Skip to main content

How to Get the Perfect Suntan

Combine the best of salon and natural tanning to get that all-over, sun-kissed glow, and remember—sunburns are for suckers.


  • : Unprotected or prolonged exposure to UV rays is dangerous, and can greatly increase your risk for skin cancer and other skin damage.
  • Step 1: Exfoliate and shave Take a shower, and use a loofah or another mild abrasive to gently exfoliate your skin. Shave as usual.
  • Step 2: Use sunscreen Apply a sunscreen that's at least SPF 15. If you choose a lotion that also contains a bronzer, pick one that's based on DHA, a natural sugar that stains the skin. The color takes just a few hours to appear, lasts for days, and gives you a little extra color boost while you build your base.
  • Step 3: Go low and slow Small, regular doses of UV rays are the best way to get your glow. Spend about an hour in the sun every other day, and try to stay in the shade from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you're using a tanning bed, start with regular visits and limit your exposure to several minutes at a time.
  • TIP: If you use a tanning salon, ask your technician about protective goggles and reflectors, and sunscreens that won't damage UV beds and equipment.
  • Step 4: Don't burn Don’t burn. A sunburn causes damage to the skin's cells that not only hinders your ability to tan, but will significantly increase your skin cancer risk.
  • TIP: Avoid tanning oil, which can intensify the sun's rays and cause you to burn quickly.
  • Step 5: Moisturize Hydrated skin tends to tan better than skin that's dry or damaged. Drink lots of water, and use a lotion that contains sodium PCA, a naturally occurring substance that attracts and binds moisture to your skin.
  • Step 6: Keep up your vitamins Use supplements or lotions to get the recommended doses of Vitamin C and E. These nutrients are powerful antioxidants, and can help decrease inflammation and skin cell damage from UV rays.
  • Step 7: Get an all-over tan You'll look pretty silly if you're only tan on one side. Make sure you give your whole body—including sides and underarms—even exposure. And if problem areas like your legs and face don't tan as quickly, regular moisturizing should help.
  • FACT: In 1978, German scientist Friedrich Wolff brought the first indoor tanning bed to the United States.

You Will Need

  • Exfoliant and shaving gear
  • Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
  • Water
  • Lotion with sodium PCA
  • Vitamins C and E
  • Sunscreen with bronzer
  • Tanning bed-safe accessories

Popular Categories