How to get a dark tan outdoors

Updated April 17, 2017

There are plenty of arguments against tanning and sunbathing, but some sun exposure is healthy (and necessary) and no one can deny that a deep, dark tan evokes instant feelings of summer. You can achieve dark tanning results while still being safe and protecting your skin if you keep the right pace and use the right products. You should keep in mind, however, that excessive tanning will increase your risk of skin cancer and sun damage.

Get a base tan, either in a tanning bed or outdoors, before switching to dark tanning oils. It is important to prepare your skin before going in the sun if you really want to achieve dark results. Start in small increments, using an SPF of 15 or higher, to get a base tan before laying out, or doing any outdoor activity all day.

Apply a tanning intensifier before going out in the sun. Many skin care companies manufacture tanning intensifiers, sometimes referred to as primers, that react with your skin to create deeper, darker tanning results with less sun exposure. Apply your tanning intensifier in the morning when you wake up, two to three hours before going in the sun.

Use a dark tanning oil, but make sure it has SPF. Once you have achieved a decent base tan and are no longer worried about burning, you can switch to a dark tanning oil. Using a tanning oil increases your risk of skin cancer, so choose a brand that offers a dark tanning oil with an SPF 8 or higher.

Combine a self tanner or spray tan with natural sun to get really dark results. Applying a sunless tanning lotion the night before going out in the sun will give you a healthy glow to start off with and will help your tan look deeper and darker. Use a combination of self-tanner and outdoor sun to get natural results with less skin damage.

Exfoliate regularly to get a darker tan that lasts longer. It is important to slough off any dead skin, especially around rough areas like feet or elbows. Exfoliating regularly will keep your skin healthy and glowing, and your tan looking fresh.

Use a tan extender to keep your dark tan longer. For best results, apply daily.


Keep SPF on your face at all times, even when you want to achieve a dark tan, to prevent premature wrinkles and sun spots. You can make your face darker with bronzer or foundation.


Sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer and signs of ageing.

Things You'll Need

  • Suntan lotion with SPF
  • Tanning intensifier
  • Exfoliating cream or puff
  • Dark tanning oil with SPF
  • Self-tanning moisturiser
  • Tan extender
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About the Author

Sophie Southern has been a freelance writer since 2004. Her writing has been featured in "JPG" magazine and on Southern holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from the School of Visual Arts.