Does Tanning Burn Fat Or Is This A Complete Myth? The Answer

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: February 20, 2024
Our content is meticulously researched and reviewed by an expert team of fact checkers and medical professionals. They ensure accuracy, relevance, and timeliness using the latest reputable sources, which are cited within the text and listed at the end of the article. Before publication and upon significant updates, we confirm factual accuracy, committed to providing readers with well-informed content. Learn more.

As a personal trainer, I’ve heard many different crazy ideas to promote weight loss. One interesting conversation I recently had with a physician was about how the sun could impact fat cells, a concept that intrigued me deeply.

I was researching other health benefits of sun exposure, but impacting fat cells seemed a bit strange to me.

Our team decided to spend a few weeks researching and talking to some experts to find out what’s behind this idea and if sunbathing can actually burn calories.

Let’s find out what the experts say.

Quick Summary

  • Tanning can promote fat burning as lipid droplets in fat cells reduce when exposed to the sun's blue light wavelengths.
  • Tanning triggers Vitamin D production, enhancing bone density and immune system health.
  • According to the University of Alberta in Canada, lack of sunlight in winter may contribute to typical weight gain during darker months.
  • In my opinion, while tanning may offer some benefits, it's not a primary or effective method for weight loss, and the risks, such as skin cancer, should be carefully considered.

Can Tanning Make You Lose Weight?

Tanned woman playing volleyball on beach

Yes, tanning can make you lose weight, but it's not a primary method.

Reflecting on my tanning routine, the University of Alberta's study caught my eye. It suggests that sun's blue light reduces lipid droplets in the skin [1]. These are the white fat cells you want to ditch in a weight-loss plan.

Personally, with regular sun exposure, I noticed a slight improvement in my skin tone.

Researchers stumbled on the fact that it's the sun's blue light, not ultraviolet, interacting with fat tissue - the blue light your eyes can see. The study also notes winter's lack of sunlight may lead to fat storage, causing typical weight gain in darker months.

What surprised me most is that it's visible blue light, not UV rays, impacting fat tissue - unexpected during my vitamin D skin production research.

Does Tanning Burn Calories?

A tanned woman on a beach

In my experience, just lying in the sun and tanning doesn't burn many calories. This confirms the misconception that passive sunbathing leads to calorie burn.

ResearchGate explains that as the sun heats your body, your basal metabolic rate decreases [2]. With a lower metabolic rate, you burn calories at a slower pace.

So, lounging in the sun won't have the desired effect on your body; you won't burn as much fat as you would in a cooler, more active environment.

I also checked other research on sunshine's impact on burning calories, but none of the studies I found linked increased sun exposure to higher calorie burning.

Related Article: Burning Calories vs Burning Fat 

Are There Other Health Benefits?

Yes, there are other health benefits from tanning that can be enjoyed as long as you do it in short doses.

First of all, according to a sudy by Skin Cancer Foundation, UV light has a direct impact on your skin’s ability to naturally produce vitamin D [3].

And vitamin D plays a key role in maintaining a functioning immune system and promoting stronger bone density.

“When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.”

- Anne Marie McNeill, MD, Ph.D.,

As per a study by Mayo Clinic, insufficient sunlight exposure has also been linked to higher levels of depression and reduced mental health [4].

What Are The Risks?

The major risk with tanning is that you could be increasing your chances of skin cancer.

This is entirely dependent on how much natural sunlight you’re exposed to and how sensitive your skin is to UVA and UVB rays.

Medical professionals from WebMed recommend that you limit your direct unprotected sun exposure to about 15 minutes per day [5].

Alternatives to Traditional Tanning Methods

Choosing safer alternatives for achieving a desired skin tone is crucial to avoid the risks linked to UV exposure.

  • Self-tanning products, such as lotions and creams, offer a sun-kissed glow without harmful rays.
  • Spray tanning, administered in controlled environments, provides a tan appearance without UV damage.
  • Tanning supplements, containing ingredients like beta-carotene, promote a bronze tone from within.

These alternatives reduce the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and other UV-related complications.

Prioritizing these options not only enhances appearance but also safeguards long-term skin health, promoting a radiant complexion without compromising well-being.


Does the Sun Shrink Fat Cells?

Yes, the sun can shrink fat cells. However, the effect is slow and limited to the cells directly below your skin. And you should be limiting how much sun exposure you get each day to avoid developing skin cancer.

Should You Tan Every Day to Lose Fat?

No, you shouldn’t tan every day to lose fat. Occasional and limited sun tanning is fine, and up to 15 minutes a day without sunscreen is generally classed as safe.

But daily and prolonged time in the sun could cause more problems than benefits.

Take The Sensible Approach To Tanning

While there is scientific evidence that tanning will burn fat, there are also very good reasons to be cautious and limit how much time you spend in the sun.

Healthy sunshine exposure of 15 to 30 minutes is not going to start burning fat in large amounts, but it certainly does bring other helpful benefits.

To lose weight more efficiently, I’d recommend using any of the following fat burners:

These can naturally raise your body temperature through a process called thermogenesis. The result is that you burn more calories from stored fat reserves throughout the day.


Was this article helpful?

About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

You May Also Like

A man lifting weights in gym
By Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT 3 months ago
How Many Calories Does It Take To Burn an Ounce of Fat?
A woman doing yoga indoors
By Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT 5 months ago
Does Yoga Burn Fat? (5 Poses For Burning Extra Calories)
A person in the gym lifting weights to burn fat
By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 4 months ago
Does Weight Lifting Burn Fat? (From A Physician)
A woman in a gym drinking water
By Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD 3 months ago
Does Niacin Burn Fat? (4 Things You Need to Know)
A person setting up a treadmill
By Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT 3 months ago
Does Incline Walking Burn Belly Fat? (Science-Backed Facts)
A person using an elliptical machine
By Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT 4 months ago
Does An Elliptical Burn Belly Fat? (What You Need to Know)
Our scoring system is the result of objective testing data and subjective expert analysis by a team of fitness coaches and medical experts. Our scoring factors are weighted based on importance. For more information, see our product review guidelines.