Can I combine a sunless tan with a regular tan?

Sunless tanning has quickly become the most popular method of reducing skin damage while still maintaining a sexy and healthy tan. It provides you with the same color as a regular tan without the need to spend any time in the sun.

But sunless tanning is also not permanent, which is why people still prefer to suntan instead. Sunless tanning lasts only four or five days on average before it has completely faded away, and even the best sunless tanning options last only approximately 2 weeks.

Sunless tanning is a great way to get a dark tan quickly, but it is not something that is going to last unless you reapply the color every few days.

That is why some people try to combine the two options – use getting a good tan from tanning booths to create darker skin, and then get an effective suntan so that the tan color becomes longer lasting. It’s an interesting theory, but does it work?

Can I combine a sunless tan with a regular tan?

Sunless Tanning and Sun Tanning

As far as overall safety is concerned, sunless tanning and sun tanning are independent. That means that you can use a sunless tanner and then tan in the sun, and the suntan will not have any effect on the sunless tanner.

With the exception of some rare allergies and possible skin irritation, there is no reason that if you use sunless tanner you cannot also suntan. The two are not related and will not affect each other.

However, it should be noted that if you are tan with a sunless tanner, that does not mean that you can spend more time in the sun. Quite the contrary, there are reasons that you should be even more careful.

Dangers of Combining Both Methods

In general, a suntan acts as a defense from harsh sun rays. The tanner you are, the longer you can spend in the sun without burning. But sunless tanners are not real tans.

When you tan from the sun, the UV rays are going deep within your skin, affecting the bottom layers. But sunless tanner only affects the top layers. As a result, tans from sunless tanning lotions do not provide even a single bit of protection from the sun’s rays.

The two are not related, so if you had fair skin before applying the sunless tanner, and you spend a great deal of time in the sun, you are going to get a severe burn, no matter how dark your skin appears.

In addition, normally when you have fair skin you can see warning signs that you are in the process of burning, such as light pink skin. But because you have the sunless tanner, you may not be able to see the pink hue of your skin and suffer a tremendous burn because of it.

In that sense,     sunless tanning may be slightly more dangerous, though the tanning itself has no effect on your burning.

So if you choose to use both it is safe to combine the methods (or, at least, no less safe than sun tanning in general), but make sure you are very careful because your newly applied sunless tan will not protect you from the sun’s rays.

Sunless Tans vs. Regular Tans

Though there are several sub categories of tanning, in general there are two types of tanning options available: Those that use the sun to create a more permanent tan and those that use tanning products to create a temporary but safer tan. Both of these have their benefits and weaknesses, and which one you choose is largely based on your own personal preferences as well as your finances, with various risks and rewards.

Sun Tanning/Tanning Beds


Sun tanning is the most permanent option of tanning available. Though tanning itself is never permanent, a good, deep tan is going to last you quite a while, and will never be streaky, incomplete, or fake looking like some types of products. In addition, sun tanning is always free, and most tanning salons offer tanning beds for fairly cheap, making this one of the least expensive options available.


Of course the main weakness if sun tanning and tanning beds is the risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer can be exceedingly dangerous, and those that tan or burn are always at risk for developing the disorder. In addition, sunburns are yet another risk, and the burning can lead to peeling skin, itching, and general pain.

Sunless Tanning


There are a variety of benefits to sunless tanning. First and foremost, sunless tanning does not cause any skin cancer risk, so it is considerably safer than UV tanning. Other benefits of sunless tanning include the ability to tan quickly and receive the skin color that you are looking for. Sunless tanning allows you to control the color of your skin fairly easily simply by applying certain products, while sun tanning you have to keep working on it until you develop the tan you want, which may never come.


The main weakness of sunless tanning is the temporary nature of it. Sunless tans may last as few as 3 to 10 days depending on the product you use. That means that on Wednesday you can be pale, on Friday you can be dark, and by Monday you can be pale again. That is a considerable amount of change in your appearance. The products themselves can also be pricy and time consuming, and sunless tanning products can sometimes create either a yellow/orange appearance or cause streaks in your skin from improper application.

Which is Better?

Because these two products differ so much, it is difficult to say which is better. Sun tanning certainly gives you a longer lasting, more consistent tan, but it also comes with the risks associated with skin cancer. Sunless tanning has much less risk and puts you in greater control over your tan, but does not last very long and can cause human error. Overall, which you choose is based on what you feel the risk of skin cancer is worth, how much time you have to tan, the time of year and why and when you need the tan. By answering those questions you should get a good idea for what tanning method is best for you.