5 Best Outdoor Tanning Lotions

Summer is our favorite season. There’s nothing better than running around on the beach, with a beautiful tan, evening drinks with your family, and lots of great food. Sadly, it takes some of us the whole summer to get a tan we’d like to show off.

Many people turn to fake tan to solve this problem. However, fake tan is difficult to use and getting it done at a salon is very expensive. Add to that the fact that it will leave you smelling like biscuits for at least a week after.

So, is there another option?

Yes, outdoor tanning lotions can offer you the best of both worlds. You can get a natural tan and the amount of time that it would take you to fake tan.

Today we’ll be discussing the 5 best tanning lotions out there. We also have a buyers guide and a FAQs section that will talk you through everything you need to know to get started with tanning lotions.

Best Outdoor Tanning Lotions: Our Top 5 Picks

1. Best Overall: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Sun Care

Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 Sunscreen, Protective Dark Tannning Sunscreen Lotion 8 Ounces Twin Pack

Our number one choice for the best outdoor tanning lotion is Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Sun Care. What makes this option so special? Well, there are many reasons that this has taken our number one spot. 

Firstly, this is a very thin, almost watery formula that flows easily out of the bottle. It is easy to spread across the skin and sinks in quickly.

Unlike many other tanning lotions and sunscreens, this leaves no white cast. In fact, this leaves a stubble bronze glow on your skin. It also doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind. It soaks in more like a gel formula than a lotion. 

Some people avoid tanning products because they’re worried about the biscuity smell that they can leave behind on the skin. You won’t have that kind of problem with this product.

If you’ve ever used any kind of Hawaiian Tropic product then you will be familiar with this smell – it’s a staple of the brand. This lotion leaves a light, fruity coconut scent on the skin. 

Not only does this product speed up the tanning process but it also looks after your skin and leaves it feeling soft and less dry. This product is full to the brim with skin loving ingredients. The most notable of which are Aloe vera and added Vitamin A, C and E. 

We only have one minor issue with this product – despite calling itself a sunscreen this product only contains 4 SPF (sun protection factor). As much as we love tanning, we want to do it in a safe way. If you have very pale skin that burns easily then you may want to look into getting a tanning lotion with a higher SPF


  • Delicious scent 
  • Not sticky 
  • Contains SPF 
  • Contains Vitamins A, C, and E 
  • Speeds up tanning process
  • Less than $10 a bottle 
  • Waterproof 
  • Contains moisturizing ingredients like Aloe Vera 


  • Very low SPF 
  • Some people think the formula is too watery 

2. Millennium Tanning Products: Dark Tanning Lotion

Millennium Tanning Products: Dark Tanning Lotion, 100x, 13.5 Fl Oz

Taking the highly sought after second place on our list is the Millennium Tanning Products: Dark Tanning Lotion. If you’re looking for a serious tan in a very short amount of time then this is going to be the product for you. This is going to be best for experienced tanners who know what they’re doing. 

This product is one of the best tanning lotions out there. However, it is not something that we would recommend to beginners. This product has a sharp learning curve and it will be best for people who already know a lot about tanning products. 

That being said the technology used in this product is salon quality. In fact, it is stocked in multiple tanning salons. It is perfect for both tanning beds and outdoor tanning. With this product you will see your tan developing up to 100X faster. 

This product has a silicon feel and a light floral scent. It soaks in quickly and doesn’t leave behind any sticky residue. You get an impressive 400ml in the bottle that will last you multiple tanning sessions. 

This product also includes some fake tanning pigments that help to boost your glow instantly. When you apply it you should treat the lotion like a fake tan to avoid being left with any orange toned streaks. 

If you are looking to use this product outside then you will need to pair it with an SPF sunscreen. Doing this will help you avoid peeling and patchy skin. 

Overall, this is a fantastic product that will leave you bronzed and glowing in next to no time. 


  • Speeds up tanning process by X100 
  • Bronzes as well as tans 
  • Gives an even glow 
  • Working on a tanning bed and indoors 
  • Excellent value for money 
  • Floral scent 
  • Not sticky 


  • No SPF 
  • Can stain hands if not applied properly 
  • Product has a steep learning curve 

3. Australian Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator Lotion

Australian Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator Lotion, 8.5 Fluid Ounce

Falling in at number three is the Australian Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator Lotion. If any country has a reputation for having beautifully tanned citizens it’s Australia. And this tanning lotion lives up to its name sake’s reputation. 

This is a lotion that can be used on the tanning bed or whilst tanning outdoors. It is a thin lotion that spreads evenly across the skin. The lotion sinks in quickly and leaves no sticky residue behind.

Like the Hawaiian Tropic option this lotion is full of skin loving ingredients. It has added Vitamin A, C, and E. It also includes Tea Tree oil.

This is oil from an Australian tree that is famous for its antibacterial properties and spot killing powers. This lotion will leave your skin looking healthier than when you first put it on. 

