All You Need To Know About Suntanning

It is a brand new year and monsoon season will be over soon. That means the sunny season is hitting Singapore very soon, so…time to get tanned! Whether you are just starting out or wondering how to tan, this article is for you. A lot of people might disagree with me on suntanning and getting under the sun as it can cause skin cancer. This is almost the same as telling people not to consume sugar or carbs as it will make them fat. With the right timing and right after-sun care, your skin can glow and shine till you are old. Read on and you, be the judge. I have been tanning religiously since 2012. Tanning once weekly or whenever I am free in the morning, you will find me doing nothing but tanning like a Lemur. Below are some things that I have practised and worked for me. You can try them if you haven’t.

Why Suntan?

According to scientific research, being tanned boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. One will feel more toned or muscular when standing under any lighting if tanned. When this happens, you will naturally feel more confident because you see a better version of yourself. For the general public, you need a tan to get vitamin D because a lot of us work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, sitting indoors and not getting enough vitamin D from our diet alone. Fashion wise, when you are tanned, you can wear more bright, colorful shades like pink, orange and yellow.


When, How Long and How Many Times A Week To Suntan?

The best time to start tanning is 8.30am. I used to go to the beach as early as 8am. Depending on your skin type and how tanned you want to be, the time you should spend under the sun varies. Try to stop tanning after 11.30am. The sun from 12noon to 3pm will be too scorching and emits the most UV rays which can be very harmful to your skin. Fair skin will get burnt during these hours. Hence, try to avoid tanning from 12-3pm. If you are tanning once a week, 8.30-11.30am would be the ideal duration to tan. If you are tanning 3-4 times a week, 1 hour from maybe 10-11am will be good enough. Keep trying and figure out your skin’s tolerance. Try to space your days apart if you are tanning 3-4 times a week so you don’t tan every day.

Suntanning For Fair Skin

I first started tanning with fair skin! Yes, after each tanning session, I always had severe burns. I couldn’t even sleep properly because the slightest movement will make my skin feel like it’s tearing. Never tan after 11.30am if you have fair skin. Try to tan between 8.30am-10.30am. When you get more tanned, you can consider extending your tanning hours to 11.30am. If you feel a burning sensation, get into the shade once in a while. Apply tanning oil with SPF 2 or 4 to prevent your skin from burning. Finally, work out the maximum time that your body can be under the sun for and don’t tan longer than that. This way, you can prevent sunburns and enjoy your tan.

How Long Does The New Tan Last?

Depending on your original skin tone, your new tan can last 1-2 weeks. After which, the richness of your tan will start to fade.

How To Maintain Your Tan To keep the tan, get under the sun at least once a week or once every fortnight. Not forgetting to moisturize your body every day right after you shower. You can also find moisturizers labeled ‘Tan Extender’. You can find such rare products in indoor tanning studios. Lastly, blend yourself a cup of carrots mixed with blueberries! Why? These fruits contain beta-carotene, which helps your body produce melanin that can help maintain your tan. You think it is a myth? I once thought it was a myth when a friend of mine told me but after I tried, it was…amazing!

Why Is The Area Under My Armpit Not Tanned?

There are a few specific ways to turn while tanning. It is not just about prone or supinated positions while tanning. You have to turn like a turtle in order to get your whole body tanned. Try having 4 kinds of positions which will enable you to tan your side of your body. It is a pose similar when you sleep on your sides.

Bronze Or Burnt?

This is a tricky question. For beginners, you would like to stay under the sun longer, thinking you will get ‘bronzer’ but it doesn’t work that way. Our skin takes about 1-2 days to develop new melanin for your body. To find out if you are burnt, a good way is to feel the heat. If you feel uncomfortable under the sun and feel pins-and-needles on your skin, it is time to stop tanning and shower up. I still remember the pain I used to go through when I was burnt back then.

What’s Good To Do The Night Before Suntanning

It would be perfect to do all your shaving the night before your tanning. Also, exfoliate and mask your face. You don’t want to do all the latter after your tan because your skin will be damaged and easily irritated by all the shavings and exfoliation etc. Exfoliation clears any dead skin. By doing this the night before, you are actually creating a new layer of skin, ready to be tanned.

Weather Forecast Apps

Believe it or not, I have 3 or 4 weather applications in my mobile phone to check the weather. This is extremely critical because then you can plan your time as suntanning outdoors is time-consuming. In my own experience, if you see a clear blue sky at 8am without clouds, quickly head out to tan. If it is cloudy at 8am, hold out until 10am. Usually, the sun will be out around 11am.

