What UV Index Is Best for Tanning? Your Questions Answered

What UV Index Is Best for Tanning? Your Questions Answered

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What UV index is best for tanning?

Tanned skin has been the standard for decades, but have you ever wondered why there are so many cautions and questions surrounding this pursuit of golden radiance? 

a woman wearing black one piece is having her skin tanned at the beach

In this article, we’re going to help you understand what the UV index is, what a good UV index for tanning is, what the risks are with tanning, our best recommended products for sun protection, and more!

Fast Facts

  • The UV index is a measurement of the sun’s radiation strength and is crucial for determining sun protection needs.
  • UV rays come in three types: UVA, UVB, and UVC, with UVB responsible for tanning but also increasing the risk of skin cancer.
  • The ideal UV index for tanning depends on your skin phototype, but generally, it’s best to tan under a level 7 to minimize sun damage.
  • To safeguard your overall sun exposure, use recommended products like sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and hair protection.

What’s a Good UV Index Level to Get Tan?

So what UV index is best for tanning?

It actually depends on each person’s skin phototype, but generally, you’ll encounter fewer risks if you tan at under level 7

It’s not advisable to go beyond that range because you increase the risk of sun damage, especially if you’re on the paler side. 

We definitely do not recommend resorting to indoor tanning or tan beds because these emit a UV index of 13, which is extremely high and would inevitably expose you to more damage than tanning under the sun.

What Is the UV Index?

The UV index (UVI) is the international measurement standard used to rate the strength of UV rays at a specific location and time.

It’s extremely important to know the basics because it may be used as a guide for how much you need sun protection. 

UV rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. There are three main types: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

Ultraviolet A (UVA)

UVA has the longest wavelengths. This is the type of radiation you come in contact with most of the time, and this can penetrate the middle layer of your skin. 

Instead of the glowy tan you want, it causes wrinkles and skin aging.

Ultraviolet B (UVB)

UVB has shorter wavelengths. Although some of them are absorbed by the atmosphere, UVB  can still reach the outer layer of your skin. 

This stimulates melanocytes, which produce melanin, meaning UVB is the reason why you get tanned skin from the sun.

You have to be careful, though, because if these skin cells are overstimulated, they can mutate into cancer cells and cause melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Ultraviolet C (UVC) 

UVC has the shortest wavelengths, which are all absorbed by the ozone layer, so you don’t have to worry about getting exposed to it.

an uv meter thermometer placed at beach's sand

The UV Index

Now that you know the basics on UV rays, let’s go straight into the ultraviolet index and how you can gauge an estimate just by the weather.

If you want to know the exact UVI in your area, check out the UV Index search on the Environmental Protection Agency’s official website. 

UVIIntensityWeather / Season
0NoneAt night
1-2LowVery cloudy day / cloudy winter day
3-5ModeratePartly cloudy day in autumn or spring
6-7HighSpring or autumn day, early mornings
8-10Very HighSummer
11+ExtremeMidday in high altitudes / tropical countries

What Affects Daily UV Index?

The weather and season aren’t the only factors that affect UV index.

There are lots of things that you also need to consider when it comes to ultraviolet radiation.

Time of Day

UV radiation is usually highest in midday and gradually lowers in the afternoon. 


UV radiation is usually highest during spring and summer, then drops in autumn and winter.


If you live in a city with a higher elevation, expect that UV radiation also increases.

Where You Live

UV radiation exposure is usually highest when you’re near the equator. Some areas also have a thicker ozone layer that absorbs ultraviolet rays. 

Skin Phototype

If you’re really set on tanning, you should not only refer to the UV index but also to what skin type you have. 

Skin phototype, often referred to as the Fitzpatrick scale, is a classification system used to categorize human skin based on its response to sun exposure and its susceptibility to sun damage.

It measures your natural sensitivity to sunlight and how susceptible you are to sun damage.

There are six different types classified according to the amount of melanin present.

Refer to the scale below to know your skin phototype first:

TypeSun Exposure Effect
Type 1People with this skin type never tan as they easily get sunburnt instead. 
Type 2They tan very lightly but usually burn.
Type 3These people get tanned but can still get slightly burnt
Type 4They burn slightly and get tanned fairly easily.
Type 5People with this skin type rarely burn, and they tan very easily.
Type 6These people never burn.

Quick Tip

If you fall under the type 1 and type 2 categories, you are most susceptible to sun damage and have to be extremely careful when you expose yourself to UV radiation.

However, if you’re type 3 and under, that doesn’t mean that you can be carefree when you go for a tan. You still have to take caution because no one is exempt from the risks.

a man laying on a beach bed and having his tan at the balcony

Risks of Tanning

These are some of the risks you can get if you tan without precaution. To learn more info, we highly recommend checking the FDA’s article on the risks of tanning.

