Looking for an outdoor tanning lotion or oil? Not sure which one is best for you?
It’s hard to choose between all of the lotions, oils, and gels on the market – especially considering the large range of SPF protection!
After hours and hours of in depth research, we’ve made the decision easy for you.
We’ve narrowed down the best lotions, evaluated all the pros and cons, and ranked them below to suit different tanning needs.
Keep reading to find the perfect sun tan lotion for you!
New to the tanning game? Check out the tanning for newbies guide at the bottom of the list – it should answer all of your tanning questions.
Hungry for more options? Check out more info on tanning, and our list of the best 2 in 1 outdoor and indoor tanning lotions (without SPF) here.
♥ Best Outdoor Tanning Lotions & Oils
Top Tanning Lotions
#1. Best Value Lotion: Piz Buin FP15 Tan & Protect Accelerator Tanning Lotion
- 5 ounces
- Good value for money
- UVB and UVA SPF 15 protection
- Vitamin E for hydration
- Anti-aging ingredients
- Tan twice as fast with this accelerator lotion vs without
- Scent can be overpowering for some
- Not a lot of product in the bottle (but it does last a long time)
Tan Twice As Fast While Protecting Your Skin
An outdoor tanning lotion with added SPF 15 protection, Piz Buin’s Tan and Protect is designed to develop your tan twice as fast as lotion-free tanning.
It’s difficult to strike the perfect balance between protecting your skin and getting a good tan. This tanning lotion includes both UVA and UVB protection with advanced sun filters. Giving you some peace of mind while you enjoy relaxing in the sun!
The Hydrating, Water Resistant Formula Is Perfect For The Beach
Because this Piz Buin lotion is sweat and water resistant it’s ideal for tanning at the beach. No need to worry about your lotion wearing off with the slightest contact of water!
Like going for a swim? This tanning lotion is easy to reapply. Three tablespoons is enough to cover your entire body for tanning and SPF protection. Specially designed to absorb fast for easy re-application, Tan and Protect won’t feel greasy or sticky on your skin.
The hydrating ingredients prevent any dry patches or peeling. Essential when you sunbathe on rough sand under the hot sun! Worried about tanning speeding up the aging process? Tan and Protect is specially formulated with Vitamin E to counteract premature aging and free radical damage.
Overall reviewers are impressed with this lotion with high average reviews online
Multiple reviewers said this lotion performs exactly as described. Some went as far to say Tan and Protect is the best product for sun exposure on the market, and that the US competitors don’t compare.
Many reviews mentioned that moisturizing benefits of the lotion. This Piz Buin tanning lotion leaves your skin soft, moisturized, and with a healthy glow. Some added it could even work as an everyday moisturizing lotion for someone with dry skin!
Customers noted that each bottle lasts a long time. They were impressed with the quality and longevity considering the price.
Some didn’t like the smell. It can be overpowering. One reviewer said it gave them a headache! Others did like the smell. If you’re sensitive to scents this is probably not the best tanning lotion for you.
Looking for a good value tanning accelerator with added SPF 15 for sun protection? This is the best tanning lotion option for you!
The SPF 15 UVA and UVB protection provides peace of mind while accelerating your natural tan. This lotion is sweat and water resistant so it’s perfect for tanning at the beach.
Tan and Protect contains vitamin E and moisturizing ingredients to hydrate your skin and counteract some of the tanning-induced aging.
However, some find the scent overpowering. If you’re sensitive to smells this is not the tanning product for you. Check out Maui Babe, Bronzo Sensuale, or Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil instead.
#2. Best Budget Lotion: Maui Babe Browning Lotion
- 8 ounces
- Budget friendly, best seller
- Natural, moisturizing ingredients
- Accelerates a brown (not orange) tan
- Can be used with any SPF
- Good for sensitive and fair skin
- Can feel greasy
- Product shoots out of the bottle
A Best Selling, Budget-Friendly Tanning Lotion, It Accelerates The Natural Tanning Process
Ideal if you want a natural looking tan, this Maui Babe lotion helps accelerate the natural sun tanning process for faster tan results. Purely a moisturizing accelerator, it does not contain any false tan or bronzer (although it does apply as a brown color).
