Not all tanning lotions are created equally. In fact, some of them can be downright dangerous.

For example, if you are a big user of indoor tanning lotions, you might not realize that you could be cheating yourself out of sun protection. Some indoor tanning lotions don’t have an SPF rating, leaving you exposed to the sun’s harmful rays.

Another startling fact that you might not know is that there are a variety of indoor products that might actually expose you to UV rays, even inside your own home. These products include certain lamps and television sets, or even older style microwaves. The bottom line is that you are never free from the harsh effects of UV rays. For this reason, you should never expose yourself unnecessarily.

Dermatologists have released numerous studies speaking out firmly against the use of tanning beds and “soaking up the sun.” Sunless self-tanning lotions are the safest way to gain a bronze glow, but you must be careful to buy a product that gives you an even, natural-looking tan. Nobody wants to look orange when they finish with their self-tanning routine.

You also want to take precautions to use an SPF-infused sunblock when you go outdoors, since your self-tanner likely won’t have the SPF rating necessary to protect you throughout the day.

What to Look For in a Tanning Lotion

Because most people who use indoor tanning lotions tend to rub them on their skin at least once a day, you’ll want to look for a lotion with as many natural ingredients as possible. It stands to reason that rubbing harsh chemicals into your skin on a regular basis is probably not the best idea.

Copper, tyrosine, and vitamin E are all good ingredients to keep an eye out for when you are shopping for a new indoor tanning lotion.

woman's legs with a tanning lotion

How We Rate the Best on the Market

We rate the best tanning lotions based on the quality of the ingredients that they contain. We look for healthy ingredients that are derived from natural sources. We also pay close attention to online reviews, market trends, and other health benefits that the lotions might provide.

Of course, there is also consideration for cost-to-quality analysis. Nobody wants to overpay for a products they use, and we certainly wouldn’t want you to, either.

The 10 Best Tanning Lotions on the Market Right Now

Below are some of the best tanning lotions we have found on the market today. Please remember to take all ingredients into consideration and be careful about your own personal skin needs before selecting any product.


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This tanning lotion is lightweight without being greasy, and contains apricot kernel oil. Apricot kernel oil is a natural ingredient that adds color to skin and assists in hydration. Because the ingredients of this tanning lotion are mild, it can be used on both your face and your body, which is helpful in developing an even, natural-looking, and long-lasting tan. This is a great tanning lotion to use to build a base tan if you are just starting out as it absorbs fast to keep your skin from coming out looking blotchy or streaked.


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This lotion is infused with avocado oil and hibiscus, both of which are natural ingredients that help retain moisture and soothe irritated skin. Because the ingredients are all-natural, this lotion is suitable for any skin type, including super-sensitive skin. The natural ingredients refresh and revive the skin and keep it hydrated for up to 12 hours at a time. All of this together results in a tanning lotion that leaves skin feeling healthy and boasting a natural, healthy-looking glow. It is also affordably priced, which is always a plus!


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There is a lot of controversy when it comes to the use of dihydroxyacetone or DHA in tanning lotions. While studies are still ongoing, certain tanning lotions still contain high levels of the bioproduct in their list of ingredients. This one keeps the DHA level below 30%, which is a potentially wise move since not much is known about its long-term effects. The tan from this lotion develops in 3-5 hours as you are moving on with your life throughout the day. You simply add a few drops of this self-tanner to any lotion of your choosing and it will help you maintain your tan even between applications.


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Online reviews of this tanning oil speak highly about its ease of use and the glowing, even tan that it produces. The lotion contains limonene and glycerine, both of which are naturally occurring ingredients that spread easily to create a tan that is free of streaks and blotching. The only downside discovered in some online reviews was that the mister can sometimes become clogged, creating issues with dispersal. St. Tropez has addressed the problem by telling consumers that running the mister under warm water for a few seconds will unclog it so it will again spray good as new!


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This product is made with 100% all-natural ingredients, which is an excellent start! The ingredients work fast, absorbing quickly into the skin to start the tanning process immediately. As it works, it has cooling agents that soothe the skin. Rounding out the list of this tanning lotion’s best qualities is the fact that it contains 100% pure argan oil, which is well known for its ability to add and maintain moisture to the skin for up to 12 hours at a time. This means you stay hydrated and your skin gets healthier between applications as it builds a glowing, natural looking tan.


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This rapidly performing lotion boasts that it is cruelty-free, which is a huge plus for the eco-conscious consumer. This, of course, means that it is never tested on animals in a laboratory or produced under unethical factory standards. It is also made with all-clean ingredients and gives a high-quality, natural looking tan within minutes. Because it is technically a bronzer, though, you’ll want to make sure that you are protecting your hands, clothing, and furniture during application. Aside from that small inconvenience, however, online reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly, it is super charged with anti-aging ingredients including Matrixyl 3000 which mimics the breakdown of collagen in the skin. Thus, it encourages to produce more collagen and elastin.


