To tan or not to tan – that is the question. While some people over tan and end up looking unnatural, others have taken to staying out of the sun entirely out of fear of the various kinds of skin damage it can cause. The truth and what’s really healthy, as usual, lies somewhere in between. And getting the best outdoor tanning lotion for your particular skin type and outdoor activities is always the right answer.
The fact is that the human body needs the sun and its UV rays are essential to our health. The sun’s light is our main source of vitamin D, which keeps our bones, teeth and skin healthy, quite literally holding them all together. Vitamin D also protects us from a few types of cancer, diabetes, and other ailments we don’t really want to pick up. On the other hand, overexposure to those same UV rays damages our skin, the first and largest protective layer of the body.
So the answer to the decades-old question of whether to tan or not to tan is simple. Yes, tan, but not by all means. Time spent outdoors and in the sun is paramount to our health, when done properly.
Here’s our top picks
Tanning Lotions to Get Dark Fast
For those who want to either grab some color on the run or attain a deeper shade of tan, the market is now check full of fast and furious tanning lotions. However, it’s important to point out that these are not a great choice for very sensitive skin or for those who spend long hours in the sun frequently.
1Black Chocolate by Tan Inc.
For those who are either on a tight schedule or want to go a couple of shades darker in a rush, our top pick is Black Chocolate from the Brown Sugar collection by Tan Inc., which claims to take a regular tanning session up by 200 times in efficiency. While we didn’t test that claim to its full extent, the fast tanning results are indeed apparent, especially for those who don’t have extremely sensitive skin but have a tough time making that bronze sun-kissed color stick to their skin. And the amazing summer aroma makes us want to put it on after sunset and a shower too.
- Super fast tan without the burn
- Preserves color and prevents skin flaking
- Heavenly scent
- Needs to be applied several times a day
- Not recommended for long sun exposure
- May dry skin slightly, depending on skin type and exposure time
2Sinfully Black by Australian Gold
This sinfully soft lotion comes in at number two on our list because it does the fast tanning job while keeping the skin relatively protected and fresh. With all of its sinful properties and some stellar reviews by others, this has to be our pick for the best outdoor tanning lotion to get dark fast. While overexposure isn’t recommended with any of the lotions in this particular category, this one offers a little added protection by doubling as a berry-scented moisturizer. Triple the tan, double the pleasure!
- Super fast tan
- Fast tanning and moisturizer in one
- Lovely bronze color, even after just one application
- Needs to be applied several times per day
- Not ideal for longer sun exposure
- Somewhat slower than other fast tanning lotions
3Virgin Coconut Tanning Accelerator by OrganicGOLD
For those headed for a beach destination vacation who have just a couple of weeks to get a tan, do some sightseeing, and rest up before going back to work, this may very well be the best tanning lotion for beach goers. Not only is this lotion packed with natural and organic ingredients that improve tanning, like olive oil and green tea, but it also contains no parabens, no petrolatum and is GMO-free. We mentioned the importance of vitamin D for the body and the fact that overexposure to UV rays, especially for those not used to a lot of it. This lotion, literally, has you covered on all fronts and provides natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties, all through natural elements, keeping the vitamin D in and harmful amounts of UV rays out.
- All natural ingredients
- Adequate protection
- Fast tanning
- Needs to be applied several times
- Not recommended for all-day exposure
- May turn solid in the packaging and needs to be melted in warm water before application
4Coconut Kisses by Ed Hardy
Admittedly, we were a little skeptical about this one. Because, you know, not everyone is a fan of the whole coconut thing. But the coconut scent isn’t nearly as overbearing as we expected it to be and the reason the lotion bears the name is that there are actual, honest-to-goodness coconut oil and coconut milk in it. Both are notoriously good for the skin and great for improving bronzing. With added elements that we can barely pronounce, like quad tyrosine and melanobronze, these all stimulate melanin production in the skin to accelerate tanning. At least one of those also leaves the skin super soft, so we’re happy to recommend it and, compared to other similar lotions, this one comes at a fraction of the average price.