This lotion works particularly well for those with sensitive skin. Plus, it achieves a nice golden tan even on paler skin tones!
Maui Babe does not contain any SPF, however it can be used in conjunction with any sunscreen. Apply your SPF protection first, let it dry, and then apply this tanning lotion on top. Beginners should not spend more than one hour in the sun.
Good Quality Hydrating & Natural Ingredients
Despite the budget friendly price tag, Maui Babe contains good quality, moisturizing natural ingredients. These include: kukui nut oil, vitamin A, C, and E, Kona coffee plant extract, aloe, and potassium iodide.
The secret formula is imported from Maui, Hawaii.
Aloe provides some sun protection and moisturizes the skin at the same time. The Kona coffee plant extract is the source of this tanning lotion’s coffee scent.
However, it does also contain light mineral oil (an ingredient many try to avoid). Maui Babe listened to customer feedback and developed a mineral oil-free version, using coconut oil instead!
Learn more about this Maui Babe tanning lotion and the mineral oil-free alternatives/sunbed option in our full review.
Maui Babe is a brown colored lotion with an oily consistency. It does not streak. However, it can stain – so be careful when you apply it! Customers reassure that clothing stains do come out in the wash.
Overall, customers are really impressed with this lotion. It receives very high average ratings online
Many reviewers claim Maui Babe is the best tanning lotion they’ve ever used. One said it comes second to the Ban De Soleil Orange Gel (see our Ban De Soleil review below).
It produces a dark brown tan color even on paler skintones. Customers are impressed that it does not turn their skin orange.
The coffee scent doesn’t linger on the skin for long.
While there’s no set expiration date on the packaging, Maui Babe’s official website clarifies that it lasts for a 5 year period. Customers have mixed reviews on the bottle’s longevity. Some say it lasts a long time, others say it turns bad quickly.
While it can technically be used on the face, it can get greasy. Plus, it may clog your pores because it contains mineral oil (check out the coconut oil version instead).
Some reviewers don’t like that this tanning lotion can feel greasy on the skin. Plus, some customers had an issue with the packaging. The lotion can squirt out of the bottle when it’s full.
It doesn’t seem to cause issues on tattooed skin, but it does not seem to have any fading protection either.
Want a good quality, moisturizing tanning accelerator lotion on a budget? Maui Babe is a great option for you.
It contains hydrating natural ingredients and helps produce a nice brown colored tan – even on pale and sensitive skin!
Maui Babe can be used with any SPF lotion of your choice, and the coffee-based scent usually fades quickly.
However, it can feel greasy on the skin, and the product can shoot out of the bottle when it’s still full.
If you prefer using an indoor tanning bed, Maui Babe is also available in a Tanning Salon Formula on Amazon.
Top Tanning Oils & Gel
#3. Best Luxury Oil: Bronzo Sensuale Deep Tanning Carrot Oil
- 8.5 ounces
- Organic, natural, botanic ingredients
- Vitamins and antioxidants
- Doesn’t contain parabens, PABA, benzophenone, or mineral oil
- PETA and Leaping Bunny approved. Vegan certified. No animal ingredients or testing
- Biodegradable, recyclable
- Produced in small batches to ensure quality and freshness
- Kosher compliant
This Hydrating, SPF Protection Oil Helps You Develop A Golden Tan
Bronzo Sensuale Deep Tanning Carrot Oil helps you develop the perfect sun tan while providing sun protection and hydrating your skin at the same time.
This tanning oil contains SPF 15. Great for reducing some of the sun’s damage to your skin while you tan in the sun!
Bronzo Sensuale produces this oil in small batches for quality control purposes and to ensure freshness. This reduce your chance of being unlucky and receiving a bad batch of oil.
Paraben Free & Made With Organic Natural Ingredients
While it is a pricer option, the cost may be justified considering the high quality ingredients.
Obviously tanning out in the sun is not the healthiest for your skin. This Bronzo Sensuale oil nourishes your skin with vitamins, antioxidants, and organic natural ingredients while you tan, to help undo some of the damage caused by the sun.
