Best Tanning Oil

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Before we reveal what your options are among the best tanning oils, I’d like to ask…do you even know what kind of tanning oil you should be looking for?

Well, there are different types of tanning oils that actually serve distinct purposes. For instance, you have outdoor tanning oil that reacts with sunlight to get you tanned and there is sunless tanning oil for indoor use, that are formulated with bronzers which color your skin. Another bit of detail you need to know is that tanning oils are not necessarily recommended for sunbed tanning.

So if you’re planning on catching a tan at the beach then keep reading. In this review, we talk about how oils work to get you tanned and have narrowed down the top tanning oils for outdoor use.

Test Results and Ratings

If you're in a hurry, check out our top pick:
Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
Great results, affordable and leaces your skin well nourished

Do Tanning Oils Really Work?

Yes, they do, this all goes back to using them appropriately. If you use tanning oils incorrectly then you will not experience the true benefits they have to offer or get the best results.

Tanning oil is actually preferred by many tanning enthusiasts for the effectual properties it has to offer. It was first used for tanning before creams and lotions even came into the mix. Using oils for tanning became popular back in the 1920s as people became fond of the idea of tanning. It became such the craze that in the 1950’s women even tried making their own versions of tanning oil with combining mineral and baby oil with a bit of iodine. This of course eventually became problematic because, without other ingredients to balance the mineral oil, users were essentially baking their skin in the sun.

It was later improved with protective ingredients to prevent burning and allow safer gentler tanning. That’s when proportionate quantities of SPF and moisturizing ingredients were infused to make for a more wholesome formula.

Top of the line tanning oils now usually have better quality ingredients such as rare fruit extracts with powerful antioxidants and nourishing effects, as well as the additions of select vitamins, active tanning intensifiers, and broad spectrum SPF, give and take. There are a few products offering most if not all these properties, which we will round up further along. They have been demonstrated to give you terrific tanning results especially if used under the right conditions. So in order for tanning oils to really work, not only do you have to identify the good ones but also make sure you use them correctly.

Why does oil make you tan faster?

Oil in its natural state is a viscous liquid derived from plants and animals and other organisms and are produced in remarkable diversities through natural metabolic processes. One of which is its formulation and use for the purposes of tanning.

Tanning oils have been tested and proven to provide maximum levels of moisturization and will effectively lock in moisture during tanning which is essential to protect, hydrate and replenish your skin especially as it’s being branded by the sun. When your skin is successfully conditioned this way, it absorbs higher concentrations of UV rays, which ultimately gives you a better-looking tan.

As UV rays penetrate the skin, they stimulate mature melanin-forming cells known as melanocytes, consequently accelerating their ability to produce melanin. Melanin is a dark brown pigment that is responsible for producing these shades of color in your skin tone. The greater the presence of melanin in the skin, the darker your skin will appear. This is why some people get darker than others during tanning even under the same exact conditions.

Nonetheless, by using oil, you optimize the chemical process the UV light produces during tanning to reveal significant color changes in your skin tone and with the added perks of exhibiting a brilliant glowing shine.

So how do I pick the right tanning oil?

With all that said, you should be a little bit more confident in knowing how to identify not only a good tanning oil but also one that will suit your particular skin’s needs. There is no one specific oil that is perfect for everyone since not all skin types are the same and not everybody’s skin responds the same way to topical or cosmetic treatments. However, for the most part, there is a model list of qualities tanning oils should provide, these are:

  • Moisturize and hydrate your skin
  • Produce deep dark tanning results
  • Allow you to tan quickly
  • Protect your skin from sun damage
  • Smells great

So in picking a tanning oil, make sure it has a handful of absorbent moisturizing ingredients to condition your skin, tanning intensifiers that work with the melanin in your skin to produce a deep dark skin shade in shorter time periods as well as SPF to protect your skin by blocking the UV rays of the sun.

Our top picks for the best tanning oils to help you achieve your tanning goals

Editor's Choice

Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil

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at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $8.52

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Here is a terrific tanning oil that enables the right skin care regime. It has an effective fusion of skin conditioners, vitamins, and antioxidants to offer elevated caring and nourishing effects during its use.

The Hawaiian Tropic Dark has a healthy blend of natural additives such as papaya fruit, mango fruit, guava fruit, passion flower fruit, aloe leaf extracts plus coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, eucalyptus leaf oil and vitamins A, C and E that all work together to completely drench your skin with moisture.

The oil goes on smoothly, giving very good coverage and leaves your skin feeling conditioned and supple. It’s a great skin primer for tanning, allowing elevated absorption of sunlight to not only give dark tanning results but also quick color deepening.

