6 Best Tanning Lotions

6 Best Tanning Lotions

12
Hours
Researched
55
Products
Evaluated

After 12 hours of research evaluating 55 products, we picked Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion as our top choice.

With summer just around the corner, it's time to break out the beachwear, the BBQ set, or those beach party outfits. The sun's coming out, meaning you're going to have plenty of hours spent enjoying the great outdoors.

Hooray for summer!

One of the best parts of the summer sunshine is the chance to get a gorgeous tan. Between the beach days and outdoor activities, you can work up a nice golden bronze easily.

Don't forget the tanning lotion!

Tanning lotion not only encourages a better bronzing, but it can protect you from UV radiation and sunburns. The best tanning lotion will help you get a tan in less time, meaning you can get out of the sun (or cover up with sunscreen) to reduce the risk of melanoma.

We've done the research to find only the best tanning lotions for you—both for indoor AND outdoor use. Read on to find out everything you need to get that gorgeous tan you've been looking forward to all winter long!  

6 Best Tanning Lotions

  • 6. Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
  • 5. Australian Gold Cheeky Brown
  • 4. Millenium Tanning Solid Black Bronzer
  • 3. Maui Babe Browning Lotion
  • 2. Fake Bake Flawless
  • 1. Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion

Best Tanning Lotion for Pale Skin

#6

Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion

Best Tanning Lotion for Pale Skin: Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
377 Bought
76 % Editor Score
82 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Perfect for helping fair-skinned people get a proper tan
  • NOT a bronzer; ensures you get an actual tan, not just a layer of color
  • Great smell, looks good, and works effectively

Gives you a good base tan, great for fair skin, no bronzing ingredients, speeds up natural pigment production, protects tattoos, helps to improve skin health, fades wrinkles and cellulite, effective list of ingredients, approved for indoor and outdoor use, no stains or streaking, and quick-drying.

Perfumed smell can be overly-strong for some.

Application and Use: If you have fair or pale skin that's prone to burning, this is the perfect tanning lotion for you. It contains no bronzers (fake coloring), but it contains ingredients that will speed up the tanning process (see next section). You'll finally be able to build up a proper base tan, reducing the risk of burning in the future.

The lotion is designed for indoor and outdoor use, and you'll find that it does a great job of promoting an even tan over your entire body. It's quick-drying and quick-acting, so make sure to wash your hands after applying.

The smell is pleasant, though some people find it overly strong. If you don't mind a powerful cologne scent, this is a great lotion to try.

Ingredients: The mixture of coconut milk and coconut oil helps to hydrate and nourish your skin. The mixture of Quad Tyrosine and Melanobronze will stimulate the production of melanin (pigment cells), helping to speed up the tanning process. The Nouritan will promote an even tan that will last longer.

The lotion also contains ingredients (unlisted) that will protect tattoos from fading and reduce the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles.

Price: At just over $21, this is the priciest tanning lotion on our list. You'll find that it does an amazing job of tanning pale skin, though, so it may be worth a try if you're prone to burning easily.

Best Skin-Friendly Tanning Lotion

#5

Australian Gold Cheeky Brown

Best Skin-Friendly Tanning Lotion: Australian Gold Cheeky Brown
182 Bought
76 % Editor Score
82 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • A tanning lotion that moisturizes and protects your skin
  • Great smell; light, airy fragrance
  • Not too thick or greasy, easy to apply

Contains Vitamin A and E, light and pleasant scent, easily absorbed into the skin, softens skin, well-priced, high quality, speeds up tanning, natural ingredients, hydrates skin, good and quick results, good for pale skin, and approved for both indoor and outdoor use.

Can leave streak marks if not applied correctly.

Application and Use: If you are trying to protect your skin from sun damage, you'll love this tanning lotion. It's made with a broad selection of natural oils (see the next section) that will absorb into your skin easily, trapping in moisture and keeping environmental toxins out. Using this tanning lotion will hydrate and protect your skin. All in all, it's a great choice for regular tanners.

The ingredients speed up the natural bronzing process, and you'll find it leaves a hint of color that will darken your skin effectively. You'll see results in less time than you'd expect from a natural tanning lotion. It even works on pale and fair skin.

Be warned: if not applied evenly, it could leave visible streaks. Make sure to distribute the lotion across your skin without patches or splotches, or else you may end up with a streaky tan.