What Else To Do During Tanning?

Over the years, I find this is the hardest thing to answer. Even I can’t figure it out. Back then, I would sleep pretty late the night before and catch up on sleep while tanning. Recently, I used the time while tanning to read some of my old books. Sometimes, I would think of all sorts of matters and pen them down. I used to switch on some reggae songs by the beach. I still remember joining the kids for beach soccer when I got bored tanning. You will be spending 1-3 hours under the sun so be creative! I would advise not to use your phone under the sun for long periods of time as the heat will damage your phone.

What’s Good To Do Just Before Suntanning?

Take a quick shower or rinse! This will open up your pores and the tanning oil can be absorbed quicker. I used to exfoliate my body followed by a quick shower minutes before my tan. Yes! It is a hell lot of effort. This step is to maximise your rate of absorption. After you shower, dry yourself and stay indoors to apply your tanning oil. Preferably right in front of/under the fan because you don’t want to be sweating. Sweat prevents your skin from absorbing the oil. After you’ve covered your whole body, stay indoors for about 5 minutes before hitting the sun. This step will allow the oil to be fully absorbed into the skin before tanning. A lot of people do it the wrong way – applying tanning oil under the hot sun. Remember, you want to be dry so your sweat doesn’t prevent the absorption of oil into your skin.

What Should You Do And Not Do After Suntanning?

Choose a shower head that does not spout water at you. Your skin is already irritated by the sun, so you want gentle water pressure. Moisturise straight after your shower to promote skin healing and prevent excessive dryness. Any kind of Aloe Vera will do the trick. Never shave right after your tan. You will irritate your skin even more. Do all your shaving the night before or 3 days after the tan.

Recommended Tanning Oils

From my experience, I find that tanning oils defer from person to person. Some used Banana Boat Oil and got really tanned. Tanning oil is not a must but the oil enhances the look of your skin after tanning. For me, I used Banana Boat oil but it didn’t turn out well for me. The best ones I have tried are Hawaii Tropics Dark Tanning Oil, Dr. Mercola’s Coconut Oil and Carrot Sun Tanning Oil from UK. However, Singapore no longer sells Hawaii Tropics. If you have any friends going to the US, they can easily grab a few bottles for you at Walmart or Walgreens. As for Carrot Sun Tanning Oil, you can order online at I love tanning oil which contains coconut oil because it naturally has SPF and protects your skin. Of course, you can tan without any oil! I usually tan without any tanning oil when I am in a hurry or if it is a cloudy day.

Are These Tanning Oils Waterproof? To begin with, it is oil. Hence, it will be waterproof but the reaction with chlorine water in the swimming pool and sea minerals, the oil may not remain waterproof. Try to dry yourself up before reapplying your tanning oil. Apply generously every hour if needed.

Know The Different Types Of Sunrays

There are two rays you need to know: UVA and UVB. UVA causes aging and wrinkles at the outermost layer of skin. UVB radiation damages deeper skin layers, potentially causing skin cancer.

Sun Protection – Lotion, Gel, Spray or Cream? And what’s SPF?

This is extremely important when purchasing a suntanning product. There is a big difference in cream and lotion. Cream contains more mineral oil than lotion. Hence, cream is way thicker than lotion. Usually, cream and lotion need to be applied at least 15 minutes before you get under the sun. If you apply lotion/cream and it appears white on your skin, it means you need to let it settle until you no longer see any trace of it before you get under the sun. If you have oily skin, try not to use lotion and cream. They will make it worse. Use a gel instead. That is the reason why the gel form of Aloe Vera has been developed. As for sprays, they are much more convenient and the oil can be evenly sprayed onto your body. However, it is pricier.

What is SPF?

It stands for Sun Protection Factor. Simply remember it as a multiply factor of your maximum tan time. For example, if you get red or burnt after 20 minutes, a SPF 15 means you can stay under the sun 15 times more, that adds up to 300 minutes before you get burnt. So around 3 hours plus. Hence, SPF 30 is enough for sun protection. You will still get tanned with SPF but not quite a golden tan. Hence, a small amount of SPF is good for fair skinned people.

Difference Between Sunscreen And Sunblock?

Sunblock totally blocks the sun from your skin. You will not be getting any sun if you apply sunblock. Sunscreen still allows certain sun rays to penetrate into your skin. Hence, choose according to what you need. Select one that protects you from UVA and UVB.

How To Get Rid Of Tanning Oil?

