Why Won’t my Legs Tan

Picture this: you bought some great tanner, and you use the whole product on your body, expecting gorgeous results. However, after it settles in, you notice that your legs are not as tanned as the rest of your body, and it frustrates you to no end.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. There are many people out there who have expressed their frustrations with tanning their legs, as you might notice when you visit various user forums on the internet.

Reasons Why Legs are So Hard to Tan

The truth is that it is actually very hard to achieve a tan on the legs, even if you spend hours on a sunbed or apply self-tanners – especially for the lower parts. If you actually achieve a tan, it tends to be lighter than what you have on the rest of the body. Here are some reasons why that is the case.

The body produces melanin differently

You might not be aware of this, but the body does not distribute melanin throughout the body as you might think. As you know, melanin is the compound that is responsible for getting darker shades in your skin.

However, the skin on the legs and feet tends to produce a lesser amount of melanin when you compare it to other parts of the body – which is why it is more challenging to get the legs to tan.

Dry skin and the absorption of UV rays

Did you know that the skin on your legs is quite different compared to other body parts? Yes, the skin is much drier and thicker, which means that the rate of exfoliation is much higher compared to other body parts such as the arms and face.

The process of tanning is much easier on skin that is smooth and fresh compared to dry and thick skin. Because of this, the rate of reflection on the skin in your legs is much higher compared to the rate of absorption, which makes it very difficult to achieve even tanning results.

Aeration and blood circulation

The rate and ease of tanning is also greatly affected by aeration and blood circulation. Since you might have plenty of tight leggings and jeans in your closet, the possibility of having plenty of aeration in the legs is much less than on other parts of the body.

Just think about it: the legs are covered completely and tightly throughout the day, except if you are tanning or wearing short skirts and shorts. Even if you decide to get a tan in a specific period, it is important to allow the skin to breathe along with exposing it to the sun, which helps you get better results.

If this is not possible, you can consider getting sunless tans such as spray tans, and avoid wearing tight clothes for a short time afterwards. The tight clothes will rub against the skin and remove the results of the tan.

If you do unplanned hair removal

While you might want to go for a waxing or shaving session after getting your tan, they are some of the biggest enemies of getting the perfect result – even though it is perfectly fine if you do them. Since many women love removing hair from their legs, they tend to excessively rely on waxing and shaving to get the most flawless legs as possible.

When you do these procedures after your tan, it leads to the removal of the hair and the tan at the same time. In addition, since the tan is on the dead top layer of your skin, the waxing and shaving procedures will remove this top layer.

This is exactly why it is advisable to do hair removal either after or before at least three days of tanning, not less. This allows the tanner to settle on the skin and you will not remove it easily afterwards.

Getting skin scrubs and hot baths

One of the causes of incorrect tanning in the legs is long hot baths, and this is due to hot water softening the skin – which makes it easier to remove the tan itself. In addition, you might have a tendency to use exfoliators or body scrubs when you are in a bathtub, but this will lead to uneven removal of the tan.

Even when you are having a bath, remember to remain as gentle as possible when handling your tanned skin. This will ensure the tan remains as radiant and even as possible.

The intensity of the tanning beds

The conventional tanning bed will always focus on the upper body, rather than the legs and feet. Because the upper body is generally warmer than the lower body, this will make a major difference in the evenness of tanning throughout different parts. You can deal with the problem though by getting a tanning bed that is of high quality.

In fact, you should remember that a conventional sunbed will concentrate most of the energy, about 20% of its output, on the top and middle sections of the body. Blood flow in these areas is also quite high due to the existence of several organs, unlike the legs.

Incorrect moisturizing

The results you get from your tanning process are not just because of applying the tanning solution on the skin – you must pay close attention to taking care of your skin before doing the tanning. Part of taking care of the skin is hydrating it correctly.

The problem is that many of us fail to moisturize the skin, especially the legs – both after and before tanning. This leads to unpleasant tanning experiences and negative results, especially when you do not use a non-oil lotion or cream generously on the skin. Make sure you moisturize the skin as frequently as possible to get the best results possible.

 How to Tan your Legs

If reading the reasons above has you worried, do not be afraid anymore – there is always a solution to the issue. With all this information, it does not mean that tanning the legs is an impossible task; you can still achieve it through using some useful tricks and tips, and achieve the results you have always wanted without struggling too much.

