What Can You Use Instead of Tanning Lotion in a Tanning Bed?

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If you’re a fan of regular tanning and you enjoy your tanning bed sessions, then chances are you have a favorite tanning lotion that you use to help bring on the bronze. Or perhaps you’re a first-timer, and you’re wondering which of the plethora of tanning lotions are available to choose from.

But what would happen if you forgot to bring your favorite tanning lotion to your next tanning bed session? Or perhaps you don’t like the thought of adding chemicals to your skin during UV exposure.

You may even be thinking, what can you use instead of tanning lotion in a tanning bed? Read on to find out what we recommend here at LuxeLuminous.


What Tanning Lotions Actually Do

Have you tried tanning without tanning lotion, and haven’t had much success? Or do you love using tanning bed lotions like Millennium Paint it Black?

If you do, then you’ll know that they’re great at moisturizing your skin, which is important because dry patches of skin won’t develop color. Tanning lotions also speed up the tanning process when you’re being treated by the UV bulbs in a tanning bed.

This is what makes tanning lotions different from sunscreens, which work to block out the sun’s UV rays.

There are four common types of tanning lotions. However, many products fit multiple categories.

1. Accelerators or Maximizers

These types of tanning lotions are usually the best choice for those who new to indoor tanning. Both tanning accelerators and maximizers include more moisturizing agents than other lotions to help keep your skin hydrated as it tans.

They’re also great for building a natural-looking base tan.

2. Bronzers

This kind of tanning lotion increases the melanin production of your skin, which is the natural pigment found in your skin that makes it darker when it’s exposed to UV rays.

Bronzers generally make your tanning last longer, without the possibility of streaking.

3. Coolants

The name describes it all… coolant indoor tanning lotions give your skin an exhilarating cooling effect.

This means you’ll feel refreshed during your session, and you’ll also cool down a lot faster when it’s over.

4. Tingle lotions

These tanning lotions give your skin a tingling sensation while you bake under the UV. They contain active ingredients that move more than the usual amount of oxygen into your skin cells, which makes it darken faster and allows for a longer-lasting and much deeper tan.

Tingle lotions are not to be used on the face, because there is a danger that your capillaries will break since facial skin is far more sensitive than the rest of your body.

The thing is, most of these lotions contain a chemical called tyrosine, which is an amino acid derivative that’s added by manufacturers because it is claimed that it helps to produce more melanin.

However, tyrosine used for this purpose is unapproved by the FDA, and evidence suggests that they don’t work.

What Can You Use Instead of Tanning Lotion in a Tanning Bed?

If you don’t like the sticky feel of many traditional indoor tanning lotions, you could go the old-school route and use coconut oil or baby oil. Both of these would work for indoor tanning, but neither is ideal.

Recently there have been some alternative lotions that have come on the market with a more soothing feel that may be a good choice for those who want to amp up their tan without going full Jersey Shore.

For example, Hempz Hypoallergenic Natural Bronzer  is a lotion for indoor tanning that has been specially formulated to be safe to use even for sensitive skins.

This alternative tanning lotion will help to result in a dark tan with its intense hydrating blend of hemp seed oil, black walnut shell, caramel extract, and mango seed butter. Chamomile extract and aloe vera soothe the skin with a non-greasy finish, while vitamins A, C, and E provide ultimate hydration.

This Hempz natural bronzer is also 100% vegan, THC free, and paraben-free.

Our next LuxeLuminous indoor tanning lotion recommendation is Swedish Beauty’s Shea You Love Me  is a fragrance-free formula that also has anti-aging properties to help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Its melanin-enhancing blend of skin-nourishing ingredients includes orange peel and camu camu to help give natural-looking dark color, aloe vera and oat milk to calm the skin, shea butter and coconut water to hydrate your skin, and vitamins A and E to protect against aging of the skin and improve its barrier function while you’re on the tanning bed.

It’s 95% naturally derived, paraben-free, and vegan.

What About Outdoor Tanning Lotions?

It is typically not recommended that you use an outdoor tanning lotion when using a tanning bed. Why? Because tanning lotions that you would use on the beach, for example, contain ingredients that could cause damage to the actual surface you lay on in the tanning beds themselves.

So, indoor tanning lotions should usually be used when in a tanning bed. You can use indoor tanning lotions outside, but it’s usually not a great idea to use outdoor lotions inside!

Pro Tip: It is typically not recommended that you use a regular tanning lotion when using a tanning bed.

But what if you already have a good base tan and your skin is well moisturized? Or what if you don’t like the idea of not having to use extra chemicals the next time you tan indoors?

Well, the good news is that as long as your skin is healthy, you can go completely au natural and not use a tanning lotion at all.

However, if you choose to use a tanning bed in your birthday suit, you need to make sure that you stay well hydrated — drink a glass of water both before and after your session — and moisturize your skin immediately afterwards.

Pro Tip: If you choose to use a tanning bed in your birthday suit, you need to make sure that you stay well hydrated.

Why not try Maui Babe After Browning Lotion  to soothe your skin and prevent your new tan from fading. This deeply moisturizing lotion will help to prevent peeling and flaking, as well as seal in a deep tan with its natural ingredients, which include aloe vera, macadamia nut oil for smoother and softer skin.

We took a close look at Maui Babe Tanning Lotion here.

Maui Babe After Browning Lotion, Tan Enhancer & Healer - After Sun Tan Extender Body Lotion To Prevent Tan Fading- Natural Moisturizing & Healing After Sun Care Cream- Made In USA, 8 Ounces


Now you have some options that you can do instead of using regular tanning lotion in a tanning bed. Take your pick and enjoy your next tanning bed session — and the resulting deep glow.

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).