How to get a tan

man tan_tanning_for_men

With days boasting perennially sunny weather, this season is most alluring for its carefree charm when it comes to dressing. With the wide range of new season choices, an awesome summer glow should be on every man’s summer checklist.

Despite popular belief, rocking a ‘man tan’ is not as difficult or rare as one might think, given the wide range of ways you can achieve a glowing look without appearing like an Oompa Loompa. With its ability to give much-needed colour as well as being capable to complement the new season’s summery palette, a tan is pivotal for summer looks that are effortless and sun-kissed.

Rest assured, tanning should be considered a simple task. Natural or fake, approach your bronzed pursuits with a gradual care, ensuring your colour doesn’t come off too dark or, God-forbid, too orange. Below we give our top tips on how to sport the perfect summer tan for a season worth getting coloured for.

Sunlight and Radiation

During your relaxing day at the beach, you probably don’t feel like you’re being bombarded by radiation, but that is precisely what sunlight is! In addition to visible light and heat, there are three types of ultraviolet radiation that come from sunlight: UVA, UVB, and UVC. We can basically ignore UVC radiation, as it never reaches the surface of the planet (or our skin) and is largely absorbed by the atmosphere.

UV Radiation Penetration (Photo Credit: designua / Fotolia)

However, UVA and UVB radiation do reach our sun-exposed skin, and have various effects. UVA radiation is much more common, and isn’t filtered out by our planet’s ozone layer. We are exposed to UVA rays throughout our lives, as they can even penetrate clouds and atmospheric gases. When UVA radiation strikes our skin, it immediately engages the melanocytes (the pigment cells in our skin), causing a release of the melanin they have already stored, resulting in what we know of as a “tan”.  UVA radiation penetrates deeper into the skin, and can damage skin cells in the epidermis, leading to various types of skin cancer.

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UVB radiation is slightly different, however, and only penetrates the top few layers of the skin, and is primarily responsible for sunburns, rather than sun tans. This makes UVB less of a danger for deep-layer skin cancers, but it can contribute to melanoma and those uncomfortable sunburns.

DNA Damage: The Struggle is Real

Radiation of any kind penetrating the skin can damage DNA in those affected cells, which is why humans have adapted melanin – to repair and protect the body from that damage. When UVA radiation penetrates the skin, it causes the existing melanin to darken, but does not stimulate the production of more melanin. The color change resulting from UVA radiation is due to oxidative stress on the melanin, which changes its color. However, this is not a long-lasting color change, and the “tan” from UVA rays will usually fade in a few days.

UVB radiation is the key component in the second stage of the tanning process. The damage caused by UVB rays stimulates melanogenesis, the body’s natural response to radiation (producing more melanin). This type of tan will be much longer lasting, and actually protects your skin from further radiation damage, as the melanin produced will absorb that radiation. UVB radiation can typically be blocked by sunscreen, whereas UVA rays are more difficult to protect against; fortunately, natural and synthetic fibers (clothing) have been shown to protect against the majority of UVA rays.

Melanocyte and Melanin Process (Photo Credit: designua / Fotolia)

The melanin produced and released by melanocytes comes in two pigment forms: eumelanin (brown) and phaeomelanin (yellow and red). Depending on a combination of your hair color, skin tone, race, genetics, and previous exposure to sunlight, the production levels of these two pigments may be different. For example, a fair-skinned Irishman with red hair may produce less eumelanin than phaeomelanin, making it almost impossible for him to get a “tan” in the traditional sense. On the other hand, a Mediterranean woman with dark hair and an olive-skinned complexion may tan very easily, as her melanocytes produce more eumelanin than phaeomelanin.

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If you are of a race other than Caucasian, you’re particularly fortunate, as melanin production is almost continuous, ensuring that you always have a darkened skin tone and much more protection from radiation. For this reason, the occurrence of skin cancer in people from those cultures is much lower.

If you want to get a truly excellent tan, short bursts of exposure are recommended over the course of 5-7 days, as that will activate the melanocytes (through UVB rays) and start building up a protective layer of melanin. This will not only protect you from additional DNA damage and lower your chances of skin cancer, but also give you that sexy, toasted in the sun appearance you’ve been dreaming of all winter!


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Why Does The Body Tan? – Live Science
  3. How Stuff Works

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John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana. He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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Natural Tan

A natural tan may seem simple enough but approach with caution. As with all options, there are many varying degrees of natural tan that make it appealing for achieving different looks. Sun rays are incredibly harmful, so a high-quality sunscreen is recommended if you choose to naturally bronze your skin. Opt for a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF protection for guilt-free summer days where you can go out and naturally enhance your colour. For a deeper tan, suntan oils will boost how your body will absorb the sun and give you a more intense colour. No matter how you choose to tan naturally, ensure you’re consuming a good amount of water and take breaks from the intensity of the summer sun.

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Fake Tan

Gradually, more men are beginning to embrace fake tanning, which unlike natural tanning poses no sun damage and generally provides effective results. The trick to fake tan is to not overdo it. Exfoliate your skin before use, test out colours and work products in gradually for a bronzed glow as opposed to dark streaky effects. Ensure your face is not darker than your body, and use a tanning mitt when opting for a tanning foam. For a less intense option, go for tanning lotions that are instant but also can be washed off.

fake tan for men


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