Additionally, it doesn’t contain parabens, PABA, benzophenone or mineral oil. Providing peace of mind if you’re concerned about harmful chemicals soaking into your skin!
Cruelty Free, Vegan, & Eco-friendly
This Bronzo Sensuale oil is a great tanning option for the ethical consumer. A cruelty-free and vegan oil, it’s not tested on animals. Additionally, this oil is PETA and Leaping Bunny approved, and the product is biodegradable and recyclable to help the environment.
The SPF protection, high quality organic and natural ingredients, and eco and animal friendly nature of the product makes this oil a great option for a guilt-free tan!
Customers are impressed with this tanning oil with high average reviews online
Customers like that this oil gives a quick, natural, and golden sun-kissed tan. The moisturizing ingredients receive praise. Reviews note it makes the skin feel soft, and it absorbs well after application. Customers are impressed with the SPF 15 protection.
Reviewers generally love the smell and no review thus far finds it overpowering.
With high quality organic ingredients, SPF 15 protection, and ethical ingredients (and production methods), this Bronzo Sensuale oil provides a guilt-free tanning experience to justify the luxury price tag.
If you’re looking for a luxury lotion that helps counteract some of the negative effects of tanning to the skin, while helping the environment at the same time, this oil is is a great option.
However, it’s pricer than a lot of other tanning options on the market.
#4. Best SPF-Free Oil: Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil
- 6 ounces
- Developed with high quality, moisturizing oils
- Nice, non offensive fragrance
- Customize your skin protection by adding SPF
- Using without added SPF increases your chances of skin damage and burning
No SPF: Enjoy A Deeper Tan, Understand The Risks, Customize Your Protection
Unlike the others on this list, Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil doesn’t contain any SPF and is designed for use with a base tan for a richer, darker color.
While lotions and oils without SPF do not protect your skin, they do help build up a darker tan easier and quicker.
Even though this oil doesn’t contain SPF, it’s for outdoor use in direct sunlight only. It should not be used on tanning beds.
The lack of SPF provides a more risky tanning experience when this oil is used on its own. To protect your skin from the sun, mix in your preferred SPF protection sunscreen.
Enriched with Nourishing Oils And Vitamins
Developed with high quality oils, including: coconut oil, rose hips oil, organic sunflower seed oil, kukui nut oil, macadamia oil, olive squalane, cherry kernel oil, camellia oil, jojoba oil, and carrot seed oil.
In addition to the many nourishing oils, Absolutely Natural is also enriched with green tea, white tea, biloba, vitamin E, and natural fragrance.
The high quality, moisturizing ingredients helps to soothe dry skin. Ensuring your skin stays hydrated under the hot dry sun!
The reviews for this lotion are very impressive, however there’s not a lot of feedback yet
Multiple reviews said Absolutely Natural is the best oil they’ve ever used, and it’s their favorite tanning period of all time. Overall, customers said this tanning oil produces a noticeable difference to the color of their tan.
The natural oil ingredients received high praise. Customers like the positive impact that the nourishing oils have on their skin. The high quality ingredients are usually the differentiating factor for why customers chose this oil over less expensive alternatives.
The oils worked to moisturize and soften the customers’ skin, and some noted that it works particularly well for dry skin. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little bit more when the quality reflects the higher price!
Reviewers tend to really like the fragrance, and none so far find it overpowering.
It’s not a cheap option, but the high quality, moisturizing ingredients justify the price if there’s room in your budget for a more luxury tanning product.
While Absolutely Natural doesn’t contain SPF, it can be mixed with sunscreen for sun protection. Unlike the more budget options on the list, customers don’t find the smell of this product overpowering.
#5. Best Tanning Gel: Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee
- 3.12 ounces
- High quality moisturizing ingredients
- Nice scent
- Works well for fair skin and hard-to-tan areas
- PABA free
- Budget friendly
- Hard to find in stores
- Packaging isn’t user friendly
- Not a lot of product in each bottle
- Contains mineral oil
A Moisturizing Tanning Gel With SPF 4 Protection
Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee is a tanning gel designed to enhance the color of your tan. The low SPF 4 protection helps prevent some skin damage while also allowing the tanning process to occur.
