Many of us associate tanned skin with attractiveness. Moreover it also gives us a confidence boost. But achieving that golden long lasting tan and healthy-looking sun kissed skin can be a lot of hard work. That’s when outdoor tanning oil comes in handy. It is designed specifically to help you get dark skin faster, intensify the existing tan, and help maintain your tan longer. That being said, this post we’ll review the best tanning oil for outside based on different criteria, as well as help you choose the best oil for outdoor tanning.
What Is Tanning Oil?
Tanning oil for outside usually consists of oil blend that accelerates natural tanning process. This type of oil is also known as suntan oil or tan accelerator oil. Once applied, tanning oil forms a film over the skin surface, and this film attracts more UV rays. As a result of more UV light, the body increases its natural melanin production, which speeds up tanning process and skin gets dark faster.
But some people confuse tanning oils with self tanners, which utilize skin-coloring pigments and turn your skin darker after few hours of application. To point out, you actually need to be outside on the sun for tanning oil to work.
That being said, tanning oils should be used with caution since they provide very little or no UV protection. For example, most tanning oils for outside include minimal amount of sunscreen (SPF 0 – SPF 15).
Overall, suntan oils work best for those who already have tanned skin and want to deepen their tan, or for those with naturally darker skin tone. Also, it’s great for nourishing dry skin type.
In general, tanning oils are NOT recommended for people with fair skin. But if you do have pale skin, you can combine tanning oil with the sunblock or other tanning lotion. Simply put sunscreen first, let it absorb and follow with your favorite tanning oil.
Benefits Of Tanning Oils
In addition to speeding up tanning process, tanning oils are highly moisturizing. They spread easily and evenly, and will leave your skin hydrated, soft, smooth and nourished.
Moreover, many tanning oils for outside are made with plant oils that have natural UV blocking properties. Not only these oils have natural mild UV filters, but also they are naturally rich in “skin-good” ingredients like carotenoids, essential fatty acids, tocopherols, and others. You can find an extended list of UV blocking natural oils below our “Best tanning oil for outside” review.
Another advantage of tanning oils for outdoors is that they can be used in conjunction with other sunscreen products. This way you can protect the skin from sunburn and harmful UV rays while also enhancing the tan.
To sum up, some of the benefits of tanning oils for outdoors include:
- Accelerate tanning process
- Make suntan lasts longer
- Lightweight and absorb easily
- Have mild natural UV blocking properties
- Moisturize the skin
- Leave skin soft and nourished
- Can be used with other sunscreen products
Cons Of Tanning Oils
The main disadvantage of tanning products is that they provide very little or no UV protection. For example, most tanning oils for outside have SPF 0 – 15, which is considered as “low protection level”. As a matter of fact, products with SPF below 15 only protect skin against sunburn to some extend, but don’t protect skin from photo aging and risk of skin cancer. So as safety measures, either limit the amount of time exposed to the sunlight or combine tanning oils with other high SPF sunscreen products.
Since some tanning oil formulas include darkening oils they can stain light color clothing. This can happen if oil is not fully absorbed or if you are using deep darkening tanning oils that include walnut shell, walnut oil or cacao oil. That being said, here are few disadvantages of using tanning oils for outside:
- Don’t provide adequate sun protection
- Sunburn or photodamage is possible
- Might stain light color swimwear/clothing
- Some formulas might clog pores
- Not recommended for fair/pale skin
Best Tanning Oil For Outside
Our list of top 10 tanning oils for outside includes a wide range of oils with SPF 0 to SPF 30. Most of these oils are made with clean, chemical-free and natural ingredients that are reef safe, cruelty free, and vegan. Also, SkinPerception included budget-friendly options as well as few higher end products with prices ranging between $10 -$39.
Dr. Mercola Tanning Oil
This waterproof and all-natural tanning oil promotes deep dark tan while also deeply hydrates your skin. Moreover, it’s made with 9 simple and all-natural ingredients, that are safe for both humans and environment (including coral reefs and marine life). Also, since this formula is chemical-free and all natural it is safe for sensitive skin types. Some of the skin-nourishing components include sunflower seed oil and coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, green tea extract, almond oil and vitamin E & C. It’s formulated by natural health expert Dr. Mercola (U.S.)
To point out, this budget-friendly tanning oil for outside does NOT contain any sunscreen. So you should avoid a prolonged sun exposure, and do not use it if you have fair skin.
