Want to cross over to the dark side? Whether you want to look like a bronzed goddess or simply maintain a healthy year-round glow, the tanning lotion you choose can help you achieve your goal. You can either start with a base tan and maintain the look with regular lotion application, or bronze yourself instantly for immediate results.

Relaxing and Sunbathing at Sun

Types of Lotions

Besides moisturizing skin and protecting it from signs of aging, 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 more quickly by stimulating melanin, a pigment that causes your skin to turn golden. This type of lotion is ideal for achieving a base tan. A "bronzing lotion" works much like an accelerator, but bronzing lotions also contain ingredients to enhance the look of your base 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 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 lotion 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 tanning lotion. For streak-free results, exfoliate and moisturize skin prior to application, paying extra attention to dry areas such as knees and feet.


Look for lotions with ingredients that nourish and moisturize the skin, such as plant oils and extracts, shea butter, aloe vera, coconut oil, green tea extract and vitamin E, which are healthier moisturizers than mineral oil or lanolin. 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.

Choosing The Right Lotion

Before you choose a lotion, 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.