If you plan to tan indoors, you need a good indoor tanning lotion. The right lotion will speed up the tanning process, keep your skin healthy, and help you stay bronzed for longer.
There are many different brands to choose from, and lots of features that may seem confusing at first. We’ve chosen the ten best indoor tanning lotions and reviewed them here for you.
What is indoor tanning lotion? What makes it different than sunblock?
There are some important differences between tanning lotion, self-tanners, and sunblock.
- An indoor tanning lotion helps you tan faster and darker than laying out in the sunshine.
- Self-tanners color or dye your skin for a few days.
- Sunblock keeps UV rays from damaging your skin when you’re outdoors.
It makes sense to use sunblock outside because the dose of UV rays you get is unpredictable. Depending on the weather, the altitude, and how long you’re in the sun, you could get a serious burn without it. You wouldn’t want to use indoor tanning lotion outside simply because it magnifies UV rays instead of blocking them.
Also, you don’t want to ever use sunblock in a tanning bed. The chemicals in sunblock will damage the acrylic inside the bed. Plus, you’re there to get tan, not stay pale, right?
As for self-tanners, or fake tan in a bottle, some indoor tanning lotions contain bronzers to color your skin. This effect may wash off in the shower, or may last a few days.
Why bother with an indoor tanning lotion?
Ask anyone who’s tanned in a bed without using lotion and they will tell you why you want to use one. Tanning will dry out your skin in a hurry. You’re likely to peel and lose that tan sooner than you would if you had applied lotion.
- An indoor tanning lotion moisturizes your skin
- Intensifies the UV light to speed up tanning
- Lessens the likelihood of getting wrinkles from tanning
- Keeps that after-tanning smell away
- Protects you from burning
- Continues to develop your tan after your session
Types of indoor tanning lotions
There is more than one type of indoor tanning lotion. Some “tingle” tanning lotions increase blood flow to the surface of your skin to help in the production of melanin, the skin pigment that makes you look tanned. Some indoor tanning lotions, like those with menthol, also create a pleasant cooling sensation on your skin while you tan.
Many indoor tanning lotions have silicone as a base because it doesn’t create an oily film on the acrylic screen of a tanning bed. Silicone is helpful to your skin because it seals in moisture.
Some brands depend on a chemical called DHA, or dihydroxyacetone. This is a substance you’ll see in lots of self-tanning creams. It’s a sugar that causes the dead skin cells and amino acids in your epidermis to darken in color. The effect lasts for about a week. But there has been some investigation into whether DHA might damage your DNA if you use it long-term. Although we selected some indoor tanning lotions that contain this ingredient, we also selected many that do not.
Like any new skin lotion, cream, or cleanser, it’s a great idea to test it on a small area for a day before you spread it all over your body.
Tan safely indoors
If you’re new to indoor tanning, take it slow. Start with sessions that are only a few minutes long. Follow the advice of the tanning salon staff and go easy on your skin. Protect your eyes with goggles, use lotion, and drink plenty of water. You’ll thank yourself down the road in later years.
What’s your skin type for tanning?
Different colors of skin tan in various ways. Take this short quiz to discover what type of skin you have. This will help you decide how long to tan and what type of lotion to use.
There are 6 types of skin, and all of them tan a little differently. Type 1 are people who always burn. Tanning isn’t recommended at all. Type 2 means you can tan slowly and carefully. Type 3 covers most of humanity, people who can tan successfully but occasionally burn. Type 4 means you can tan rather quickly and rarely burn. Type 5 means you hardly ever burn and usually have a deep tan. Type 6 means tanning will have little effect on your skin because it’s already very dark.
Now let’s go pick the best indoor tanning lotion for you.
