Despite the various methods of sunless tanning available at your fingertips, there’s nothing quite like a genuine suntan which you have gotten from a day at the beach, at the park, or just playing in the sun. And, while suntans are obviously the most natural choice, we still have a tendency to want to prolong them as much as we can, to get the most of all those rays we soaked up during the day.
Luckily, there are definitive answers to lots of your questions like how long does a suntan usually last? There are ways you can ensure your suntan is completely worth it, you can read on to find these out!
How does your skin get tanned?
Have you ever stopped to wonder why, or how, exactly your skin gets tanned in the first place? As well as how long it lasts or what you can do to make it last longer, knowing the ins and outs of how your skin even gets tanned, and the scientific explanation behind it, is really interesting as well. Besides, you might even learn something to help you in the future!
To begin with, it’s good to understand how the Sun’s rays work in relation to your skin; there are two types of rays, UVA and UVB, which both act differently as they have different wavelengths. A quick thing to remember is that UVA causes skin aging and other long-term damage, as it penetrates deeper into the skin (A is for aging!). Meanwhile, UVB causes burning and short-term damage, as it only comes into contact with the top few layers of skin (B for burning).
Melanin is the natural pigment found in our skin, nails and other things in different concentrations, which is why different areas of the body are different colours, and why different people’s skin are different shades. It is found in melanocytes, small cells found in certain areas around the body.
There are many layers of the skin and each serves its own purpose. The epidermis, the outermost of the three layers of your skin, also consists of its own ‘sub-layers’ and it is where the tanning process all takes place.
When the UVA penetrates deeper into the skin, it comes into contact with the melanocyte cells found in the epidermis and this acts as a trigger for these cells to produce melanin. This melanin is produced as a form of protection against your skin from burning, as darker skin is less likely to burn. Then, your skin is less likely to show up when it is damaged by UVB rays (sunburn), but this doesn’t mean it won’t be damaged in the longer term, so you should still take lots of care.
Remember, repeated or constant exposure to high levels of UV rays without adequate protection can cause certain conditions, such as melanoma (the more fatal skin cancer) to develop in later life. For this reason, you must always make sure that you have enough sunscreen covering your entire body whilst out in daylight, and that you are topping it up regularly.
In simpler terms, a suntan is a form of your body’s defense against getting burnt when exposed to continuous sunlight.
How long does a suntan last?
Now that you know exactly how you get a suntan in the first place, it’s time for the information you really came here for: how long does a suntan last? Of course, you should be aware that there are a variety of factors that can contribute to how long your suntan will last, and everybody is different. Nevertheless, basic scientific knowledge can answer this question in a general way which applies to everyone.
Firstly, the average time for which your suntan should last is around 7-10 days, and there are many reasons for this. Of course, this is 7-10 days after you come out of the Sun, meaning, if you were on vacation, it would be around 7-10 days after you get home. If you’re permanently living in a warmer climate, or in hotter weather, this won’t apply, as this constant exposure to the Sun will keep your tan ‘topped up’.
Despite the fact that UVA causes more long-term damage, and penetrates deeper into the skin, it doesn’t mean that the tan lasts permanently, or even very long, at all. One of the reasons for this has to do with the way in which your skin is tanned, to begin with. As the melanin is only produced by your skin to prevent it from burning, the process is not continued once you are out of the sunlight, as your body no longer needs to use it as a method of defense.
Once your body stops producing melanin, your skin maintains the colour it has developed, and it does not ‘lose’ its colour or fade in any way. In fact, the loss of a tan only comes from the natural exfoliation processes which occur in your skin in order to ‘refresh’ it. As you can most probably guess, this entire exfoliation cycle takes around 7-10 days for the average person but can vary depending on the individual and the surrounding conditions.
For most people, they find that their tan doesn’t disappear completely during these 7-10 days, and you can lose your tan in different stages. Often, you’ll find that the unmistakable glow which your holiday skin is adorned with when you pick up that gorgeous tan will go within two or three days but, at the same time, sometimes it can even take a month for your tan to go completely, especially if you go back to even slightly sunny weather.
If you are looking for ways to extend the life of your suntan, and which products you could potentially use to do this, you’ll be happy to hear that there are many options available for you! Read on to find out some extra tips and tips for your naturally gorgeous skin.
What can make it fade faster?
