tanning lotions and oils are not totally necessary, they’re certainly beneficial. The ingredients in these products are specially formulated to help your skin stay hydrated and healthy while you sun tan. Your hydrated skin will be primed to absorb the sun’s rays, helping you to tan more quickly. Many of these products also contain accelerators that encourage your skin’s melanin production when you’re exposed to the sun, which means you’ll obtain color at a much faster rate than you would without them.

A Step by Step Process for Building the Perfect Tan

  • Shower, shave, and exfoliate before you sunbathe – Clean, smooth skin is the perfect clean slate for establishing a beautiful tan. It will help ensure an even color, and will allow your skin to absorb tanning oils and moisturizers, both of which will help you tan.
  • Wear SPF 10-15 sunscreen the first few times you tan – An SPF this low will not keep you from tanning, but it can help prevent painful burns. This will help you establish a base tan without turning into a lobster. Once your skin starts to get tan, you can stop using sunscreen and switch to tanning lotion.
  • Slather on a high quality tanning oil or lotion an hour or two before you go outside – Once you’ve established a base tan you can ditch the SPF sunscreen and switch to a high quality tanning oil or lotion. These products serve two purposes, they keep your skin hydrated while you sunbathe, and they accelerate the tanning process.
  • Start slowly and work your way up – Take your skin tone and propensity to burn into consideration when you choose how long to sunbathe. If you have fair skin, your first session should be under ten minutes. If you have an olive complexion, you can start with fifteen minutes. If you burn, decrease the time by half for your next session. If you don’t notice any difference in color, you can increase your time by five minutes. Five minute incremental increases are the best way to go until you discover your optimum sunbathing time.
  • Hydrate – Sun and heat can quickly lead to dehydration. Make sure you drink water while you tan. Drink at least 8 to 16 ounces of water for every hour you’re outdoors.
  • Listen to your body – Dizziness, headaches, lethargy, and skin that feels tingly, itchy, or painful mean that you’ve overdone it. If you have any of these symptoms, get out of the sun immediately, and reduce the amount of time you sunbathe.
  • If you burn, apply aloe vera gel immediately – If you do end up with a sunburn, apply aloe vera gel immediately, and keep applying it several times a day until the burn is totally gone. This will help your burn heal more quickly and soothe pain and itching.

Care and Maintenance of Your Perfect Tan

  • After sunbathing, shower and apply moisturizer – It’s important to shower, or at the very least rinse, after sunbathing. Sweat, sun tan lotion, and dirt that collect on the skin can cause clogged pores and blemishes. Sunbathing also dries out the skin and a lukewarm or cool shower, followed by patting the skin dry and applying lotion, will seal in moisture.
  • Moisturize at least twice a day – Moist skin is healthy skin. Dry skin actually deflects the sun’s rays, making it harder to tan, so slather on the lotion!
  • Exfoliate at least three times a week – Exfoliation sloughs away dead skin cells, improving the texture of your skin and ensuring that your tan will look smooth and shiny, rather than rough and dirty.
  • Once you’ve reached the depth of tan you prefer, decrease your sunbathing to two or three times a week to maintain the color – Too much of a good thing is simply too much. If you continue to sunbathe as often and for as long as you did to build up your color, you’ll end up looking like a leather purse.
  • If you want your tan to extend beyond the sunbathing season in your area, maintain it by using a tanning bed a couple of times a week – In most areas of the world, year ‘round sun tanning outdoors is not an option. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, your tan will begin to fade away as the seasons change and weather cools off. The good news is that if you’ve established a great tan during the summer, a couple of weekly trips to a tanning bed will maintain your natural tan all year long.

By utilizing these tips and tricks you can get the tan you’ve been dreaming of, and you’ll be able to maintain it all year ‘round if you choose to do so.

Remember that the keys to having a great looking tan include starting slowly, not overdoing it, never letting yourself burn, and caring for your skin with regular exfoliation and moisturizing.

This will keep your skin healthy and will help to ensure that your beautifully bronzed skin looks its best.

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