Why Doesn’t My Face Tan? Useful Tips For Darker Colors On Face

Typically, the human face does not tan as much as the rest of the body, and there are certain causes for this. Check them out!
We all try to pursue that flawless natural glow when it comes to tanning. One of the most common problems people encounter is getting that glow on their faces. 

It seems like, no matter what we do, our face skin is more challenging to tan than other parts of the body. Even if we get a tan on the face on purpose (for example, after religiously spending hours under the sun), it hardly reaches the glow and color on other body parts.
So, why doesn’t my face tan? Why is my face paler than my body? If you get caught on these questions, here’s the reason!
It’s hard to get even, glowing, darker color on your face, but it’s still achievable
It’s hard to get even, glowing, darker color on your face, but it’s still achievable

5 Main Reasons Why Your Face Doesn’t Tan

Less Melanin Production

Melanocytes are specialized skin cells responsible for producing melanin, which gives a dark color to the skin when it absorbs UV radiation.
Therefore, face skin color is determined by how many active melanocytes the skin has. In other words, the more the number of melanin is, the better the tanning process works on your skin.
Meanwhile, the melanin inside your face skin cells is generated less than other body parts due to its sebaceous glands. 
Our face, alongside the scalp, has the highest density of these glands, which prevent face skin cells from producing melanin, delaying the face to absorb UV radiation, and thus delaying your face tanning process.  

Layers Of Make-Up Or Creams

It’s common to load up plenty of make-up or protective cream on our face. However, these layers of product can prevent UV radiation from getting to your skin. This will lead to uneven, patchy tan, or the skin might not get tanned at all. 

If you want the tanning process to be as effective as possible, while sunscreen cream cannot be passed, remove other cosmetics such as foundation, contours, concealer, blush, and eyeshadow. 
Plus, only wear light tinted sunscreen for the best result. 
It’s hard for your face to get tanned with heavy make-up
It’s hard for your face to get tanned with heavy make-up

More Time Required

Research at Edinburgh University has shown that different body parts go brown at different speeds. That’s why an all-over consistent body tan is almost unattainable.
Meanwhile, the face will need more time to get your desired color than other parts. Since it works at its own pace, you need to be patient.

The Face Is Exfoliated More Often

Our face is usually exfoliated for our daily skin care. However, that routine might accidently fade away the tan we have tried to obtain.
When we wash our face, even without exfoliant, we’re removing dead skin cells on the top skin layer and it is where the tan presents. 
Furthermore, because we exfoliate our face much more frequently than any other part, our face can appear paler than our body (after tanning). 

Dry Skin

Dry, flaky skin is harder to tan than moist, healthy skin. If the skin is not properly moisturized, the tan won’t last long. So, it comes with little surprise if your face gets less tan if you start with dry skin. 

How To Tan Your Face?

Prep Your Skin Well

A smooth, moisturized skin is the foundation for a streak-free tan. Start with exfoliating your face before sun exposure to slough away all the dead skin cells that can prevent a uniform tan. 
Above all, only use oil-free exfoliating products for the job and avoid salt or sugar scrub. Oil might linger on the skin and create a barrier that prevents the UV rays or self-tanner from penetrating the skin. 
Keeping skin well-hydrated is equally important. Dry skin is at a higher risk of getting sunburned when exposed to UV rays.
Therefore, you should deeply moisturize and nourish the skin’s face with a moisturizing cream. This also rebuilds its protective layer for the skin.

Moisturizing should be your top priority for an effective tanning process!
Moisturizing should be your top priority for an effective tanning process!

Tan With Bare Skin

The make-up will block the UV rays from reaching your skin and impede the tanning process. Therefore, make sure you remove all the make-up products to make the most of the sun. 

Use Face Tanner

  • It’s best to choose a self-tanner formulated for the face, especially if you have sensitive skin susceptible to breakouts. 
  • If you use a self-tanner for the body, you may want to mix it with a light facial moisturizer before applying it to your face.
  • If you’re new to using a self-tanner, we recommend choosing a lighter-toned product for your first attempt. Once you’re more confident, you can switch to a darker formula anytime you want. 
  • Most importantly, face skin tone is typically lighter than the rest of the body. So, don’t expect it to get as brown as other parts because it will look unnatural. 

