Did you know, tanning became a trend back in the 1920s? A fashion designer accidentally spent too much time in the sun and emerged on the red carpet looking golden and fabulous.
Ever since then tanning has become a popular summer trend and the market for products to help you achieve that golden glow keeps growing. Amongst these products is tanning oil.
Tanning oils work by amplifies the sun’s UV rays onto your skin. The UV rays boost the production of melanin (a pigment that naturally exists in your skin) and so the more the melanin, the darker you look!
So, then you need to select the best tanning oil as your summer staple.
Just don’t forget your SPF as well, so you don’t burn! Additionally, there are sunless tanners that temporarily stain your skin, giving you that ‘fresh-from-the-beach’ glow.
Let’s have a look at a few of our favorites.
The 10 Best Tanning Oils
1. COCoSOLIS CHOCO Sun Tan & Body Oil
Chocolate and coconut? Yes, please! This oil is made with a luscious combination of cold-pressed coconut oil, cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, and avocado oil. These oils fight off free radicals while ensuring you get the best of the sun (or even the sunbed).
Alternatively, you can use it as a simple moisturizer all year round – especially if you have dry skin! Simply work it into your skin 10 minutes before going out into the sun. This is a good tanning oil to keep in your beach bag at all times.
- It doubles up as a moisturizer so if you have dry skin, you can use it daily
- This tanning oil contains Vitamin E to make your skin soft and supple
- Did we mention that it smells like chocolate? Yum
- It does not contain any added dyes or pigment, so its white tee friendly
2. Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil
Josie Maran creates products using the highly coveting Argan Oil that is sourced directly from the plantations in Morocco. This blend contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is the active ingredient in sunless tanning products. When applied, DHA reacts with the top layer of skin cells, temporarily darkening them, so as to simulate a tan.
Pro tip: this self-tanner works best if you exfoliate before treatment. So, all you beauties that are sensitive to the sun, but still covet that gorgeous glow this is the perfect product for you.
- It’s lightweight and super fast absorbing
- It hydrates the skin, leaving it smooth and well-loved
- This self-tanner has a subtle yet buildable color
- Its vegan, cruelty, and synthetic fragrance-free, so it’s great for your conscious as well as your skin
3. Golden Star Beauty Self Tanner
This product has made our hot list because it has a very interesting texture. This is a dry oil that sprays onto your skin for a streak-free sunless tan. But that’s not even the best part; it has been formulated with hyaluronic acid and other organic oils to ensure your skin feels hydrated and plump and gorgeous! The ease of this product is that this is a tanning oil that works and is great for your skin.
Moreover, it doesn’t stain your clothes nor does it have any unpleasant smell. Use this self-tanner for a golden glow all year around.
- This self-tanner contains powerhouse oils such as Jojoba oil, avocado oil, and macadamia oil, so you know your skin is in for a treat!
- This formula is certified organic, so it is excellent for sensitive skin
- It gives you a natural glowing tan all without having to expose your skin to the sun
- No need to fear those awful orange streaks and no unsightly stains on your clothes
4. Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Self Tanning Dry Oil
If you’re looking for a year-round glow that hydrates your skin while developing into a gorgeous, glowy tan, this is the perfect product for you! This is a tanning oil that works wonders! Bondi Sands self-tanner has a spray nozzle, so you can simply mist your body for an even tan. So, say goodbye to streaks and orange hands!
We do recommend that you exfoliate well before applying the self-tanner, so the color develops evenly and that there are no odd patches.
- The formula has been enriched with argan oil to leave the skin moisturized and soft
- Want a deeper tan? Then just reapply after 30 minutes of the first application and get your glow on!
- It has been infused with coconut oil for a delicious coconut scent
- Also, it is vegan and cruelty-free, which means no bunnies were involved in the making of this product
5. Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil
Meet your new summer bestie! For us, this is the best tanning oil for the beach. Simply work it into your skin 10 minutes before going into the sun and prepare for the best tanning experience ever! You can even use this tanning oil in a tanning bed, however, we do recommend using an SPF as well, just to ensure that your skin remains protected.
This product has been formulated using powerhouse products to make sure that your skin remains hydrated and nourished. Oh, and did we mention that it smells divine too?
- It is packed to the brim with powerhouse ingredients, including Rosehip oil
- It is cruelty-free and vegan as it uses squalene created from olives
- It is infused with vitamins to protects your skin from peeling after sunbathing
- Smells delicious!
6. COCOOIL Tanning Oil
Tanning oil with SPF? Sign us up! This is among the best suntan oils and we love it because it puts you in mind of summer, all year round. The delicious aroma of coconuts perfumes your skin naturally, as this oil is made of cold-pressed organic coconut oil.
If you’re looking for additional sun protection, we advise that you use your favorite SPF product on your skin first and let it soak in for 10 minutes before applying COCOOIL liberally to your skin. SPFs are typically water-based, so, by applying the COCOOIL overtop, you can lock in the SPF and keep your skin protected from the UVA and UVB rays.
- Created using fair trade coconuts only
- It contains natural botanicals that work to give you a beautifully bronzed tan
- Hydrates and protects the skin
- It contains SPF
- It is organic and 100% cruelty-free!
7. Sun Bum Tanning Oil
You’re in for the tan of your life! This is amongst the best dark tanning oils we have tried! The formula contains two wonderful ingredients that every tan-seeker needs: SPF and an accelerant! The SPF goes a long way to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays while the accelerant revs up the tanning process, ensuring an even and deep tan, while you soak up the sun.
What’s more, this formula has been made with skin-nourishing ingredients, such as aloe vera, green tea, argan oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Plus, it smells like tropical fruit, so who wouldn’t want that all over them! We recommend applying it liberally over your skin before settling onto your beach towel. You can also apply additional SPF (if needed) before applying this tanning oil.
- This sun tanning oil contains SPF
- It also smells delicious
- The aloe vera in the formula soothes the skin after a day out in the sun
- It can be used as a moisturizer all year round
- It is free of all the important things: gluten, cruelty, and paraben-free!
8. Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
Hands down, this is the best drugstore tanning oil that we have found. Hawaiian Tropic is an easily available brand that has been trusted by sun-seekers everywhere! Be warned though, this product has no sun protect, therefore we highly recommend layering it up with your favorite SPF.
The scent is delicious and not overwhelming at all! Smooth the tanning oil onto your skin and immediately be transported straight to a beach with blue water and white sand! You can use this oil under natural sunlight or even in a sunbed.
The oil blend is formulated with rich oils, designed to hydrate your skin leaving it looking glowy and supple. Its been a crowd favorite for over 50 years!
- This tanning oil has been formulated with rich tanning oils
- It contains luscious moisturizing ingredients to ensure your skin looks well hydrated
- It is formulated with antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, so fight off free radicals and leave your skin looking bright and glorious!
- It smells like coconuts!
9. Panama Jack Suntan Oil
If you have already developed a gorgeous base tan and are looking to amplify it, then Panama Jack Suntan Oil is a good tanning oil for you. It is an amplifier oil that has been formulated using a blend of various nut oils. Nut oils typically contain skin-perfecting vitamins, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E, so you can rest assured that this tanning oil is supporting not just your tan, but your skin too. However, we recommend that you consult your physician before use, especially if you have nut-based allergies.
It has a very pleasant scent that the company calls Wisteria. It’s not overwhelming and puts one in a very relaxing state of mind. Now this formula contains no SPF, therefore, we recommend you have a base tan, otherwise, you may risk burning your skin.
This oil is not recommended for a tanning bed. However, if you are lying at the beach or by the pool, we recommend that you apply this oil 15 minutes before sun exposure and then reapply often; especially after swimming or excessive perspiration.
- This is an amplifying suntan oil – this means that if you already have a base tan, this oil will work to enhance your existing tan, making you darker without the risk of burning
- It is formulated using the oils extracted from fruits and nuts
- We would define the scent as a good balance between tropical and floral
- It comes in a spray bottle for ease of application
10. Banana Boat Protective Dry Oil
Get ready to experience the best of both worlds. This product is a tanning oil that has been made by one of the most trusted names in sun protection and is among the best drugstore tanning oils. It contains a mild SPF and sprays onto your skin like any other sprayable sunscreen, however, it is a dry oil.
The benefit of the dry oil is that when you apply it at the beach, you don’t feel greasy and no sand sticks to your body. Additionally, when you put on a wrap over your skin, you don’t need to worry about getting oil stains on the wrap.
This is a convenient product that you can spray directly onto your skin and not have to rub it in. We recommend that you reapply it frequently to protect your skin and tan at the same time.
- The spray nozzle is a fantastic, non-messy way to apply the tanning oil onto your skin
- The oil soaks in quickly so you don’t feel greasy, nor do you worry about getting oil on your clothing
- You can get a great tan without burning because this oil comes preloaded with SPF
- The nozzle has a twist lock mechanism which means say goodbye to tanning oil explosions in your beach bag!
The above is our list of the best tanning oils that should be a part of everyone’s summer arsenal. However, for those of you who are new to tanning or are unsure as to whether tanning oils are for you, we are here to allay your fears! Read on for some general information about tanning oils.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
1. Do tanning oils really work?
The short answer is yes – tanning oils do really work! However, you must know how to use the tanning oil in order to achieve the best results. If you’re after that perfect, sun-kissed, bronzy glow, then be prepared to make tanning oils your new best friend, whether you lie under the sun or in a sunbed.
2. What does a tanning oil do?
You see, by applying tanning oils onto your skin, your skin then attracts the ultraviolet rays from the sun. These rays, through the tanning oils, are focused onto your skin and causes the skin to produce melanin. Melanin is the naturally occurring pigment in your skin. The fairer you are, the less melanin there is in your skin. The tanning oil boosts the melanin production, turning your skin a golden bronze color. Therefore, applying a tanning oil to your skin prior to sun exposure accelerates that process of acquiring the perfect tan.
3. Does tanning oil help you tan faster?
Yes, it does. However, it is important to differentiate between the types of tanning oil. For the purposes of our list, we have focused on tanning oils for when you are under natural sunlight or in a sunbed and self-tanners.
Tanning oils do indeed help you tan faster as they focus the ultraviolet rays into your skin to boost melanin production. However, you must be very careful to protect your skin from burning, if you are under direct sun exposure.
Self-tanners take less time to develop a rich color, and they are much safer as they do not require direct sun exposure. These products contain DHA, which is a product that reacts with the epidermis layer, temporarily staining it. You can have a perfectly bronzed look in a matter of hours, just by applying the product onto your skin.
4. What is the best oil to use for tanning?
We love the Sun Bum tanning oil. It has been formulated with skin-friendly ingredients and it also contains SPF and an accelerant! It has all the things we want in a tanning oil AND it smells heavenly! This product has a permanent place in our beach bags and we like to use it 10 minutes before laying out in the sun. That means applying the oil before leaving the house and then reapplying at the beach.
If you have dry skin, this is definitely the tanning oil for you are it hydrates and moisturizes your skin as well as supporting your tan. Sun exposure tends to dry out your skin as well as turn it red from too much sun. Not only will this oil replenish the lost moisture, but it will also soothe any irritation caused by over tanning.
5. What tanning oil gets you the darkest?
Without a doubt, Hawaiian Tropics is our favorite for when we’re looking to get a real punch of color. If your skin has olive undertones, this product will help you attain a gloriously bronzed tan that will last you the summer and into the fall season.
6. Is tanning oil bad for you?
While a tanning oil by itself is not bad for you, what you do with that oil could bad, yes. This has primarily to do with sun exposure. As we mention, the tanning oil amplifies the ultraviolet rays of the sun onto your skin. However, those same ultraviolet rays can cause your skin to burn as well. This burn can be made worse by tanning oils, especially if there is no SPF involved.
Now, naturally, you may think that SPF and getting a tan don’t really go hand in hand and if we apply SPF, isn’t it counterproductive to the end result we are trying to achieve? The trick here is to find the perfect balance between SPF and tanning oil. If your tanning oil comes preloaded with SPF, then you must get your glow on!
However, if it does not, we recommend that you prep your skin with an SPF 15 or 20, 15 minutes before applying your tanning oil. This will give your skin the perfect amount of protection from the harmful effects of the sun and is low enough to allow you to get a beautiful natural tan.
We do recommend consulting your physician first if you have any specific allergies or have sensitive skin. At the very least, begin with a small test patch to ensure your skin does not react to the tanning oil. Besides that, tanning oils are very safe for you.
7. Is coconut oil a good tanning oil?
Coconut oil is the predominant ingredient and scent in most tanning oils, but on its own, it is not recommended. Coconut oil is a popular choice of emollient in most beauty products due to its many beneficial properties, especially when it comes to looking after your skin.
This study researched the sun protection factor found in coconuts in a laboratory setting it was found to have an SPF of 8 – however, this study was not tested on human skin. In practical terms, coconut oil is only about to block 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which is not enough to protect your skin from getting burnt or suffering sun damage.
You may use coconut oil as a post-sun treatment, as it will rehydrate your skin and soothe any irritated and red parts.
Tanning is a popular summertime activity, especially at pool sides or at the beach. Tanning oils add to that experience as they not only help the process of curating a bronzed glow, their pleasant scent acts as aromatherapy, relaxing your body and mind, and sending you in a calm space where you can relax and enjoy the sun.
We hope that our list of the best tanning oils will help you choose your new summer favorite and that you are able to achieve the perfect bronzed glow to last you all summer long. So, go out and enjoy the sun! Soak up the rays and glow like the gods and goddesses you are. Happy tanning to you!
Joan S. Wilson is a lifelong makeup and skincare enthusiast. She used to work as a makeup artist for 5 years. Joan is always curious and wants to learn more when it comes to makeup and skincare. She tries her best to make other people’s skin health better. This is why Joan is so passionate about writing articles on beauty topics. She always looks for products that are high-quality, dermatologist-tested, and does that it says on the label. In every article, she shares her knowledge to make your life healthier and happier!