tanning with fair skin

avoid burning


If you’ve got fair skin or pale skin, the prospect of going out for a tan can be extremely intimidating.


You’ve likely struggled with sunburns in the past, and tanning effectively may be something that you think is off reach.


We’ve got good news for you, though. As a fair skinned person, you can tan—perhaps not as well as everyone else—without burning.


As long as you learn a bit about the tanning process, and follow a few simple steps. In this article, we’ll explain the basis of fair-skinned tanning and leave you with a working knowledge of how to tan with fair skin.


Don’t worry—all of the tanning methods that we’ll teach you will result in a natural tan.

What Is It About Fair Skin That Makes Tanning Difficult?

Fair-skinned people don’t have much melanin relative to their darker-skinned compatriots who also have an easier time tanning.

You’ve heard of melanin, which is the chemical your body produces and embeds within your skin to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation damage.

Melanin is a pigment which is very dark, and its main purpose is to absorb the light that hits your body so that UV rays don’t penetrate into your skin and potentially cause DNA damage and skin damage.

The counterbalance of melanin is that your body needs a small amount of UV energy in order to create vitamin D in addition to other critical biological chemicals like melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle.

Fair skin and pale skin are inherited genetically from your parents, but also take cues from your environment and your actions.

Your genetics determine the baseline level of melanin production, whereas your actions influence the short to medium term spikes in melanin production which we call tanning.

This means that there is no way to get a permanent tan or burn, though with enough sun exposure pale skinned people or fair skinned people may develop sunspots, moles, and if taken to excess, skin cancer.

Here’s a quick skin type guide to determine what you have.

If you have type 1 skin – this post is for you.

best tanning oil skin types

Managing Melanin

If you live on a higher latitude, your skill will naturally become paler because your body has less access to sunlight each day, and needs to make the most out of every UV ray that it can catch.

In contrast, if you live near the Equator, your skin will be deluged by the sun at all times—far more than it needs to fulfill the biological processes that use UV energy to produce Vitamin D.

As a result, your skin will increase its level of melanin production, which is responsible for the darkening of your skin which we call tanning.

The more frequently you’re exposed to the sun beyond your skin’s ability to protect itself with melanin, the more melanin will be produced so that you’ll be in better shape the next time around.

This means that building melanin is a process of getting sunburns or having close calls with sunburn.

In general, people with fair skin or pale skin walk the line between lightly tanning and burning during their tanning efforts, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.

What Kind Of Tan Can You Expect With Pale Skin?

To tan with fair skin requires a lot of patience and also alertness. A high quality tanning oil can be helpful because it can accelerate the tanning process while reducing your exposure to ultraviolet rays beyond what your skin is capable of dealing with.

To be the best tan for pale skin, expect to take things slowly, use sunscreen, and expect to have to take time off from tanning cycles when you accidentally get a light or moderate sunburn (unless you want some gnarly tan lines).

Tanning cycles are periods of time spent in the sun counterbalanced by periods of time spent away from the sun as much as possible. If you have fair skin, you will need to perform many short tanning cycles to build up a tan.

As mentioned previously, tanning with fair or pale skin is likely to result in skin tags, sun spots, or moles, which are concentrated pockets of melanin that are typically permanent.

Skin tags and moles are defined as benign tumors, and the vast majority of these freckles are harmless, but anyone with fair skin who is going to be devoting a lot of time to tanning should expect to see a lot of these little buggers crop up.

The rule is that if a new skin tag or mole is even in shape and surface gradient, it’s almost certainly fine. If a new mole or skin tag is large, lumpy, changes from day to day, and extremely dark, you should make your way directly to the dermatologist and stop all tanning efforts immediately—melanoma is no joke.

Avoiding Tanning Problems And Burns

While the truth is that your skin will produce melanin in greater quantities the more badly you’re burned, sunburns are extremely uncomfortable and directly linked to skin cancer, so they should be avoided as much as possible.


Learning how to tan with fair skin is a process of learning how to use suntan lotion and time in the sun to walk the line between just a little too much sun exposure and getting a sunburn.


Given how difficult it is to estimate the true severity of ultraviolet ray penetration through the atmosphere on most days, you should expect to slip up and get a little burnt quite a few times, even if you practice well. You can even burn on cloudy days too, so watch out.


Avoiding burns is a function of using a higher SPF sunscreen lotion and lowering your time spent in the sunlight. On the other hand, if you are trying to tan, you will need to find an SPF rating that allows enough ultraviolet energy to prompt your skin to produce more melanin.


Depending on how fair skinned you are, this could range from an SPF of 5 to an SPF of 30. SPF 15 is a good starting point for fair skinned people trying to build up a tan.