One of the real highlights of this product is how good it smells. This lotion is available in the scent Coconut Dreams. This is a French Vanilla and Coconut blend. It smells exactly like summer. And if we’re honest it smells better than a lot of body sprays we own. No biscuity, fake tan smell here. 

This is another lotion that doesn’t come with SPF, so make sure to pair it with a good sunscreen when wearing it outside. 

The other issue that kept this lotion out of the top two of this list is the price. This product does a really good job, however, its cost per ML is very, very high. 


  • Speeds up the tanning process 
  • Coconut Dreams fragrance is beautiful 
  • Not sticky 
  • Added Vitamin A and C 
  • Tea tree oil helps to smooth skin and prevent breakouts 
  • Nourishing natural oils leave the skin feeling soft 
  • Long lasting color 


  • No SPF 
  • High cost per ml 

4. COCOSOLIS ALOHA Sun Tan & Body Oil Lotion

COCOSOLIS ALOHA Sun Tan & Body Oil | Organic Tanning Bed Lotion | Get Healthy Deep Chocolate Tan | Tanning Accelerator with 5 Precious Oils to Make Your Skin Glowing & Revitalized (110 ml)

In fourth place is the COCOSOLIS ALOHA Sun Tan & Body Oil. This is a hybrid product that falls halfway between a lotion and an oil. However, it’s such a good product that we had to include it in this list anyway. 

Let’s start with the three minor flaws of this product before we start waxing lyrically about it. 

Firstly, this is a tanning product with very low SPF. Because it has some SPF in it you may be tempted to not apply any sunscreen. However, to keep yourself safe in the sun you will want to pair this product with a Factor 20 or higher sunscreen. 

The second issue is the price of this product. It is the most expensive product on this list by about $12. It is also one of the smallest product amounts on this list.

While the price per ML does feel extortionate with this product, if you are looking for a natural and/or organic tanning product then this is the best option on the market. 

Thirdly, this product is a little complicated to store and use in colder climates. At temperatures below 25 degrees celsius, this product will solidify.

It does this because it is a natural product that isn’t full of preservatives. It is very easy to reverse it process, you just have to warm it up. You can leave in hot water, or in the sun. 

This lotion includes 5 skin loving natural and organic oils – Coconut, Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Avocado, and Vitamin E oil. This product will not only leave your skin looking and smelling great but it will also nourish and improve your skin.  


  • Speeds up the tanning process 
  • Smells incredible 
  • Sustainable packaging 
  • 5 nourishing oils 
  • Organic 
  • Perfect for outdoor and sunbed use 
  • Added Vitamin E 
  • No added fragrance 
  • Can be used in hair as well 


  • Low SPF 
  • Expensive – very high cost per ML 
  • Solidifies at under 25 degrees 

5. Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion

Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion, 13.5 oz

Rounding off this list is the Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion. Coming in at fifth against the other lotions on this list is nothing to be ashamed of. And this lotion is still a great choice.

This has everything the Millennium Tanning solution has to offer without the built-in fake tan. It’s a great option for beginners who want quick results without any of the hassle. 

This is a thin lotion that spreads smoothly across the skin, soaks in quickly, and leaves no sticky residue behind. The vanilla and coconut scent will make you feel like you’re lounging on a Caribbean beach. 

This is another lotion that is stocked full of skin loving ingredients. Our favorite of the bunch are the coconut milk, oil, and butter which will leave your skin glowing and full of hydration. 

There is no fake tan in this product so it will be something that beginners will find easy to use. 

This lotion has two minor flaws. Like many of the other tanning lotions on this list, this product from Ed Hardy has no SPF. Because of this, you will need to find a light weight sunscreen to pair with this if you’re wearing it outside. 

Secondly, this is a very expensive product. We believe that it is 100% worth the price, and we’re sure you’ll agree with us once you see the results. It’s nourishing and really does accelerate the tanning process. 


  • Coconut milk, oil, and butter for unbeatable nourishment 
  • Coconut Paradise scent smells like summer 
  • Not sticky 
  • Speeds up the tanning process 
  • Award winning lotion 
  • Great for indoor or outdoor use 
  • Skin loving ingredients 


  • No SPF 
  • Very expensive 

Outdoor Tanning Lotion: Buyer’s Guide 

Trying to find the right tanning lotion can be a minefield of advertising jargon and false promises. Even experienced tanners can struggle to find what they’re looking for when the market is so saturated. Thankfully, you have this guide to help you pick the right outdoor tanning lotion. 

We will talk you through the four most crucial decisions you have to make when picking out a tanning lotion. So, let’s not waste anymore time, and jump right into this buyer’s guide for outdoor tanning lotions. 

Why tanning lotions? 

Why are outdoor tanning lotions the best choice for you? 

They’re time savers:

When wearing tanning lotion the tanning process is sped up. You will have to spend less time in the sun and will get more opportunities to enjoy your summer 

They’re better for your skin than tanning beds:

Using tanning beds can expose your skin to all kinds of dangerous UV rays. These can lead to horrible complications like developing melanoma. 