Ingredients: The tanning lotion contains "Australian oils" that are rich in both Vitamins A and E. Vitamin A enriches your skin and protects it from oxidative damage. Vitamin E traps in moisture and keeps toxins out. Together, these two oils will do wonders to keep your skin healthy as you tan.

Price: At just under $17, this is one of the pricier tanning lotions on our list. However, when you see how smooth and silky it will leave your skin, you'll never regret the purchase.

Best Tanning Bed Lotion

#4

Millenium Tanning Solid Black Bronzer

Best Tanning Bed Lotion: Millenium Tanning Solid Black Bronzer
216 Bought
81 % Editor Score
86 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Bronzes your skin and leaves it soft and supple
  • Can be used outdoors as well as with a tanning bed
  • Works with fair and pale skin; get that bronze you want!

Great for your skin, accelerates darkening, quick results, mild scent, quick-drying, indoor and outdoor use, ideal when used with a base tan, and contains extreme bronzers for extra-dark tan.

Leaves orange or yellow streaks if not applied properly.

Application and Use: This is a product to use when you want an extra dark tan. It can be used on a tanning bed or on its own, both indoors and outdoors. You'll find it will darken your base tan beautifully or give your pale/fair skin that golden bronze color you've always wanted. For light-skinned people who burn in the sun, it's a great solution for a tan.

It's applied using your hands (not a mitt or spray bottle), so you'll need to make sure to wash your hands quickly. The lotion is quick-drying, and it may leave streaks if not applied evenly. However, the quick-drying formula means it will darken your skin quickly and effectively. 

Ingredients: The lotion contains a 100X silicone Bronzer. Silicone is highly effective at penetrating the layer of skin, meaning it helps your skin absorb the bronzer more efficiently. The emulsifying agent in the lotion will also hydrate and soften your skin. Many users have remarked that their skin feels smooth and supple after using this cream.

Fair warning: it contains a lot of chemical and synthetic ingredients. However, its natural ingredients include walnut oil, sunflower oil, cannabis sativa seed oil, banana extract, apple extract, carrot extract, and tea leaf extract.

Price: The $16 price tag makes this one of the priciest tanning lotions on our list. However, if you want something that works outdoors as well as with your tanning bed, this lotion is a worthwhile investment.

Best Natural Tanning Lotion

#3

Maui Babe Browning Lotion

Best Natural Tanning Lotion: Maui Babe Browning Lotion
342 Bought
89 % Editor Score
91 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • An inexpensive, reliable all-natural tanning lotion
  • Great for surfers, beach volleyball players, and more active beachgoers
  • Tan faster; leads to darker skin in less time

Contains all natural ingredients, pairs nicely with sunblock, long-lasting, great for all skin tones and types, speeds up the natural tan, includes aloe vera to soothe skin, contains vitamins and antioxidants, highly effective, and affordable.

Greasy and may irritate sensitive skin.

Application and Use: The Maui Babe Browning Lotion is one of the most popular tanning lotions among surfers, swimmers, and beachgoers. It's sweat-resistant and designed to soak into the skin, meaning you can run, jump, and swim without worrying about the lotion coming off.

The lotion accelerates the natural tanning process, meaning it helps your skin to soak up more UV rays to produce more melanin. It doesn't contain any sunscreen, but the Kona Coffee Plant extract will encourage better, faster browning. It's intended to be used in combination with sunscreen so you can protect your skin from radiation.

Those with sensitive skin may find it's a bit too strong (potentially irritating), though the manufacturer claims that it's suitable for all skin types and tones. Some users have found that it's oily and greasy (albeit all natural oils), leading to pimples. However, for the average person, there are no problems when using this amazing Hawaiian tanning lotion.

Ingredients: If you're looking for a non-chemical tanning lotion, you'd do well to consider this one!

The product is made with a "secret Hawaiian formula", which means a complete list of ingredients isn't available. However, it's made with either a mineral oil (for outdoor use) or sunflower oil (for indoor use) base, with Vitamins A, C, and E included in the formula. Other ingredients include Kukui Nut oil, aloe vera too soothe your skin, and Kona Coffee Plant extract to speed up the browning process. The ingredients are all natural (according to the manufacturer) and safe for all skin types and tones.

Price: At just under $14, this is a well-priced tanning lotion. It's intended for both outdoor and indoor use, it's easy to apply, contains all natural ingredients, and is great for active users. All in all, an amazing product at a great price.

