Getting the perfect tan is never easy, especially if you want to have beautiful, bronzed skin year-round. Fortunately, tanning beds have gained popularity in recent years as a quick and convenient way to build a healthy summer glow, even during the winter. Over a third of Americans already use a tanning bed to maintain their summer tone, and that number is rising.
One of the best ways to ensure a fast, even, and natural-looking color when using a tanning bed is by using indoor tanning lotion. With so many choices available on the market, however, it can be tough to pick out the best indoor tanning lotion for your skin. Here, we go over what to look for when choosing a lotion, and some of today’s most popular options.
What is an Indoor Tanning Lotion?
The best indoor tanning lotion helps to enhance your natural color while also speeding up the tanning process. Instead of spending hours under the tanning bed, you’ll be able to achieve the same results in a fraction of the time.
When our skin darkens, it’s the result of a naturally occurring pigment known as melanin. The compound is what gives color to our hair, eyes, and skin. People who produce less melanin tend to have lighter skin, while those with more have a darker complexion.
Tanning is a direct result of manipulating the melanin in your body. UVA and UVB radiation are absorbed through the skin, either from the sun, from a tanning bed, or from another source. The UVA radiation oxidizes melanin and causes it to darken, while UVB radiation boosts the skin’s production of melanin.
Indoor tanning lotions are designed to help your skin capture UV rays more efficiently. The best bronzer tanning lotions include ingredients that stimulate and increase melanin production, helping to speed up the tanning process.
Many of the best tanning lotions for tanning beds also help to protect your skin from UV damage, replenish nutrients that are lost as you build a healthy glow and extend the life of your color. You can also find lotions designed to enhance the tanning experience, such as those that re hydrate, soothe, and cool the skin.
The Different Types of Indoor Tanning Lotions
When it comes to the best tanning lotion for tanning beds, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are plenty of different solutions available for all skin types, whether you are just beginning your foray into the world of tanning, or whether you are looking to build up from a solid base tan.
A bronzer is designed to help you get a sun kissed look instantaneously by adding subtle shades to your skin. Different products have different levels of bronzer, which is typically displayed on the packaging.
A 10X bronzer is one of the weakest available and is often ideal for pale skin. For darker skin, however, you can find bronzers exceeding 100X. For those who want to build their way up to a deep tan, it’s best to start with a low level and increase gradually.
If you do not know the level of bronzer in a product, you can often tell how it will affect your skin by the color of the lotion. Pale individuals or those who are new to tanning should stick to a lotion with a lighter color, preferably one close to their skin tone.
Bronzers work thanks to a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). In addition to other active ingredients, it safely reacts with your skin cells to give instant, long-lasting color. Your glow will even continue to develop after your tanning session, helping you to maintain a healthy, natural color. Many of the best tanning lotions for tanning beds have a bronzer in them. Not only does bronzer give your color an immediate boost, but it can also accelerate the appearance of a tan and prevent early fading.
While fake tan helps to darken the skin in the same way as a hair dye, accelerators offer a longer-term solution. Instead of outright darkening the skin, they help to stimulate the production of melanin to improve your chances of developing a deep, healthy-looking tan over time.
Accelerators are a good choice for tanning beginners and those trying to achieve a base tan. They work slowly to build up a light, natural color. This is partially thanks to the fact that most accelerators contain moisturizing ingredients, which dilute the effects of tanning agents.
The moisturizers in accelerators not only make the color appear more subtly over time but can also make your skin look healthier. Tanning can dry out your skin, as the heat from a bed often leads to significant evaporation, leading to a cracked and ashy look. Moisturizing ingredients lock in hydration to ensure that your skin is in peak condition as you tan.
Also known as intensifiers, intensifying products are generally made for people who already have a base tan. They offer a deeper, darker color than most accelerants. Maximizers are one of the best ways to develop a base tan into a full-bodied bronze.
Unlike accelerators, maximizers often contain little to no moisturizer, which can make them a poor choice for those with sensitive skin. They also build color quickly, which may not be ideal for those who are pale or freckled.
