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How to tan when you have fair skin?

Individuals with fair skin have a low production of melanin, which increases their sensitivity to the sun's rays. This skin type is particularly prone to sunburn and often struggles to tan. However, it's not impossible for fair skin to achieve a slight tan. Here are all our tips.


Why do fair skins have difficulty tanning?

The concept of phototype is often used to characterize a person's skin tone, as well as their skin's ability to tan without burning in the sun. The most commonly used classification today is that of Fitzpatrick, which distinguishes 6 phototypes, from the lightest to the darkest. Individuals with a phototype I and II particularly struggle to tan and frequently experience sunburns.

From a biological perspective, this can be explained by the prevalence of certain pigments such as melanin, hemoglobin, or carotenoids in individuals with darker skin. The quantity and form of melanin in the epidermis are particularly significant. Indeed, there are two types of melanin: eumelanin, which is quite dark, and pheomelanin, which is lighter. The former is more prevalent in individuals with a phototype III to VI and provides more protection from UV rays than pheomelanin. Thus, when individuals with lighter skin expose themselves to the sun, the synthesized melanin is lighter and offers a more limited tan and protection.

Tip #1: Exfoliate your skin before exposing it to the sun.

In order to optimize the tanning process, it is recommended toexfoliate your skin a few days before sun exposure. This care helps to remove dead cells and stimulates cell renewal. Smooth and uniform, the skin will tan faster and more effectively, a boon for people with fair skin. Exfoliation should be done about once or twice a week. To facilitate tanning, it should be done about 3 days before sunbathing. An exfoliation performed a day before exposure may risk weakening the skin and promoting sunburns . At Typology, we offer a wide range ofexfoliants, allowing you to unify and smooth your skin gently.

Tip #2: Focus on Nutrition.

To achieve a brown hue for your skin, it is not necessarily required to expose yourself to the sun's rays, or at least this exposure can be supplemented with a specific diet. Fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, or peaches are particularly recommended. Indeed, once ingested, beta-carotene is converted into retinol, the active form of vitamin A, in the intestinal mucosa. The presence of retinol in the blood stimulates melanogenesis, which is the synthesis of melanin.

You can also consider turning to dietary supplements rich in beta-carotene. They have the advantage of containing a higher concentration of beta-carotene than traditional foods, which optimizes tanning. The initial effects of these self-tanning capsules often appear after a month. It's also worth noting that the ideal duration for a course is generally three months.

Tip #3: Tanning Activator Treatments.

Typically applied two weeks before exposure, so-called tanning activators help to prepare the synthesis of melanin. These treatments are suitable for all skin tones, but are primarily intended for fair skin that has difficulty tanning. They generally contain beta-carotenes or peptides to stimulate melanogenesis. Most tanning activators are also formulated with antioxidant molecules, such as vitamin E or polyphenols, to provide skin protection against the harmful action of free radicals, which are produced following UV exposure.

Tip #4: Why not consider a self-tanner?

The use ofself-tanners is becoming increasingly common, and for good reason, these treatments give the skin a tanned hue without having to expose oneself to UV rays. People with fair skin particularly benefit from this type of care, due to their difficulty in tanning in the sun without burning. Most self-tanners contain a plant-derived molecule, called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Once applied to the skin, this compound induces a brownish hue in 4 to 6 hours, by reacting with the amino acids in the corneal layer of the epidermis through a Maillard reaction to form pigments, the melanoidins, which are responsible for the skin's coloration.

At Typology, we have developed a self-tanning serum for the face, offering a natural and gradual tan. It is concentrated at 10% in DHA and also contains carob pulp (INCI: Ceratonia Siliqua Seed Extract), a compound rich in inositol, a molecule that acts on melanogenesis. This serum can be applied alone or mixed with your day cream. If you have fair skin, however, be careful not to apply too much, as you risk achieving an unnatural result. We also offer a self-tanning gel for the body, concentrated at 6% in DHA and also containingaloe vera (INCI: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder), a hydrating and soothing molecule, and turmeric extract (INCI: Curcuma Longa Root Extract) for its antioxidant properties.

Tip #5: Do not forget to protect yourself.

As previously mentioned, fair skin is highly sensitive to UV rays. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals with this skin type to protect themselves when exposed to the sun, or they risk developing a sunburned, non-tanned complexion. The first step in this protection process is the application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen. If you have fair skin, opt for an SPF 50 product, which offers greater protection than an SPF 30. The latter is more suitable for individuals with darker skin. Sunscreen should be applied approximately fifteen minutes before going outside, and this step should be repeated every two hours in the event of prolonged exposure.

We also recommend that you prioritize a gradual tan. To do this, initially expose yourself for short durations (less than thirty minutes) and then gradually increase the exposure time. This will help to limit the risk of sunburn and burns. However, if you feel any discomfort or heat, stop the ongoing exposure and apply an after-sun care product to hydrate the skin and prevent it from peeling. Finally, even when you want to tan, it is recommended to avoid sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the time of day when UV rays are the most intense and the most dangerous.


  • SHARMA V. & al. Skin typing: Fitzpatrick grading and others. Clinics in Dermatology (2019).


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