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This tanning lotion works great for any skin type, including skin that is overly sensitive or struggles with skin conditions. It is said to produce an even, all-over tan that doesn’t appear orange or unnatural. One of the greatest positives of this lotion is that it contains eucalyptus oil, which is a coolant and helps to add hydration to the skin. This combats dryness between applications, keeping your tan in tip-top shape from one tanning session to the next!


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This tanning lotion is well known for firming the skin using raspberry seed oil. Raspberry seed oil infuses the skin with hydration, so the skin cells become more plump and healthy. This works to combat uneven or streaked tans, keeping your skin looking even and healthy in between applications. It is also formulated with cellutone complex, which is a great health boost for the surface of your skin.


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This mousse spreads evenly, thanks to its airy texture and the use of glycerine, to create an all-over even and instant tan. It is fast-drying and develops into a glow throughout the day. The instant tan is a bronzer, so again you’ll want to take care in regard to hands, clothing, and furniture.


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Containing organic aloe compounds, this tanning lotion rubs on thick, so only a little is needed to go a long way. It also dries fast, which means you can rub it in and get on with your day. It is not fragrance-free, however, so those with sensitive skin should avoid it.  If any irritation occurs, try applying healing gels. Online reviews, though, state that the aroma is light and natural-smelling, so it isn’t overbearing like some other products.

Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Tanning Lotion For You

It can be hard to know what kind of tanning lotion works best for you, especially when there are so many kinds of self tanners on the market. To help you navigate the different kinds of self tanners, we have outlined some of the qualities of a self tanner that you should be on the lookout for.

Accelerators

If you haven’t tanned in a while, you probably want to start with a good base tan. Accelerators are moisturizing lotions that help to gradually build your tan without drying your skin out. Moisturized skin not only retains a tan better, but it is overall just more healthy. Look for lotions that have moisturizing components to help your skin better absorb the color.

Cooling Lotions

These lotions cool the skin as it is tanning. This is a relaxing effect of using these lotions, but it also helps skin from feeling overheated during the tanning process and prevents skin from feeling sticky or hot.

Tingle Lotions

Melanin in the skin is increased with blood flow. Tingle lotions increase blood flow to the skin to raise the level of melanin to create a quicker tan. Sometimes, skin will look flushed shortly after applying this lotion, but that is normal. Eventually the red will fade out and reveal a nice, natural-looking tan underneath.

Shimmerers

Shimmerers make your skin appear to glow directly after tanning. This is a favorite for those that like to rub on the lotion and head out to the beach or an outdoor barbecue. They give your skin a healthy appearance. You should be careful, however: Some of these lotions, particularly those of lower quality, can cause your skin to look glittery, which is the opposite of the natural-appearing tan that most people prefer.

Maximizers and Intensifiers

Some fair-skinned people have a hard time building up a tan to the tone that they would prefer. For these people, maximizers and intensifiers can be very beneficial. These lotions help to amp up the tone of a tan, creating a darker color. You should proceed with caution, though. These lotions aren’t as moisturizing as most, so you do risk drying out your skin.

Bronzers

Bronzers create an almost instant coloring and are usually labeled either 10x or 30x. The higher the number, the darker the tone of your skin will be. Bronzers should be spread evenly and with care to prevent streaking or blotchy-looking tans. You should also wash your hands immediately after application to prevent your palms from turning orange.


Comparison Table

Product

Weight

Main Ingredients

Price

Ratings

7.8 ounces

Apricot Kernel Oil

1 pound

Avocado Oil and Hibiscus

8 ounces

Glycerin, Bis-PEG- 15 Methyl Ether Dimethicone

6.4 ounces

Limonene and Glycerine

9.6 ounces

100% pure argan oil

6.4 ounces

Matrixyl 3000

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water

200 ml

Eucalyptus oil

1.61 pounds

Raspberry seed oil

7 ounces

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) boosted by DMI & Erythrulose

8.8 ounces

Organic Aloe Compounds

In Review

If you’re looking to warm up your skin tone, you might be tempted to try outdoor tanning or a tanning bed for a fast result. According to dermatologists, though, this isn’t the best way to get a tan.

Instead, sunless self-tanners come highly recommended, but even those can pose risks of their own. For one, you should never assume that your sunless tanner provides adequate SPF blockage to protect you from harmful UV rays. In fact, several don’t provide any protection at all. You should always wear sunblock when taking on direct rays.

Also, you want to shop for a product that will work well with your skin type, that has natural ingredients, and that will provide a natural, even-looking tan. We have provided ten of the best self tanners on the market today to help you narrow down your choices. As always, though, be sure to ask your dermatologist if you are unsure how your skin might react to a new skin care routine.

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