Can You Use Indoor Tanning Lotion Outside? Expert Advice on Maximizing Your Tan

Relaxing at Beach
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If you’re seeking that perfect sun-kissed glow, you might wonder, “Can you use indoor tanning lotion outside?” Both indoor and outdoor tanning approaches have their unique merits and the products used for each can significantly impact your results.

While it’s possible to use indoor tanning lotion outside, it may not be the best approach due to the lack of sun protection. Generally, it’s recommended to use products designed for the specific environment—outdoor lotions for outdoor tanning and indoor lotions for tanning beds.

What about other tanning aids like bronzers, sunless tanners, and tingle tanners? How do these interact with the sun’s rays?

In this article, we’ll explore various tanning products and provide clear guidelines for their optimal use. Our aim is to help you navigate the world of tanning products, so you can achieve a beautiful, healthy tan in any situation.

can you use indoor tanning lotion outside


Can You Use Indoor Tanning Lotion Outside?

While you technically can use indoor tanning lotion outside, it’s not the best way to go. There are a few challenges that you’ll need to navigate.

Many tanning lotions are labeled specifically for indoor tanning. This is primarily due to three significant factors:

  1. Indoor lotions don’t contain sunscreen.
  2. They often aren’t water-resistant, which means they could easily wash off if you decide to swim in a pool or the ocean.
  3. Indoor tanning lotions can be somewhat greasy, which might not be the look you’re going for when you’re out and about.

How Should You Use Indoor Tanning Lotion Outside?

Generally, it’s best to use an outdoor tanning lotion with SPF for outdoor tanning, and an indoor tanning lotion for indoor tanning sessions. Regardless of where you’re tanning, you should always use broad-spectrum sunscreen.

However, if you’re really fond of your indoor tanning lotion, you can still use it outside. It will do its job, but you’ll need to consider the following:

Firstly, apply a layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, followed by your tanning accelerator lotion.

If you take a swim, remember to reapply both your sunscreen and tanning lotion, as they can wash off in the water. This applies even to water-resistant sunscreen.

Keep in mind that your indoor tanning lotion may leave your skin looking shiny due to its oily nature. If you’re not a fan of this effect, you may want to rinse off or shower more promptly than usual after tanning to remove the lotion.

What is the Difference Between Indoor Tanning Lotion and Outdoor Tanning Lotion?

The primary distinction between indoor and outdoor tanning lotions lies in their formulation. Some outdoor tanning lotions include sunscreen, offering protection against UVB and often UVA rays. In contrast, indoor tanning lotions typically do not have this feature.

Most tanning beds primarily emit UVA light, with minimal UVB light. This stems from an outdated belief that UVB radiation was harmful, while UVA was less damaging. Modern research, however, shows that both UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin cancer and wrinkles.

Sunscreen and UVA Radiation

Many sunscreens available in the United States may not provide adequate protection against UVA radiation. The SPF number on these products only refers to UVB radiation protection and doesn’t account for UVA radiation. Only “broad spectrum” sunscreens guard against both UVA and UVB radiation.

Relevance to Indoor Tanning

Under the old perspective, sunscreen wasn’t deemed necessary in indoor tanning lotions because UVA radiation was not considered a significant health risk. Now, with a better understanding of the risks associated with UVA radiation, caution is advised.

If you enjoy the look of an indoor tan, consider switching to spray tanning for indoor use and stick to outdoor tanning for sun exposure. If you choose to continue with indoor tanning, it’s advisable to pair your indoor tanning lotion with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to enhance your skin’s protection.

Can Indoor and Outdoor Tanning Lotions Be Mixed?

While it might be tempting to combine indoor and outdoor lotions, it’s generally not the best idea. It’s safer and more effective to use an outdoor lotion when sunbathing outside and an indoor lotion when using a tanning bed.

The challenge with mixing these lotions is that they may not blend well on your skin, which could lead to uneven tan colors. If you add sunscreen into this mix, it can become even more complicated.

Moreover, your skin could end up looking overly oily, which might not be the beach-ready look you’re aiming for! So, stick to the correct lotions for each tanning scenario for the best and safest results.

Understanding the Health Risks of Indoor and Outdoor Tanning

While the allure of a sun-kissed glow can be hard to resist, it’s crucial to know that both indoor and outdoor tanning come with their fair share of health risks.

Firstly, let’s talk about UV radiation. Both the sun’s rays and the artificial light from tanning beds emit two types of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays – UVA and UVB. These rays have the potential to damage the skin and cause skin cancer. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays can burn the skin.

Indoor tanning beds often emit UVA rays, which can penetrate the skin deeply and damage the cells. This is why indoor tanning is not a safe alternative to sunbathing. In fact, people who use tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75%.

Outdoor tanning isn’t free of risks either. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to sunburns, skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important to protect your skin with broad-spectrum sunscreen, which shields you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Remember, any tan is a sign of skin damage. Your skin darkens as a defense mechanism against further damage from UV radiation. Over time, this damage can lead to early skin aging and skin cancer.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to forego a golden glow altogether. There are safer alternatives like spray tans and self-tanning lotions that can give you that bronzed look without the health risks.

In conclusion, while tanning can make your skin look beautifully bronzed, it’s vital to be aware of the risks and take protective measures. Always use broad-spectrum sunscreen when tanning outdoors, limit your exposure to UV rays, and consider safer alternatives to achieve that sun-kissed glow.

