There’s nothing quite like tanning in the sun at the beach. But when tanning outside, you’ll need the best outdoor lotion. You can naturally get that beautiful caramel glow with the right tanning lotion!
In this post, I’ll talk in detail about tanning lotions, how they work, and what types are there. More importantly, I’ll list the best outdoor tanning lotions you can buy online before your next trip to the beach or a day in the park.
The Maui Babe Browning Lotion is the best outdoor tanning lotion as it’s made with organic ingredients that darken the skin color and keep the skin moisturized. It also comes with an after lotion that helps the golden tan intensify and last long.
- Outdoor tanning lotions can help speed up the tanning process when tanning under the sun.
- There are three types of tanning lotions: accelerators, bronzers, and tingles.
- Outdoor tanning lotions also contain moisturizing components that prevent the skin from drying out.
- Depending on the product, skin type, and exposure duration, you can get anywhere from a light to deep tan.
- Choose the outdoor tanning lotion according to your skin type and tanning needs.
- Most outdoor tanning lotions contain little to no SPF, so using sunscreen is a must to protect the skin from the harms of UV radiation.
Do Outdoor Tanning Lotions Work?
Outdoor tanning lotions are not like regular ones typically designed to moisturize the skin. These lotions have special ingredients that enhance the tanning process when the sun’s rays come in contact with the skin.
Your skin would still get tanned even if you don’t wear a lotion, but you’ll have to stay in the sun longer. And that’s not safe, as prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun runs the risk of skin damage, especially premature aging signs.
Also called self-tanning lotions, these skincare products contain ingredients that help increase the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for darkening the skin.
Benefits of Outdoor Tanning Lotion
Outdoor tanning lotions aren’t just great for giving you that lovely bronze skin. They also have some other benefits:
The UV rays from the sun can dry out your skin. Spending even an hour in the sun can remove moisture from the skin. Outdoor tanning lotions usually contain moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil that help replenish and retain the moisture in the skin and keep it hydrated.
The moisturization keeps the skin supple as it absorbs the UV rays and turns dark. You get the tan you need but not at the expense of hydration for your skin.
With the help of a tanning lotion, you can get a dark tan fairly quicker. But it’s not just the speed; the tan might last long, too. You may need to spend a long time in the sun to get a long-lasting tan, but as the lotion helps accelerate the process, you can get a more potent tan in just an hour or less.
Tanning Lotion Types
Tanning lotions for tanning outdoors differ in how they work and the ingredients they contain. Essentially, there are three types of outdoor tanning lotions:
Bronzers are the most common type of tanning lotions that provide long-lasting results. With a good quality bronzer, you can expect to tan even beyond your session in the sun. In other words, it will continue to work even when you’re out of the sun. As a result, bronzer tanning lotions leave more long-lasting results.
The active ingredient in this lotion, DHA or dihydroxyacetone, is paired with other actives that work together to bring out the tan in the skin. As a bronzer works fast and leaves a long-lasting tan, it’s important to apply it evenly to get an even tan.
Accelerators amplify the sun’s impact, which is why they are also called tan maximizers. These lotions usually also have other protective ingredients, which makes them a good option for those with sensitive skin. It’s also the ideal tanning lotion type for pale skin tones prone to redness and irritation from direct exposure to the sun.
Tingle lotions help bring your blood to the skin’s surface, which helps increase absorption of the UV rays. The reason why it’s called a tingle is because this kind of lotion produces a tingling sensation on the skin.
Like a bronzer, a tingle lotion also works fast and gives a quick tan, so you don’t have to spend much time in the sun.
10 Best Outdoor Tanning Lotions
Here are my picks for the best outdoor tanning products:
1. Maui Babe Browning Lotion and After Browning Lotion – Best Overall
The Maui Babe Browning Lotion Before and After Set is one of the most popular and effective tanning lotion systems. The Browning lotion should be applied when you’re tanning, whereas the After Browning lotion should be applied afterward when you’re out of the sun.