Best tanning oil for outside: All-natural, affordable, SPF 0
Coral Safe All-Natural Dark Tanning Oil
Similar to Dr. Mercola tanning oil, this all-natural and eco-friendly and vegan formula is safe for your skin and the ocean. Even though it has SPF 0 and doesn’t protect from sunburn, it contains clean ingredients like green tea extract, vitamin C & E, and moisturizing oil blend.
Overall, this product is hypoallergenic, safe for sensitive skin, chemical-free, fragrance free, non comedogenic, waterproof, biodegradable, coral reef safe, cruelty-free, and all natural. Also, it can be used for both indoor and outdoor tanning.
Best tanning oil for outside: Hypoallergenic, SPF 0
Just Nutritive Body Nutritive Serum
Don’t let the label threw you off! Even though this body product is labeled as “serum”, it actually has “oily” texture and is formulated to accelerate the tanning process. Moreover, it’s packed with vitamin rich and moisturizing natural oils like hazelnut, walnut, avocado, apricot, rice bran, and peach kernel oils. Not only these oils protect skin from UV damage, but also they have natural antioxidant and anti-aging properties. One of possible cons of this tanning solution is that citrus and geranium rose scent might be too strong for some users.
Overall, this tanning oil doesn’t include sunscreen, but it is quick absorbing, deeply hydrating, all natural, eco-friendly and reef safe. Not only it helps your skin get dark fast, but also it helps maintain the existing tan longer.
Best tanning oil for outside: Best overall, best natural ingredients, SPF 0
Bronzo Sensuale SPF 15 Carrot Golden Suntan Oil
In addition to providing sunscreen protection, this tanning oil also includes antioxidants and plant oils that have natural UV blocking properties. For example, it contains organic oils like carrot, soybean, and jojoba, as well as aloe vera and vitamin E. Also, this particular tanning oil is scented with stress-relieving natural extracts like citrus, mint, lavender and geranium (some users found it to be strong).
Overall, it delivers a good balance of preventing sunburn and enhancing golden suntan. However, keep in mind that in addition to certified organic and natural ingredients, this formula also includes non-natural ingredients.
If you are looking for lower sunscreen protection, this deep tanning oil is also available as SPF 0, 4, and 8 option. Additionally, Bronzo Sensuale offers suntan oil with the organic hemp seed oil as a base ingredient.
Best tanning oil for outside: Adequate protection, SPF 15
Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
This budget-friendly drugstore tanning oil has no SPF, but it also comes as safer option – Protective Tanning Dry Oil with SPF 15. It does great job enhancing the tan while also moisturizing and nourishing the skin. Moreover, this oil is infused with exotic island botanicals like mango, papaya, plumeria, guava and passion fruit, which are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. In addition to mineral oil, it also includes hydrating coconut oil and cocoa butter.
All in all, it’s a good option for those with already developed suntan, and not for fair skin or those who burn easily. This Hawaiian formula has classic coconut fragrance with hint of banana, and is reef friendly and cruelty free.
Best tanning oil for outside: Exotic moisturizing ingredients, get dark fast, SPF 0
Sun Bum Tanning Oil
Another great and widely available Bum tanning oil with broad spectrum SPF 15. This formula is hypoallergenic, cruelty free, vegan and reef friendly. Even though it contains mineral oil, it also contains an extensive list of other nourishing oils like apricot, avocado, almond, coconut, olive, macadamia, cocoa butter and others. Moreover, the added aloe extract and green tea butter help sooth and protect skin from damage and free radicals.
Sun Bum tanning oil is water resistant, and has light chocolaty aroma. But, since this oil blend is darker in color, it might stain light color swimwear or beach towels, so plan accordingly.
Best tanning oil for outside: Broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) basic protection, SPF 15
Bum Bum Sol Oil SPF 30
Out of all tanning oils, Sol De Janeiro oil offers the most sun protection – broad spectrum SPF 30. Not only it’s shimmering and illuminating, but also it has non-greasy formula. Some of the nourishing ingredients here include oil blend of coconut, acai, almond, and grapeseed oil, capuacu butter and vitamin E.
Overall, this golden color dry oil is water resistant, reef safe, and is praised for its amazing signature scent. Due to its higher SPF level it is suitable for those with fair skin and those who want to enhance their existing tan. However, some might find it expensive considering smaller bottle size.
