why do bodybuilders tan

Why Do Bodybuilders Tan? 8 Reasons Why

If you’ve ever seen footage or images of a bodybuilding competition, you will have surely noticed something that, at first, seems pretty strange; the amount of fake tan the competitors have used. 

The main reason bodybuilders use so much fake tan is to highlight their muscle definition and make their physique look as good as possible under the stage lights. 

Let’s take a closer look at why the use of fake tan and spray tans is so prevalent in the bodybuilding community.

1. It highlights muscle definition


Arguably the most important reason bodybuilders use spray tans, or perhaps a tanning bed, is because the dark colors make muscles appear much more prominent. The tan highlights the separation between muscles and makes them look as toned and defined as possible.

Muscle size and definition are vital components of a bodybuilding competition, so it makes sense that competitors would use whatever legitimate advantage they can. A fresh spray before hitting the stage can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.

2. It makes you appear slimmer

Darker skin tones also help your body look slimmer in the areas it needs to be for bodybuilding competitions, such as around the waist. A competitive body needs to have as little body fat as possible, alongside large muscles, and a fake tan can help create the illusion of a slimmer body.

The benefits of this are only properly realized when body fat percentage is below 10% – which will be the case for most high-level competitive bodybuilders – and the dark skin tone can make their body look as lean as possible for the judges.

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3. It hides blemishes


Fake tan also helps to cover up any skin imperfections or skin blemishes. Stretch marks are a fairly common occurrence when doing lots of weight lifting, for example, and a spray tan will cover these up so that the focus of the judges is on muscle definition, rather than any blemishes.

Though imperfections like these, such as scars, are perfectly natural, temporarily covering them with fake tan for a competition is a tactic many bodybuilders use to ensure the emphasis is always on their physique, rather than other issues that might not be entirely under their control.

4. It holds up against bright lights

The lights used on the bodybuilding stage are often very bright and quite harsh, and they end up washing out lighter skin tones. So, bodybuilders use bronze tans to create a stage-ready physique on competition day, as natural skin color will not hold up as well under those bright lights.

This is also why bodybuilders use so much fake tan. They usually apply several layers so that their bronzed skin tone is not only even, but also as dark as possible to prevent the bright lights from washing out their skin and affecting their scores from the judges.

5. It boosts confidence

Likewise, a darker skin tone can sometimes bring more confidence to competitive bodybuilders, and having a strong stage presence is an important factor in these competitions. Flexing your body under those lights on stage in barely any clothing requires a lot of confidence and, for some, a fresh spray tan can help deliver that.

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In fact, stage presence is one of the explicit factors that bodybuilders are judged on, so it’s vital that they feel as confident as possible when competing.

6. It’s part of the industry


The use of fake tans and spray tans is now so widespread in the bodybuilding industry that judges take the quality of the tan into account when assessing competitors. While its impact on scoring can vary, these attitudes make fake tans not just an extra way to prepare your physique, but an essential box that needs to be ticked.

If a bodybuilder decides to not use any fake tan, they’re putting themselves at an immediate disadvantage. 

7. It creates the full package


This is somewhat of a summary of the points listed above, but a fresh sunless tan can help bring all of a competitor’s hard work together and create the sense of a ‘full package.’ This can have a profound impact on how a bodybuilder is judged, and a darker, bronzed skin tone is seen by many as the icing on a well-baked cake. 

8. Vanity

Simply put, a tan looks good. While bodybuilders tend to overdo it for the reasons listed above, there’s no denying that the tanned look is desired by most and if you want to look as good as possible, a bronzed skin tone will be a significant part of that. 

Final Thoughts

At first, the amount of fake tan bodybuilders use might seem ridiculous, however, there are valid reasons for them doing so, almost all of which are geared toward them enhancing their chances of winning competitions. 

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Fake tan helps muscles look more defined, the body looks slimmer, and it can cover up any blemishes or imperfections on the skin. Plus, it prevents the stage lights from washing a competitor’s skin tone out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do bodybuilders have shiny skin?

For the most part, this is just a byproduct of the several layers of fake tan or spray tan they’ve used. Fake tan is a liquid and so, when lots of it is applied, creates a shiny texture. Bodybuilders will have also remove any body hair, which only adds to the shiny complexion. Some will also use oils to create that shiny look and make their muscles appear more defined.

What tan do bodybuilders use?

Most use some form of a spray tan, many of which can be applied at home or by a friend, without the need to visit a salon. There are also plenty of fake tan products they use which can be bought from stores, while others opt to visit tanning salons to get a professional approach.

There are now even spray tans specifically designed for bodybuilding competitions, and these are usually much thicker than normal spray tan products.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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