Best Indoor Tanning Lotions for Sunless Tanning

You don’t necessarily need to bathe in the sun to get tanned. With the help of the best indoor tanning lotion and a tanning bed, you can get that bronze glow without putting your skin at risk of photodamage. 

Indoor tanning is also a great option for those in places that don’t get many sunny days or perhaps for winters when you can’t be outdoors in a bikini. Indoor tanning lotions contain ingredients that help the skin produce more melanin, the pigment responsible for dark skin tone. 

However, you’d be surprised to see the sheer variety of tanning lotions on the market. So to help you find the best tanning bed lotion, I have compiled a list of products along with a handy guide on choosing one and how to best use it. 

The Solid Black Ultra Advanced Silicone Bronzer 100X by Millenium Tanning Products is the best tanning lotion for use indoors. It can also work outdoors, but for indoor tanning, it will give you the even, dark tan you need. Plus, its hydrating ingredients help keep the skin moisturized. 

Key Takeaways

  • Indoor tanning lotions help the skin tan indoors in a tanning bed and keep it moisturized. 
  • There are three types of tanning lotions: accelerators, bronzers, and tingles. The first two are more common. 
  • Accelerators can help achieve a natural tan indoors but may require a few sessions. Bronzers are stronger and can give a darker tan, but the tan’s color may vary. 
  • Many indoor tanning lotions can also be used outdoors, but caution is necessary as too much time in the sun wearing such lotions can be risky.
  • Make sure the tanning lotion you choose is suitable for your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin. 
  • Pay attention to the ingredients and follow the instructions when using them. Watch for allergens in the ingredients list.

Indoor Tanning Lotion vs. Outdoor Tanning Lotion

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While indoor and outdoor tanning lotions accelerate the tanning process and help retain skin moisture, there are some key differences between the two. For starters, outdoor tanning lotions may contain SPF to protect from harmful UV rays from the sun. Indoor tanning lotions don’t need that as you’re indoors. 

More importantly, indoor tanning lotions are made for shorter, more intense tanning sessions in tanning beds. So the ingredients are a little more potent for that quick, dark tan. Outdoor tanning lotions are relatively milder and have more protective properties. 

Moreover, an outdoor lotion may not be suitable for use in a tanning bed as it may prevent the UV rays in the bed from doing their job. It can form a film on the acrylic hood of the tanning bed and prevent the rays from reaching your skin. 

Indoor tan lotions help open the pores on the skin, so maximum light from the tanning bed may be absorbed. 

Types of Indoor Tanning Lotions

Tanning lotions, in general, can be divided into three types:

Accelerators

An accelerator helps increase melanin production in the skin, accelerating the tanning of the skin. This type of lotion is also called a maximizer or intensifier. It’s the most common indoor tanning lotion as it quickens the tanning process. 

It’s the ingredients in the lotion that work their magic to boost melanin production. However, not all ingredients work the same way or are safe. 

Bronzers

Bronzers are strong tanning lotions that keep the tanning process going even after you have come out of the tanning bed. These lotions contain both darkening agents and moisturizing ingredients. 

Some bronzers contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a plant-derived sugar that reacts with amino acids in the skin to produce pigment. 

Tingles

Tingles contain ingredients that increase the blood flow to the skin, which, in turn, helps with tanning. As a result, these lotions produce a sharp tingling sensation on the skin that gradually reduces.

These aren’t as popular as bronzers or accelerators because that tingling sensation isn’t really for everyone. 

Best Indoor Tanning Bed Lotions

Here are my picks for the best tanning bed lotions:

1. Millennium Solid Black Ultra Advanced Silicone Bronzer 100X – Best Overall

The Solid Black Ultra Advanced Silicone Bronzer 100X by Millenium Tanning Products is the best indoor tanning lotion, in my opinion. If you’re after a quick, dark tan in the tanning bed, this lotion can help you achieve that. 

It contains silicone and a bunch of other bronzers that deliver a dark tan without compromising the skin’s softness. You can see the results with the first session, an hour after the application. But it should be used after getting a base tan. 

With the help of plant-based essential oils, this lotion keeps the skin moisturized. The sunflower oil and fruit extracts keep skin hydrated while it tans. This is very important because, without a proper moisturizing lotion, your skin may get dry after being in a tanning bed. 

This lotion does have a strong but lovely fragrance that may be bothersome for some. This can also be used outdoors. 

2. Tanning Paradise Black Coconut Love Tanning Lotion – Best Moisturizing Indoor Tanning Lotion

The Tanning Paradise Black Coconut Love Tanning Lotion is a coconut oil-based indoor tanning lotion with a beautiful fragrance. It’s a strong accelerator with active tanning ingredients and moisturizers (coconut oil, coconut milk, and cocoa butter). It also protects tattoos from fading, so it’s best for people with tattoos. 