As mentioned earlier, you tan doesn’t necessarily ‘fade’ as such, because this isn’t exactly how the process of losing your tan works, but it appears like the suntan is fading because it’s all completely gradual. It’s really useful to know what makes your suntan fade faster, or even fade at all, in order to do everything you can to keep it for longer, because who doesn’t want their suntan to last as long as possible?
Firstly, a tan is caused to fade due to the way that your skin naturally exfoliates itself, constantly, and therefore removes upper layers of skin over a certain period of time. There are things which can make it fade faster, such as some mentioned below:
- Dry skin: when your skin is dry, it is prone to ‘shedding’ quicker, and this causes you to lose your tan faster.
- Sunburn: as a suntan doesn’t completely protect your skin from sunburn, there is still a slight chance that you can suffer from sunburn, and this would cause your skin to turn red, followed by peeling. If this was the case, it’s easy to see why this causes your tan to go quickly.
- Extensive shaving or exfoliation: if you find that you shave or exfoliate your skin very often, this may be why you’re losing your tan so fast. Lots of exfoliation can speed up the natural process of exfoliation in the skin, and shaving has the same effect.
- Swimming or soaking in water for a long time: while it is nice to spend time in the pool or sea to cool off when on holiday, spending lots of time in the water can make your suntan fade, as it dries out your skin. Swimming in chlorine water has more of a dramatic effect than swimming in salt water, but they’re both factors.
What can you do to make it last longer?
You now know what causes a tan to fade quickly, but how can you prevent this, and make your suntan stick around for longer? There’s nothing like leaving your holiday destination with the most beautiful looking tan and finding out that it’s already gone a few days after you arrive home when you’re planning to flaunt it in front of your friends. Fortunately, there are lots of solutions out there, which are easy to follow, and take care of your skin at the same time.
If you’re looking for ways to extend the lifetime of your suntan, here are some tricks and choices you should consider:
- Keep your skin moisturised: if there is one thing on this list which you should most definitely follow, it’s this one. When you have a suntan, your skin tends to become dry much more often, and dry skin can lead to the colour fading very quickly. To combat this, make sure that you moisturise your entire body at least once a day, as well as every time you bath, shower or swim, to ensure that hydration levels are maintained.
- Avoid as much exfoliation as possible: as well as keeping your skin moisturised, avoiding exfoliating your skin where possible can also help you keep your gorgeous glow for longer, without even having to implement any sunless tanners! Be aware that this also includes anything like shaving, too.
- Use a gentle body wash: although this isn’t the most important on the list, swapping out your regular body wash for something a little gentler can help to prevent any of the product from being overly harsh on your skin, or stripping it of essential nourishment.
- Try a gradual tanner: if you don’t want to go back to pale skin when your tan’s over, but you don’t want to switch all the way to the opposite extreme of a spray tan or self-tanner, a gradual tanner can be your secret weapon. Just apply a little bit a day to build up an enviable shade that will last longer than your natural tan!
- Use products designed for self-tanner: as weird as this may sound, swapping out some of your body care products for ones which are ‘safe’ to use with a spray tan or self-tanner can ensure that they are more nourishing for your skin and that they don’t strip it too much of anything it needs. These products are designed to prolong a fake tan using the same methods as those which apply to a real tan.
Do other types of tanning last longer?
Of course, a suntan isn’t the only method of tanning available, and self-tanner or a spray tan could be your future best friend, even if you don’t yet know t. At least, you should be aware of the various benefits of using fake tan rather than a natural suntan and make your decision from there. You never know – they might last even longer!
If you get a spray tan, you can expect this to last around 7-10 days, which is on a par with a suntan. For self-tanner, there are many different types, but the average product should last you around 4-5 days before starting to fade or become patchy, making them last for a shorter time than a suntan.
Nevertheless, it’s still worth researching about the types of sunless tanning available to you, as they can be less harmful for your skin and body than natural tanning, especially if you’re looking for a deeper colour. Not to mention, the colour appears in a matter of hours, with very little effort and no discomfort, which beats risking sunburn whilst lying out in the middle of the beach.
In general, a natural suntan should last around 7-10 days, but this can potentially vary depending on your body specifically, as well as other factors such as the environment around you or how you take care of your skin. There are ways by which you can elongate the life of your suntan, but this is completely up to you. The important thing is that you keep safe when sunbathing and avoid sunburn at all costs.