Want to cross over to the dark side? Whether your goal is to look like a bronzed goddess or simply maintain a healthy year-round glow, the tanning lotion you choose is important.

Types of Lotions

Besides offering protection for your skin, tanning lotions claim to offer such benefits as providing a more even, longer-lasting tan. A basic lotion, or “accelerator,” usually contains the ingredient tyrosine and moisturizes your skin and helps speed up the tanning process. According to the American Tanning Institute, these additives allow your skin to tan faster by stimulating melanin, a pigment that causes your skin to turn golden. A “bronzing lotion” works much like an accelerator, but bronzing lotions also contain certain ingredients to enhance the look of your tan. These additives react when they come into contact with the dead cells that sit on the skin’s top layer, thereby producing a deeper, darker color. Bronzing lotions give the appearance of color, but don’t actually penetrate the skin.

Pros of a Bronzing Lotion

Bronzing lotions are FDA-approved and are widely considered a very safe way to achieve a temporary or “fake” tan. Like makeup, they work by dying the outermost layer of skin to a particular tone. A big benefit of bronzers is their immediacy. As opposed to tanning alone, these types of lotions make it possible for you to achieve maximum results in a minimal amount of time.

Cons of a Bronzing Lotion

Although bronzing lotions offer immediate results, they aren’t meant to last. In fact, they often rub off on clothes and can leave unsightly stains or markings. Another potential drawback is that the results, although darker, can be less natural-looking than those achieved with a regular lotion. To minimize streaking, experts from Tanning-Advisor.com recommend applying these lotions in the simplest areas, like on the bridge of your nose, apples of your cheeks and cheekbones.

Choosing The Right Lotion

Before you choose a lotion, it’s important to talk with a professional at your salon about your individual tanning goals. Test the lotion on your skin before you tan, and, if you see any visible irritation, change or discontinue use immediately.


According to the American Tanning Institute, a good-quality lotion contains vitamin E and copper, which, together, can unclog pores and may reduce the visibility of certain skin flaws. In addition, tyrosine and vitamin E contain antioxidants, which can help fight signs of aging, reduce inflammation and help prevent the development of wrinkles and fine lines on your face.