Best tanning oil for outside: Most protection, broad spectrum SPF 30
Choco Suntan & Body Oil
This multipurpose certified organic oil can be used as both indoor and outdoor tanning lotion, as body massage oil or as face mask treatment. Since it’s formulated with few clean and all natural ingredients, it is eco-friendly and is also suitable for sensitive and delicate skin.
Even though it does NOT contain sunblock, it’s made with high-quality, raw, organic cold-pressed oils that have natural UV blocking properties (coconut, sweet almond, jojoba, avocado and cacao seed butter).
If you are looking for clean and organic tan accelerator, then this natural oil with chocolate aroma and natural bronzing agents is a great choice! The bottle is somewhat small for the higher price point, but you do get a high-quality organic and multipurpose product.
Best tanning oil for outside: Certified organic ingredients, get dark fast, SPF 0
Tip: Since tanning oils provide very little sun protection it is safer to use them when sun is more gentle (8 am – 10 am, and after 3 pm). And avoid prolonged sun exposure between 10am and 2pm, when sun is the harshest.
How To Choose The Best Tanning Oil?
One of the main ingredients in tanning oils is the actual oil blend used as a base. Many natural oils derived from plants, fruits and vegetables provide some degree of sun protection. Not only these oils have natural mild UV filters and antioxidant properties, but also they are naturally rich in “skin-good” ingredients like carotenoids, essential fatty acids, tocopherols, and others.
For example, coconut, olive, peanut and cottonseed oils resist about 20% of UV rays. And according to the research, sesame seed oil can block up to 30% of UV light. However, it is challenging to calculate the exact amount of SPF in natural oils since it depends on the quality of the oil, formulation and concentration.
When choosing the best tanning oil for outside look for the oil blend that includes few of the following UV blocking oils:
- Raspberry seed oil (SPF 28-50)
- Wheatgerm oil (SPF 20)
- Carrot oil (SPF 10-35)
- Soybean oil (SPF 10)
- Coconut oil (SPF 8)
- Olive oil (SPF 7)
- Cottonseed (SPF 7)
- Tulsi oil (SPF 6.5)
- Hemp seed oil (SPF 6)
- Castor oil (SPF 6)
- Sweet almond oil (SPF 5-15)
- Avocado oil (SPF 4-10)
- Shea butter (SPF 3-6)
- Sesame seed oil (SPF 2-4)
Some of the sun tanning oils may also include skin-darkening oils that have natural dark pigment and can give you darker tan within few hours. If you desire to deepen your tan faster, look for tanning oils formulated with walnut oil, cacao oil, cocoa butter, or emu oil. These oils have skin darkening properties and act as natural bronzing agents.
Other Ways To Enhance Your Tan
Beta-carotene foods. Preparing your body from within can also help with achieving so desired golden tan. For example, consuming lots of foods that are naturally rich in beta-carotene (like carrots, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes) can give your skin a boost of natural golden glow. Acting as powerful antioxidant, beta-carotene also protects skin from UV radiation, skin damage, and reduces sun sensitivity.
Supplements. An alternative is to take supplements like fish oil, beta-carotene, carotenoid complex, vitamin C, antioxidants, which can help your skin cope better with UV light. But start taking these supplements at least two weeks prior to the extensive sun exposure.
Exfoliation. Prepare your skin for summer season by gently exfoliating your body. For example, getting rid of dead skin cells helps achieve more even smooth complexion, healthy glow and long lasting tan.
Reflective surfaces. Sunbathing near the water (ocean, pool, river) or white sand accelerates tanning since these surfaces reflect more sunlight, and help tan more easily.
Cefali L.C. et al. “Plant-based active photoprotectants for sunscreens.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Aug. 2016
“EWG’s sunscreen guide.” Environmental Working Group
Garone, Michael et al. “A review of common tanning methods.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2015, Vol. 8
Geoffrey, Kiriiri et al. “Sunscreen products: Rationale for use, formulation development and regulatory considerations.” Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, 2019,
Kaur, Chanchal Deep, and Swarnlata Saraf. “In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics.” Pharmacognosy Research, 2010, Vol. 2
Korać, Radava R, and Kapil M Khambholja. “Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, 2011, Vol. 5
Shanbhag, Shreya et al. “Anti-aging and sunscreens: Paradigm shift in cosmetics.” Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2019, Vol. 9
“Sunscreen FAQ.” The American Academy of Dermatology Association
“UV radiation & your skin.” Skin Cancer Foundation, Jun. 2019