- Enhanced fast tanning using natural agents and the skin’s own melanin
- Provides a natural, even tan
- Leaves the skin soft and hydrated
- Mild coconut scent that might bother those who aren’t fans of it
- Should be reapplied every couple of hours
Long Exposure Tanning Lotions
People who work outdoors or tend to spend most of their free time outdoors don’t need enhanced, fast tanning and they know it. What these people are looking for is to protect their skin while keeping their tan even, bronze, and well-preserved. There are countless lotions out there that claim to do all of the above, but very few pass the test of a full day out in the sun. Here are a few that passed with flying (bronze) colors.
5P20 Once A Day by Riemann
This is a long-time favorite of people who spend a lot of time outdoors and, after trying a few others that claim to do the same thing, Reimann’s P20 still took the top slot on this list. This is a very simple, barely scented lotion that does exactly what it’s supposed to – protects the skin for up to 10 hours after just one application. It’s waterproof, smooth, durable, and offers an even tan while keeping skin from burning or other damage due to overexposure. Safe for both adults and kids, it’s a winner for most families and hikers. For those looking for the best outdoor tanning lotion for pale skin, this is by far your best pick. Users with fair skin not only stand behind it with raving reviews, but some of them have gotten a solid, even tan for the first time – minus the burn.
- Unquestionably waterproof
- Safe day-long protection
- For all skin types, including very sensitive and pale
- No fast tanning on the go
- Almost neutral scent
- Bulky packaging
6Premium Moisturizing Sunscreen by Sun Bum
We bring you the entire Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen collection and not just a single tanning lotion. The brand is an expert in all things tanning-related, so they have formulated several products that are just right for lots of hours spent in the sun and even for the most sensitive skin. While we have selected to feature their SPF 50 Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray, there are also SPF 30 and other variants of the spray, allowing everyone to choose the right fit. The product can be used by both adults and children, and is waterproof, sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes. The lotion is also free of parabens, oil, while it’s hypoallergenic and appropriate for vegans. This is the ideal combination for those who would like to get a solid tan with the best outdoor tanning lotion for fair skin.
- Great for sensitive or pale skin
- Tanning and high protection in one
- Practical spray on application
- Needs to be applied several times over the day
- Not recommended for all-day exposure
- Water-resistant for only 80 minutes
7Sunguard Sunscreen by Jack Black
Jack Black Sunguard Sunscreen is just one of a slew of products from A Jack Black sunscreen line that was obviously created for people who spend plenty of time in the great outdoors. Although the entire line is clearly intended more for men, the oil-free and very water-resistant outdoor tanning lotion is equally fitting for women who prefer to spend long days out in the sun. The lotion is very lightweight, non-greasy, non-sticky and only requires one or two applications throughout the day. Perfect for those who have other things to think about while they’re outdoors.
- Non-greasy, non-sticky – perfect for those who don’t like lotions!
- Highly waterproof
- Day-long, vitamin-enriched protection
- Leaves a filmy residue
- Takes a while to absorb and needs to be applied 15 or more minutes before any outdoor activity
- Difficult to wash out
8Ultra Dry Touch Sunscreen by Neutrogena
This is the only name-brand outdoor tanning lotion that made it onto this list, and with reason. Neutrogena’s Ultra Dry Touch Sunscreen really gets the job done and without much fuss. The lotion is lightweight, perfectly appropriate for all skin types, men and women, adults and children. It also includes some new fancy technology that we can’t remember how to pronounce, but that makes sure the stuff gets under the skin and protect it, while allowing just the perfect amount of rays to penetrate for a nice, even, healthy tan over time.
- Fast-absorbing and lightweight
- Leaves no residue and blends into all skin colors perfectly
- Waterproof and appropriate for all skin types
- Small packaging
- Needs to be reapplied several times for all-day exposure
- Not ideal for the face
The fact that there has never been a wider variety of products to choose from may be one of the reasons why selecting the right outdoor tanning lotion has never been more difficult. It also doesn’t help that everyone seems to have a different skin type and different needs.
There are just a couple of essential elements to consider when selecting the best outdoor tanning lotion and it really isn’t all as hellish as it seems. People with fair or sensitive skin can indeed spend all day in the sun protected and those who only have a week for a vacation at the beach can come back to the office with a glowing tan. It all comes down to selecting the right product.
How long do you plan on being in the sun every day? Is your skin used to hours of sun exposure? Do you tan slowly or do you burn easily? How strong are the UV rays where you’ll be tanning? Taking into account just these few elements and considering them while you pick one of these lotions should have you paired with your personal best outdoor tanning lotion for good.