Even though it’s an orange colored gel, Bain De Soleil promise it will not turn your skin orange!
Although it contains some sun protection, SPF 4 is not high factor protection. Skincare experts typically recommend an SPF of at least 15. For greater protection, apply an SPF of your choice first, and add this tanning gel on top once the SPF has soaked in.
Bain De Soleil recommend reapplying the gel after prolonged contact with the sun.
Luxurious Hydrating Ingredients
This tanning gel contains luxurious emollients designed to protect and hydrate the skin. Emollients mimic the functions performed by the sebum in healthy skin – moisturizing as you tan for a longer lasting color while also preventing peeling!
Orange Gelee is enriched with added vitamin E and beeswax. Although it is hydrating, the gel is not greasy and it soaks in easily to the skin. This gel is lightly scented with a tropical fragrance for summer.
Although it does contain these luxurious ingredients, it also contains mineral oil – an ingredient some people prefer to avoid.
Customers are impressed with this tanning gel with very high average reviews online
Multiple reviewers said it works better than any other tanning product they’ve tried.
Customers liked that the gel works well as a moisturizer and some describe it as feeling buttery on the skin.
A fair-skinned reviewer noted it developed a long lasting deep tan even on her lighter skin tone. Others said it works well on hard-to-tan areas (the legs, below the knee etc.).
Although it only contains SPF 4 protection, multiple customers noted they didn’t experience any burning when they used this tanning gel.
Customers didn’t like that the retro style tube isn’t very user friendly. Others said they wish it was more readily available in stores.
Do you find it difficult to develop a tan? Or maybe you suffer from dry skin? This is a great hydrating tanning gel option for you considering the price. The gel is enriched with highly moisturizing ingredients.
Customers note it works especially well for fair skin, and particularly those areas of the body that don’t tan easily.
However, the packaging isn’t super user friendly, and it does contain mineral oil.
BONUS: A Safer Alternative To Tanning
CleanTan Self-Tanning Concentrate – Add to Any Lotion To Make A Self Tanner
- 3 ounces
- Non-toxic, dye free, fragrance free, soy free
- Can be mixed with any facial or body lotion, serum, self-tanner, or oil
- 100% Vegan and cruelty free
- Gives a long lasting natural looking tan that lasts around a week
- Customizable false tan
- Pricey, but may save you money because it’s versatile
- Hard to get an even application on face, feet, and ankles for some
Plant based, vegan, natural looking tan
Cleantan is the world’s first non-toxic, dye free, and fragrance free self tanning liquid product. The sunless tan provides a natural but deep, long lasting tan. It’s designed to mix with any of your favorite facial or body lotions, serums, or oils to create a sunless self tanner.
This guilt-free self tan is great for a safe alternative to UV tanning. Clean Tan promises no streaks, no mess, and no odor with this toxin, soy, and dye free product.
Antioxidants & Plant based and Anti-Aging Ingredients
100% plant based pigments (including teas, herbs, and spices) combine for a healthy sunless tan. Dark organic cocoa fruit extract, fresh beet extract, organic blue green algae, and caramel work to provide the rich, deep color of the tan.
The lotion works to protect your skin against harsh environmental damage from pollution and UV rays. Cleantan is full of antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients.
The manufacturing process and product is 100% vegan and cruelty free.
Easy to use, easily to customize your tan
The self tanner is highly concentrated, so it should be mixed with your favorite lotion, cream, serum, or oil. You can also add a few drops to your current favorite self tanner for a deeper glow. It’s easy to use – just add the liquid tanner to your favorite lotion in the palm of your hand.
Because it’s so highly concentrated, it’s easy to control the darkness of your tan. The darkness of your tan will depend on how much tanning product you used. Feel like a deeper tan? Just use more of this product with your preferred lotion. Want a subtle glow? Mix only a small amount of product with the lotion of your choice.
The plant pigments provide an instant tan color guide after application. Wash your hands immediately after application. Let the tan develop for at least 8 hours before washing it off. The pigment will darken after 6-8 hours and will develop further for 48 hours after initial application (even after you wash it off!).
