How To Choose The Best Tanning Lotion For You

How To Choose The Best Tanning Lotion For You

When choosing a tanning lotion there are a few questions you need to answer before you catch some rays.

1.       What type of tanning do you want to do?

2.       What is your skin type?

What type of tanning do you want to do?

 There are 3 distinct types of tanning one can do.  There is the traditional tanning by laying in the direct path of the sun for extended periods of time.  Then we have the accelerated version of laying in a tanning bed or using a tanning booth for about 7-15 minutes every other day or so to build a nice tan.  And lastly you can use a sunless tanner which will give you color with out the UV rays. 

Traditional Tanning

Although definitely the cheapest option, this is the most dangerous.  Risks include, burning your skin and developing skin cancer as well as accelerated ageing of the skin.  But some people still prefer this method of tanning.   Just make sure you keep an eye on the time and don’t fall asleep!  To tan traditionally, find a nice sunny spot outside, throw on your bathing suit (or don’t I don’t judge, I know tan lines can be annoying for some), lather on some tanning lotion or tanning oil and lay out a towel, lay down.  Don’t forget to roll over halfway through your little session and get the other side.  J  Typically this is also the method that takes the most time to build a nice golden color.  Many people lay out for 15 minutes on each side to several hours at a time. 

Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning is the hyper version of traditional tanning.  This involves going to a tanning salon and laying down or standing up in a tanning bed that is lined with UV bulbs meant to quickly build the melanin in your skin.  The risks are similar, so keep an eye on the time especially if you are fair skinned.  Using a tanning lotion can help prevent burning and also aid building a nice even full body tan.  In tanning beds most people go in the buff so please remember to wipe down the bed before you get in and after you get out.

Sunless Tanning

Sunless tanning involves using a gel, lotion or mist that will artificially dye your skin tan.  The biggest complaint of sunless tanning is that many sunless tanners turn your skin orange instead of tan.  No one wants to look like an oompa loompa so that is why the above two methods are still the most popular ways to get a nice color to your skin.  However the technology in sunless tanners is coming along and there are some out there that can give you a more natural look without the risk of skin damage.   The key to a good sunless tan?  Exfoliating!  You need a good skin prep for this method to work best.  A few days before sunless tanning start exfoliating and moisturizing like a mad person, then when you go to do the deed, exfoliate with a wash made for sunless tanning and don’t use a moisturizer.  Normal lotions can make your tan streaky and your new nickname will be Z for zebra.

What is your skin type?

There are 3 major skin types to be aware of when choosing a tanning lotion.  fair, medium/olive and dark.

Fair Skin

Fair skinned individuals have the highest risk of burning and doing serious skin damage when traditional or indoor tanning and it is usually advisable to use a sunless tanner with an SPF built in.  If you burn easily, or have pink undertones, you want to be especially careful when it comes to sun exposure.  When choosing a tanning lotion, find something with a bronzer in it, it will give you a hint of color without looking like a mob of orange markers attacked you.  Stay away from anything that says tingle, or heat…this is meant for people who are already dark and even then it’s only meant for the hard core tanners.  Trust me , unless you like feeling like someone just lit your entire body on fire, then by all means slather on the tingle lotion!

Medium/Olive skin

These lucky people tan instead of burn.  On be half of all my fair skinned brethren … :p  Enough of that, just because it is harder to burn though doesn’t mean you CAN’T burn so you still need to take precautions if you have this skin type.  Watch the time and use an emollient oil or tanning lotion when tanning.  You can use lotions that say tingle, or heat on them but use sparingly until you are used to the feeling of it.  Many people swear by the “tingle” to give them a deep color quickly but lots of people can’t handle it on their skin so keep a watchful eye.  And if you go from a tanning lotion without tingle to one with tingle, scale back your time a little bit as you are going to be a little more likely to burn when you first start using it.  It is better to go under than go over when it comes to tanning.


Darker skinned people usually have the least to worry about when it comes to burning or skin conditions, but they are by no means impervious so I still say, use tanning lotion!  It will help you stay even and keep your skin hydrated which prevents ashiness which can be more of a problem with darker skinned individuals.  A good exfoliation once a week will also help keep your skin looking it’s best.  You can go right to the front of the line and start with the dark tanning lotions and oils, lucky you!

What NOT to use

Baby oil: This stuff all though cheap will make you burn and you wont even know it until you go to wash it off.  Also it can damage the acrylic of the tanning beds so just get the good stuff and don’t even try baby oil.

Olive oil: Believe it or not this has a natural SPF and a lot of people use it as a sunblock…kind of counter productive don’t you think?

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Comments 1 comment

Maria Cole 6 years ago

Often times the person at the tanning salon can help you choose the right lotion. I usually like to try a sample before I buy it as tanning lotions can be very expensive!

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