Why Won’t My Legs Tan? Effective Tanning Tips for Legs

Why Won’t My Legs Tan? Effective Tanning Tips for Legs
August 23, 2021 Ellis James
These days when it’s imperative to stay indoors, you’re probably still working on your summer glow. Whether getting your sun glow outside or in a tanning bed, it can be frustrating when your body doesn’t tan evenly. The legs can be slower and more difficult to tan than the rest of the body and need a little extra care to achieve that golden glow you are looking for. You’ve triedd all the tanning methods, but why won’t my legs tan? Here are the best tips and tricks for tanning your legs.

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Why does it take so long for my legs to tan?

There are a lot of reasons why it can be hard to get the legs as tan as the rest of the body.

The reasons can be grouped into two:

1) The Skin on Your Legs is Different

Less Melanin

The melanin in your skin is what darkens and achieves a golden tan color. The skin on the legs has less melanin than the upper body, so legs are slower to tan than the rest of the body.

Thicker Skin

The skin of the legs is thicker than the skin of the rest of your body. Because leg skin is thicker than your upper body skin, it is more difficult for UV light to penetrate and achieve a tan.

2) The Way You Care for the Skin of Your Legs is Different

Legs have Dryer Skin

The thick skin of the legs tends to be drier than skin on the rest of the body. We usually don’t moisturize leg skin as frequently and thoroughly as we moisturize the hands and face.

Dry surface skin cells reflect UV rays, rather than allowing them to penetrate and tan the skin. Dry skin also exfoliates itself more quickly, shedding surface skin layers and quickly exposing un-tanned skin beneath.

Fashion and Clothing

Believe it or not, the tight leggings and skinny jeans in your closet can be impairing your tan.

For skin to tan, it needs great circulation and aeration, and tight clothing restricts that circulation.

Rubbing against tight clothes can also make the skin of the legs drier and promote exfoliation that reduces a tan.

If you had a spray tan done, it’s even more likely that your tan will rub off on the clothes you use. The spray tan product or fake tan can transfer to many things, and friction will make that worse.

Shaving and Waxing your Legs

Shaving and waxing the legs removes unwanted hair, but also usually removes the surface layers of the skin.

Again, most hair removal methods involve exfoliating the skin, which promotes cell turnover and impairs tanning.

You can also strip off spray tan color doing this, so if your spray tan on the legs isn’t lasting long, this might also be why.

Scrubbing and Buffing your Legs

Long hot baths or showers soften the surface skin layers of the legs, and then scrubbing and buffing remove them. It’s another way in which we exfoliate the skin and reduce the tan.

As you can see, to get a deep golden tan on the legs calls for a lot of skin care before, during, and after tanning, no matter which tanning method you use.


How to Care for Your Skin When Tanning the Legs

Whether you use a self-tanner, a tanning bed, or tan in the sun, there are several things you can do to take care of the skin of your legs, and get a deeper, longer-lasting tan.

Up to One Day Before You Tan Your Legs

Wax and Shave

If you are going to wax, shave, or epilate the legs, do it one full day before you tan. Smooth skin tans better but planning ahead gives time for the skin to recover and the pores to close.


Waxing and shaving exfoliate and smooth the legs, but it’s also a good idea to use a gentle hydrating exfoliating scrub 12-24 hours before you tan. This removes dull surface skin cells and allows UV rays to penetrate the skin.

See our guide for more information on how to properly exfoliate your legs.


Use a deeply hydrating, but non-comedogenic, moisturizer 12-6 hours before you tan. This will help to reduce dry skin and promote tanning.

Check out our post on best body moisturizers so you can help nourish your legs.

Wear Loose Clothing

Wear a skirt, or loose shorts or pants, on the day you plan to tan. Avoid wearing tight pants or tight bottoms of any kind, if you can. As mentioned, tight pants impacts a tan in ways you don’t even know!

Allow plenty of air and blood circulation.

Up to Three Days After You Tan Your Legs

Avoid Waxing and Shaving

Save the waxing and shaving of leg hair for the day when you actually will tan. This ensures that you get all that hair and dead skin off your legs as well and as thoroughly as possible in preparation on the day itself.

Treat the skin gently, avoiding tight clothes that rub on the legs, excessive scrubbing, and excessive rubbing when you towel dry.

Maintain the Moisture

Moisturize after tanning and daily after a shower.

This prevents your skin on your legs from drying up and shedding away that color.


Products for Your Legs that Will Boost Your Glow

Dry Brush

Dry brushing exfoliates the skin of the legs, but it also improves circulation and reduces cellulite. We love the EcoTools Dry Body Brush, because it has a compact shape with a strap that fits securely in the hand, and is made of cruelty-free synthetic bristles and renewable bamboo.