With the knowledge on why the legs are hard to tan, it is also good to know the measures you can take to increase your tanning efficiency. However, there is some good news – you can actually tan your legs successfully through all the tanning methods you know, you just need to pay extra attention to the skin.

Here are some of the methods.

If you are Using a Tanning Bed

This is usually the first option for people who want to tan their skin, and is the most common method. It is also quite efficient, and the results last very long – without having to go outside in the sun and exposing your skin to UV rays.

There is something to keep in mind though when using this method. Depending on the light’s intensity and the body part it is focusing on, the development of color will also change among the various parts of your body.

Here are some steps you can use to ensure your legs tan as evenly as possible:

  • Take care of the skin on your legs – you must commit to doing deep hydration and correct exfoliation for at least a week before the tan session happens. For exfoliation, use a hydrating scrub (preferably an organic homemade or chemical-free scrub, because the skin on the legs tends to dry out faster) such as a mixture of olive oil and brown sugar. Afterward, apply a non-clogging moisturizing lotion generously to the skin, especially those that contain almond or macadamia oils. However, do not apply moisturizer within 6 hours of the procedure, and this will allow the skin to absorb the UV rays properly.
  • waxing and shaving – if you are doing hair removal procedures, you can only do it at least 12 hours to a full day before the session, which avoids open pores. If you shave before, you will enhance the softness of the skin. However, note that you must avoid going for waxing after the session, as this will remove the tan entirely. If you need to do some emergency shaving after the session, do it after three days, and always use a sharp, new razor.
  • Positioning your legs on the tan bed – having the incorrect posture will result in failure of your legs to tan, so you need to be careful with how you do it. you must part the legs to allow the rays to reach the entire skin, then flip to your sides to ensure there are no points left out. If you notice one part tanned more than the other, you can cover it in the next session and allow the other side to tan.
  • Aftercare – you must be careful about this, otherwise, the tan will not last. Make sure to drink plenty of water, and apply oil-free lotions and moisturizers generously on the skin. If you need to, you can also apply tan developers and accelerators, and when you are drying the skin, you should only pat it (avoid rubbing it).

Tanning under the Sun

Sunbathing will always be a popular option, even after so many years, as it is gradual and really easy.  The same tips that apply to the other methods in terms of skin care before and after the procedure will still apply here, but also make sure to add sunscreen (must have a minimum SPF of 30).

In addition, to make sure you tan as safely as possible, go for sunbathing during the early morning hours before 10 am, and after 4pm (late evening). Change your position as frequently as you can, and also part your legs while leaning sideways for even exposure. When the upper legs tan, you can cover them afterwards and allow the lower legs and feet to tan, or sit under a shade while exposing the lower legs to the sun.

Using spray tan/self-tanners

If you live a very busy lifestyle and have no time to go to a tanning salon or sit under the sun, this is the best alternative you can get. In fact, it is very easy, painless, and does not require you to expose your skin to UV rays. In fact, many women prefer it as a way to achieve that perfect glow, and it is your mistake if you fail to achieve the results you want.

You must pay attention to the aftercare and the preparation stages for your skin. In addition, you must wait until the spray tan dries completely after applying it to your skin, before you can dress up. Just like in the other methods, you should avoid wearing tight pants, skirts, as well as leggings, as they will cut off the air circulation in the legs.

For you to get proper tanning on your feet, you should avoid wearing shoes for as long as possible. Instead, wear flip flops to reduce the damage to your spray job. In addition, apply a non-clogging moisturizing lotion generously to the skin, especially those that contain almond or macadamia oils. Before applying the self-tanner though, keep in mind that you should avoid applying moisturizer 6 hours before or after the tanner, and this will allow the skin to absorb the UV rays properly, similar to the tanning bed method.

Lastly, Make sure you are using a nice smelling tanning lotion.

Here is video on how to apply self tanner on your legs.


It is hard work if you want to achieve the perfect tan that looks gentle and even on your skin. As long as you do it properly, the method you use during the tanning process will not matter – other people are sure to envy your beautiful look.

In case you always wonder why your legs do not tan properly anymore, this article should give you some hope that you can achieve the results you want.  Just ensure you take good care of your legs both before and after the tanning process to avoid uneven results, and you can even opt to use specific products for tanning if the other methods do not work. 

Further reading

Tips for tanned legs – www.schrammek.com