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An Overview of Suntan Lotion

Updated on August 6, 2012

In the '60s and '70s, suntan lotion was a catch-all term for what we now call "tanning oil" and was bought by people who wanted the deepest natural tan they could get. The lotion was supposed to moisturize the skin and make it easier to get tanned quickly. Of course, in those days, the tan was the only skin care goal. Getting dark and doing it fast was the only consideration. Skin diseases were something that were rarely seen in young people and were not a consideration of those who wanted a suntan.

Now that everyone knows the skin cancer risk that comes with tanning and there are many ways to get a "fake" tan, these lotions aren't the popular products they once were. However, there are still lotions on the market that are made to help you get a darker tan and to do it faster than with the sun alone. If you still want a natural tan, here are some products that can help you to get it.

Suntan Lotion and SPF

Sun tanning products generally use a low-level sunscreen and a heavy moisturizer to keep the skin from burning while the user tans. Products such as Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Lotion SPF 4 use moisturizers like aloe vera to keep the skin moist and to keep it from drying out during tanning sessions.

For those with fair skin, an SPF of less than 15 may not be enough to prevent burning, even when there are moisturizers in the formula. The SPF lets you know how long you can stay out in the sun without burning. If you normally burn in 10 minutes, an SPF of 4 would give you only 40 minutes of protection. If you aren't sure how long you'll be in the sun, opt for a lotion with a higher SPF.

Tanning Accelerator Lotions

Tanning accelerators work much like traditional tanning lotions, but they don't include any sunscreen. Instead, they focus on keeping the skin highly hydrated to prevent the skin from flaking off and to slow burning. These products include Australian Gold Accelerator.

While many people want to achieve a "base" tan early in the year to prevent burns and to look healthier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't recommend getting a sun tan of any variety unless it's done with a self-tanner. Both outdoor sun tanning and tanning beds are equally dangerous to the skin and eyes.

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