Understanding Tanning Products

Navigating the various tanning products can be challenging, given the array of options available. Here’s a simple breakdown to help you understand the basic categories:

  1. Tanning Lotions: These products accelerate the tanning process, triggering rapid skin darkening when exposed to UV light.
  2. Self-Tanners: These products darken the outermost layer of the skin through a chemical reaction between DHA and skin cells. The effect of self-tanners doesn’t wash off and can last for about a week.
  3. Bronzers: Consider bronzers as tanning makeup. They provide a temporary tan that can be washed off in the shower.
  4. Sunscreens: These products shield the skin from the potential harm of UVB and, for broad-spectrum sunscreens, UVA rays.
  5. Tingle Lotions: These lotions create a tingling sensation by drawing blood toward the skin. They enhance the tanning process, causing temporary skin redness for a couple of hours, followed by a deeper tan.

Keep in mind that many tanning products on the market combine these categories, adding to the confusion. For more details on these products, check out our article on what tanning oils do.

What is Tanning Lotion?

Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Lotion

Tanning lotion, often referred to as accelerator tanning lotion or tanning accelerators, is a product that enhances the tanning process. By amplifying the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on the skin, it helps achieve a darker shade more quickly.

Although many of these products are marketed for both indoor and outdoor use, some are specifically designed for either setting. Additionally, some tanning lotions incorporate sunscreen in their formula.

The crucial thing to remember about accelerator tanning lotions is that they require UV light to be effective. They depend on sunlight or the UV light from a tanning bed to activate.

Some tanning lotions and oils also contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a self-tanning chemical. DHA reacts with the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin, turning its cells a tan color. This chemical reaction is what helps you achieve that desirable sun-kissed glow.

What is Tanning Lotion with Bronzers?

Millennium Paint it Black 50x Tanning Lotion with Bronzer

Tanning lotions with bronzers are a unique mix that provides instant color. These lotions contain makeup ingredients that immediately darken the skin while still supporting the natural tanning process.

Despite delivering an immediate tan, the bronzing elements are temporary and will wash off during your next shower. Thus, while these lotions give you an instant glow, they still allow the natural tanning process to occur.

What’s a Tingle Lotion?

Tingle Tanning Lotion

Tingle tanning lotions are a unique variety of tanning products that stimulate blood flow towards the skin, enhancing melanin production. Melanin is the pigment that darkens during tanning, so boosting its production can lead to a deeper tan.

Key ingredients in tingle tanning lotions, such as Methyl Nicotinate and Benzyl Nicotinate, promote increased skin circulation and oxygen supply. However, these lotions are known for causing a distinctive tingling or even “burning” sensation upon application, which some people find stimulating while others might find uncomfortable.

Be aware—it can feel like a burning sensation!

Extra caution is advised when using tingle tanning lotions. Keep them out of reach from children and pets, and ensure you have a solid base tan before you start using these products. Consider tingle lotions as advanced-level tanning products rather than a starting point for beginners.

Tanning Lotion Recommendations

Here are a couple of quick recommendations:

Lotion for Indoor Tanning

I love the Millennium Paint it Black 50x Lotion with Bronzer. Couple that with a broad-spectrum sunscreen for UVA protection.

Lotion for Outdoor Tanning

The Australian Gold Outdoor Tanning Lotion with Sunscreen has it all. To start with, it’s a great tanning lotion and includes bronzers for additional color. And also included is a broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen.

And it’s not even that expensive!

Australian Gold Sunscreen Lotion with Kona Coffee Infused Bronzer SPF 30, 8 Ounce | Broad Spectrum | Water Resistant
Australian Gold Sunscreen Lotion with Kona Coffee Infused Bronzer SPF 30, 8 Ounce | Broad Spectrum | Water Resistant
Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection; Oil-free formula; Native Australian Acacia Extract provides antioxidant benefits

Moisturizing after Tanning

Exposure to UV light, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, can dehydrate your skin. Tanning lotions and sunscreens, coupled with the sweating you’ll likely do during your tanning session, further contribute to skin dryness.

To counteract this, it’s crucial to hydrate your skin after tanning. Once you’ve showered post-tanning, replenish your skin’s moisture with a high-quality moisturizer.

One great option for this is the Juicy Daily After Tanning Moisturizer, which is specifically designed to nourish and hydrate post-tan skin.

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Final Thoughts: Do Indoor Tanning Lotions Work Outside?

The bottom line is that while you can technically use any tanning lotion anywhere, indoor and outdoor lotions have been designed with specific environments in mind. Whether it’s bronzers, tingle tanners, or simple tanning accelerators, each has its place.

Remember, most indoor tanning lotions lack sunscreen, so if you’re using one in a tanning bed, consider pairing it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen for safety. Even better, consider a safer alternative like spray tanning.

For outdoor tanning, always check the UV index forecast for your location. If it’s above 3, ensure you’re using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Many outdoor tanning lotions conveniently include sunscreen in their formula, making them a great option.

If you decide to swim, remember to reapply both your tanning lotion and sunscreen afterwards.

And, of course, don’t forget to hydrate your skin post-tanning with a good moisturizer. Enjoy your journey to achieving that perfect tan!

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).