The texture is not overly thick yet has the right consistency to feel light on your skin especially after it has been absorbed. It washes off quite easily, so if you happen to go swimming before you’re done tanning, you will need to reapply more oil. However, after tanning, will wash off easy enough.

The Cons: Even though I have never had any bad experiences using this tanning oil, I did read some pretty disturbing reviews online. Users complained about the solution having a chemical type of scent and being gel like in texture. This is the risk you take when buying cosmetics and skin care products online. Always check the expiration dates, buy from a reputable source/seller and fingers crossed your purchase comes from a good batch of products.

Art Naturals Protective Body Tanning Oil

Price not available
at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $16.99

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This is a super lightweight tanning oil that gives one of the best coverage of its kind. It sprays unto your skin from the dispenser bottle it comes in, goes on light and completely melts into your skin, sealing in superior levels of moisture for long-lasting, all-day hydration.

It’s has a mixture of natural emollients, including coconut oil, safflower, avocado, kukui nut, rice bran, and apricot kernel that conditions and hydrates while turning up the shade of your tan. There are also antioxidants and protective agents in additional ingredients of green tea and sea algae extracts, which protects from free-radical damage that occurs during extreme sun exposure.

This tanning oil will create a deep, dark, radiant tan considering it’s a bright sunny day and if you put in about 2 hours of tanning time. The smell is light but nice and beachy, which is especially great for me since I don’t like strong smelling products.

Cons: You may need to add sunscreen after you have applied this oil since there is no SPF included in its composition. Do not use in a tanning bed — like any other oil-based tanner, your skin tends to burn or cook when locked up under UV lamps for too long.

Best Budget Buy

Australian Gold Dark Intensifier Tanning Oil

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Price not available
at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $7.58

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This is one of Australian Gold’s masterpieces; it is the perfect bronzing tanning oil complete with its ColorBoost Maximize technology to give the ultimate dark tanning results and broad-spectrum SPF for optimal protective ranges.

This intensifier tanning oil absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving an overly greasy feeling like other oils tend to do. The oil is slightly tinted in color, actually has the shade of honey but much lighter in texture.

You can lie out in the sun for a pretty long time when using this tanner (up to 80 minutes of SPF protection) but will see elevated skin deepening in 20 – 30 minutes. I would recommend taking a break in between 30 minute sessions to avoid burning or skin damage just in case.

The Cons: This is more of a dry-oil, which means it doesn’t provide very deep moisturizing effects. So feel free to reapply if needs be especially if you get wet as its not exactly water resistant either. It doesn’t cover as easily so you may need to add more oil than you’re accustomed to and massage it into your skin in order to achieve the best results.

Top Pick with SPF

Banana Boat Protective Tanning Oil Spray SPF 8

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Price not available
at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $11.28

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This protective tanning oil from Banana Boat makes our list of the best tanning oils for the fact that it is a great smelling, top notch moisturizing oil with SPF protection all in one.

It has a terrific list of ingredients to provide the ultimate nourishing effects as well as to help get you prepped for optimal tanning results. Included in its formula is carrot and banana extracts combined with coconut oil, which not only hydrates but also locks in moisture for longer lasting conditioned skin especially if tanning or sunlight exposure is over a lengthy period of time.

These ingredients also contribute to the terrific scent of this oil. It has bursts of coconut and banana fragrances that will last throughout the day. The oil is rich and of medium viscosity, applies well and leaves your skin feeling soft and supple.

This is an SPF 8, plus there are other choices with different levels of sun protecting factor to choose from (SPF 4 and 15). It’s actually good for users of various skin tones and shades. If you are pale in complexion, you can expect to get tanned without fear of burning too soon. Simply tan in moderation, i.e. taking small breaks in between sessions and use only outdoors.

Cons: This oil may not give elevated tanning results in one use. Instead, you can expect a nice bronze glow. A couple more sessions will give you darker results however we never recommend back to back sessions, so try tanning at least every 2 days or so. This is not an all-natural tanning oil either, if you have sensitive skin, beware and do a patch test on an area of your body that is prone to breaking out before a full body coverage.

Banana Boat Dark Tanning Oil Spray SPF 4

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $9.39

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This is a spray oil compared to the previously mentioned tanning oil spray. It has very similar features, I would say the differences are that this spray oil has better moisturizing effects and the tanning oil spray gives darker results.

Included in its mixture is a collection of conditioning ingredients such as mineral oil, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, sunflower seed oil, aloe leaf extract, corn oil, banana fruit extract, and carrot root extract. These elements create a rich formula that effortlessly glides onto your skin during application and completely absorbs to leave it feeling soft and silky all day long.

