Do You Have To Use Tanning Lotion in a Tanning Bed?

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Getting an even all-over tan isn’t as easy as just laying on a tanning bed. You may even wonder whether or not using a tanning lotion is worth it. So, do you have to use tanning lotion in a tanning bed?

You don’t have to, but it will almost always help! We’ll explain below.


Do You Have To Use Tanning Lotion in a Tanning Bed?

Although the staff running the tanning salon will try and sell you tanning lotion for your session (if it’s not included), it is not completely necessary to use. Whether or not you use tanning lotion for your indoor tanning treatment will depend on your skin type, the length of your session, how much of a tan you already have, and how your skin is affected by UV light.

So now that you know that using tanning lotion is optional, you need to consider the fact that you don’t want to burn your skin — at all.

Therefore, you want to know what kind of skin type you have before you start.

The Fitzpatrick skin type scale was developed to let you know exactly that. The scientific skin type classification basically tells you how much pigment your skin contains, and shows you the overall risk of sun and UV damage to your particular skin tone.

There are six skin types (before sun or UV exposure) in the Fitzpatrick scale. They are:

Type 1

Ivory skin with light blue, gray, or green eyes. Hair is red or light blonde. Skin always freckles with the sun exposure, burns and peels, and never tans.

Type 2

Fair or pale skin with blue, gray, or green eyes. Hair is naturally blonde. Skin usually freckles with sun exposure, burns and peels, and rarely tans.

Type 3

Fair to beige skin with golden undertones, and hazel or light brown eyes. Hair is dark blonde or light brown. The skin may freckle, burn occasionally, and sometimes tans.

Type 4

Olive or light brown skin with dark brown eyes. Hair is dark brown. Skin rarely freckles, burns rarely and tans often.

Type 5

Dark brown skin with dark brown or black eyes. Hair is dark brown or black. Skin rarely freckles, very rarely burns, and always tans.

Type 6

Very dark brown skin with brownish black eyes. Hair is naturally black. Skin never freckles, never burns and always produces a dark tan.

So, let’s say you have fair skin, Type 1 or Type 2 and want to get a tan before your vacation. You shouldn’t have a tanning bed session without adequate protection, even if it’s only for five minutes. Otherwise you will burn.

Remember that tanning bed use can lead to skin cancer, premature aging, etc. Be aware of what you’re doing to your skin.

A note on risk:

Everything we do, from driving a car to crossing the street to sitting on the couch entails some sort of risk level. Each of us needs to choose our risks, and weigh them against the benefits to us.

Choose your risks wisely, and we will not judge.

This means that using a tanning lotion while using a tanning bed will be necessary to not only keep your skin moisturized, but also help you to tan more easily. (But in this case, a spray tan is a better choice).

If your skin type is Type 4 or above, then it’s purely optional for you to use a tanning lotion during your tanning bed session.

Do keep in mind, though, that this will entirely depend on how long your session is and if you are building upon a base tan. If not, then you should probably also use a tanning lotion just to make sure that you don’t overexpose your skin to the tanning bed’s UV rays.

What Kind of Tanning Lotion Should I Use?

Tanning professionals suggest that using a tanning lotion will help you to see results by up to 60% while also keeping your skin at its healthiest. That’s because they include ingredients like bronzers that will maximize your tanning results by enhancing the UV rays.

Indoor tanning lotions typically don’t have an SPF, which is found in sunscreens and outdoor tanning lotions. This is because it would counteract the benefits of your tanning bed session, where you spend a short amount of time.

And unlike normal sunscreens, indoor tanning lotions won’t damage the tanning bed.

Sunscreen will leave a film of residue on the acrylic of the tanning bed, which will not only affect the bed itself, but also stop you from getting the tan you’re after.

Indoor Tanning Lotion by Onyx 

Onyx Radiant Anti-Aging Face Tanning Lotion for Tanning Beds - Supreme Indoor Tanning Bed Lotion for Face with Bronzer and Accelerator - Intense Tanning Moisturizer and Anti-Aging Protector
  • DUAL-ACTION FORMULA: Experience the...
  • YOUTHFUL RADIANCE: Infused With Green...
  • NOURISHING MOISTURE: Immerse Your Skin...
  • COMPACT ELEGANCE: Enjoy the Convenience...

Onyx’s lotion is a bronzing intensifier that has been especially designed to be used on the face. Best of all, because it contains antioxidant-rich green tea extract, it will enhance your face with a sun-kissed glow without turning your skin orange.

It’s a hydrating silky lotion that glides smoothly onto your skin and also contains macadamia, cranberry seed and raspberry seed oils to deliver the maximum amount of moisture that will keep your skin more youthful-looking after your tanning bed session.

It’s also cruelty-free, paraben and sodium lauryl sulfate-free to keep your skin the healthiest it can be after UV tanning bed exposure.


So now that you know your skin type, you can make an informed decision whether or not to use tanning lotion in a tanning bed, so you can keep your skin healthy and enjoy your golden glow for longer.

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).