I know some of us still feel oily after showering. Fret not. These oils are actually essential oils which moisturize and protect your skin even after tanning. If you are still disgusted by the oil, you need to foam your whole body and let the soap settle for at least 5 minutes before you rinse yourself. Then, foam yourself the 2nd time and your body will be 80% free of oil. However, for areas like the calves and feet, the oil will still be present.

Where To Get These Sun Tanning Products Locally?

You can try various shops like Guardian, Watsons, hiking shops, Venus or Unity. Every outlet sells different products. Keep searching until you find the one that suits you best. When you travel overseas for a beach holiday, keep your eyes peeled and see what the local shops have to offer! Sadly, many brands are no longer sold in Singapore. Shipping from overseas is not ideal as the shipping alone can cost a lot.

After-sun Care

This is the part that almost everyone forgets and where skin can be further damaged. If you tanned a lot and skip this step, you are aging your skin. Start moisturizing your whole body, including your face, right after each shower. If you have oily skin, choose gel over lotion or cream because gel will not make your skin oily. Cream and lotion usually have other essential oils. Any Aloe Vera is good enough.

Is There A Difference Between Tanning By The Pool And The Beach?

In my experience, yes! A big difference. Comparing the poolside and beach, tanning on a beach gives you a much nicer tan. Tanning on a beach and getting into the sea water changes the chemistry between your body and the tanning oil. With the huge amount of sea minerals, it reacts with the tanning oil and somehow makes your tan much richer. The sea breeze plays a part too. I have been researching on this but I can’t find any studies.

Does The Sea Breeze Affect Tanning?

In my opinion, yes. There was once, I ran along the beach with my spectacles on and after running, I found my spectacles was filled with micro bits of droplets. They were really micro. With your tanning oil and these micro droplets brought by the sea waves and wind, it will definitely make your tan darker.

Does The Beach Sand On Body Affects Suntanning?

Yes, it does! If you are going to the beach for tanning, bring along a big mat or a towel which enables you to turn comfortably. You want your body to be free from the beach sand. If you are tanning without any tanning oil, get down the seawater and wash your body before changing positions.

Does Cloud Affect Suntanning?

Absolutely. When there are clouds shadowing the sun, tanning will not be as effective as sun without clouds. That being said, sun with clouds means you can stay under the sun even it is after 12noon. It will take a little experience to know if it is too hot to be under the sun. After a while, you will master this cloud and sun relationship.

Does Suntanning Really Reduce Pimples?

As a teenager who was plagued by pimples, I thought getting under the sun would reduce my pimples and I was half correct. The process does not reduce your pimples but it reduces the visibility of pimples. How? When you are more tanned, your skin pigment is darker too. Therefore, pimples will appear darker in contrast to your skin versus red pimples and fair skin.

If The Sun’s Not Your Thing, There’s Always Indoor Tanning

If you are always busy and on the run, you can go for indoor tanning. You will be lying down with your back on an enclosed machine bed. Each tanning session ranges from 5-15 minutes, depending on your skin type. The retail personnel will advise you on your skin type accordingly when you visit them. Each session cost about S$50-S$70 but they do have packages that are cheaper in total. The 5 minutes you stay inside the bed equates to about an hour in the sun. It is very costly but saves you time. Finally, they usually sell lotion that is suitable for use on the tanning bed. These lotions enhance your tan and act as a moisturizer. Some of them contain bronzers. You are recommended to shower before you apply these lotions and remember to keep yourself cool. Remember, do not sweat. After tanning, you are recommended not to shower and keep the lotion on your skin. One disadvantage about the lotion is that it will develop a burnt odor after a few hours. You will smell weird but the results are amazing. Golden tan!

Can I Still Get Tanned Sunless?

Yes you can! There are products sold by tanning studios or that can help make your skin tone a little tanned without getting under the sun. There are many disadvantages of self-tanners. Most of them have a weird odor after application. It is not easy to wash off and it makes the tan looks flaky. You can try to apply self-tanner and be your own judge. Other Tips On Tanning If you intend to stay on the beach for long, alternate between the sun and shade. While in the shade, your skin color will change slightly. Give it time to adjust before heading out for the next round. Lastly, do not always face the beach. Follow the sun’s direction. You can use the tanning bottle as a guide to see which direction you should be lying down. The sun should be shining directly at you and not just one side of your body.

I hope this long article helps you understand the art of tanning much more than before. Now that you are equipped with the knowledge, you can start your tanning locally or overseas! Start planning your Bali, Krabi etc beach holidays now!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or professional. All write-ups are based on my personal experiences and years of experimentation.

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Your Coach, Amirrudin Ong


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