Tan Evenly On The Face

If you use a self-tanner, apply it on your face before anywhere else on the body. Don’t only focus on the high points of the face – you must apply it evenly on the surface. 
Don’t skip the under-the-eye spots, eyelids, the ear tip, or around the back of the ears. It’s best to cover all of these places for an even, uniform tan. 


Aftercare is often overlooked by many people after they achieve that flawless tan. Yet, it can affect how your face tans after sun exposure. Keep in mind to moisturize your face to maintain the tan.

However, not any moisturizers are fit for the job. You should steer clear of oil-based formulas as oils can break down the tan, resulting in a blotchy and more quickly fading tan. 
In addition, wash your face with a mild cleanser and avoid hot water to avoid fading the tan. If you tan your face artificially, skip applying retinoids or acne treatments because these products can dissolve the tan. 

Tanning Your Face Without UV Rays

If you don’t prefer using a tanning bed, a sunless tanner by self-tanning products is always a good alternative. We’ve broken down how to self tan your face without UV rays right below:

Step 1: Tie Your Hair

Tie back your long hair in a bun or ponytail to keep all the stray hair strands out of your way. You may also want to wear a headband if necessary. 

Step 2: Cleanse And Exfoliate

Wash your hair thoroughly with a gentle oil-free cleanser to eliminate makeup, dirt, and product buildup. 
Use a face scrub to slough away all the dead skin cells and smooth out rough, dry patches. While you’re at it, pay special attention to spots that tend to dry out, such as the cheeks or around the nose.

Step 3: Moisturize Your Skin

When your skin is fully clean, message an oil-free moisturizer to your face to lock moisture in.

Step 4:  Dry Your Skin

Wait for your face to dry completely before applying the self-tanner.

Step 5: Apply The Self-Tanning Lotion

Apply a small amount of self-tanner to your fingers. Too much of the product can leave you an uneven and intense tan, while too little is very likely to cause streaks. 
Use the fingers to massage the self-tanner into your skin with circular motions gently. For hard-to-reach, small spots, grab a sponge or foundation brush to disperse the products for an even tan. 
Pro Tips: 
It’s best to apply the self-tanner in the evening, before bedtime. This can allow uninterrupted time for the product to work its magic while you’re drifting off. 

Step 6: Follow With A Moisturizer

Next, you should apply a dab of moisturizer to your neck so it can blend with the self-tanner. The moisturizer can prevent tan lines that make your tan look unnatural and faux. 

Step 7: Wait For The Self-Tanner To Develop

Let the self-tanner sit for the recommended processing time. 

Pro Tips: 
Moisturizing is key to a long-lasting tan. The self-tanning process itself also strips the skin of moisture. Therefore, after the application, remember to moisturize your face every morning and night to maintain healthy skin and a natural-looking face tan.


Should I Wear Sunscreen While Tanning?

Yes. There’s no such thing as a safe tan. Therefore, it is important to protect your skin from damage caused by brutal UV rays while tanning.
We highly recommend applying moisturizer with an SPF 15 or so. This not only minimizes skin damage but also boosts moisture to facilitate melanin production (a.k.a tanning).

Should I Wash My Face Before Tanning?

Yes, it would help if you washed your face before tanning to remove any makeup from your face. In addition, make sure to exfoliate your skin right before starting your tanning sessions. 
Exfoliating does two things: eliminating all the dead skin cells and unclogging the pores. Dead skin cells, in particular, can cause darker patches here and there on your face.
So, exfoliate your face to get a more even, natural-looking tan. Use an oil-free scrub or gentle, fragrance-free soap that has slight exfoliation for the job. 
The final step is to treat your skin with a good oil-free moisturizer (oil-based products will create a barrier to prevent tanning.  

The Bottom Line

We hope now you know why your face doesn’t tan or tan inconsistently from other body parts. 
A stunningly, even, natural-looking face tan is attainable, after all. With some smart prepping steps and careful maintenance after tanning, you can get the dark face color that you’re always aiming for.


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