How To Tan Properly for a Natural Island Glow

portrait image of a woman with an arm tattoo in a yellow bikini on the beach with sand and rocks in the background

Tanned skin, palm trees, ocean breeze. One our favourite parts about summer is having a sun-kissed island glow. 

Melanin is what makes bronze skin pigmentation possible. The pituitary gland serves as one of the major parts of the endocrine system in which it stimulates melanocytes to urge these cells to produce melanin – aka, your awesome tan.

We believe in natural skincare and beauty, so here are our top 12 tips for safely achieving a healthy and natural sun-kissed tan.

A woman with tattoos covered in coconut oil laying down on a sandy beach wearing a yellow bikini and sunglasses

1. Build your tan up slowly

First things first – patience is key. The best way to build up a lasting golden tan is by having patience. You should treat sunbathing as a gradual process, which keeps your skin safe and healthy. There is no rush. Rushing leads to burning, which is bad. The best things in life take time to develop, and so does a tan. You cannot get brown in one weekend without causing harm to your skin, unless you naturally have high amounts of melanin.

2. Exfoliate to prep your skin

Exfoliation is another key to an even and lasting suntan. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and promotes skin renewal. By using a loofah, sponge, or body scrub, you can make the skin smoother and remove a layer of dead skin cells. Only do this twice a week to prevent the skin from drying out – and try not to shave or exfoliate after tanning, or you will undo all your hard work. We like using a homemade coffee scrub, since it’s entirely natural.

3. Wear an appropriate sunscreen

If you have a lighter complexion and are prone to burning, we recommend using a higher SPF. Virginutty Coconut Oil has a natural SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 2-4. SPF measures how much UV radiation from the sun is blocked. Whilst it sounds low, SPF 4 can block around 75% of UVB radiation, whereas SPF 40 can block 98%. If your skin is not used to the sun, it is best to use a higher SPF – although this can block the beneficial rays, such as vitamin D, from getting through.

a curvy woman wearing sunglasses and a yellow bikini sitting up on a beach blanket with sand and rocks in the background

4. Understand the sun in the country you’re in

Plan your tanning routine according to your environment. Even though we share one sun, the strength is very different depending on what country you are in. In the Mediterranean, the sun gives a more golden glow. If you are closer to the equator, in Southeast Asia for example, the sun is much stronger and will give a darker tan after sunbathing; you’ll also burn much faster. There’s a reason why the locals in some countries stay covered under the sun. Too much exposure can be dangerous and lead to dehydration and sunburn.

5. Increase your exposure little by little — there’s no need to rush

Start with twenty minute bursts every hour or so. Skin cancer is linked to individuals who get frequently sunburned – not those who simply get exposed to the sun. Do your research, know and understand your skin type, and experiment with what’s best for you. Take your time with tanning. Brown is beautiful, melanin is beautiful, but chasing an ideal of “beauty” is never worth damaging yourself for. You’re gorgeous the way you are, and we’re willing to bet money on it.

6. FLIP OVER halfway through

Avoid pesky tan lines and change positions to achieve an even skin tan. It's important that you move around to avoid heatstroke and overexposure. If you’re tempted to have a nap, get under an umbrella or stay in the shade. Tanning one side or part of the body for too long will very likely lead to sunburn, which can lead to riskier issues. Sunburn is also painful. Painful AF.

7. Choose tanning oils/lotions carefully

Tanning is a gradual process, although sometimes we want to look a little more bronzed. If you’re looking to get a sun tan safely and quickly, consider using a tanning oil or tanning lotion. These are formulated with active ingredients which help increase blood flow and stimulate melanin production. We recommend using a natural one with an SPF 15 and above.

8. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

Ensure that you use moisturiser everytime you exfoliate and tan. Moisturiser keeps skin cool, soothed, and prevents your tan from flaking or peeling (although eventually this may happen, and is normal. Especially after a long flight back home). If you’re moisturising diligently, at least twice a day, it can prolong your tan. We recommend moisturising with a natural substance such coconut oil, or a moisturiser that is non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic. Using chemical-laden moisturisers that contain alcohols or parabens can sting the skin and cause acne, redness, irritation, and allergy. If you do start peeling, moisturise your skin with fresh aloe vera or natural aloe gel.

a woman wearing a yellow bikini standing on a sandy beach exploring the rock face

9. Stay hydrated

Sip that H2O, baby. During and after sunbathing, it’s important stay hydrated and cool your body down. Take a shower, moisturise, and continually sip water to compensate for your body’s moisture loss through sweat. Drink an appropriate amount of fluids and increase your water intake everyday – the standard is at least 8 glasses of water for beautifully supple and hydrated skin. No point in having a bronzed glow if you’re not feeling healthy on the inside!

10. Wear sunglasses and a hat

In addition to staying hydrated, it’s important to cover up sensitive or vulnerable parts of the body, such as your eyes and the top of your head, to prevent getting sunstroke or heatstroke. Your fun tanning session will be ruined if you have a thunderous headache, or worse, dehydration. Tell-tale signs of sunstroke include a wicked red streak across your eyeballs.

a portrait of a woman on the beach with a Japanese tattoo wearing a yellow bikini top and hoop earrings

11. Wear bright swimwear to make your skin tone pop

There’s a reason why people wear neon at the beach. Bright and light colours simply make skin tones look darker by contrast. Dazzle onlookers with your bronzed glow by wearing earth tones – white, cream, beige – or brighter colours such as orange and yellow. Make that melanin pop!

12. Embrace your natural skin tone

All skin shades, tones, and colours are beautiful. Be proud of your natural complexion, and happy with the way it responds to sunlight.

A healthy, bronzed glow is completely attainable no matter what your skin colour, as long as you pay attention and go through proper tanning procedure. Skin irritation and sunburn can lead to more serious issues down the line if not. There is no need to rush your tan.

Suntanning is a natural process, and achieving your optimum skin tone will take time to achieve. Stay safe under the sun — and happy travels!