It gently polishes and exfoliates dry skin, and is vegan and environmentally friendly.

What’s not to love?

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Body Moisturizer

Because the skin of the legs tends to be thicker and dryer, dermatologists and tanning experts recommend oil-based moisturizers for the legs.

Since you’re moisturizing anyway, you may as well give yourself an affordable luxury upgrade with the Medix Argan Oil Cream with 24kt. This lotion heals and hydrates with argan oil, aloe vera, and lotus extracts.

Medix 5.5 Argan Oil Cream with 24kt Gold. Anti-sagging firming cream to reduce the look wrinkles, cellulite, and blemishes. 15oz (15oz)

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But it also helps to firm skin and fight cellulite with caffeine, while 24 karat gold protects the skin from free radicals and reduces inflammation. It’s an all-in-one hydration and skin care package for the legs, and contains no alcohol, parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, propylene glycol, talc, or other harmful ingredients.



Self-Tanners are a great way to protect yourself from damaging UV sun rays, get a head start on your summer, or keep your glow between tanning sessions. Sunless tans are very popular, especially in the off season.

An excellent self-tanner is the Skinerals Californium Self Tanner Mousse, which gives a healthy, natural glow without the fake orange look of many sunless tanning lotions.

Skinerals Californium Self Tanner Mousse - Sunless Bronzer with Organic and Natural Ingredients for Fake Tan, 8 Oz Bottle

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This natural formula contains lavender oil, orange peel oil, vanilla bean extract, and shea butter. It’s light, non-greasy, and soft to apply, and quick to dry. It’s made in the USA without animal products, sulfates, parabens, or aerosols.

If you have sensitive skin, check out our guide to the best indoor tanning lotions for sensitive skin.


Bronzing Sunscreen

Pacifica Beauty Sun + Skincare Mineral Bronzing Sunscreen Spray, 30 SPF, Flower, Vegan & Cruelty-Free, Pineapple, 6 Fl.Oz

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Just because you’re tanning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect your skin from UV rays. Though a bronzer can help your tan, there are sunscreens that can shield your skin from UV light that can also be effective without affecting the tanning process.

This mineral bronzing suncreen from Pacifica is water resistant, with no harmful chemicals. Vegan AND cruelty free, what more can you ask for when getting tan legs?


Why Won’t My Legs Tan? Tanning Tips for your legs

  1. One day before you tan, wax and shave your legs
  2. Exfoliate the dry skin on your legs so the product will adhere to your skin better
  3. Don’t forget to moisturize! Your legs are drier than other parts of your skin, so moisturizing is important
  4. Avoid waxing and shaving after you tan
  5. Maintain your moisturization routine
  6. Use a tan accelerator or self tanner on your legs (check out our post on indoor tanning lotions reviews!) to help your tanning session

Getting golden tan legs requires a little bit of effort and attention, but it’s worth it to have healthy, glowing legs.

Tanned legs complete every summer look, and you don’t have to go another season without them.

Looking for more tanning tips? We’ve got posts on our blog to help!


What are your leg tanning tips?

Comments (12)

  1. Sarah 2 years ago

    Great tips. I usually exfoliate my legs before tanning, but I didn’t realise that tight clothing can impair tanning as it restricts circulation.

    xo Sarah | Oomph London

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      It may not be a major contributor but tight clothing does indeed affect how well one’s legs tan!

  2. Maria 2 years ago

    Very interesting article. I notice that after I shaved, my legs get tanned faster.

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Shaving also somewhat exfoliates the dead skin cells on your legs, which makes your tan wear better!

  3. Nancy 2 years ago

    These are interesting facts about tanning. I burn easily compared to tan @__@. It is great that there are ways to help our legs get a more natural tan. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Nancy! And you’re welcome!

  4. Tiziana Olbrich 2 years ago

    Amazing post! I need ages to get a natural tan so these tips will help me a lot!! Thank so much 🙂
    Your page is really great

    have a great day,



    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      You’re very welcome, Tiziana! We’re so happy to hear your feedback. Hope you had a great weekend!

  5. Sophie Wentworth 2 years ago

    This was really interesting! I’m really worried about sun damage so I try to keep mine covered as much as possible. I’ve never really noticed if they tan any slower than the rest of me. This all makes a lot of sense though! x


    • Ellis James Designs 2 years ago

      Happy to hear our post was helpful!

  6. Kathy 1 year ago

    Very interesting! I lay in the sun so far
    I had NO IDEA! Very helpful

    • Ellis James Designs 1 year ago

      Glad you found it helpful, Kathy!

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