As the name would suggest, this duo comes from Hawaii and has been around for a long time. The Browning lotion contains Kona Coffee Plant Extract, Kukui nut oil, mineral oil, and vitamins. The core ingredients of the After Browning lotion are all-natural, including aloe vera gel, Macadamia nut oil, and pure Hawaiian water.
The lotions are lightweight, so they readily absorb the skin. You don’t get that greasy residue. The best part is that all the ingredients suit all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Each bottle contains 8 fl oz. of the lotions. It takes a generous amount to cover the body, so the bottles may not last very long, especially if you tan often. However, the prices are pretty reasonable, so I’d recommend you get multiple bottles before your summer of lovely tan skin begins.
2. Bronzo Sensuale SPF 8 Golden Sun Tan Lotion – Best Organic Outdoor Tanning Lotion
The Bronzo Sensuale SPF 8 Golden Sun Tan Lotion is a completely organic tanning lotion powered by carrots’ natural tanning benefit. Yes, this one contains carrot extract, which, in turn, contains beta carotene.
Beta carotene can help with tanning. Also, it converts to Vitamin A in the body, imparting several other benefits.
Other organic ingredients in this product are squalene, allantoin, and shea butter. It’s a cruelty-free lotion, free of toxins. So this is a great pick for those who love all things ethical and organic.
The company claims it’s not a bronzer or self-tanner, which means it will probably not give you an instant or dark tan. Nevertheless, it will help keep your skin moisturized and protected, especially with some SPF.
That said, since SPF 8 is low for tanning in the sun, you may still want to use a sunscreen of SPF 15+.
This one is not fragrance-free, so there’s a subtle, calming scent. That’s deliberate because it’s supposed to be a relaxing tanning lotion.
3. Devoted Creations #TANLIFE Hydrating Tanning Butter– Best Tanning Lotion for Skin With Tattoos
You know the lotion would be pretty smooth and creamy when it’s called butter. The Devoted Creations #TANLIFE Hydrating Tanning Butter is tan world favorite. Its core moisturizing ingredient is shea butter, hence the name.
Even though it’s a rich buttery lotion, it absorbs into the skin well and doesn’t irritate. In addition to tanning accelerating ingredients, this lotion also has protective elements for tattoos, so the ink doesn’t fade.
I would highly recommend this for those who are 30 or over and are susceptible to photodamage. Because it contains several anti-aging ingredients (Matrixyl Synthe 6 and AcquaCell), it bodes well for mature skin and may help prevent fine lines or wrinkles.
This does not contain any SPF, so pair it with good-quality sunscreen.
4. Tannovations SUN DAY FUN DAY Indoor/Outdoor Tanning Cocktail – Best Indoor and Outdoor Tanning Lotion
If you’re looking for a tanning lotion that you apply indoors as well, the Tannovations SUN DAY FUN DAY lotion is for you. It’s an accelerator, so it contains ingredients that boost melanin production. So you can also use this while tanning in a tanning bed.
It’s supposed to give a dark tan, so don’t spend too much time in the sun when tanning outdoors. But I think its highlighting quality is its eclectic blend of moisturizers. You have cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E. It’s safe to say that this will not let your skin dry out in the sun and give it a beautiful golden glow.
This is not a bronzer, so it won’t give you a quick tan. However, it will help get an even tan and maintain the skin’s moisture.
If you’re using it indoors, you don’t need to worry about SPF. However, when using it outdoor tanning in the sun, make sure to apply SPF.
5. Ed Hardy #Beachtime Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Hydrating Tanning Lotion
Ed Hardy #Beachtime Dark Tanning Lotion is a popular tanning lotion as it comes from Ed Hardy, a brand known for its graphic t-shirts. But don’t think of it as just another designer label product, as it lives up to its purpose.
This one has dark tanning agents, so it does help you get that tanned skin quickly. However, these powerful agents are balanced with many hydrating ingredients. The star ingredients, which also give the lotion its mesmerizing scent, are coconut oil and coconut milk.