If you’re not a fan of the orangish tan that bronzers sometimes leave, this accelerator is a great pick as it’s free from bronzers. It also doesn’t contain DHA and uses natural ingredients to do the job. Made with anti-aging ingredients, it’s ideal for those concerned with premature aging signs because of sun damage. 

And if you happen to have sensitive skin, you can use this tanning lotion, as the hydrating ingredients prevent any irritation or redness. 

It’s a little more on the pricey side, but it’s worth it because the formula has just the right balance of tan intensifiers and moisturizers. I, for one, love the look of the bottle, too!

3. Australian Gold Cheeky Brown Accelerator Plus Bronzer – Best Indoor Accelerator and Bronzer Combo

The Australian Gold Cheeky Brown tanning lotion is an accelerator and bronzer both, so you know the results will be quite visible. This is a favorite brand of many as the products are effective and not expensive. 

This formula includes oils native to Australia that provide essential vitamins to your skin. While the bronzers work to make your skin dark, the vitamin A and E keep the skin hydrated. With henna and beta-carotene bronzers, the resultant tan is even and dark. However, it may take up to two sessions. 

The aloe vera in it soothes the skin as it tans. Its Cocoa Dreams fragrance is surely going to mesmerize your senses. The fragrance is mild, so it won’t be too distracting or irritating. 

There are no toxic ingredients, which makes it a safe option, even for sensitive or dry skin. As bronzers leave a long-lasting tan, you can expect your tan to last for weeks.

4. Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion – Best Indoor Tanning Lotion for Tattoos

The Ed Hardy Coconut Golden Tanning Lotion should be your pick if you’re after that golden brown tan. As the name indicates, it contains coconut oil and coconut milk for moisturization. It doesn’t contain any strong bronzers and uses a light tyrosine blend to increase the tan. 

The formula also contains the proprietary Body Fit complex that’s supposed to reduce the appearance of cellulite in the skin. It also contains tattoo fade protectors, ensuring the UV rays from the tanning bed don’t fade your tattoos. 

It’s essentially made for indoor use but can be used outdoors as it’s not a strong bronzer. It instead activates that golden bronze tan naturally. 

Of course, as it has coconut-based ingredients, it also has a lovely coconut fragrance. There are many other ingredients in the formula, including colors. So it’s not really an organic lotion. Still, it will give you the tan you want in the tanning bed. 

5. Somewhere on a Beach Instant Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Anti-Aging Tanning Lotion

Somewhere on a Beach is useful for tanning both indoors and outdoors. But what’s best about this lotion is that it contains a peptide complex, Matrixyl Synthe’ 6, that provides anti-aging benefits. It can help increase skin firmness, so you get the tan you desire and firm, plump skin. 

It doesn’t contain questionable bronzers like DHA but uses natural ingredients. For moisturization, it contains coconut and walnut oil that nourishes the skin and keeps it hydrated. 

Moreover, it doesn’t leave any streaks like cheap bronzers, so it won’t create any mess inside or outside the tanning bed. As a result, it doesn’t give you that artificial orange tan but a deep, natural-looking brown tan. That said, your skin tone also plays a vital role, so if you’re already a little tan, this would be perfect. 

6. Paint it Black 50X Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Indoor Tanning Lotion for All Skin Types

This is yet another great indoor tanning lotion from Millenium Tanning Products. The Paint it Black 50X dark tanning lotion contains Auto Darkening Tan Technology™, which is basically a fancy trademarked term for a combination of accelerators and tanners. The 50X is pretty similar to the Solid Black 100X in terms of how it works on your skin, as this one also contains a silicone bronzer. 

Like the Solid Black one, this one also has a Cotton Blossom scent. It’s mild, so it shouldn’t be too distracting. But if you prefer tanning lotion with fragrance, you’d like it even more. 

It has a very rich formula with dozens of ingredients. But the gist is that it accelerates the tan and keeps the skin supple and soft. There are natural and derived ingredients from tyrosine to fruit extracts to seed oils

Moreover, it’s good for combination skin, so by extension, it can work for virtually every skin type. You may see results in just one session or two if you have a highly pale skin tone. 

7. Supre Snooki Ultra Dark 70X Black Bronzer – Best Indoor Dark Tanning Lotion

The Supre Snooki Ultra Dark 70X Black Bronzer is best for getting that dark tan as it contains multiple bronzing agents, including DHA. It also contains henna and black walnut for increasing melanin production in your skin. They term the formula Hyper Dark Technology

But that’s not all; the formula also contains skin-firming ingredients that increase skin’s elasticity. As a result, it keeps the skin texture soft and gives it a radiant glow. This is a good option for those who always look for anti-aging benefits in any skin product. 