Best Indoor Tanning Lotions Reviews
|Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion—Protects Tattoos||Bronzer||13.5 oz|
|Millenium Tanning New Solid Black Bronzer Tanning Bed Lotion||Accelerator / Bronzer||13.5-Ounce|
|Millenium Tanning New Paint It Black Auto-darkening Dark Tanning Lotion, 50X||Accelerator / Bronzer||13.5 Ounce|
|Brown Sugar BLACK CHOCOLATE COCONUT CREAM 200X Bronzer||Bronzer||13.5 oz.|
|Australian Gold CHEEKY BROWN Accelerator Dark Natural Bronzers||Accelerator / Bronzer||8.5 oz|
|Designer Skin Body Bronzer, Naked Ambition||Bronzer||13.5 Fl. Oz.|
|Devoted Creations WOKE UP LIKE THIS Bronzing Lotion||Bronzer||12.25 oz.|
|Supre Snooki – Ultra Dark Black Bronzer By Nicole Polizzi||Bronzer/Tingle||12 Oz|
|Australian Gold Sinfully Black 15x Deep Dark Bronzing Tanning Lotion||Bronzer||8.5 Ounce|
Here are our top picks for lotions that will help you bronze and keep your skin feeling great.
Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion—Protects Tattoos
Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion will help you get a nice bronze without fading the colors in your tattoos. It contains tyrosine plus a special melanin formula to darken your skin faster, but it doesn’t contain a self-tanner.
The coconut oil and cocoa butter add a nice scent but don’t make it feel too greasy. Unlike many lotions, you can use it in a tanning bed or outdoor in the sunshine. (Although be careful outdoors as this is not a sunblock.) Ed Hardy says this lotion has ingredients that diminish cellulite and makes skin look firmer.
Millenium Tanning New Solid Black Bronzer Tanning Bed Lotion
Millenium Tanning’s Solid Black is a silicone-based bronzer that darkens your skin tone before you even lay down in the tanning bed. That’s because it contains tyrosine to increase the production of melanin and darken your skin.
It’s also packed full of moisturizers like walnut seed oil, sunflower seed oil, pecan seed oil, and hemp oil to keep your skin healthy during the tanning process. Vitamin E (in the form of tocopherol), chamomile, and willow bark help soothe your skin during and after tanning.
Solid Black usually doesn’t cause streaking or turn your skin orange, but it will deepen your tan. It has a pleasant “Orchid Blush” scent and goes on smooth. The only downsides are that the ingredient list includes parabens and DHA (dihydroxyacetone).
Millenium Tanning New Paint It Black Auto-darkening Dark Tanning Lotion, 50X
The New Paint It Black lotion from Millenium strives to give you the darkest tan possible. It’s silicone-based like the Solid Black lotion from the same company, but there’s no tingle additive.
The silicone softens your skin to the maximum and helps it feel firmer and younger. You’ll notice that this lotion isn’t greasy. It goes on smooth, doesn’t streak, and doesn’t rub off on clothes. The cotton fresh scent is very pleasant and helps mask the after tanning odor of skin.
Unfortunately, the ingredient list contains parabens and DHA just like the other Millenium Tanning lotion above. If you’re trying to stick to natural ingredients, check out the next product below.
Brown Sugar BLACK CHOCOLATE COCONUT CREAM 200X Bronzer
If you love the smell of coconut, you’ll appreciate the Black Chocolate Coconut Cream Bronzer from Brown Sugar. It contains anti-aging antioxidants from dark chocolate and Argan extracts plus coconut oil and silicone to moisturize your skin.
There are no parabens and there is no DHA, either. Users say if you remember to wipe or wash your hands after applying it, you won’t see streaks or orange color on them. Instead, the Brown Sugar bronzer will deepen your skin tone as you tan, even if it’s only for a few minutes each session.
Australian Gold CHEEKY BROWN Accelerator Dark Natural Bronzers
The Cheeky Brown Accelerator from Australian Gold will slightly bronze your skin with carmel and henna when you apply it. You can use it indoors or outside, but it doesn’t have a sunblock. What is does have is sunflower and olive fruit oil, plus aloe vera gel, panthenol, glycerin, vitamins A and E, plus tea tree leaf (melaleuca) oil.
Users comment that they’ve had success using the Cheeky Brown Accelerator even when they started tanning with very pale skin. They like its fruity scent and the way it makes their skin feel soft.
Designer Skin Body Bronzer, Naked Ambition
The Naked Ambition lotion from Designer Skin is a bronzer as well. It avoids DHA, erythrulose, and parabens in favor of amino acids and shea butter to moisturize and darken your skin naturally. Fair-skinned users report that it tans slowly but effectively.