But that’s not all; it also contains other beneficial ingredients such as Hibiscus extract, which helps increase skin elasticity. Then you have the seaweed extract that’s supposed to detox the skin. Finally, vitamin A and C from passion fruit extract help prevent free radical damage.
This one also contains color and tattoo fade protectors, which is no surprise because it’s from Don Ed Hardy’s brand, the world-famous tattoo artist.
So it’s not really your average tanning lotion, as it goes beyond tanning and nurtures the skin. That’s a winner for me!
6. That’s What Sea Said Extreme Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Dark Tan Lotion
With clever and funny wordplay, That’s What Sea Said is an accelerator that produces a dark tan. This is the perfect choice for those who prefer accelerators over bronzers, as it can give a strong tan that you would normally only get with a bronzer. Of course, all the magic is in the ingredients.
The formula features specific, proprietary tanning agents consisting of tyrosines, which are amino acids and safe for topical application. As for moisturizing components, the lotion contains coconut and passion fruit extracts. The Hibiscus extract renders it anti-aging benefits like skin firmness. So if you’re already on retinol, you might get an anti-aging tanning lotion too.
This is a tattoo-friendly lotion, so don’t worry about them getting faded if you have tattoos. Also, as it contains strong accelerators, it can be used for indoor tanning.
The company claims it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and made in the US with ingredients sourced from outside. Those are its pros, but it’s not certified vegan or eco-friendly. But, as far as getting a dark lovely tan goes, that you’ll get with this lotion!
7. Millennium Solid Black 100X Dark Tanning Lotion – Best Instant Bronzer Lotion
If you’re looking for an instant tan, the Solid Black Dark 100X Tanning Lotion is the bronzer I’d recommend. It’s jam-packed with bronzers that deliver a visible dark tan in just an hour. But here’s the real kicker: it gives a long-lasting tan that will easily last for a few weeks.
This is a silicone bronzer, which isn’t a common kind of bronzer, but it works. Additionally, there are many other ingredients, some of which help with the tanning process while others moisturize the skin. Most of the ingredients are plant-based, so it’s safe to use.
What really sets it apart is that, unlike some bronzers, this one gives a brown tan, not an artificial-looking orange tan. There’s a reason why it’s a hit with the ladies!
You can also use it for an indoor tanning bed. But it’s meant to work really anywhere.
Since it gives a dark tan, make sure to apply evenly. Also, don’t skip out on SPF as this contains none.
One downside, perhaps, is that it has a strong fragrance. However, that depends on you whether you find fragrance irritating or not.
8. The Fox Tan Elixir and Mist – Best Tanning Lotion Kit
The Fox Tan Tanning Kit consists of a Tan Elixir (lotion) and Tan Mist. This Australian tanning lotion and mist combo deliver a medium deep tan using natural ingredients.
Of all the lotions on this list, this one has the best packaging. The bottles have a simple yet fun design that gives summer vibes. But that’s not the main reason to consider it. Its accelerator (amino complex) works from within the skin to boost melanin production.
The elixir also contains moisturizing ingredients like almond oil, jojoba, aloe vera, cocoa butter, and olive oil. So this is a particularly good choice for those with dry skin. It won’t let your skin get hard and flaky under the sun.
Unlike most tanning lotions, this lotion is supposed to be used like a regular moisturizer before your sun tan session. So use it every day for a week before you head outdoors for tanning. The mist should be used when you’re sunbathing.
9. Tannovations Coming In Hot Thermal Active Black Bronzer– Best Tingle Tanning Lotion
If you don’t mind the tingling that comes from a tingle bronzer, this Tannovations Coming In Hot will give you a quick tan. It’s a DHA-based bronzer that brings blood to your skin and tans it rapidly. Of course, its thermal active tingle actives leave a tingling feeling.
As it’s a tingle, your skin will initially turn red. However, it ultimately gives you a golden brown tan. Also, a word of caution for first-time users: this can make you feel hot, so you’ll need to hang in there to get the desired results.
Aside from giving you a great tan with tingle agents, this lotion also contains purifying ingredients like charcoal and fruit extracts. Because of the latter, the fragrance is fruity.