As it contains bronzers, your skin will continue to tan even after you’re out of the tanning bed. So make sure not to overdo it with the tanning bed. The vitamin-enriched conditioners in this lotion should moisturize the skin. 

The bottle is very cute with stones on the golden cap and a purple color leopard print. But it’s a little more expensive than most tanning lotions on this list.

8. Designer Skin Bombshell 100XX Bronzer – Best Indoor Tingle

If you’re looking for a high-end bronzer/tingle lotion that professionals use, the Bombshell 100XX Bronzer is it! This formula is unique as it contains some sought-after skincare ingredients, including tea extract and CoQ-10

CoQ-10 is a coenzyme that increases skin firmness. It naturally occurs in the body but depletes with age. So it helps keep the skin young looking. For bronzers, it contains walnuts, amino acids, and DHA

It’s supposed to give a dark tan but with a base tan done first. People with very pale skin may need more tanning bed sessions. Nevertheless, it does its job well and can give a dark tan if used correctly, i.e., after base tan for several tanning sessions, depending on skin tone. 

The Kiwi Watermelon fragrance is sweet and fruity, giving it a luxurious feel. It doesn’t leave streaks, nor does it leave any oily residue like some moisturizing lotions. It’s safe to say that the consistency is fairly high quality. 

While this contains bronzers, it’s also a tingle that oxygenates the skin, so it causes a sharp tingling sensation and may cause the skin to turn red initially. So it’s not the best for those with sensitive skin or any skin condition. 

9. Hempz Tanning Hydro Max Ultra Dark Maximizer – Best Hydrating Tanning Lotion

The Hempz Tanning Hydro Max Ultra Dark Maximizer contains natural ingredients, including hemp seed oil. It also contains a slew of hydrating ingredients that keep the skin well moisturized. The antioxidants from fruit extracts provide protective benefits. 

Even though its name says Ultra Dark Maximizer, it’s a little subtle compared with other tanning lotions on this list. It doesn’t contain any bronzers as it uses natural ingredients to maximize the tan. However, its highlighting property is moisturization. It’s also vegan with no animal-based ingredients. 

And if you prefer lightweight, non-greasy lotions, this one is exactly like that. It’s paraben-free and mineral oil-free. 

This one is slightly pricier than the other options but the 13 oz. bottle should last you a long while. 

10. Ed Hardy Peace & Harmony Dark Tanning Intensifiere – Best Vegan Indoor Tanning Lotion

The Ed Hardy Peace & Harmony Dark Tanning Intensifier is made from 100% vegan ingredients. It does not contain any parabens or even nut oil. For activating melanin production in your skin, the formula contains MelanoBronze, an accelerator. 

There are several other beneficial ingredients in its composition. For instance, the cotton and rice extracts soften the skin. The wheat protein is for increasing skin firmness. 

It’s suitable for all skin types, including combination skin. There’s no oily residue as it absorbs well and is not very thick in consistency. A word of caution, though; it’s a strong accelerator that gives a dark tan, so you should be careful with it. You can even use it after your tanning session. 

The lotion has a subtle, pleasant scent. It’s also pretty good value for money, in my opinion. 

It doesn’t irritate the skin, thanks to many soothing elements. So if you have sensitive skin, this may just be the right tanning bed lotion. 

11. Australian Gold Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Budget Tanning Lotion

The Australian Gold Dark Tanning Lotion is a good pick if you’re after a tan that looks like you’ve spent a day on Bondi Beach. It’s a reasonably priced tanning lotion with a Biosine complex that leaves a long-lasting, dark tan. 

It’s chock full of plant-based ingredients like tea tree oil, Kakadu Plum extract, aloe vera, and other natural oils that provide antioxidants and vitamins. Not only will it give you a caramel tan, but it also provides healthy nutrients to the skin that increase moisturization. 

The Cocoa Dreams fragrance is unique, with a hint of orange and vanilla. You’ll smell great when you come out of the tanning bed. 

This lotion can also be used outdoors, so if you also tan in the sun at times, this can work for sun tanning just as well as for sunless tanning. 

12. Brown Sugar Black Chocolate Advanced 200X Black Bronzer– Best DHA-Free Bronzer

The Brown Sugar Black Chocolate Advanced 200X Black Bronzer is a strong bronzer that will give you a dark tan from just one session in the tanning bed. It’s made from dark chocolate extract. The antioxidants from dark chocolate have protective properties, as antioxidants prevent damage from free radicals. 

