Everything You Need to Know about Tanning Lotions


So many of us are seeking that sun-kissed skin tone, making the tanning industry a multi-billion-dollar business. It has been said people who are tan are perceived as being more attractive. Whether this true is debatable, people have conflicting opinions on the matter. I have also heard people say they appear thinner and healthier when they have tanned. There are also special occasions such as weddings, proms, cruises and other events that people want to be tan for. Whatever the reason, we flock to beaches, lakes, and tanning salons in search of that perfect bronze.

If you have ever found yourself shopping for tanning lotions or creams, you may be overwhelmed by the options that are out there. The shelves are lined with tons of containers and tubes of products for tanning that you may be completely clueless to their uses. Deciding whether to use a lotion or not and if so, which one to use can be quite confusing to consumers. I can’t begin to tell you how much money I’ve wasted over the years buying the wrong products trying to achieve my desired results. Today, we will break down everything you need to know about tanning lotions so that you can make an informed decision when purchasing. Hopefully, this will help the next time you find yourself puzzled staring at the array of options available to tanners.

What is Tanning Lotion?

Tanning “lotion” is abroad term for products used to enhance the tanning process and increase melanin production in the skin. Consistencies vary from lotions, creams, and mousse, to gels, oils, and sprays. Using a tanning lotion is an essential element to achieving the deepest, darkest, longest lasting tan possible. They also contain the necessary ingredients to keep your skin hydrated and looking healthy. There are three types of tanning; indoor, outdoor and sunless. Each of these three types has products that are exclusive to that kind of tanning. The main two things to take into consideration before picking your product is which form of tanning you plan on doing and your skin type. Also, check out at home tanning oil here.

Outdoor Tanning Lotions

When choosing to tan outdoors, it is recommended that you use a tanning product that contains sunscreen. We all know the relation between overexposure to the sun and skin cancer. Sunscreen not only helps block dangerous, cancer-causing UV rays but also with preventing sunburns and premature aging.

Tanners should consider where they are going to tan, skin type, personal skin tone, and the desired level. This will help you in determining the SPF level, moisturizers, and additives; such as bronzers or accelerators, needed specifically for you. You should choose between fair, olive/medium, or dark.

Indoor Tanning Lotions

Indoor tanning lotions are intended for use with tanning beds or tanning lamps. These products rarely contain sunscreen and are only meant to block artificial UV rays, not natural ones from the sunlight. These should not be used to prevent sunburn. Indoor lotions are specially formulated with ingredients that will not damage the tanning bed like some outdoor lotions have been proven to do.

You will find a variety of options when shopping for indoor lotions. The following list will help you decide which products are best for you:

Basic Tanning Accelerators. Perfect for beginners needing to establish that base tan. These products will help you achieve a nice, even color. You will want to pick a lotion that hydrates, smooths, and softens skin while darkening These accelerators allow your body time to adjust to the tanning process before you move to the next level.

Bronzers. These are by far the most popular type of lotions on the market. These really bring that deep, natural looking pigment out in the skin. There are three main types of bronzers: instant bronzers that will wash away, natural bronzers that use ingredients to increase your melanin production, and DHA bronzers which work with the amino acids in your skin essentially staining your skin.

Some customers worry that using a bronzer will turn your orange. While this was a legitimate concern when they first came out, the industry has perfected this product to where this is no longer a concern when using a reputable brand. Modern products leave you with healthy, radiating skin. Another concern is streaking and staining. You want to make sure you apply the cream evenly, using care on hands, feet, knees and elbows. Hands should be thoroughly washed after application and before tanning.

Tingling Tanning Lotions. These are generally used by advanced tanners. These can be too harsh for beginners or anyone with sensitive skin. It is highly recommended to do a patch test before purchasing. Tingle products maximize the skin’s microcirculation and oxygenation process, the reaction produces deep, dark tanning results. You can use in conjunction with a bronzer for a beautiful tan in a short period.

As the name suggests, you will experience tingling and redness of the skin anywhere this product is applied. Some customers are unable to tolerate the burning and itching side effects. This can sometimes last for several hours, so plan accordingly. Hands should be thoroughly washed after application, and extreme caution should be used near the face.

After Tan Moisturizers. Helps replace the vital nutrients lost in the tanning process. This will help avoid the dryness and itchiness you may experience afterward. Many people use lotions before entering the beds, not realizing the secret to a longer lasting tan is daily hydration. Without this step, you will end up with a dry layer of skin covering your beautiful tan, blocking the natural glow.

