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Best Tanning Lotion and Oils For Outside Sun Tanning (Updated 2019)

best tanning lotion

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!

We’ve made the decision easy for you.

After extensively researching all of the top outdoor tanning lotions on the market, we evaluated all their pros and cons, and ranked them below to suit different tanning needs.

Keep reading to find the perfect sun tan lotion for you!

Makeup Scholar

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.

♥ Best Outdoor Tanning Lotions & Oils

Top Tanning Lotions

#1. Best Value Lotion: Piz Buin FP15 Tan & Protect Accelerator Tanning Lotion

  • 5 ounces

best indoor tanning lotion

  • 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

best  indoor tanning lotions

  • 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.

best indoor tanning lotions
 
 

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.

 tanning lotion

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.

Check out the current price of Piz Buin FP15 Tan & Protect on Amazon here

#2. Best Budget Lotion: Maui Babe Browning Lotion

  • 8 ounces

best indoor tanning lotion

  • 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

best outdoor tanning lotions

  • 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.

best tanning lotion

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.

best tanning lotion

best indoor tanning lotions

 

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.

best tanning lotion

outdoor tanning options

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.

best tanning lotion

Check out this Maui Babe Browning Lotion on Amazon here

best tanning lotion

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

best indoor tanning lotion

  • 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

best outdoor tanning lotions

  • Pricey

This Hydrating, SPF Protection Oil Helps You Develop A Golden Tan 

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!

best indoor tanning lotions

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.

outdoor tanning options

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
 
best indoor tanning lotion
  • Developed with high quality, moisturizing oils
  • Nice, non offensive fragrance
  • Customize your skin protection by adding SPF

best  indoor tanning lotions
  • Pricey
  • 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!

 
 
best indoor tanning lotions
 
 

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.

 tanning oil

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
best indoor tanning lotion
  • High quality moisturizing ingredients
  • Nice scent
  • Works well for fair skin and hard-to-tan areas
  • PABA free
  • Budget friendly

 
best  indoor tanning lotions
  • 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.

best indoor tanning lotions

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.

Smells are often a divisive feature of tanning lotions. Most reviewers said they like the subtle scent.

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.

 tanning lotion and gel

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.

Click here to view the price of the Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee double pack on Amazon

BONUS: A Safer Alternative To Tanning

CleanTan Self-Tanning Concentrate  – Add to Any Lotion To Make A Self Tanner

  • 3 ounces
 
best indoor tanning lotion
  • 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

 
best  indoor tanning lotions
  • 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.

best indoor tanning lotions

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.

It doesn’t have that typical fake tan odor. You don’t have to worry about giving off that unpleasant biscuity tan when you go about your day!

Some customers said they love the eco-friendly and organic aspect of the product. However, they wish it was contained in a glass bottle instead, to prevent exposure to chemicals from the plastic container.

Tip: use a makeup brush to apply it to your feet for even application.

tanning lotions

Looking for a safe alternative to UV indoor or outdoor tanning? This highly concentrated self tanning liquid is perfect for a guilt free, customizable tan. It’s easy to mix with your favorite lotion – add more for a deeper tan, only apply a conservative amount for a more subtle glow. While it’s not cheap, it may save you money in the long run because it’s so customizable and can be used on both the face and the body.

 
 
 
 
  • 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, while 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 lotion with this type of lotion when using tanning in the sun, because indoor tanners typically don’t include any SPF protection.

Outdoor tanning exposes your skin to both UVA and UVB natural rays, however 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 you restrict your exposure to UV 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 to protect it 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 via the developing of more melanin into the skin’s cells – the extra melanin results in a darker skin color. This process can occur via the sun or a tan bed.

UVA induces a tanned appearance to the skin by oxidizing the existing melanin which darkens the melanin rather than producing more melanin.  Little melanin is produce by UVA, meaning there’s not a lot of extra melanin protection against sun damage, sun burn, or cancer.

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 and is reduced by most sunscreen in accordance with their SPF. 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 exposure to UV rays. Some skin types tan easier than others. The Fitzpatrick scale can you determine the impact of UV on your skin type.

Exposure to UV rays can result in sunburn. Sunscreen can prevent subburn but can 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 moderate doses).

Moderate exposure to UV rays can increase the production of vitamin D (a vitamin essential for human health).

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is not as common in the sunniest regions of the world. Exposure to UVB may be connected to less prevalence of MS, potentially due to vitamin D synthesis.

♥ 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 here). Opt for a sunless tanner (like Clean Tan on this list) for a safer bronze tan.

 

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.

 

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