The good news is that once you have a base tan built up—once your body has produced a minimum amount of melanin that makes getting burnt less likely—you can downgrade to a lower SPF.


You probably won’t get much tanning accomplished if you use an SPF 45 sunscreen and sit in the sun for hours, though.


These days, you can even take a sunscreen pill to help protect your skin, though you may want to combine it with traditional sunscreen methods until you get the hang of how much protection it provides and how quickly.


Take care to read your sunscreen’s instructions for its duration of action, and apply it evenly over the surfaces that you want tanned—especially if you have a lot of hair on those surfaces.


Getting rid of hair before sunscreen application can help avoid razor bumps too.


Hair can get burned and tanned just like the rest of your skin, and tends to bleach out rather than get darker. Here’s a few bikini trimmers that we recommend if you want to get rid of it completely before tanning.


Serious Sunburn Care And Internal Burns

While you’re learning the tanning process, you’re bound to make mistakes.


You can’t make a sunburn go away any faster than your body can repair it, but there are some tools which you can use to reduce the amount of painful swelling, itching, and peeling that comes with a bad burn.


Aloe vera gels are the go-to products for addressing serious surface burns because they contain chemicals which provide a cooling sensation and also help your skin with re-moisturization.


Applying a copious amount of aloe vera gel to a serious external burn prevents the sunburn from causing cracked skin, although it can’t reverse any DNA damage or accelerated aging of your skin that will have occurred as a result of getting a serious burn.


Basic Tanning Techniques For Fair Skin

Here’s the protocol for how to tan with fair skin:


  • Determine how pale your skin is; is your skin translucent, or merely chalky?
  • Take a selfie which includes all the areas that you are interested in tanning. Make a note of where you already have moles and skin tags so that they won’t alarm you later unless they change.
  • Based on #2, pick a sunscreen SPF for your skin type. If your skin is translucent, you will need a higher SPF at the start of the tanning process.
  • Work out a tanning cycle. The paler your skin is at the start of the tanning process, the shorter your duration of time spent in the sun should be in the tanning half of each cycle. Likewise, your recovery time should be longer. Check the weather reports for UV severity on each day, and adjust your time spent in the sun accordingly.
  • Take another selfie every two or three tanning cycles and compare it with the original selfie as well as the previous selfies. If you find that you aren’t getting tanned, try extending the time spent in the sun and reducing the recovery time. Be sure to note any new moles or skin tags that weren’t present in the original selfie, and keep an eye on them.
  • If you get lightly or seriously burned, take a break from your cycles and wait until your skin has fully recovered before starting up on a gentle cycle; your pigmentation will be darker after you’ve healed up from the burn, but you still need to treat your skin gently while it finishes convalescence.
  • Schedule your tanning cycle for a week or two, lay yourself out for the sunny cycles, then compare results with your pigmentation at the start. If you haven’t made a huge amount of progress in darkening your skin tone, but you’ve also managed to avoid getting any burns, you’re in great shape.


This protocol will slowly but surely take you toward the tanned body that you’re seeking, but we still have a little bit of wisdom to share for how to tan with fair skin.


Here are a few tips for tanning fair skin:


Tips For Tanning With Fair Skin

  • Moisturize your skin and hair! The heat and energy of the sun will dry out your skin, and your skin will be much healthier if you moisturize it after each tanning session. Moisturize even when you haven’t been tanning recently. There are shampoos which help to moisturize your hair, so don’t skimp.
  • Each subsequent round of tanning will be more tolerant of mistakes. Your first few tanning cycles are where you’re the most likely to get burnt. Once you have a base tan, burns that would have been devastating will only be mildly annoying, and getting over the first hump to the base tan is the hardest part.
  • Don’t go nuts with the tanning once you’ve figured out how to use our protocol effectively. Melanin production or no, fair skinned people are at much higher risk of skin cancer when they’re repeatedly exposed to ultraviolet rays. That leads us to our final tip.
  • Check your moles, then check them again. Ask someone you trust to check them. Ask your doctor to check them every time you visit. Keep track of them, document them, and be vigilant of newcomers and any changes that you find—this includes all of your bodily surfaces. Catching skin cancer early massively improves your chances, and visual inspections are quick, easy, and reliable ways of getting ahead of any dangerous malignancies.


Wrapping Up

Now that you’re ready to safely and gradually tan your way from fair skin to a beach body, get ready to make a lot of Vitamin D and have a lot of fun—or relaxation—in your tanning venue of choice.


Keep our tips and protocol in mind, and everything will be fine. If you’re tanning with friends, don’t feel the need to keep up with them—fair skinned folk are a special case, and shouldn’t be held to the same tanning rules as everyone else.


You’ll know that a slight burn or two was worth the pain when you start receiving compliments from people you know who are accustomed to seeing you with fair skin.