Tanning Lotion

Tanning lotions: What you need to know

Last Updated: August 15, 2023

In This article....

  • Discover the science behind tanning lotions and how they enhance melanin production to speed up your tanning process, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Learn to match your skin type and tanning goals with different types of tanning lotions, and uncover the secret of perfect application to maximize your results.
  • Navigate the world of tanning lotion ingredients from accelerators to moisturizers, understanding their benefits and knowing what to look for when choosing your perfect tanning product.

Summer is nearly here and it is time to get out and enjoy the sunshine! Even though summer is only for a few months each year (depending on where you live of course) you can easily get a year long tan either through tanning beds, spray tans or skin darkening moisturizers.

We have tried to provide you with all the information you need to get to know how you can achieve great tanning results and what the latest innovative products are on the market.

What is tanning lotion? Why do I need it and does it really work?

A tanning lotions is used to speed up the the tanning process. Also referred to as indoor tanning lotions, they are designed to maximize the effect of the sun’s UV ray’s on your skin.

So how does it so this? In simple terms they help promote melanin production in your skin. Melanin is produced after your skin has been exposed to ultraviolet rays. Melanin is what gives your skin the darker appearance.

Tanning lotions increase the melanin which is brought to the top skin layers by increasing blood flow to the areas they are applied. The indoor tanning lotions you find on the market are deigned to be used in a tanning bed or booths which use artificially generated UV rays to mimic the suns natural light.

When compared to the traditional suntan lotions or sun blockers that people use outdoors, tanning lotion are subtly different. The main difference is that these lotions do not cause any damage to the materials the tanning beds are made of, which is most commonly an acrylic material. These beds can be damaged by a regular tanning lotion.

There are also specific tanning lotions available for outdoor use but you are advised not to use these when you are tanning indoors.

You can however use lotions that are designed for indoor use, outdoors. It is important to note that many of these tanning lotions do not contain any form of SPF, or offer any sort of protection from sun exposure.

This is why it’s recommend that you use some form of sunscreen in addition to your tanning lotion so that you avoid sunburn.

You must always re apply both the tanning lotion and sunscreen according to the manufacturers instructions. This is usually every few hours.

Tips for better use of tanning lotions

It is important that you remember your skin type while using tanning lotions as you may have fair, medium, light, dark, olive or deep skin. You can find out your skin type by using what is known as the FItzpatrick scale which is a easy way to identify your skin type. More information on that can be found here.

In addition to your skin type, you also have to consider what you are trying to achieve from your sun tanning and use a suitable lotion to meet these goals.

You can choose between bronzing lotions, accelerators, moisturizing lotions and much more. While it’s up to you to make your choice, do ensure you choose something that is designed with your skin type in mind.

Whichever tanning lotion you choose to use, for best results, you need to apply it about 30 — 60 minutes before you start exposing yourself to UV rays. You not only have to evenly apply it on your body, it is highly recommended that you exfoliate your skin some point before you apply the lotion to achieve the best tanning results.

If you do not have someone to help you apply the lotion to those hard to reach places (such as your back) it is recommended to purchase some type of applicator to help you do this.

If you don’t want to sit in the sun or in a tanning booth maybe a spray tan is for you. We have a page dedicated to spray tanning with tips and tricks on how you can achieve the best results

Tips for choosing the best tanning lotion

There are many different options available when choosing a tanning lotion. Below we list the main ones that are present in modern tanning lotions

spray tan before and after


Accelerators are made of vitamins and oils which help increase your skin’s melanin production. Most accelerators also contain some sort of moisturizer. Products with accelerators can be very helpful to achieve your desired tan in the shortest period of time.


Maximizers are meant for people who already have some form of a base tan, and who are just looking for a darker tan. These maximizers don’t contain much of a moisturizer; they are created to ensure your skin responds quicker to the UV rays to help give you a darker and richer tan.

Tingle/Hot Action Lotions

Tingle or hot action lotions are to be used by more experienced tanners. These lotions contain ingredients (such as Benzyl Nicotinate) that offer the benefit of increasing the blood flow and micro-circulation to your skin to produce a deeper color of tan.

Firming Ingredients

Firming ingredients are designed to help boost the collagen and elastin levels in your skin in order to tighten your skin. This is perfect if you are looking for a product which not only tans but also firms up your skin.


It is well known that keeping your skin well moisturized is one of the most important things you can do for your skins health. A good time saving solution is to look for tanning lotions supplemented with moisturizers. Moisturizers are essential to hydrate your skin and keep it looking as good as possible. In addition to this, it also helps keep your skin smooth and silky to touch.

Aloe Vera

aloe vera

Aloe Vera is also effective at keeping your skin hydrated by keeping your skin moisturized with its natural healing and cooling properties. It is especially helpful in providing relief if you have spent too much time in the sun!

Other ingredients to consider

There are tanning lotions containing other additives and ingredients which are designed to help your tanning experience. Most are just gimmicks and any scientific proof of their effectiveness is limited. Other times they are just included to give the tanning lotion a nice scent.

I'm Amelia Hong, a proud staff writer for TanningReview.com, hailing from sunny Los Angeles. My passion for the outdoors and wellness reflects in the informative content I create about tanning and skin care. When I'm not busy writing, you'll find me spending quality time with my family and my wonderful dog, Archie. I truly believe that a healthy glow stems from a balanced life full of love and laughter.