Tanning lotions and oils are perfect for getting a rich, bronze color in the sun.
It’s hard to choose between all of the lotions, oils, and gels on the market – especially when there’s a large range of different SPF protection levels!
We’ve made the decision easy for you.
We have spent days researching all of the top outdoor tanning lotions on the market, 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 your tanning questions.
Hungry for more options? Check out more info on tanning, and our list of the best 2 in 1 indoor and outdoor tanning lotions (without SPF) here.
♥ Top Outdoor Tanning Lotions
#1. Best Luxury: 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.
Hydrating, protecting oil that helps you tan
Bronzo Sensuale Deep Tanning Carrot Oil is an oil to help you with the perfect, hydrated sun tan while providing some sun protection.
The oil contains SPF 15 for sun protection. It’s great for adding some protection to your skin while tanning out in the sun – helping to reduce some of the sun’s damage to your body.
Bronzo Sensuale produces the oil in small batches for quality control and to ensure freshness. This reduce your chance of being unlucky and getting a bad batch of oil!
Paraben free, made with organic, natural ingredients
Cruelty free, vegan, eco-friendly
Customers have been impressed with the tan with high average reviews online.
Customers like that the oil gives a quick, subtle, golden sun kissed glowing tan. The moisturizing ingredients receive praise, with reviews noting it makes the skin feel soft, and 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.
Is it for me?
#2. Best without SPF: 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
Enriched with nourishing oils and vitamins
Is it for me?
#3. Best Budget: Piz Buin FP15 Tan & Protect Accelerator Tanning Lotion
- 5 ounces
- Budget friendly
- UVB and UVA SPF15 protection
- Contains Vitamin E for hydration
- Contains anti-ageing 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
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 regular tanning.
Sometimes when you’re tanning outside it’s hard 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 protection peace of mind while you get a beautiful bronze tan.
Hydrating, water resistant formula – perfect for the beach!
The lotion is sweat and water resistant. It’s ideal for tanning at the beach – no need to worry about your tanning lotion wearing off with the slightest contact of water!
If you do feel like going for a proper swim in the sea, the tanning lotion is easy to reapply. Three table spoons worth of lotion are enough to cover your entire body for tanning and protection. And it won’t feel greasy or sticky on on the skin – the lotion is designed to absorb fast for easy reapplication.
The hydrating ingredients prevent dry patches or peeling on the skin, which is key when you’re laying out in the drying sun and the grainy, rough sand. The sun can take its toll on the ageing process too – Tan and Protect is specially formulated with Vitamin E to counteract premature ageing and free radical damage.
Is it for me?
However, some find the scent overpowering – if you’re sensitive to smells this isn’t for you. Check out Bronzo Sensuale or Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil instead.
#4. 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
- The packaging isn’t user friendly
- Not a lot of product in each bottle
- Contains mineral oil
A moisturizing tanning gel with SPF 4
Luxurious hydrating ingredients
Customers are impressed with the tanning gel – with very high average reviews online.
Multiple reviewers said it works better than any other tanning product that they’ve tried. Customers liked that the gel works well as a moisturizer and feels buttery on the skin.
Is it for me?
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
Antioxidants & Plant based and Anti-Ageing 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, 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.
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 ageing 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).
♥ 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 ageing – 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.