They’re easier to use than fake tan and they smell better:

Fake tan smells bad, I think we can all agree on that one. Tanning lotions often smell like tropical cocktails or long days on the beach. Tanning lotions are also a lot simpler to apply than fake tan.

They won’t leave your skin covered in streaks, they won’t ruin your bedsheets, and the results will last for a lot longer. 

SPF? (Sun Protection Factor) 

It is crucial that we all wear sunscreen all year round. Things should be no different when we are tanning. 

The easy thing to do would be to find a tanning lotion that comes with a high SPF in it. However, that is nearly impossible to find, good luck finding a tanning lotion with an SPF above 6. 

So, when tanning you will need to find an SPF that will mix well with your tanning lotion. Yes, the SPF will slow the tanning process down a little, but it will also help to keep your skin healthy in the long run. 

Increased exposure to the sun and high melanin counts have been linked with a rise in skin cancer rates. So it is important to take care of your skin while tanning. 

Ingredients to look out for 

When exposing your skin to the sun for long periods of time you want to make sure that you are using a tanning lotion that is filled with skin loving ingredients.

Here are some ingredients to look out for on the ingredients label: 

  • Vitamins A, C, and E 
  • Coconut oil, milk, or butter – Coconut is not just popular in tanning products because of its smell. It can provide the skin with a large amount of hydration without clogging pores or being sticky 
  • Aloe Vera – this is another miracle ingredient that will hydrate your skin and keep it feeling soft for hours after its been absorbed 

When to use tanning lotion 

The best times to tan are between 10am and 3pm. This is when the sun’s rays are strong enough and you will be able to make the most of your time in the sun. 

When tanning you will want to make sure you are regularly applying sunscreen and new layers of your tanning lotion. For this reason, you may want to look for a tanning lotion that doesn’t include bronzing pigments. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The most common reason for misusing tanning lotion is not knowing how the product works.

In this section, we are going to cover some of the frequent misconceptions about using outdoor tanning lotion. We are also going to answer some of your FAQs about tanning. 

Should you wash tanning lotions off? 

The answer to this question really does depend on the type of tanning lotion you are using. 

If you are using an oil based tanning lotion then you will want to jump in the shower around half an hour after you have finished tanning. The oil can cause your skin to heat up more quickly than it naturally would. It stays hot after you leave the sun, so you don’t want to keep it on your skin all day. 

If you are using a tanning lotion with a low oil content then you can keep it on for two to three hours after you have finished tanning. This will allow your tan to develop and provide your skin with moisture to prevent too much long term damage. 

If you are using a tanning lotion that has fake tan pigment in it then you will want to leave it on your skin to develop overnight. 

If you want to use the pool you should shower before doing so, no matter what type of tanning lotion you are using. The chemicals in the pool will break down the tanning lotion and you may notice the lotion turning the water brown around you. Shower before you jump into the pool to avoid that kind of embarrassment.  

Does tanning lotion make you burn faster? 

The American Cancer Society has recently raised its concerns about people using tanning lotions in order to get a tan. While tanning outside is much better for your skin’s health than using a tanning bed. That doesn’t mean that it’s without danger. 

Yes, tanning lotion does give you a faster tan but it can also lead to you burning faster. The good news for tan lovers is that tanning lotion will generally result in you spending less time outside. Meaning that you will spend less time being exposed to dangerous UV rays. 

Tanners can also protect themselves by using SPF alongside their tanning lotion.

How quickly does tanning lotion go off? 

If your tanning lotion has bronzing or self tanning pigments in it then you are going to want to replace it every year. If left for too long the pigments can develop a darker hue. This could result in the tanning lotion leaving more streaks, or being more orange in general. 

Natural products like our number 4 choice should also be replaced yearly. Organic and natural ingredients do not last as long as other types of ingredients.

These products also contain very few preservatives. Because of this, they will go bad after less than a year. We recommend keeping these for the summer season and then disposing of them at the start of Fall. 

Tanning lotions with no self tanning pigments can be kept for up to two years. SPF does only last for around 12 months so if you keep your product for longer than that you will need to mix fresh SPF in with the tanning lotion. 

How does tanning lotion work? 

Tanning lotions contain ingredients that promote melanin production and increase the blood flow rates to the surface of the skin. Both of these actions can speed up the tanning process. 

These ingredients encourage the skin to produce more melanin. Melanin is a natural pigment that our skin releases after exposure to the sun.

It is the pigment that causes the bronze tan we all crave. Some studies have shown that increased blood flow under the surface of the skin can stimulate a faster release of melanin. 

Other ingredients act like water or glass and magnify the sun’s rays, making them more potent before they hit the skin. 

Final Words 

If you’re looking for a way to top up your summer tan without having to hit the tanning beds or messing around with fake tanning foam. Then you should try using outdoor tanning lotions.

These lotions help to stimulate the release of melanin in your skin, meaning that you can spend less time tanning and more time enjoying your summer. Above we have listed the five best tanning lotions on the market right now.