Before using a maximizer, it’s best to start with another product. You can build your base up until it’s dark enough for the effects of a maximizing agent to appear natural.
Tingle lotions get their name from the fact that they can make skin prickle after application. While some tanners love the effects of tingle lotions, they may be too strong for those with sensitive skin.
Tingle lotions often contain active ingredients such as benzyl or methyl nicotinate along with other natural vitamins and botanical oils. These compounds all work by helping to dilate blood vessels, stimulating microcirculation, and drawing blood closer toward the skin.
Increased blood flow helps to bring healthy compounds in closer contact with your skin. With more essential vitamins and nutrients available, your skin can more easily accept UV radiation without long-term damage.
Tingle components are often found in maximizers, as intensifying products can be harsh on your skin. Using a tingle lotion can help to speed up your repair process by providing the extra vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to heal your skin.
Tingle lotions increase blood flow, allowing more melanin to reach your skin. This also helps to speed up the repair process, allowing a tan to take to your skin more quickly.
The effects of a tingle lotion can vary widely from person-to-person. Because the ingredients are designed to enhance blood circulation, they can lead to reddening, irritation, and even rashes on the skin.
Tingle products can cause the skin to appear flushed, though they usually only last for a short period of time. Tingle lotions should be used well before you plan on going outdoors. Not only will you avoid discomfort, but you don’t have to worry about skin that’s more susceptible to damage.
While some of the best tanning lotions for tanning beds can heat your skin up, others work to cool it down. This is not only relaxing after a tanning bed session but can help extend the life of your color and prevent that sticky feeling after your session.
Cooling tanning lotions can also improve the look of your tan in a matter of minutes. Many products, particularly tingle lotions, can cause inflammation and redness that takes away from the end result of your tan.
Many cooling lotions contain natural components such as aloe Vera, a plant substance with cooling properties that are also used to treat sunburns and other rashes. These products can help to cool your skin after being treated with UV rays, reduce swelling, and even calm you with aroma therapeutic properties.
Ingredients to Look For in an Indoor Tanning Lotion
The best indoor tanning lotions often contain multiple ingredients, each intended to target a different issue. There are natural oils, plant extracts, and vitamins that have been shown to help create softer skin and richer color. Before choosing indoor tanning lotion, it’s crucial that you consider which ingredients are in what product to find the best solution for your skin.
- Tyrosine: This amino acid derivative is often added to indoor tanning lotions to enhance the production of melanin. It also reduces the rate of cellular loss, helping to maintain color for longer and prevent excessive exfoliation.
- Vitamin E: While this vitamin can be difficult to include in your diet, as it’s only present in certain greens and nuts, it’s an important component in proper skincare. It can help to both clear pores and reduce the incidence of fine lines and wrinkles, leading to an even, healthy skin tone without excess wrinkles.
- DHA: As mentioned previously, this component is most commonly found in bronzers. It reacts with your skin to create a dark tan, though adding moisturizers can mitigate the effect.
- Beta-Carotene: Also known as retinyl palmitate, this compound can enhance your pigmentation while reducing lines and wrinkles. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which leads to healthier skin and mucous membranes. Too much, however, can lead to an overly orange or yellow color.
- Silicon: This compound is the third most abundant trace element in the body, and it’s easy to find in water, plant, and animal sources. Silicon is a critical component in skin development, synthesizing collagen molecules, and activating hydroxylating enzymes as a moisturizer to improve the strength and elasticity of your skin.
- Hemp Seed Oil: This ingredient acts as a moisturizing agent and adds healthy nutrients.
- Cb: Caffeine constricts the blood vessels, helping to reduce swelling and inflammation both during and after using a tanning bed.
- Copper: This mineral has antibacterial properties when applied topically, which can help to prevent zits and breakouts and keep oily skin clear. Copper can also work to reduce the appearance of scars and other flaws, making your skin look smoother and more even.
