Tanning seems to come so easily to so many people, but it is so dependent on many different factors, and you might find yourself trying your best to tan, but your skin just does not react, or worse, you land up sunburned.
You might even have been able to tan before, and now all of a sudden your tan is stuck at a certain point, and you simply just cannot tan.
Why can’t I tan? There are many reasons why your skin might stop tanning, and why you might be burning instead of turning brown. Your skin might have reached a tanning plateau, you might have the wrong skin type for tanning, or you might be using the wrong tanning products.
To help you tan better, or to find a better alternative to darken your skin, we have covered all you need to know on why you might not be tanning, and what you can do to help give your skin a bronzed glow!
Why Can’t I Tan?
There are different reasons as to why your skin might not tan, or why you might land up burning instead. To better work with your skin to develop a tan, you need to understand why your skin is not tanning.
These are the main reasons why your skin might not be tanning:
You’ve Reached A Tanning Plateau
If you have previously been able to tan, and suddenly your skin is stuck on a certain tan shade and refuses to get any darker, it is very likely that you have reached a tanning plateau.
This happens when your skin thickens after continued tanning, and once your skin reaches a certain thickness, the UV rays battle to penetrate deeper, and therefore are unable to tan your skin.
This also happens because your skin becomes dryer the longer it is exposed to the sun, and dry skin does not tan very easily either.
Even though your skin might not be tanning in the sun once it reaches its tanning plateau, your skin is still being damaged by exposure to UV rays, so it is best to stay out of the sun where you can.
Your Skin Type
Skin type plays a huge role in how well your skin can tan, and if you have a skin type that does not tan very easily, then it would explain why you burn instead of turning brown.
Skin types 1 to 3 are most at risk of burning and are usually light to beige skin tones. Sometimes a skin type 3 might tan, but this is very gradual and very light, and cannot be exposed to the sun for long periods.
Skin types beyond this, with light brown to dark skin, usually tan much easier and hardly burn.
Understanding your skin type is essential to tanning safely, and to protecting your skin from any damage done by the sun.
Too High SPF
It is always advised to wear sunscreen when you are tanning. You might think that the sunscreen will lessen the chance you have to tan, but a low SPF of 15 or 20 is really important to try and reduce the damage done to your skin.
You will still be able to tan when wearing sunscreen, but you will at least be protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, and lessening the chance that your skin will burn and not tan.
So, you might not be tanning because the sunscreen you are using has too high an SPF. Try to use an SPF of 15 or 20 when out in the sun. If your skin type is fair, then an SPF 30 might be a better option.
Wrong Tanning Time
Tanning time needs to be kept in check, to help build enough of a tan, but also to not spend too much time out in the sun that your skin burns.
You might not be developing a tan because you are not spending enough time in the sun. For lighter skin tones, 10-30 minutes in the sun is ideal. Darker skin tones can spend longer in the sun, but it should not exceed an hour or so.
The longer you expose your skin to UV rays, the higher your chance of burning, but you also need to spend enough time in the sun to help develop a tan!
Incorrect Tanning Method
When tanning, you need to make sure that your skin is exposed to UV rays that will actually change the color of your skin.
You could be tanning at the wrong time, which could cause your skin to stay the same color and not tan. The best time to tan is before 10 am and after 3 pm, as the sun is still strong enough to tan your skin at this time, but it is not strong enough to burn it too much.
If your skin burns when you tan, it could be that you are tanning when the sun is too strong, and if you aren’t tanning at all, you might be tanning when the sun is not strong enough.
Have a look at your weather app to find out what the UV index is for the day you are wanting to tan. A UV index of between 3 to 4 is ideal to tan in, as it is not too weak and not too strong!
Can Fair Skin Types Tan?
Fair skin types can tan, but it does take a little more work to tan fair and pale skin, and sometimes it is not actually worth it, as it might do more harm than good.
Your skin type determines how easily you tan, and how easily you burn, with fairer skin types burning much easier than tanning.
Here are some tips that you can use to tan with fair skin:
The first thing you need to do when trying to tan with fair skin is use sunscreen. You will only land up with sunburn if you try to tan without sunscreen, and in some cases, a sunburn might turn into a tan, but you cannot rely on this, as burning really does just damage your skin.
Wearing SPF 30 with fair skin will allow you to tan, and it will protect your skin from burning. This helps to reduce the amount of damage done, and it also helps to prevent peeling.
Build Your Tan Slowly
If you have fair skin, you will never be able to build a deep, dark tan in one day. You have to build your tan up slowly and spend short amounts of time in the sun to start.
Start with 10 to 15 minutes in the sun during your first two sessions. After this, you can add on 5 minutes each time until you can sit in the sun without burning. This usually works out to between 20 to 25 minutes in the sun each time.
