A healthy bronze glow can be a major confidence booster. Not to mention, catching some rays helps your body produce vitamin D. Skip the tanning booth and get a good old-fashioned tan outside. But take some precautions because burns, sun poisoning, and even skin cancer are no joke. Here’s how to reduce your risk of harmful skin conditions.

Things You'll Need

Exfoliate Your Skin

Exfoliating is a crucial first step. The sun tans the top layer of your skin, and if it’s covered in dead skin cells it’s just going to flake off later. Be gentle, though—you don’t want your skin to be extra sensitive to UV rays when you lie out.

Use Suntan Lotion with SPF

It may sound counterproductive, but only use suntan lotion with SPF. Choosing a good quality lotion with an SPF of at 15 will give you a long-lasting tan since your skin gains pigment more gradually. Also, SPF filters out dangerous rays to protect against skin cancer.

Avoid Sunburns

You may think that lying out for hours on end is the best way to get a tan, but that’s a common misconception. Sunburns are your worst enemy when it comes to building the perfect golden glow. They slow down your tanning process because your tan flakes off when your skin starts peeling. And according to the American Cancer Society, sunburns increase your chance of developing melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.

Get an Even Tan

The best time to tan is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Since the sun will be directly overhead, your chances of an even tan are much better. Invest in a reflective blanket, which helps reflect the sun’s rays back up to tan the sides of your body. Lie on your back for approximately 15 minutes, then flip over onto your stomach for another 20 minutes. Starting out with 15 minutes and working up from there is a good safety measure that should protect you from burns. Also, don’t gauge your tan by the darkness of your skin while you’re tanning. Your true color generally won’t start to show up until about two hours after sun exposure, so if you wait until you get darker you’ll definitely burn!