Best Sunless Tanning Lotion

#2

Fake Bake Flawless

Best Sunless Tanning Lotion: Fake Bake Flawless
167 Bought
91 % Editor Score
93 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Get a near-perfect tan without spending a moment in the sun
  • Easy to apply (thanks to accompanying mitt); color sets quickly
  • Natural-looking tan; low risk of patchy or streaky areas

Easy application, deep bronze, doesn't stain your clothes, easy application, quick-drying, doesn't leave patches or streaks, highly efficient self-tanner, great for multiple uses, velour application mitt lasts a long time, no orange tint, ideal for use on your body, and pleasantly mild smell.

Clogs pores and could lead to acne breakouts.

Application and Use: To apply this product, simply spray or pour it onto the velour application mitt and spread an even coat over your face. If done right, you'll find it gives you a deep tan that is surprisingly natural-looking (not a hint of orange). The mitt makes it easy to apply an even coat, reducing the risk of streaks or patches of odd-colored skin. Thanks to the quick-drying formula, you can put on your clothes within 10 to 20 minutes of application.

Once dry, the lotion won't stain your clothes, and it will give you a deep bronze color that will last for days. You can apply the lotion repeatedly for a darker color. There's no unpleasant smell, but it's simply an effective sunless tanning lotion perfect for anyone who wants to tan without spending time in the sun. However, ou may find that repeated use causes acne breakouts on your face.

Ingredients: The ingredients include DHA, BMI, and erythulose, all synthetic ingredients that promote a better, deeper, more even tan. There is a mild fragrance that shouldn't irritate any but the most sensitive skin. The lotion is suitable for all skin types and tones.

Price: At just over $13, this is a well-priced sunless tanning lotion. You get many happy uses and a natural-looking, beautifully dark tan. Weighing the cost vs. the results, this is one of the best tanning lotions around! 

Best Tanning Lotion Overall

#1

Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion

Best Tanning Lotion Overall: Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion
404 Bought
96 % Editor Score
96 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Protect your skin from radiation while getting a beautiful tan
  • Non-comedogenic, free of parabens/PABA, vegan, and gluten-free
  • A highly effective lotion for light bronzing

Both tanning and sunscreen lotion, moisturizes, protects from UVA and UVB rays, Skin Cancer Foundation-approved, vegan, 80-minute lifespan, well-priced, great for kids and adults, hypoallergenic, great for pale skin, non-greasy, pleasant scent, easily absorbed into skin, and ideal for a base tan.

Known to cause face rashes, and some find the scent overly-strong or too sweet.

Application and Use: This tanning lotion is perfect for those who want to work on a base tan or a light bronze without fully tanning. Thanks to the SPF15 sunscreen in the tanning lotion, you can protect your skin (even very pale skin) from burning while you tan. It's not going to give you a deep tan, but it's ideal for daily use to slowly build up that bronze coloring.

The tanning lotion has an 80-minute lifespan, though you'll only get about 15 to 25 minutes of sunscreen protection. It's great for an hour in the sun, and it'll help you get a bit of color without burning.

The formula is non-greasy and won't leave a residue on your skin. It absorbs easily, provides an even coating, and will help to moisturize your skin. Those with sensitive skin will find that it's gentle and won't cause breakouts (though some have noticed it causes rashes/acne breakouts on the face), and it's suitable for children as well as adults.

Ingredients: The ingredients are 100% vegan, free of parabens and PABA, gluten-free, and approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The non-comedogenic formula will help to reduce the risk of back or body acne, and the addition of Vitamin E into the formula ensures the lotion will hydrate and protect your skin. The ingredients are all also hypoallergenic.

Price: At $13 per bottle, this is one of the better-priced tanning lotions on our list. It's not going to give you a deep, dark tan, but it will protect your skin from UV radiation and encourage a light bronzing—perfect for daily use. 

Faveable Expert Tips

BEST TANNING LOTION BUYING TIPS

The lotion tanning industry is a multi-million business and the market of the self-tanning products is expected to touch $5.5 billion by 2026. The search of the perfect tan had led to multiple fashion editorials at the beginning of the 20th century — when tanning as a fashion trend began noticeably. Yet tanning has not always been on the trend.

Indeed, having dark skin wasn’t acceptable within the Aristocracy in the 18th century as pale skin was seen as natural beauty and elegance. Getting a tan got fashionable in the 20s and 30s as seen in Vogue & Harper’s Bazaar.