Many comments report that it has a light tropical scent. Users with sensitive skin have had success in using Naked Ambition. Like any product, please try it on a small area of skin to test it for a day.
Devoted Creations WOKE UP LIKE THIS Bronzing Lotion
WOKE UP LIKE THIS lotion from Devoted Creations is a bronzer and a tanning lotion that is growing in popularity. It uses the industry-standard ingredient DHA to darken your skin and even out its color right from the time you first apply it.
Devoted Creations says this lotion also helps to make wrinkles and cellulite disappear because your skin will feel firmer and tighter. Reviewers say it smells good, isn’t greasy or sticky, and doesn’t streak.
Supre Snooki - Ultra Dark Black Bronzer By Nicole Polizzi
The Ultra Dark Black Bronzer from Supre Snooki doesn’t have parabens, but it does have DHA so that your skin will continue to darken even after your tanning session is over. It’s a dark bronzer, so applying this lotion with black walnut and henna will make you look sun-kissed before your skin sees any rays.
It contains sweet almond oil and coconut to soften your skin, and vitamins to protect and nourish it. There’s also a tingler to dilate your blood vessels and stimulate melanin production.
Australian Gold Sinfully Black 15x Deep Dark Bronzing Tanning Lotion
Fair-skinned users say that the Sinfully Black lotion from Australian Gold has helped them build a golden brown base tan in just a couple of weeks. It’s gentle, with a soft fruity scent, and it leaves skin feeling smooth.
Sinfully Black contains hemp seed oil, monoi de Tahiti, caramel, walnut shell extract, and kukui and sunflower oils. Unfortunately, it also has parabens and propylene glycol.
Australian Gold Hot! Tanning Lotion
To wrap up our top ten list, here’s one more favorite from Australian Gold. Their Hot! Tanning Lotion is a popular classic that doesn’t tingle, but helps you get a golden base tan as quick as possible.
It contains macadamia, Kukui, olive, and tea tree oils to keep your skin soft while amino acids darken your color naturally. Australian Gold also helps protect you against wrinkles and fine lines by including Vitamins A, C, and E.
How to get a perfect tan indoors
If you have an important event coming up and you want to look bronzed and healthy for it, begin tanning with two or three brief sessions a week, four to five weeks ahead of time.
- Exfoliate before your first session
- Wear goggles inside the tanning bed and use lotion
- Start with short sessions, 5 minutes at the most if you have pale skin
- Be patient, you may not see the actual results until the next day
- Don’t shower off your lotion for a couple hours after your session
- Tan with 2-day breaks between sessions (so not more than 3x per week)
- Once you have a good base tan, you can maintain it with just one or two sessions a week of 20-30 minutes each
Indoor tanning can be safer than sunbathing outdoors in sunshine. It may even protect you from skin cancer in the future.
What if you can’t tan?
If you have Type 1 skin, you always burn and never tan. Or if you have certain skin conditions or health issues, your doctor may have warned you to stay out of the sun. All hope is not gone. You may be able to apply a sunless tanning lotion. Here are a few that might work for you. As always, test it on a small area a day ahead of time to see how your skin reacts.
Beauty by Earth Dye-Free Natural Sunless Self Tanner for Bronzer and Golden Tan
Free of DHA and other chemicals, this Self Tanner from Beauty by Earth uses all natural ingredients to darken your skin. It also moisturizes. Just be sure to exfoliate first to get maximum results.
Fake Bake Flawless
Fake Bake has a great name, don’t you think? Any online search will list their Flawless lotion right at the top of the results list. While it uses DHA and erythulose to darken your skin color, it absorbs quickly and lasts all day without rubbing off.
St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse
St. Tropez’s Bronzing Mousse dries in just one minute but takes a few hours to darken into a fake tan that will last for a few days. Yes, it uses DHA. Be sure to buy a mitt to apply it without streaking.
St. Tropez Applicator Mitt
A mitt is indispensable for evenly applying sunless tanning lotion. This one is soft and washable. Get two if you plan to tan regularly from a bottle.
Accessories for indoor tanning
Since lotion isn’t all you need, check out these important accessories.