This is not ideal for those with sensitive skin or really pale skin. Also, it’s for a darker tan, so time your sunbathing session accordingly unless you’re going for a deep tan.
10. Hawaiian Tropic Island Tanning Dry Spray Oil– Best Outdoor Tanning Oil
As an honorary mention, I’m also including the best outdoor tanning oil: Hawaiian Tropic Island Tanning Dry Spray Oil. This affordable, easy-to-use spray oil does a similar job to a tanning lotion. The brand also makes tanning lotions.
It’s better at moisturizing than it is at accelerating your tan. However, it’s a great product for those with dry or sensitive skin who don’t want to risk using potent tanning agents. This spray’s cocoa butter and coconut oil will moisturize the skin as the sun naturally tans your skin. It’s also ideal for those who tan easily and don’t really need a bronzer or accelerator.
It contains SPF 6, so it also provides sun protection to some extent.
How to Choose an Outdoor Tanning Lotion?
From your favorite skincare brands to companies that exclusively produce tanning products, there’s an endless variety of tanning lotions. When looking for the best outdoor tanning lotion, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
I’ve already discussed the types of outdoor tanning lotions available today. So depending on your needs, you must decide which type of tanning lotion is best for you.
It’s hard to say that one type is better than the other because the results can vary even among the same category of tanning lotions.
That said, people with light skin tones should go for accelerators or bronzers, as these lotions will help get the kind of tan you want rather quickly and safely.
Tingle lotions are perhaps a good choice for those who don’t mind the tingling sensation, want a quick tan, and perhaps can get tanned quickly in the sun (light brown skin tones).
Lucky for us all, manufacturers and brands have moved to more organic ingredients in tanning lotions, which means there are abundant choices with natural ingredients.
Still, it’s a good idea to give the ingredients list a read. That way, you can ensure the lotion doesn’t contain toxic chemicals or something you’re allergic to.
Look out for moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, hemp seed oil, or anything with Vitamin E. These ingredients will help lock in the moisture in your skin as you spend time outdoors in the sun.
You’ll find DHA as an ingredient in some of these lotions as it’s known for enhancing melanin production in the skin.
Those with sensitive skin should opt for outdoor tanning lotions with soothing ingredients like aloe vera. It will help prevent the skin from burning and getting red, helping you avoid irritation from the sun’s rays.
Unlike moisturizing lotions that are becoming increasingly fragrance-free, tanning lotions typically contain fragrances from the ingredients or are supplied artificially. Don’t get me wrong; those fragrances are lovely, but they may not be for everyone.
So if you don’t prefer a fragrant tanning lotion, look for one that specifically mentions ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘no fragrance.’
Should I Use SPF With Outdoor Tanning Lotion?
It’s imperative to use sunscreen with a high SPF, even if you’re using an outdoor tanning lotion. The sunblock’s job is to protect your skin from harmful UVB rays. And yes, it may slow down the rate at which your skin tans, but it’s only minimal and doesn’t eliminate the need to protect your skin from UV radiation while tanning.
Some outdoor tanning lotions come with SPF, but most don’t contain any level of SPF. Whether the tanning lotion you’re using contains SPF or not, it’s still a good idea to apply sunscreen, preferably with SPF 30 or higher.
Even with the application of SPF lotion, the tanning lotion would do a decent job of tanning your skin. With risks like premature aging and skin cancer from UV radiation, I’d recommend you don’t skip out on SPF when tanning in the sun with a tanning lotion.
As tanning in the sun is risky, using tanning lotions can speed up the process and protect the skin. These lotions contain elements that enhance the production of melanin, giving skin an even tan. The Maui Babe Before and After Browning Lotion is the best, in my opinion, as it’s natural, effective, long-lasting, and suitable for all skin types. The Bronzo Sensuale SPF 8 Golden Sun Tan Lotion is also a great choice as it’s all organic and contains SPF. But for a rapid sun tan, nothing beats the Solid Black Dark 100X Tanning Lotion.