It also contains silicone bronzer, which is quite effective at tanning skin even beyond the tanning session. More importantly, it doesn’t contain any DHA. If you prefer DHA-free bronzer lotions, this is for you. 

For moisturization, this lotion contains a cocoa butter blend. It works quickly and leaves the skin hydrated even after a long session in the tanning bed. However, it does leave orange streaks, so be careful afterward. 

How to Choose the Best Indoor Tanning Lotion? 

When looking for a tanning lotion or spray, you should pay attention to the type of lotion and even more so to the ingredients. The level of tan the lotion can help you get depends on these two factors. 

For instance, bronzers typically provide a strong, long-lasting tan. But then some of them give that orangish hue that many simply do not like. Accelerators can also give a dark tan if you’re after that, but some may require multiple sessions in the tanning bed. And, of course, if you’re going with a tingle, make sure you’re comfortable with the tingling, burning sensation on your skin. 

Also, I want to mention that most tanning lotions are designed for use both indoors and outdoors. So you might not find many that specifically say they are for indoor use only. For indoors, you typically want to go with something strong to get that long-lasting tan, so dark tan lotions should suffice. 

As for the ingredients, the more plant-based and natural ingredients there are, the better. I want to point out that I’ve mostly mentioned the highlighting/main ingredients for the products I picked. I would recommend checking the ingredient list yourself to ensure you’re not allergic to any, for example, nut oil. 

Almost all tanning lotions have moisturizers, so that’s something you don’t need to worry about. Still, you can pay attention to the ingredients and choose one with moisturizers you prefer, for example, cocoa butter or coconut oil. 

Last but not least, finding a fragrance-free tanning lotion is hard as most do have some level of fragrance added. But if you want one without fragrance, get one that explicitly says that on the packaging. 

How to Use Indoor Bed Tanning Lotion? 

Finding the right tanning lotion is only half the equation for getting the sunkissed tan in a tanning bed. Here are some tips to make the best of it. 

  • Always patch test tanning lotion just like you would any other skincare product to ensure that there are no irritants in it. Everyone’s skin is different, so it’s best to be safe. 
  • Not all tanning lotions work the same way, and results can vary by person. Even after doing your research, use the lotion for a small session in the tanning bed to test how effective or how dark a tan it gives you, so you know what you have to work with. 
  • Take some time to read the application instructions on the bottle of the lotion. Some mention the recommended duration in the tanning bed, which should be helpful. 
  • If you’re after a dark tan, go with a strong lotion, preferably a bronzer, as those continue to work on your skin even after the end of the tanning session in the bed. 
  • If you’re using an indoor/outdoor tanning lotion that outdoors, make sure not to spend too much time in the sun as these lotions are typically strong and may give you too dark a tan or even burn your skin. And, of course, make sure to wear sunscreen when tanning outdoors. 
  • Before applying tanning lotion, cleanse and exfoliate the skin, so your pores are clean and absorb the lotion readily. You can use a body scrub or back scrub for exfoliation. 
  • Don’t take a shower for at least six hours after your tanning session for the best results. If you’re tanning at a salon, they will probably guide you on how long to wait before taking a shower. 
  • Wash and scrub your hands after applying the lotion, as it can leave streaks on your palms and around your fingers. 
  • Don’t use a lotion with mineral oils in a tanning bed, as mineral oils can ruin the tanning bed. 

Do You Need SPF for Indoor Tanning Bed?

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There are different opinions regarding using sunscreen for indoor bed tanning. Some people believe wearing SPF isn’t necessary when tanning in a tanning bed because UV exposure is limited and more controlled than in the sun. Secondly, SPF may slow down the absorption of the UV rays, increasing the overall time to achieve a darker tan. 

That may be true; it’s safest to wear a little SPF when tanning indoors. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, tanning beds are not entirely safe and can increase the risk of skin cancer

Since tanning lotions do not contain SPF, you may have to apply one over it. Like outdoors, you should opt for at least SPF 30 sunscreen. At the same time, don’t go over SPF 50, as that would be too much for an indoor tanning bed. 

Final Verdict

Tanning beds provide an easy and sometimes quick way to get that glowing tanned skin. But a tanning lotion is a must because it will help with the tan and protect the skin from drying out. 

The Solid Black 100 X tanning lotion is the most popular indoor tanning bed lotion. But there are other great options, even from the same company, Millenium Tanning. Ed Hardy is another favorite brand, commonly found at tanning salons. 

Never go overboard with tanning, as it’s not safe to tan too frequently indoors or outdoors!

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