Today, with a flourishing business worldwide, hundreds of brands have created the perfect formula for every skin to find its touch of dark. How to choose a tanning lotion and when do you need to tan? Finally, what advice should you keep in mind as far as tanning is concerned? Let’s explore.

What is a tanning lotion?

A tanning lotion designs a cosmetic product that is aimed at enhancing the tanning process of the skin as well as boosting melanin production. Melanin is a pigment naturally produced in the cells of the body that determines our skin color. There are two forms of melanin, eumelanin and pheomelanin, which produce different shades and hues on the skin.

Some people naturally produce less melanin, resulting in lighter skin. To achieve a long lasting tan, you may use a tanning lotion — which may come in different forms such as sprays, lotions, mousses, creams, oils, and gels. Tanning lotions can be made for outdoor, indoor, or self-tanning purposes.

Skin tanning attitudes shift

French fashion icons and cosmetics highly helped the promotion and the development of skin tanning lotions in the 20th century. The sun began associated with health in the late 19th century after research from physician Niels Finsen received the Nobel Prize in medicine for uncovering the concept of “Light Therapy” in 1903 to combat certain diseases.

Shortly after, pioneering fashion designer Coco Chanel put the idea of sunbathing as fashionable in the 20s. The iconic French designer appeared tanning on the French Riviera in 1923 which depicted the nicest idea of being exposed under the sun. As tanning became popular, so happened sunburns.

To avoid burns, Jean Patou introduced the tanning oil “Huile de Chaldée” in 1927. Later on, Eugène Schueller at L’Oréal developed the first range of cosmetics that would protect the skin while enhancing the tan. The tanning cream “Ambre Solaire” was born in 1935 as the ultimate creative inspiration to promote tanning and avoid sunburns. Another successful product was Elizabeth Arden “Après l’été”.

With the introduction of the “bikini” in 1946, tanning became all-over the place. Soon, sunbathing got linked to a wealthy, artistic, and chic lifestyle. Simultaneously, the first sunless product appeared in 1929 with “Glory of the Sun”.

4 tips to prepare your skin for the sun

Hydrate your skin: whether you wish to drink water or coconut water, ensure you drink enough to keep your body and skin hydrated. If you travel, drink at least 2 liters of water and do not compromise on it. Lacking water in the body will cause your skin to dry and to get more sensitive toward the sunlight. Consider drinking aloe vera juices if you travel to an exotic country and drink enough mineral water if you reside in large, busy cities.

Nourish your skin: you should apply a body moisturizer or hydrating lotion that contains enough vitamin E and oils. The skin is our largest organ and deserves proper care. Consume enough antioxidants and plant-based food as well as carotenoids — plants pigments that have important antioxidant functions and deactivates free radicals. Carotenoids also have strong anti-cancer properties. Find them in kale, spinach, and watermelon.

Exfoliate your skin: to remove the dead cells and boost blood circulation, you need to exfoliate your skin on a regular basis. Before any long-term sun exposure, you should exfoliate approximately within 3 days. Removing dead cells will help the skin absorb better the protection of the suncream.

Take it easy: do not go to the sun straight after — instead alternate shades and rays, so the skin has sufficient time to adapt. If you are at the beach and dig into the water, re-apply enough cream to stay protected. Always apply an after-sun cream to ensure your skin gets the right balance of hydration.

Outdoor tanning lotions

When going to the sea, to the mountain, or to the lake, consider buying an outdoor tanning lotion. You will have to choose the ideal SPF protection to protect your skin against the sun aggression. UVA & UVB are detrimental to your skin and can cause cancers or a range of skin problems. The sunlight that may touch and damage your skin is made of UVA — long wave ultraviolet A and UVB — short wave ultraviolet B. While UVB penetrates on the surface of the skin, UVA may reach the deeper layers. It’s important to choose the right protection to fight against UVA and UVB.

Choose your best sun cream according to your skin type, color, and the level of protection desired. For white skin, choose the highest level of protection. For darker skin, choose moderate protection but never underestimate the position and the time of the sun as this can play an important role in the exposure. For example, avoid going under the sun between 11 am and 3 pm where the sun is at the highest position in the sky, and if you leave in a tropical country, consider buying the highest SPF cream no matter your skin type and color.

Indoor tanning lotions

Indoor tanning lotions contain no sun cream and are used for tanning bed or tanning lamps. Such lotions are formulated with different ingredients compared to outdoor lotions. Such lotions help the skin to stay nice and hydrated. Don’t mistake indoor tanning lotions with outdoor ones as they clearly don’t have the same properties. Indoor tanning is also referred to as smart tanning as it maximizes the tanning experience without the side-effects: sunburns, dehydration, and so forth.