- Shea or Cocoa Butter: These ingredients both help to moisturize, hydrate, and protect the skin. When used regularly, they can keep skin supple and prevent premature lines and wrinkles.
- Anti-Aging Components: Like moisturizing ingredients, you can also find indoor tanning lotions aimed at keeping your skin looking young. Even lying under a tanning bed can dehydrate your skin and encourage aging. Antioxidants gleaned from fruits, vegetables, and other natural products can prevent lines and wrinkles, allowing for a more even tan without aging the skin.
- Body Blush: Like a tingling lotion, a body blush is designed to enhance blood flow to the skin. However, these products are designed with sensitive skin in mind and are often less intense than typical tingling lotions.
- Shimmer: Some of the best bronzer tanning lotions aim to give your skin an extra dimension by including some shimmer. A reflective additive can give your skin a luminous glow and add extra dimensions to your color. However, for those with sensitive skin, some shimmer ingredients can be irritating.
- Essential Oils: While they may not be entirely necessary, essential oils can help to improve your tanning experience. The natural components can work to both nourish your skin and improve your mood through aromatherapy.
What to Avoid in an Indoor Tanning Lotion
Just as there are ingredients to look out for in indoor tanning lotion, you should also know which to avoid. Many products contain ingredients that may restrict your natural tanning process. You should also consider unhealthy or even toxic ingredients that commonly show up in tanning lotions.
- Dyes: Unnatural dyes can block UV light and may also pose a danger to your well being. Try to stick with safe, natural dyes when choosing a tanning lotion.
- Bleaching Agents: While it’s possible to lighten skin and diminish age spots, you should avoid any agents that cause bleaching. These can lead to thinning skin, uneven color, and irritation.
- Exfoliants: Though exfoliating can lead to soft, silky skin, it can also affect the life of indoor tanning lotions. You should try to use exfoliants as sparingly as possible and stick to safe, natural products such as sugar scrubs.
- Mineral Oils: Often, lotions that contain mineral oils can affect how UV radiation hits the skin, which may result in less exposure while tanning. Try to avoid products that use mineral oils.
Why Use an Indoor Tanning Lotion?
Most people use indoor tanning lotions to enhance the color they build from a tanning bed. Not only do lotions help to protect you from harmful UV rays, but unlike fake tans, they don’t cause streaks or excessive coloration thanks to DHA pigmentation.
Because the best tanning lotions speed up the time it takes to build color, they reduce the time spent exposing yourself to UV radiation. This can help cut back on your risk of skin cancer and other health complications. Many tanning lotions also hydrate the skin using essential oils, minimizing your risk of peeling and flaking. Hydrated skin can take on color more efficiently. Water also helps to retain the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy skin tone.
How to Choose an Indoor Tanning Lotion
Finding the right product for your skin is never easy. There are a couple of things that you should consider when looking for the best bronzer tanning lotion:
- Skin type: You should consider your natural skin tone when looking for a tanning lotion, as one that’s too light may not have an effect, whereas one that’s too dark can lead to streaking. Accelerators are often ideal for people with pale, sensitive skin, while maximizers are designed for those who are already tan.
- Sensitivity: Regardless of what your natural skin tone is, if you have sensitive skin, you should look for products with gentle ingredients. It’s best to avoid tingle lotions, as these can lead to redness and swelling in some individuals.
- Price Range: Like any beauty product, you can find indoor tanning lotions of every tier. While it might be tempting to go for the most expensive option, many products have the same active ingredient, only differing in aspects such as moisturizing agents. You should always look for a tanning lotion that falls within your price range while offering the most necessary ingredients.
- Additional Effects: Many indoor tanning lotions contain ingredients that can help to condition the skin, such as silicon, vitamin E, and essential oils. While these ingredients may irritate more sensitive skin, for many people, they help to create a soft, supple barrier against the elements.