When it comes to a tanning bed, the time you spend tanning is much less. Your first session in a tanning bed should only be between 2-3 minutes long, increasing your tan by 1 or 2 minutes the next time you tan.
Slow and steady is the best way to develop a tan on fair skin, so you need to be patient enough to do this.
Allow Resting Time
You should tan gradually and in increments, and you should allow your skin time to rest between tanning sessions.
Sitting in the sun, even when tanning, you are doing damage to your skin, so you cannot put your skin under this stress each day.
You should allow at least 3 days before tanning again, whether in a tanning bed or in the sun. Longer is better, but if you are building up a base tan, then tanning twice a week should be fine.
Make Use Of Tanning Accelerators
Tanning accelerators will be your best friend when tanning with fair skin. They keep your skin nourished and hydrated when in the sun, and this helps you tan faster. Your time in the sun would be made more effective, and you will get the most of the UV rays without burning.
The tanning accelerators will also help your tan develop after you have left the sun too, keeping skin hydrated, and they will also help to extend the life of your tan too.
Make sure to keep moisturizing your skin daily, even twice daily, when you are building up a tan. You should also increase your water intake, just to make up for the drying effect the sun will have on your skin.
What Are Tanning Alternatives?
If you find that your skin has stopped tanning, and you are landing up with sunburn rather than a tan, you might want to try a tanning alternative.
Finding a sunless tanning alternative can help protect your skin from any damage done by UV rays, which has far-reaching benefits.
Here are some of the best tanning alternatives to tanning in the sun:
Self-tanners are at-home products that you can use yourself to build up a tan. Self-tanner comes in many forms, such as lotions, mousses, gels, and foams, and these all work using the same active ingredient.
DHA, the active ingredient in self-tanners, works with the outer layer of your skin cells to darken the color of your skin.
Self-tanners give your skin a golden tan that can last for up to 2 weeks before it starts fading. They offer a great way to get a golden bronzed tone at home without having to spend any time in the sun.
The DHA in self-tanners takes up to 12 hours to develop a darker color on your skin, and how soon you wash your tanning lotion off determines how dark the tan develops.
Spray tans are done by professionals and usually turn out perfectly even and patch-free. A spray tan technician will work with you to choose the best formula for your skin, and then work to apply the spray tan evenly from there.
Spray tan formulas contain DHA like self-tanners do, and often contain a bronzer as well, which will give you an instant bronzed tone to enjoy while the DHA develops the darker tone over a few hours. The bronzer will wash away with the first shower you take.
There are spray tan formulas that are free from bronzer, which might be better suited if you do not want the bronzed temporary glow.
Spray tans will last for up to 2 weeks before fading.
As mentioned above, some spray tans, and even self-tanners, can contain bronzers. Bronzers are a temporary color on the skin that washes away with your first shower.
You do not need to use self-tanner or spray tans to enjoy a bronzer, and you can buy products that contain bronzers only.
This is a good option if you just want a bronzed glow for a day or one night out, and do not want to risk any patches or streaks that might come with using a self-tanner.
Can Everyone Tan?
Whether not everyone can tan is not a straightforward question. The different skin types all tan differently, with the fairer skin tones burning more than tanning.
There are ways that fair skin tones can tan, but it isn’t recommended for them to do so. The risk of burning is too high, and the damage done to the skin can be long-lasting. Even darker skin tones are still damaged by exposure to UV rays.
So while almost all skin types can tan, not all skin types should. It is best to work with your skin tone, and if you have fairer skin, use tanning alternatives instead, such as self-tanners or spray tans.
How Do You Move On From A Tanning Plateau?
Tanning plateaus happen when your skin has been tanned for too long and it thickens to the point where UV rays cannot penetrate deep down and darken the skin further.
The best way to move on from a tanning plateau is to stop tanning for a while. You need to keep your skin out of the sun for at least a few weeks and allow the dead skin cells to naturally exfoliate. Gently exfoliating your skin once or twice a week can also help.
Once you have waited a few weeks before tanning again, you should use a tanning accelerator to help your skin make the most of the UV rays, to help it darken once again.
Why Can’t I Tan?
Trying to tan, and not tanning or burning instead, can be really frustrating! There are various reasons why your skin might not be tanning, and the only way to move past this is to understand what the reason might be, and then work to fix it.
Some skin types are just not suited for tanning, and in these cases, you should use tanning alternatives such as spray tans and self-tanners, to protect your skin from burning, and to still get that bronzed glow!
Do melanin pills help you tan?
Melanin pills do not work to stimulate more melanin production, but they instead help change the appearance of the color of your skin. The effects can vary, and you might land up with more of an orange color than a brown tan.
How long does a tan take to develop?
A tan can take quite some time to develop, and you will not notice your skin darken straight away. Generally, a tan will take between 2 to 3 days to develop fully.