Tanning Lotions for Tanning Beds

With literally thousands of tanning lotions for tanning beds from which to choose, how does one go about making the most informed choice to protect the skin while achieving the darkest tan? One of the smartest ways is to arm yourself with information about the best (and worst) ingredients used in these lotions.

About Indoor Tanning Products

Tanning lotions for indoor tanning use are topical formulations that contain ingredients designed to encourage melanin production, accelerate the tanning process, and enable the skin to absorb the UV light among other properties.

Depending on which ingredients are used, these lotions may increase the circulation to speed up tanning or moisturize the skin to combat the dehydrating effects of the UV rays, which keeps your tan looking fresh for longer.

Because they are specifically formulated for indoor use in tanning beds, they do not contain any sun protective ingredients like sun screen and should not be used for outdoor tanning. The ingredients used to manufacture these lotions are carefully selected to avoid causing any damage to a tanning bed’s protective acrylic shields. To obtain the best results, indoor tanning lotions should be applied about one to two hours before your tanning session.

Best Ingredients for Tanning Lotions for Tanning Beds

While the following is not an all-inclusive list of the many different ingredients that are used to make indoor tanning lotions, it will provide information about some of the ones that are most commonly used:

  • Aloe: Aloe gel has a traditional anecdotal history of being a natural remedy for burns. Tanning lotions containing aloe provide a cooling sensation on the skin and may help to heal sunburned skin.
  • Dihydioxyacetone (DHA): This glycerin derivative works in conjunction with the amino acids such as L-Tyrosine to produce a brownish tint on the epidermis of the skin.
  • Green tea extracts: The antioxidants in these extracts may protect the skin from burning, reduce inflammation, and fight free radicals.
  • Hemp seed oil: Its humectants make it an excellent deep moisturizer. Humectants work by attracting the moisture from the dermis and draw it up to the surface of the skin.
  • L-Tyrosine: This is one of the body’s non-essential amino acids necessary to encourage melanin synthesis.
  • Melanin: Accelerates the tanning process so you get a deeper tan faster.
  • Tinglers: So called tingle products contain an active ingredient that stimulates the circulation and causes the skin to feel warm. They can be used to accelerate tanning in areas that are harder to tan such as legs or to achieve a darker tan faster. Benzyl Nicotinate is a commonly used tingle ingredient. Tinglers are not recommended for novice tanners, and you should always read and follow the packaging instructions exactly.
  • Vitamin A: Encourages the skin to produce more melanin so it tans faster
  • Vitamin E: Helps lotions absorb deeper into the skin and provides UV protection.

Worst Ingredients

Again, this is not meant to be a complete list of every possible tanning lotion ingredient you might want to avoid; it simply lists some that may be problematic. Use it as a guide when you are checking out the formulations of various brands:

Mineral oil: This petroleum derivative is as bad for your skin as it is for the tanning bed. Mineral oil can damage the tanning bed acrylic as well as clog your pores.
Parabens: These preservatives may cause allergic reactions. In addition, they are believed to be estrogenic and may cause or contribute to health problems.
n-Amyl Acetate: This ingredient is listed as a hazardous substance by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and their recommendation is that individuals wear protective garments to prevent exposure to it.

Shopping for Tanning Lotions for Tanning Beds

Check with the staff at your tanning salon to see which brands they carry. Ask them for more information on their criteria for selecting those brands. Once you have an idea of some brand names and prices, you can hop online to do your comparison shopping to make sure you are getting the best buy for your money on your tanning lotions for tanning beds.


Hecht, Barbara K., Ph.D., and Hecht, Frederick, MD, ‘DHA Spray and Sunless Tanning Booths,’ MedicineNet

Undisclosed author, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1321.pdf

Donna Cosmato is a Certified Image Consultant and former Mary Kay Independent Sales Director writing from her experience in the skin care and beauty industry.

Image: Alexis O’Toole, under CC-By-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons