Tanning indoors is an entirely different game than sitting out under the sun, and it shows.
Indoor tans can be more consistent, take far less time, nnd overall look better than outdoor tans… if you have the right tanning lotion to accompany you.
Tanning lotion contains protectants for your skin to prevent skin cancer cell production, keep sunburns at bay (yes, you can get “sunburns” in tanning beds), and give you the golden color you’ve always wanted.
We’re going to start by showing you the five best tanning lotions on the market for a variety of skin types, and help you pick the best one for your specific needs.
Best Indoor Tanning Lotion – Reviews & Buying guide for 2021
Best Overall: Designer Skin BombShell 100XXBronzer
- Size: 13.5 oz
- Type: Normal Skin
- Ingredients: Aloe vera, white tea extract, CoQ-10
As the best indoor tanning lotion for fair skin – though, really, this is the best lotion for any skin – you have plentiful minerals and nutrients here that nourish your skin and protect it from harmful rays, while ensuring those UVBs tan your skin to a golden brown perfection.
With BombShell by Designer Skin, you have a blend of aloe vera and white tea extract. Aloe vera is known to repair and nourish skin, hydrating it so that the sun’s rays don’t damage it quite so badly.
With indoor tanning, this works the same way under a UVA/UVB tanning bed light.
The best indoor tanning lotion also comes with a fairly generous amount of 13.5 oz (400ml), which gives you roughly six months worth of tanning lotion if you’re not tanning too often.
Thanks to the pour design of the bottle, none of it gets wasted in a plastic tube or anything like that. You’re getting every drop of what you pay for.
However, there’s a catch. Designer Skin warns against inexperienced tanners using this lotion. Why’s that?
Because this gets intense, and the sizzling feeling on your skin (while completely safe) can be unnerving to some. You need to be able to apply this evenly and thoroughly, otherwise you’ll have an uneven tan and it can seriously mess up your skin tone.
It’s called the “Ultra-extreme sizzle formula” for a reason, so please take that precaution at its full weight.
BombShell gives you an unmatched tan, so if you’re just getting into tanning, you can always upgrade to this after learning the ropes. This can be used with any skin tone, although it has some harsh ingredients in it that can dry out your skin.
Sensitive and dry skin types should avoid this tanning lotion. Normal skin types are really the only ones that can benefit from BombShell without any negative side effects, inflammation, or blemishing.
Yes, BombShell is one of the most powerful indoor tanning lotions out there, but that doesn’t mean you can start with it if you’ve never been tanning before.
Overall, it’s an excellent tanning lotion that yields a serious darkening effect in record time. Fair skin, tan skin; it’s all the same. You can use BombShell as long as you know what you’re doing with indoor tanning.
Runner Up: Millennium Tanning Products Dark Tanning Lotion
- Size: 13.5 fl oz
- Type: Combination Skin
- Ingredients: Tyrosine, cannabis sativa seed oil, glycerin, pecan seed oil, carrot seed oil, melanin, and more
You’re not going to get a promise on “Darkens you more than any other lotion,” because that’s just not how this works.
You can’t expedite tanning and get darker faster, because the melanin in your skin can only do so much each day. You’ll find that later on in our guide, your skin has limitations that no tanning lotion can push past.
However, that doesn’t stop Millenium Tanning Lotion from being one of the best indoor tanning lotion with bronzer qualities in it. Bronzers help to at least speed up the process, so you aren’t spending quite as much time in a tanning bed.
Now, let’s take a look at this claim that there’s a “100x” formula. It means there’s 100x the normal amount of silicone located in the formula, not that it can actually darken you 100x faster or 100x darker.
It’s some gimmicky marketing because it leads you to believe one thing, even though it states another.
Now that that’s out of the way, we want to further explain why Millenium Tanning is the best indoor tanning lotion for face use and full body use: the silicone forms a bond to your skin. This helps UVB travel through, blocks out UVA, and actually does help you darken your skin to the tone that you want.
There’s even a fragrance here, too: Orchid Blush. If we had to describe it, it comes across like a flowery field and fresh spring water. Definitely something you can enjoy while you’re laying in the tanning bed.
Millennium Tanning is definitely a unique blend, including cannabis sativa seed oil when not many cosmetics or skin care products at all include it.
You get a nice color, and a solid deal. This comes in with one of the largest volumes on our list at 15.2 ounces, and stays on the cheaper end of the scale at the same time. This tends to be the best indoor tanning lotion for men thanks to its easy application.
Alternative: Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
- Size: 13.5 oz
- Type: All Skin Types
- Ingredients: Coconut oil, maltodextrin, banana fruit extract, vegetable protein, coconut fruit extract, and more
Coconut mat be the scent most synonymous with tanning and that sun kissed look. Well, in that spirit, Coconut Kisses by Ed Hardy really fits the bill.
This golden tanning lotion is good for all skin types, fair skin, darker skin, you name it. The unique combination of ingredients makes this perfect regardless of your preferences or skin type, so you can simply apply and get right to it.
Despite the excellent way that it tans your skin, it’s the best indoor tanning lotion without bronzer.
If we didn’t read the ingredients ourselves, we would have assumed that the final product had to have some bronzer in it, because this seriously helps you get that golden tan that you’re after.
Blocking out UVA rays and letting the UVB through is what you need to get a proper tan, and thanks to ingredients like banana fruit extract and vegetable protein, that’s exactly what Coconut Kisses does for you.
Out of everything on this list, we’d have to say that Coconut Kisses is the best tanning lotion to get dark fast indoors. With everything that Ed Hardy includes here, such as the coconut paradise scent and excellent 13.5 ounce volume, it really seems like the all-in-one package.
Well, minus one thing. Coconut Kisses actually feels a bit sticky on your skin, even after it’s had a chance to soak in a little bit. That’s not exactly the sexiest feeling while you’re trying to tan your entire body.
Apart from feeling sticky, this is a liquid tanning lotion, so you could accidentally apply too much to one specific area and make that sticky feeling worse. That being said, you’re going to get an unbelievable tan, so it’s inconsequential at the same time. As long as you can deal with the feeling, you’ll be okay.
One last note to add here: Ed Hardy made this with a tattoo fade protection rating in mind (making it the best indoor tanning lotion for tattoos on our list), so your ink won’t bleach under the sun or the rays of a tanning bed.
While Ed Hardy does include “Melano Bronze” in the ingredients list, this isn’t a bronzer: it’s a filler product that doesn’t really do much for your skin, so they lose points for trying to market this like that ingredient matters.
Alternative: Tan Asz U Luau Island Black Bronzer
- Size: 13.5 oz
- Type: Combination Skin
- Ingredients: Coconut oil, aloe vera, and more
It’s all about getting the best tan possible. Thankfully, with Tan Asz U Luau, that’s possible without having to spend a huge budget on tanning lotion.
As one of the best cheap indoor tanning lotion options on our list, you get 13.5 ounces (not bad at all for the price/per ounce), and a bottle that helps block UV light.
As ironic as it is, UV light can actually ruin perfectly good bronzer and sun tan lotion.
The bottle is designed to be brought with you and can be left out without the sun destroying the structural integrity of the lotion. This is an indoor lotion, of course, but if you did bring it outside for a one-off, it would work just as well.
Tan Asz wins it on our list for the best indoor tanning lotion for sensitive skin, specifically because it pays special attention to the ingredients. There’s no parabens, no DHA, and a safe list of ingredients in their 200x island bronzing serum.
The only thing that might not be perfect for sensitive skin, depending on your specific aggressors, is the fragrance.
It’s a very soft but strong awapuhi peach smoothie aroma, and it’s delectable as can be. When you’re baking in the tanning bed, you’ll be able to smell this all around you, creating an entire atmosphere for you to enjoy.
There isn’t much of a warning label here, but you should only use this if you’re an experienced tanner. This has bronzer in it, and don’t let it fool you, because it can do a number on your skin if you aren’t careful (seriously dark coloring).
The only major downside is that after using this – because of the ingredients it contains – your skin has an orange tinge to it for about twelve to eighteen hours after tanning.
This happens with other products as well and is nothing new, but it’s definitely noticeable for a short while. A night of sleep and a shower and that orange will fade to its glorious golden dark tan color.
Alternative: Supre Snooki Ultra Dark Bronzer
- Size: 14.4 fl oz
- Type: Normal Skin
- Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, aloe vera, and more
We all remember Jersey Shore: love it, hate it, plenty of people wanted Snooki’s tan and just didn’t know how to get it. Well, if that’s the level of tan you’re after, this could be the best tanning lotion for indoor tanning to fit your needs.
For a similar price range to everything we’ve seen on this list so far, you get 14.4 ounces (a generous amount), fitted with a 70z bronzer.
This includes black walnut, henna, and DHA (the DHA is a dodgy subject if you really care about ingredients), and it all helps your skin to tan as much as possible for the duration of light you give it.
For anyone with allergies to tree nuts, this is made with sweet almond oil and can be absorbed through your skin.
If you have those allergies, steer clear from this. If not, then enjoy the way it smoothes and lathers your skin while the aloe vera helps to soothe it from long durations of tanning.
Does Snooki really know best?
There’s a healthy blend of vitamins, industry-trusted bronzers, and that touch of sweet almond oil to give it some unique flair, but it’s only so different from others on our list like BombShell.
There’s a lot of novelty here, but the price isn’t inflated and the product passes all the necessary checks.
Indoor Tanning Lotion FAQ
Do Indoor Tanning Lotions Really Work?
Yes, tanning lotions do work. There’s a weird double-edged sword when it comes to tanning. Your skin needs to have moisture for it to be able to tan (we’ll cover wet skin/ocean wet skin in a moment), because dry skin actually repels UV rays. Hey, at least dry skin is good for something, right?
Your skin’s moisture helps feel the melanin in your skin to actually produce dark pigmentation. That’s important. However, the type of moisture is important as well.
The minerals found in suntan lotion help to strike a balance between UVA and UVB rays, so you aren’t reflecting or deflecting all of that.
Normally, your dry skin is reflecting up to 50% of UVA and UVB rays. It has its perks, such as when you’re not tanning, but it doesn’t help you use that melanin to convert skin pigmentation at all.
Does Wet Skin Tan Faster?
Absolutely not. Wet skin actually tans your skin slower than you would expect, but it gives a false sense of security.
Because water will offer a cooling effect on your skin, it feels like you’re cooling off when you’re actually not. Water is good at absorbing UVB rays, which are what help you tan, but that means it’s not getting through to your skin.
Instead, UVA rays – which also cause skin damage – get through that water, heat up your skin, and can expedite a sunburn. When your skin is wet, you don’t feel the heat right away, but your skin is still being damaged. You’re still going to end up with a sunburn, which is the last thing that anybody wants.
“So how does sun tan lotion act differently? Doesn’t it contain water?”
Well, you have a point. The first ingredient in most sun tan lotions is aqua (water), but it’s different than having water exclusively on your skin.
Different minerals help to separate UVA and UVB rays. You want UVB to touch your skin to bronze it, but UVA rays are just plain bad. That’s why you’ll see very specific SPF ratings on tanning lotion (although indoor and outdoor lotion will have varying SPFs).
What Part of Your Body Tans the Fastest?
For a long time, people thought that this was a myth, that your body must tan at the same color all over. That’s simply not the case.
If you had a pair of scissors and two stacks of paper, one with five sheets and one with twenty-five, which one would be harder to cut through?
(I’m going to assume you guessed the obvious right answer.)
Apply that same idea to tanning and your skin. Some skin on your body is thicker than other skin, meaning your epidermis (top layer of skin) is thicker on that part of your body than another skin site.
The thicker part is going to require more UVB exposure for longer durations of time to produce melanin. Thinner skin sites don’t take nearly as long to produce melanin, and because they require less to look tan, you may tan even faster in these areas.
Skin cell size, skin thickness, oil glands, and everything about your skin can differ from one skin site to the next. That’s also the reason why you have body moisturizer and facial moisturizer in separate categories with different formulas, by the way.
Thinner areas of your body will tan faster, meaning your face, your hands, wrists, and joint areas more than anything else.
One area that tans slowly (despite what people tell you) is your buttocks. In fact, some sensitive areas that you would tan in the buff (whether on a tanning bed or in the great outdoors) will tan slower than other areas.
Spots like your back and the back of your legs/knees will tan slow. It should also be noted that freckled skin tends to tan slowly compared to even-toned skin, so that will make any area on your body harder to tan.
Why do I Tan Red Instead of Brown?
Melanin exists in your skin right now. It’s what turns darker as you tan to give you a solid color. By definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, melanin is:
“Any of various black, dark brown, reddish-brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (such as skin or hair)”
It exists in your skin and gives coloration when the sun touches it. Dark-skinned and black-skinned people have more melanin, which means better protection from the sun and a higher unlikeliness to develop a sunburn.
Pink-skinned and fair-skinned people have almost no melanin, so there’s nothing to transfer those UVB rays into a darker skin pigment.
So you’re not really tanning “red”, you’re just developing a sunburn. If you feel like you’re getting a reddish-brown color, as stated in the Merriam-Webster definition of melanin, then you’re just a hare’s breath below getting a sunburn, or you do have a sunburn but it’s mild and you can’t feel it.
If you’ve ever had someone tell you that your neck looked a little sunburned (remember that skin is thinner in some areas, and the neck is one of them), but you didn’t feel like you had a sunburn, you must have just begun to get one before getting out of the sun.
Can You Get a Tan in a Tanning Bed Without Indoor Tanning Lotion?
Yes, you can, but you can also get cancer this way. We’re going to take a wild assumption and figure that you don’t want to add any factors to potential skin cancer.
Tanning lotion comes with UVA protection. It allows just enough in (like a normal ray-from-the-sun amount), but it mostly allows UVB light to penetrate and force that melanin to change your skin pigmentation.
Technically, you can get a tan, but you would spend the same amount of time without lotion for half the tan. Using sun tan lotion helps you reach your plateau faster, so you aren’t wasting time, and so you aren’t increasing your chances of developing skin cancer.
Indoor Tanning Done to the Max
Indoor tanning requires different minerals, and arguably stronger UVB protection. These indoor lotion formulas are designed to help you get a better indoor tan, but to also protect your skin and prevent burning (that is, if you follow the instructions appropriately, of course).
Now that you have the best indoor tanning lotion ready to ship out, be sure that you use our tips for indoor (and outdoor) tanning to stay safe, and get the best possible color that you can.