- Glamor: If you’re looking to turn heads, some of the best indoor tanning lotions contain ingredients that will help your skin to shine. Shimmering agents add a touch of glitter to your skin, while anti-aging ingredients help to eliminate unwanted lines and wrinkles.
If you’re not sure where to start, it can be helpful to consult a tanning expert. You may also be able to find samples of the best indoor tanning lotions to help you get started.
Tips for Applying Indoor Tanning Lotion
Once you’ve found the best indoor tanning lotion for your skin, you can avoid uneven color and streaking with proper application. Here, we go over how to apply indoor tanning lotion, and what to expect after the fact:
- Spread Evenly. When applying lotion, especially something like bronzer, it's important to spread evenly to avoid any streaks.
- Avoid Clothing. Tanning lotions, when applied evenly over the body, can lead to streaks when coming into contact with any fabric. With tanning lotions, it's best to stay unclothed for some time afterward.
- Time the Application. When applying lotion, you need to ensure it has time for the moisturizers take hold. For accelerators, it's best to apply an hour or more before your tanning session.
- Don't Forget Aftercare. Once you're done tanning, you should replenish any water lost by applying a moisturizer. If you're feeling overheated, you may want to apply a cooling lotion or a cold compress to reduce inflammation and swelling.
The 7 Best Indoor Tanning Lotions
When looking for the best indoor tanning lotion, it’s all about personal preference. You can ask a certified training consultant for help, or turn to the best option for your skin type. Here are some of our choices for the best tanning lotions for tanning beds.
With an attractive monochromatic bottle boasting chic designs, this is a product that looks good on any shelf. The serrated cap is not only fashionable but also gives a good grip when opening and closing the bottle, even after application.
This lotion contains 100X bronzer, creating a deep, natural tan. Unlike many bronzers, it has a floral orchid blush fragrance that allows you to wear it at any time of day. It also contains tyrosine, helping to boost melanin production.
Those with sensitive skin will find the Millenium Tanning solution works well as a moisturizer. It contains natural oils to help build and maintain hydration, including walnut, pecan, sunflower, and banana seed oil. It also contains anti-inflammatory agents such as cucumber extract, caffeine, and green tea.
- Attractive bottle
- Pleasant fragrance
- Silicon softness
- Deep color
- Easy to leave streaks
As one of the most highly recognized names in the tanning industry, the Australian Gold Tanning Accelerator works for both those creating a base tan and those working to build their color. It’s designed to deepen your tan and create a natural, summertime look.
The formula contains tea tree oil as an antioxidant, aloe vera for soothing, and bronzing oils such as carrot, Annatto, and Sunflower as moisturizers. Other natural oils derived from plants and herbs native to Australia help to mitigate UV exposure and build a natural, even tan.
When applied to the skin, the Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator formula stimulates cells by encouraging the production of melanin for those with both fair and dark skin. According to tanning lotion reviews, however, this formula can stain furniture and clothing and should be used accordingly.
- Gentle yet effective formula
- Soothing Aloe Vera and tea tree oil
- Stimulates melanin production
- Works for both newcomers and experienced tanners
- Strong smell
- Stains clothing
Designed specifically for men, this lotion boasts a clean, musty smell that’s subtle enough to create an air of sophistication while maintaining some mystery. It helps to deodorize while also building up a dazzling tan. The formula offers tattoo and color fade protection.
Contained in a lightweight tube, this is one of the best tanning lotions when it comes to ease of use. It offers ultra-dark color with a lightweight formula, all presented in a convenient setup. An odor eliminator helps to keep the formula fresh and non-greasy, though tanning lotion reviews claim that the product has a strong odor.
The H.I.M. Titanium offers mild bronzers offer an even, dark color every time. Avocado oil helps to soothe the skin after a tanning session and also works to reduce redness and swelling.
- Small, attractive, and lightweight packaging
- Made for men
- Tattoo and color fade protection
- Cooling avocado oil
- Strong scent
- Tendency to streak
Despite the fact that the Ed Hardy logo has changed in recent years, the brand still offers one of the best tanning lotions for tanning beds. A quad tyrosine blend combined with MelanoBronze helps to stimulate melanin formation, bringing out the best in your tan.