Skin Cancer

By exposing yourself to a harsh amount of UV radiation for long periods of time, you increase the risk of getting skin cancer.

Premature Aging

If you don’t properly protect yourself from the sun, you’ll find yourself aging faster than other people in your age group.

This happens because UV rays break down collagen, a protein that is crucial for younger-looking skin. If there’s not enough collagen in your skin, then wrinkles, dark spots, and a leathery texture are bound to appear on your skin.


You get tanned because it’s the body’s response to protect itself by deflecting the harsh radiation of the sun. 

But if you expose yourself for too long, your damaged skin cells release chemicals that cause the burning sensation you feel.

How To Safely Tan

Prep Before Going Out

It’s important to moisturize your skin before exposing yourself to the sun because the drier the skin, the more vulnerable it is to sun damage.

For an even, long-lasting tan, make sure to exfoliate first to remove dead skin cells. Be careful not to do it more than twice a week though because that will make you more prone to irritation and sunburn.

If it’s possible, don’t skip lycopene-rich food like tomatoes, watermelons, and asparagus because they provide natural protection from harsh UV rays.

Use at Least SPF-30 Sunscreen

a girl wearing black and white stripes beach hat with heart shaped sunscreen on her back while holding her sunscreen bottle

When tanning is the goal, SPF 30 is capable of protecting you from UV rays while you get a tan. 

You should lather a thick layer of your trusted sunscreen within 20 minutes of being outside and reapply every two hours for continuous protection.

Avoid Exposing Your Body for Too Long

It’s recommended to change positions regularly. Don’t expose a part of your body under the sun for too long. 

For faster tanning, try looking for a tan accelerator that can help you get to your goal.

Avoid Tanning Around 10 AM to 3 PM

These hours are when UV rays are at their peak, so you should never tan around that time to avoid higher risks of damage.

The shadow rule is a great method to remind yourself when you should seek shade.

If your shadow is shorter, go inside! This is when UV radiation is highest and, therefore, prone to sunburn.

Take Breaks

The skin’s melanin production stops at around two to three hours of being exposed to the sun, and insisting to tan longer than this period will not make you darker and will make you more vulnerable to skin damage instead.

So for a safer and healthier tan, don’t make it a goal to get to your darkest shade in a short period of time.

Recommended Products for Sun Protection


Sunscreen is the most basic form of daily sun protection. Not only does it block harmful UV rays from damaging your skin cells, many sunscreens today also offer nourishment.

Korean sunscreens have recently become the “it” product. Check out our article on Korean sunscreens to help you figure out the best one for you.

Lip Balm

Your body and face aren’t the only ones that need protection from the sun. If you’re going to expose yourself to UV rays, you should remember to cover your lips as well.

If you forget to use a lip balm with sunscreen, you’ll be susceptible to sores. Or when you’re exposed to UV rays long-term, you may even develop skin cancer.

Aquaphor Lip Balm with Sunscreen is one of the best lip balms that can protect you from sun damage because of its broad spectrum SPF 30. It also provides long-lasting relief for chapped and dry lips; that’s why it’s considered a classic.


Top view of young african woman lying on boardwalk and smiling outdoors

This should be a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t think about protecting their eyes from the sun!

It’s possible to develop photokeratitis or eye damage if you don’t take proper precautions.

And if you’re exposed long-term, you increase the likelihood of getting eye cataracts which would have to be removed surgically.

If you’re looking for a foolproof pair of sunnies, we like these SUNGAIT Vintage Round Sunglasses. Not only do they look trendy, but they also have UV400 polarized lenses that promise to block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

Hair Protection

If you’re planning to stay under the sun for hours to get a tan, don’t forget to protect your hair as well. Exposing it to heat for too long will make it brittle and prone to split ends.

Sunburns on your scalp are not fun! If you’re looking for complete protection, you won’t be disappointed with COOLA Organic Scalp Spray & Hair Sunscreen Mist.


Is Sun Damage Reversible?

There’s a chance that you can still reverse or at least improve the signs of sun damage by seeking professional skin treatments. For instance, skin peels help with pigmentation and fine lines, while injectables and fillers can help smooth out deep-set wrinkles.

Can You Tan With the UV Index of 1?

It’s still possible to get a tan at level 1 of the UVI, but it’s important to note that it can take a long time.

You should also remember that even though it’s the lowest level, you can still get sun damage if you expose yourself for too long, so don’t forget to use sunscreen!

What UV Index Is Best for Tanning? Takeaway

Now that you know the best UV index level for tanning according to your skin phototype, you also know by now that skin protection when tanning is essential.

Taking care of the skin from the sun is no joke.

There are lots of things you need to consider because sun damage is not easily reversible, and the cases of skin cancer have been gradually increasing over the years.

Don’t forget to use a trusted sunscreen and protect yourself from any other possible complications. Remember, beauty doesn’t always have to be painful.

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