The product has a powerful herbal/aromatic/spicy scent on application, but this fades pretty fast. The natural ingredients used means the initial scent after application can vary from batch to batch.
Customers are very impressed overall with the product – with high average reviews online
Many reviewers said it’s the best self tanner they’ve ever used.
Although it’s pricey, one review said it has saved them money because of how versatile it is.
Customers say the tanner looks like their natural summer tan, and it works even for those with fair skin. The bronze color left many feeling confident, and multiple reviewers said they get many compliments when they wear it.
It doesn’t streak or leave blotchy spots, and one reviewer said it even conceals their varicose veins.
It’s easy to mix with other lotions and comes with easy to follow instructions, and doesn’t stain clothes or bed sheets.
The false tan lasts up to week, longer than most self tanner and spray tans.
- Maybe you’re looking for a safer alternative to UV tanners? CleanTan Self-Tanning Concentrate is a great option for you. It’s a super concentrated lotion that you add to any of your favorite lotions, and it’s easy to control the shade of your tan by adding more or less product. Although it’s quite pricey, it can save you money over time because it’s such a customizable product that’s suitable for the body and the face.
♥ Sun Tanning for Newbies
♥ Indoor vs Outdoor Tanning
Typically, you’re exposed to the sun’s rays for longer when tanning outside. When using an indoor tanning bed you’re getting a shorter, more intense tanning session for a deeper tan more quickly.
Never use an outdoor tanning lotion in a tanning bed. They’re typically banned from tanning salons, and can damage the tanning beds.
Many tanning lotions designed for indoor tanning can also be used outside. You should use an SPF sunscreen with this type of lotion when tanning in the sun: indoor tanners typically don’t include any SPF protection.
Outdoor tanning exposes your skin to both UVA and UVB natural rays. Indoor tanning exposes the skin to UVA rays in a controlled environment. The difference in exposure calls for a difference in protection and enhancement needs.
In a tanning bed your exposure to UV is restricted by setting a timer. Outdoors you should limit your exposure by using an SPF. This does not mean that tanning indoors is safe.
♥ How does sun tanning work?
Melanin is produced in the body for protection. This occurs by absorbing ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). Too much UV radiation results in sunburn and damage to the skin. The body reacts to this damage by protecting the skin. This protection comes in the form of developing more melanin in the skin’s cells. The extra melanin results in a darker skin color. This process can occur via the sun or a tan bed.
UVB rays, on the other hand, do increase the production of melanin in the skin as a direct result of DNA photodamage.
UVB produces Vitamin D in the skin. This is somewhat reduced by most sunscreen (in accordance with their SPF level). It causes skin aging, but at a slower rate than UVA, and is linked to moles and skin cancer.
Your natural skin color impacts how the skin reacts to UV ray exposure. Some skin types tan easier than others. The Fitzpatrick scale can help you determine the likely impact of UV on your skin type.
Exposure to UV rays can result in sunburn. Sunscreen helps prevent sunburn, but it can also inhibit the effectiveness of the tanning process. Overexposure to UV rays can increase the risk of cancer, age the skin quicker, impact the immune system, and mutate DNA.
♥ Are there any benefits to sun tanning?
Besides a golden glow, there are some potential benefits to sun exposure (provided the exposure is in small doses).
Moderate exposure to UV rays can increase the production of vitamin D (a vitamin essential for human health).
♥ How To Reduce the Risk of Skin Damage
Tanning in the sun or under the tanning bed increases the risk of skin cancer.
12 times more UVA light is emitted from indoor tanning beds than the natural sunlight. Tanning under the sun is still dangerous. A bad sunburn can double the risk of skin cancer.
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, hats to protect your scalp, and use sunscreen under the sun to prevent burning.
Tanning can also cause premature skin aging: wrinkles, leathery skin, and sun spots.
A higher SPF will protect the skin for longer, but will make a tan harder to achieve. Try to cut down on tanning by using a tan extender/healer (check out Maui Babe above). Opt for a sunless tanner (like Clean Tan on this list) for a safer bronze tan.