Facial Tanners.  Designed specifically for the delicate flesh of the face. Many do not realize that normal lotions are not meant to be used on the facial and neck areas. If you do not wish to purchase a separate facial tanner, a good SPF will also work fine. Just make sure you are applying some type of protectant to your face to avoid signs of premature aging.

Sunless Tanning Lotions

Sunless tanning has become increasing popular over the last several years, due to safety concerns over skin cancer. These self-tanners offer a completely safe option for obtaining your desired skin color. The coloring will typically start to fade within a few days, and all remnants will be completely gone in about three weeks. While the results are temporary and artificial, the health benefits far outweigh this minor drawback. With that said, these products should never be used to protect the skin against sunburn. These items can be purchased in the form of lotions, creams, mousses, sprays, gels, and foam.

A common complaint customers have, is the orange tint frequently seen with these products. Staining and streaking can occur as well. It is important to exfoliate and moisturize before carefully applying the lotion to get a more natural look. Start slowly and build your base color wisely. Generally, less is more with self-tanners. You can find many online discussions to help you find the most reputable brand.

Downside of Using Tanning Lotions

Everyone is unique, causing individual responses to different products. Sometimes the best thing you can do is pick a product that addresses your needs, then simply find the one you like most through trial and error.

Like with all things, there will be pros and cons. We have discussed most of the positives to using these types of lotions. Now, we will discuss the potential downsides.

When choosing to sunbathe, there is no product that will completely block all ultraviolet rays. Even though you may choose a brand with a really good SPF, you are still exposing yourself to some degree of sun damage. Also, the time of day and amount of time you are in the sun can dictate how well your lotion works. If you spend several hours exposed to the sun, you are extremely likely to suffer from sunburn, regardless of the type of product you use. The optimal time to get a tan is from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.; if you go out too early or too late, you may not achieve the results you are hoping for. If you are looking for a quick tan, using the sun and outdoor lotions would not be your best option. It takes weeks of sunning and using the proper products to build a good even tan.

There are some definite downfalls to using indoor creams. First, they may or may not contain a sunblock. This can be scary because it has been suggested that the indoor items could enhance UV rays, rather than blocking them. The FDA does not recommend indoor tanning in any shape or form due to the risk of cancer. Once sun damage has occurred, it is virtually impossible to reverse it. It is highly recommended to always consider your safety before purchasing any products. Indoor tanners are formulated to produce quick results, so they are not active for long periods of time. They should be used during the session and then washed away once you get home. One issue most customers never consider is the rate dangerous bacteria can grow in the beds. If not properly cleaned, this can become a major issue. Some indoor lotions, such as the tingling formulas, will open your pores and leave you more vulnerable to these germs entering your body. These lotions usually do not have antibacterial properties, providing you no protection. For this reason, always make sure you personally clean the bed with an approved cleaner before climbing in for your own protection.

As we discussed earlier sunless, self-tanners are by far the healthiest way to get that beautiful bronze. There are some complaints consumers have besides the orange tone, and tendency to streak if not applied properly. One thing you hear quite often is the smell is not very appealing. Some have stated it has an odor that resembles the smell of hot flesh. The DHA is the culprit of the bad smell. Unfortunately, if you don’t experience this the product probably will not work. Another problem is the Tanner will stain garments or items that may get hit with over spray. It is recommended to apply inside and closed shower and wear older clothing until it has been completely absorbed. When it comes to your face, be very aware of how you are applying, or you may end up with shocking results. They do make sunless face tanners that are designed not to accumulate in lines on your face. Some people find it is best to avoid these products on the face altogether, using makeup instead. You should also note; sunless tanners are not a one size fits all. Use care when selecting which tone is best for you. It is very easy to get home and after a few hours realize you have applied a shade that is way too dark or unnatural. This can be disastrous if you have important events to attend.


Tanning is here to stay. There has been no decline shown in our desire to be the perfect hue of brown, just in the ways we choose to get these results. Making tanning products as desirable as ever.

There are a plethora of tanning lotions available on the market, including variations that are meant for indoors and outdoors, the sun and no sun. Buyers can choose from top brands or select a store brand, depending on their budget and preferences, but the focus should always be on their personal skin tone and skin type. Common types contain moisturizers, nutrients and a variety of levels of SPF.

Choosing between an indoor and outdoor lotion is also pertinent. Each has its own individual properties and should only be used as intended. The most important considerations to make before buying tanning lotion should include checking the SPF level, deciding on proper features, and making sure that the lotion is suitable for the type of tanning that a person prefers.


For more info on Tanning Lotions, check out these articles:

What Is The Best Sunless Tanning Lotion
The Ultimate Guide To Making Your Own Tanning Oil
What Is The Best Self-Tanner
How To Find The Best Sunscreen For Face

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