You may find several types of indoor tanning lotions such as:

-  Bronzers: self-tanning bronzers provide an instant tan and are useful if you actually cannot go under the sun or do not wish to use a tanning bed. These bronzers work with the skin natural amino acids to darken the skin and increases melanin production while keeping the skin moisturized.

- Basic tanning accelerators are good for people looking for a quick, easy tan before getting exposed to natural sunlight. Such accelerators are perfect to prepare for a trip and contain high-level of moisturizers for your skin. Other benefits include protection of the skin against burns and your color is likely to evolve even after the end of the session.

- Hot/ tingle lotions: such lotions contain an active ingredient which is Benzyl nicotinate. This ingredient enables microcirculation and oxygenation of the cells which helps the skin produce deep and darker tanning results. The hot/ tingle lotions provide warming, reddening effect on the skin. Yet such lotions are not recommended for sensitive skin.

Sunless lotions

To fight against skin cancer, sunless lotions have become popular over the last years. Such lotions are safe for obtaining your desired skin color. After a few weeks, the color will naturally wear off. Practical, sunless lotions come in diverse forms such as creams, sprays, foams or gels. One of the disadvantages of such tanning is the light orange coloring that may stay on the skin.

Essential ingredients for your tanning lotion

When choosing your tanning lotion, look for such ingredients:

  • Caffeine is excellent to energize the skin and provides a sufficient amount of antioxidants.
  • Beta-carotene — known as vitamin A — helps enhance skin color and pigmentation. Beta-carotene gives a natural boost to the skin.
  • Vitamin E is an important vitamin for the skin as it helps revitalize the skin and moisturize it sufficiently.
  • Natural oils are crucial to bringing the right vitamins and elements to protect, hydrate and nourish your skin.
  • Hemp seed oils contain fatty acids which help the skin stay balanced and moisturized as it provides powerful hydration.

Important facts about the skin and the sun

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the sun is responsible for 90% of skin cancer as well as skin diseases and aging. Remember that when choosing a sun cream, there’s not 100% protection against the ultraviolet. Therefore, stay away from the sun at peak times or don’t overexpose yourself under the sun.

Up to 20% of the sun rays can reach your skin and damage your cells, even if it’s cloudy. Wear a sun-cream or use — a hat or a cap — to stay protected, always. Lastly, when sea, sun, and sand are a bad combination for your health if you don’t use sun lotions with caution.

Proper after-sun care

After-sun is as important as suncare. Use an after-sun lotion to prevent your skin from aging or from dehydration. For maximum effects, use pure aloe vera which has the highest number of emollients your skin may need in case of sunburns.

Other important ingredients for after-sun products are tea tree, witch hazel, rosemary, and vitamin E.

Tea tree calms redness and has antimicrobial properties. A popular oil used for its various benefits in cosmetics, tea tree is known for soothing the skin.  

Witch hazel is a well-known medicinal plant known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Containing also antioxidants, witch hazel helps the skin get rid off free radicals.

Rosemary is another traditional medicinal plant with multiple benefits and widely used in cosmetics and after-sun. Nutrient-rich, rosemary protects skin cells from damage.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces UV damage in the skin. Vitamin E also helps the skin to fight against free radicals.

FINAL TIPS

Since tanning as a fashion trend, sunbathing and tanning is commonly sought-after practices which are here to stay. Yet, despite the trend, the sun can really damage your skin, and choosing the right sun lotion is important.

To obtain a natural bronze, eat healthily and drink well. Carrots, beetroots, and green vegetables can literally help you boost your skin.

Avoid smoking and going to the sun with no protection. If you leave in Paris, London, or New York, enjoy the multiple benefits of indoor tanning lotions.

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Article Staff

Fitness has come hard for Andy; he's had to work for it. But, his trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, a NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise and healthy living. That’s why he’s our resident fitness expert.

His favorite food is lettuce-leaf steak tacos – though he’ll admit to a love of hot wings if you leverage the right pressure.

We know him as the guy who understands British humor and wishes everyone was as passionate about life as he is. His previous forays into the worlds of international business and education have left him wildly optimistic. And, if that wasn’t enough, he's also a best-selling, award-winning author of fantasy novels! Can you say renaissance?

Editor Jenna Holtz
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