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Why Won’t My Legs Tan? | Nice Naturally Tanned Legs!

why won't my legs tan

Oh no, why won’t my legs tan? Even with the most successful spray tan therapist and the best tanning bed, achieving a perfectly even tan can be challenging.

While some parts of your body will soak up the rays with no problem whatsoever, other parts will always be more resistant to tanning.

One of the most common areas for a tan to be inconsistent in on the legs. This can be extremely frustrating, especially during a season meant for short shorts and sundresses!

Today, we’ll explore some reasons explaining why this happens and we’ll serve up a few handy hints to make your next tanning experience more fruitful and capable of generating more color and consistency to your overall tan.

All About Melanin

When it comes to achieving a perfect sun-kissed glow, the star of the show is melanin. This is a pigment found in the body, in the hair, the iris of the eye, and especially in the skin. 

When melanin is exposed to UV rays, it darkens. This process is what makes your skin appear darker. Both natural sunlight and the bulbs in tanning beds can help to “activate” the melanin pigments in your skin but some areas just won’t darken as well as others.

Different parts of your body have different levels of melanin in them. Unfortunately, your legs are one area that doesn’t have an abundance of this pigment. Because your legs don’t have as much melanin as say, your arms, you’ll often find your legs won’t tan as deeply as the rest of your body.

Thickness of Skin

Another factor that contributes to how effectively an area tans is how thick the skin in that area is. 

Body parts with thicker skin tend to have more problems absorbing UV light making it more difficult to achieve the tan you’re hankering after.

Most of the skin on your legs is thicker than it is across other areas of your body. This prevents the light from the sun or the tanning bed from penetrating properly and working with your melanin to give you a tan.

Dryness of Skin

Dry skin is the nemesis of a tan for a couple of reasons…

Firstly, dry skin tends to act as a reflective barrier to UV light preventing it from penetrating the skin and getting through to the melanin. Obviously, without UV light your melanin cannot get darker and you won’t get the tan you’re hoping for.

Beyond this, because the skin on your legs is drier, it tends to exfoliate at a brisker rate. This results in any tan you achieve being quickly rubbed away through natural processes.

For women, the daily routine of shaving and exfoliating also plays into this process by drying the skin out even more and further exfoliating the tanned layers of skin.


For a long time, tanning in a tanning bed was a hit or miss situation no matter what you did. Because people were so disappointed in the results they got from tanning beds, the companies that make these devices poured plenty of R&D dollars into innovative new technology.

Most modern tanning beds have specialized lamps to better tan the face and shoulders but they neglect the legs. 

In older tanning beds, the UV lamp light is more focused on the torso. Sadly, this means the legs are still neglected. 

why won't my legs tan

Tanning Tips

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help yourself.

Tanning your legs can be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are some quick tips to help you get an even and consistent tan on your legs each time you lay on the tanning bed or the sun lounger.

  • Exfoliate: You should always exfoliate thoroughly before a tanning session. The process of exfoliation helps to remove all those dead skin cells. Removing these cells is vital since it gives the UV rays a clear path to your skin so that your melanin pigment can be efficiently darkened.
  • Moisturize: As we said before, the skin on your legs tends to be drier than skin elsewhere. Because of this, you should work to keep it moisturized before and after you lie on the tanning bed. Ensuring your skin is soft and well hydrated will allow more UV light to be absorbed. It will also intensify the melanin production process. Even better, your tan will last longer if your skin is not sloughing itself through being too dry.
  • Tanning Lotions: In addition to keeping your skin well moisturized, you should use a lotion specifically made for tanning when you hit the tanning bed. This might seem unnecessary but it’s absolutely worthwhile. Dedicated tanning lotions contain ingredients lacking in regular lotions. Some tanning lotions are specially formulated to help problem areas tan more easily. You could also use a tan accelerator which will help your legs and skin stay soft and supple while also ensuring your skin is better prepared to retain its tan color.

Things To Avoid

In addition to the beneficial tips above, there are a few things you should not do if you want your tan to stay the distance. 

  • Hair Removal: For at least 2 days after tanning, you should avoid hair removal methods like waxing or shaving. Going through these processes will remove your newly tanned top layers of skin.
  • Long Showers: You should also sidestep long showers or baths especially if you’ve taken the spray tan route. As the heat opens your pores, it will reduce the effectiveness of your tan at the same time.
  • Tight Pants: If you want the tan on your legs to last all summer, avoid wearing tight pants. You probably aren’t wearing pants too much in the summer heat anyway but if you are, make sure they aren’t skin-hugging. Super-tight pants will rub off your skin causing your tan to become uneven and attenuated.

Final Word

A sun-kissed bronze glow will boost your confidence and make you feel great but it can be infuriating if you’re faced with blotchy, uneven legs. 

We hope you now have a better understanding of why this happens and that the simple tips and tricks we’ve outlined help you get a more even tan on your legs to last you right through the summer. 

Other posts:

Tanning Bed Tips For Beginners | Insider Secrets!

10 Best Outdoor Tanning Lotion | Ultimate Buying Guide

How Long Does It Take To Tan? [In The Sun & Tanning Bed]