HOW TO Get and Keep a Tan this Summer

After 6 months of being super white (I didn’t make it to the beach this winter) I finally have a tan. After just a few sessions at the pool/beach I’m already pretty bronzed. It’s surprising to me that my skin tans so easily because (to my knowledge) my heritage is Irish, Czechoslovakian, and German. Anyway, I’m happy for this and over the years I’ve perfected how to get a tan and how to keep it all summer without peeling.

This may not work for people who burn easily or have really fair skin, but I think it will help most regardless — you just have to know what level to do it at.

I know most dermatologists will tell you not to go in the sun more than 20 minutes a day and always wear sunscreen and hats etc. And they are doctors, not me. But I know a lot of you will do whatever you want anyway so here’s how I think I (fairly safely) get a good deep tan and keep it all summer.



1 // Try to see the sun during the winter.

I think it’s best when your skin doesn’t forget about the sun. I live in DC so it’s basically impossible to have most of your skin “see the sun” in the winter so if you live somewhere that has winter, then if you can I’d try to book a few warm weather vacations throughout the winter. In DC winter is typically December through March, so 2 or 3 long weekends to Miami, Mexico, or really anywhere warm will do the trick.

Beach trips in the winter not only give me something to look forward to, but it helps my winter blues. I get real grouchy and negative come January, February, and March if I haven’t been to the beach.

2 // As soon as it’s nice enough for shorts and short sleeves, start getting short bouts of sun.

Maybe a little picnic in the park or take your dog on a walk. But make sure to wear sunscreen if your skin hasn’t seen the sun in a while or you burn easily, or if you’re going to be outside for longer than 30 minutes. Just start getting small bouts of exposure that won’t burn you but start easing your skin back into sunlight.

3 // Avoid burning at all cost.

Burning is terrible for so many reasons — I’m no dermatologist but you already know why you shouldn’t burn and I think that my aversion to burning helps me get a deeper lasting tan every year. When you burn, you will likely peel, so not burning is a huge key to keeping your tan.

4 // Wear sunscreen.

I know, everyone says this, but this is a huge! Now, I’m not the type of person that wears sunscreen every day (mostly because a lot of sunscreens have chemicals that aren’t good for you in them), but also I just don’t really feel I need it. Skin cancer doesn’t run in my family, I have no moles, etc. If you do have those things then you probably do need to wear it daily (and a lot of doctors suggest it). Be smart about it and it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Also, reread #3.

I usually wear a high SPF suncreen (anywhere from 30-50) on my face, shoulders, and arms because they tend to get the most sun. Then I’ll wear a lesser SPF on my legs/stomach/back. Usually anywhere from 4-15. But I always keep the sunscreen with me and put more on when if I feel like I’m getting more sun than expected or if I get in the water.

I also apply lotion sunscreen at least 10 minutes before I go out in the sun so it can soak in, and then I’ll use the spray or lotion if reapplying while out. I’m telling you, I’ve thought about this process a lot and have tested it over the years!

5 // Gradually get a tan.

Don’t try to get a dark tan on the first nice day of the season. The key to getting a nice natural tan is doing it gradually. The first few weeks I’m in the sun I only spend a few hours outside and I will wear sunscreen especially on my shoulders and nose, which tend to always get the most sun. But by wearing sunscreen during those early weeks in the sun, I build a gradual tan without ever burning and I’m convinced this sets me up for long summer days in the sun.

6 // As SOON as you feel like you are getting too much sun GO INSIDE.

Or get in the shade. Even if you really want to get tan and it’s a beautiful day — get out of the sun once you feel a little pink or overheated. Get in the pool, put on a hat, get in the shade. Cool down. Trust me, I’ve spent way too much time in the sun before and that led me to getting a heat rash. Even though I wasn’t that pink my skin was telling me — whoa too much sun too quick.

7 // Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. 

I can’t stress this enough. This is one of the MAIN WAYS to keep your tan longer. In the winter I let it go a little once I loose my tan, but otherwise I slather on lotion & oil when I’m trying to keep a tan. Usually twice a day I’ll get my entire body. My lower legs seem to always need more than the rest of my body so I always make sure to douse them at night, but I also make sure to moisturize my shoulders and arms really well. Every. Day. The second your skin gets dry — bye bye tan.

8 // Drink a lot of water!

This will help with keeping your skin moisturized. You sweat a lot when it’s hot, and so your water is coming out of you and making you dehydrated instead of staying in you and keeping your skin moisturized.

Drinking a lot of water helps a lot of things besides just skin, so if you don’t drink a lot of water you really need to start. I like to drink all types of water to keep it tasting different. I drink a variety of plain water, water with lemon, and sparkling water every single day. If you don’t like plain water I recommend infusing it with whatever fruit/citrus/veg you like — strawberries, lemons, cucumbers — you can use a bottle or pitcher to make it easier. Or try some mineral or sparkling water, but make sure they don’t have sugar!

Here are some infusing water bottles and pitchers to choose from:

I actually don’t use an infuser myself. I cut a lemon in half every morning, use some in my hot lemon water, and the rest in cold water. Then I put the other half of the lemon in a lemon saver, and use it when I get home in the evening in another giant glass of water (I have another lemon saver at my office as I drink lemon water there as well). I squeeze the lemon juice directly into the water using just a mini strainer to keep the seeds out. And I drink it with a smoothie straw. I just find that I can drink a lot more water through a straw, and even more using a wider smoothie straw.

9 // Exfoliate lightly.

As much as I love a good scrub down, in the summer I don’t scrub my skin as vigorously. And sometimes if I’m showering right after getting sun, or if I did get a little too much sun, I take a luke warm shower and use shower gel and a washcloth and just pat the soap on my skin. No scrubbing.

10 // Slap, don’t scratch.

If you have an itch, don’t scratch it — slap it! Seriously.

11 // Frequent and short.

I think spending time in the sun as often as you can, but for shorter periods of time helps with keeping a tan. I mean a long beach/pool day here and there is good too, but never forget #3 — avoid burning at all cost. Plus, you should get some sun every day. It will help you sleep better by keeping your circadian rhythm in check. I’ve read that it’s really good to get some sun first thing in the morning to help you wake up.

12 // Use self-tanner.

Now this might seem counterintuitive but I still use self tanner in the summer. I actually probably use it more in the summer than in the winter. If I get pale in the winter, I just embrace the pale until I can see the sun again. Trying to self tan my entire body is just way too much effort for me. I’d rather hop a flight to Miami for a few days to remedy that situation then attempt to get an even self tan.

Why do I use self tanner in the summer? Well even though I like to get sun, I don’t want to get gross leather wrinkle skin when I’m older — especially not on my face. Which is why I wear sunscreen on my face and wear hats sometimes, and always sunglasses. So I get raccoon eyes a lot because I’m always wearing sunglasses. Also if you are outside doing something not in a bathing suit, you can get weird tan lines, and I hate lying on my stomach. So I’m usually reading a book on my back, and my backside never gets as much sun as my front, so I even it out with self tanner, and I’ll fill in any weird bathing suit or tank top tan lines with self tanner. I don’t use it every day, maybe once a week I’ll try to even everything out.

I like to use Neutrogena Micro-Mist Self Tanner to spray my back and the back of my legs, and also if I need to even any lines out. The Clarins Gel I will use if I need to get tan quickly, and the Clarins Golden Glow Booster I will drop in my moisturizer for my face and neck if I need to even out racoon eyes or if my face just needs a bit of a glow.

There you have it — all my tips on how to get and keep a tan this summer! If you have any great tips or favorite self-tanning products, please leave them below!


Photo by Margot Pandone via Unsplash