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There’s no health benefit to tanning, but some people simply prefer how their skin looks with a tan.

Tanning is a personal preference, and outdoor sunbathing —even when wearing SPF — is still a health risk (though it’s thought to be somewhat safer than using a tanning bed).

If you choose to tan, there’s a best time of day to tan outside.

If your goal is to tan faster in the shortest amount of time, then it’s best to be outside when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

This timeframe will vary slightly depending on where you live. But generally, the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

According to a 2012 review, sunscreen is especially important between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., though you should always wear sunscreen with SPF.

At noon, the sun is highest in the sky, which actually means the sun is strongest (measured using UV index) because the rays have the shortest distance to travel to Earth.

You can still get a sunburn in the early morning or late afternoon, and it’s important to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days, when as much as 80 percent of UV rays are still present.

You may like the way you look with a tan, and sunbathing may temporarily boost your mood because of the exposure to vitamin D, but tanning is very risky.

Risks associated with tanning include:

  • Skin cancer. Too much skin exposure to UVA rays can damage the DNA in your skin cells and potentially lead to skin cancer, especially melanoma.
  • Dehydration.
  • Sunburn.
  • Heat rash. Heat rash occurs in humidity or hot temperatures when pores get clogged, causing bumps on the skin to form.
  • Premature skin aging. UV rays can cause skin to lose elasticity, resulting in premature wrinkles and dark spots.
  • Eye damage. Your eyes can get sunburned which is why sunglasses with UV protection are important.
  • Immune system suppression. The body’s immune system can become suppressed by UV exposure, leaving it more vulnerable to sickness.

Indoor tanning beds are not safe. The light and heat they give off exposes your body to unsafe levels of UV rays.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes tanning booths or beds as carcinogenic to humans (Class 1).

According to Harvard Health, “The UVA radiation [in tanning beds] is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight, and even the UVB intensity may approach that of bright sunlight.”

Tanning beds are extremely risky and shouldn’t be used.

There are precautions you can take that make you less vulnerable to sun damage and sunburns.

  • Tanning may be safer if you don’t stay out for long periods of time.
  • Always remember to drink water.
  • Wear products with SPF on your skin, lips, and the tops of your hands and feet.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses with 100-percent UV protection.

Eating foods that are high in lycopene, like tomato paste, may make your skin less vulnerable to sunburn, though you should still wear sunscreen.

Avoid:

  • falling asleep in the sun
  • wearing an SPF of less than 30
  • drinking alcohol, which can be dehydrating and impair your ability to feel the pain of a sunburn forming

Make sure to:

  • reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after going in water
  • apply products with SPF to your hairline, feet, and other places that can be easily missed
  • use at least an ounce of sunscreen to cover your body (about the size of a full shot glass)
  • roll over frequently so you have less chance of burning
  • drink water, wear a hat, and protect your eyes with sunglasses

There are no health benefits to tanning. The practice of lying in the sun is actually risky and increases the potential of developing skin cancer.

If you’re going to tan, however, and your goal is to tan quickly, the best time is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Always wear a product with SPF when tanning, drink lots of water, and roll over frequently to avoid getting burnt.