The tan it gives is a subtle sun kissed golden hue but of course, if you tan for longer periods, you will experience darker results. Even though it has sunscreen protection, i.e. SPF 4 that will give you 75% protection from UVB rays, we still do not recommend spending a long time tanning.

The Cons: This tanning oil doesn’t allow for long durations of safe tanning. If you burn easily then don’t exceed 20 minutes or so, because your skin may begin to redden. It has been reported by some users that this tanner may cause an allergic reaction to sensitive skin users (not in our experience), so take caution.

Banana Boat Deep Tanning Oil Spray

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Price when originally reviewed: $18.35

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Another terrific option from the Banana Boat collection is this deep tanning oil spray. The difference with this spray oil is that there is absolutely no SPF protection like its other counterparts previously mentioned. However, the tan it gives is striking – a dark deep shade that you can expect to last for a long time.

It has a great texture, i.e. slick and moisturizes well but doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy. There are infusions of carrot and banana extracts, cocoa seed butter, sunflower seed oil, corn oil, and aloe leaf to provide superior skin conditioning which ultimately aids in heightening your tan and producing lasting results.

Most of the additives in this tanning oil spray are natural, so it’s less likely to cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. So for persons wanting to experience the high quality benefits, the Banana Boat tanning products have to offer, then this may be the option you are looking for. Also, the scent is a little more pronounced with this one, it is very fruity with lovely hints of coconuts.

The Cons: As mentioned before, this tanning oil spray doesn’t contain any SPF, so if you have a preferred choice of SPF that you use or are accustomed to then feel free to add as needed. Also, this is a very light oil so it doesn’t take much to affect its staying power. Once you begin to sweat, the effectiveness decreases and so does the coverage. Reapply every 20 minutes during tanning and most definitely if you go into the water.

Tropical Sands Dark Tanning Oil

Price not available
at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $13.25

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What’s great about this oil is the tanning result it produces. In rapid time, you can expect to achieve significant skin color deepening and for the duration of about 2 hours will prevail a rich dark bronze looking tan.

The texture is of good consistency and reasonably waterproof so you don’t have to use a lot. A bottle of this tanning oil will last a really long time unless you’re an avid tanner and run through bottles of tanning oil every month.

The ingredients are the most basic you will find, which is a testament to a genius, well-made blend of all-natural formula. This tanning oil is complete with sunflower seed oil, green tea leaf extract, coconut oil, cacao seed butter, sweet almond oil, lanolin, eucalyptus leaf oil and vitamins E and C. There are no artificial agents, harsh chemicals or toxic material to be wary of, making it not only safe for any skin type but also eco-friendly and biodegradable.

I’m not a fan of using oil-based products in a tanning bed, but without the presence of additions such as mineral oil in its composition, there will be minimal chances of burns or skin irritation to occur. So this tanning oil actually works pretty well for indoor tanning.


The Cons: There is no SPF whatsoever; you will have to add that separately. The oil is a bit slick so there is somewhat of a sticky residue left behind and even though the formula is hypoallergenic its viscosity may clog pores. For some, this may cause skin irritation or increase the chances of subsequent breakouts and or blackhead to develop.

Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil 15

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Price when originally reviewed: $17.99

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Sun Bum has always been an all time favorite brand of mine over the years; this list wouldn’t have been complete without mention of their moisturizing tanning oil with broad-spectrum SPF 15. It is the perfect tanning cocktail, blending skin modifiers and rich conditioning oils with UVA/UVB protection so that users achieve a lovely bronze tan and luminous glow safely.

I love the tan this oil produces, usually, after about 3 hours on the beach, my skin will develop a deep bronze shimmery look every time.

This Beach Bun moisturizing tanning oil formula is enriched with marula oil, argan oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, green tea butter, and aloe Vera to indulge and protect your skin during tanning but also makes it super absorbent and reactive to the UV rays.

This is a trusted tanning product with a good a track record; it is hypoallergenic and Dermatologist tested, so it’s quite unlikely to cause irritation or harm to your skin. Also, and if you read their labels, you will see that this tanning oil is paraben free, cruelty free, gluten free, paba free, phthalate free & oxybenzone free.

Additionally, you can look forward to a great smelling tanning oil with a tropical and fruity scent. It is rich in texture so it applies and covers seamlessly plus leaves your skin feeling nourished and soft.

The Cons: May be too oily for some users however this is not really a problem for me, I love when my skin feels drenched in my tanning oil. FYI: It does contain mineral oil, which is often a big deterrent for many people for the bad reaction it produces. There is a tireless list of complaints about the bottle dispenser of this Sun Bum tanning oil. People whined that it was either broken upon delivery or leaked and even got damaged while they were using it, not sure why this is happening to everyone, my bottle and the previous ones before were fine.



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