The Ed Hardy blend also offers Melactiva, a melanin synthesizer that offers darker, longer-lasting results without DHA. Bodyfit technology helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Coconut oil also plays a role in hydration, softening skin with an enticing island fragrance. This type of lotion is designed to be applied before tanning so that it can soak in after the fact.
If you’re looking for a quick, deep tan, Ed Hardy’s Golden Tanning Lotion can help you to achieve a rich color and is best used alongside a solid base tan.
- A quick, deep color
- Bodyfit technology
- Coconut oil for hydration
- Melactavia melanin synthesizer
- No DHA for quick tanning
- Packaging may leak
This versatile lotion is designed to offer three-in-one capabilities. As a uniquely multipurpose bronzer, not only does it offer immediate effects as a tinted daily moisturizer, but also instant color. It’s even gentle enough for facial skin.
Unlike many competitors, Baja Bae offers 100% natural, vegan ingredients, including jojoba oil to soften the skin along with agave and hibiscus for smooth, silky hydration without any stickiness. You don’t need a specialized mitt to apply this lotion without streaking.
Baja Bae also distinguishes itself from other indoor tanning lotions with its signature scent. While many sunless tanners have a distinctive smell, Baja Bae combines Mexican vanilla, caramel extract, and coconut oil to create an exotic summertime fragrance.
Baja Bae is so convinced that people will love their product that they offer a moneyback guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with your tan, you can let the company know within thirty days for a no-strings-attached refund.
- Bronzing, moisturizing, and tan-enhancing
- 100% vegan
- Smells fresh
- 30-day moneyback guarantee
- Too light to build on a base tan
- Rubs off easily
Designed for those with a base tan, this is one of the best tanning lotions for tanning beds. It has DHA-free bronzers for a more even, natural-looking tan. You’ll experience a darker glow from day one, and maintain your color with ease.
This indoor tanning lotion is also designed to improve skin quality, creating softer, more supple curves. A powerful anti-aging ingredient known as Advanced Matrixyl Synthe 6 helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, particularly around the face.
This lotion also moisturizes your skin, leading to a better tan. Coconut and walnut oil hydrate deep down, while mica flakes add a shimmer to your skin. This lotion can be used when tanning in a bed or outdoors, helping you to maintain a healthy glow.
- Advanced Matrixyl Synthe 6 reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles
- Added shimmer for glowing skin
- Can irritate sensitive skin
- May stain linens and clothing
This 60X tanning solution is designed to give a deep, dark bronze for those who already have a base tan. It contains silicon, which helps to soften and condition skin as it tans, allowing color to penetrate deeper.
European Gold Dark Star Select helps your skin to gain a naturally darker tan, preventing streaks, stains, and unappealing colors. It’s more affordable than many competitors and offers a similarly dazzling result.
If you’re looking to deepen your tan, this product can help you to achieve a natural bronze. For those who are just starting out, however, it may provide too strong of a stain.
- Allows for extra-dark color
- Good for those with a base tan
- Mild, pleasant scent
- Too strong a color for some pale skin
- Washes off easily
The Bottom Line on Indoor Tanning Lotion
Tanning can help your skin to look bronzed and beautiful, but it can be a challenge to maintain a healthy glow year-round. The best tanning lotion for tanning beds can help you to keep up a healthy glow even when the sun isn’t shining.
For best results, you should use an indoor tanning lotion when bronzing yourself in a bed. Not only do the best bronzer tanning lotions help to moisturize and protect your skin, but can even replenish nutrients lost under UV lights.
With a little bit of experimentation, you can find the lotion that works best for your skin type, whether you’re new to tanning or already have already built up a healthy base. Our favorite indoor tanning lotion is the Millennium Tanning Products: Dark Tanning Lotion thanks to its effortless application an even, natural results.