Super Sunnies Evo Flex Flexible We Choose Color Tanning Goggle Eye Protection
Please protect your eyes from the UV rays in the tanning bed. These flexible goggles are cheap, colorful, and just big enough to shade your peepers without giving you tan lines.
Here’s another brand of eye protection in a discreet black color.
Aquasentials Mesh Pouf Bath Sponge (8 Pack)
Before you tan, it’s a great idea to exfoliate all that dead skin. These colorful loofas are gentle on your skin.
Kiloline Exfoliating Loofah Pads-2 Pack
If you prefer a natural loofah and terry cloth scrub, you may love these pads.
Himalayan Salt Body Scrub with Lychee Essential Oil from Majestic Pure
This natural body scrub made from Himalayan salt, lychee fruit, and sweet almond oil is a delicious treat for your skin.
Large Beach Towel, Pool Towel, in Cabana Stripe (Variety, 4 pack, 30x60 inches)
Don’t ruin your towels at home. Buy a pack of 4 cheap and soft beach towels to take to the salon or the beach.
Banana Boat Sport Performance Lip Balm SPF 50
Sunblock on your lips is a great idea if you want to use your kisser later without sunburn.
Pasties Womens Reusable Silicone Nipple Covers Set by Pinky Petals
Protect those other sensitive areas—yes, men need this too.
Tan indoors for cheap
Try these tips to pick a good tanning salon and get the most out of your sessions.
- Check local ad mailers and online for discount deals at local salons. See if employees at the salon can match or beat deals and have other offers like free trial sizes of lotion.
- Visit the salon and ask for a tour. See what kinds of beds or booths they have and how they clean them.
- Exfoliate before your session, and use a tanning lotion. These two steps will help you develop a better tan faster so you spend less time and money at a salon.
- Don’t shower for at least a couple of hours after your session so your tan sinks into your skin. Then after your shower be sure to apply moisturizer.
- Use sunscreen or protectors on parts like your lips, armpits, genitals, and nipples because sunburn in those parts really isn’t pleasant.
How to choose what type of tanning bed you should use:
High pressure beds are better if you’re pale and don’t want to burn. They emit more UV-A instead of UV-B rays.
Low pressure beds are the classic type, but more likely to burn your skin.
A booth is convenient if you don’t mind standing for your session. It’s nice if you don’t like spending time in enclosed spaces like a tanning bed.
Indoor tanning and cancer
This is one of those debates where both sides can convince you that they’re right. We’re not taking sides. We know people will continue to tan indoors. We just hope they will do it safely.
In the meantime, skin cancer is linked to exposure to UV rays (which you can get by just standing outside your house). Keep an eye on your skin and ask someone you trust to check the parts you can’t see by yourself.
These are the warning signs that you should visit a doctor to check for a problem. It’s called the ABCDE rule of skin cancer. Look at your mole or spot. Does it look like this?
- Asymmetrical—Draw a line down the middle--One side of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
- Border--The edges of a mole are irregular or uneven.
- Color--The color is not the same all over the same mole or spot, with varying shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or even blue.
- Diameter--The spot or mole is larger the size of a pencil eraser. (If the other signs are there but the spot looks small, have it checked anyway.)
- Evolving--The mole or spot changes in size, shape, or color over time.
If you want to learn more about the warning signs of skin cancer, check out this page at the American Cancer Society website.
Besides melanomas or skin cancer, there are some other general signs that also point to cancer and other serious conditions. If you have these symptoms, get yourself checked.
- Darkened, reddened, or yellowed skin or eyes
- Excessive itching or unusual hair growth
- Sores that won’t heal
How to tan outdoors
After all, it’s free to tan outside. If you plan to tan outside, you can follow a lot of the same advice for tanning indoors.
Exfoliate, use lotion or even sunblock, limit your time outside, protect your eyes, and moisturize after your shower later. Cover up those sensitive areas and limit their exposure to the sun.
Tanning outside is more challenging because it’s hard to control how much UV light you actually absorb. Take your time and take it easy.
Just like lots of people around the world, we love looking at a healthy tan. Take good care of your skin so you can enjoy being bronze for as long as possible. Check back soon for more reviews of the best products for you.