Is there a more tropical combo than tan skin and coconut oil? With moderate levels of lauric acid, an essential fatty acid that helps to retain and add moisture, coconut oil can condition and protect your skin while you catch some rays. But since it only has an SPF of 8, never lie out with this product alone. To shield yourself from harmful UVA and UVB rays, mix pure coconut oil with a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Things You'll Need

Buying Coconut Oil

You’ll find coconut oil at your local grocery store as virgin, refined, or partially hydrogenated. Straight from the bottle or jar, virgin coconut oil is a white, solid substance or a clear liquid with a mild scent. It’s an edible and unrefined oil extracted from the fleshy meat of ripe coconut. Refined or partially hydrogenated coconut oils are also sold in solid and liquid form. Unlike pure coconut oils, they’re often chemically deodorized and bleached. All three types of oils are beneficial to your skin, but virgin coconut oil is the most natural option.

How to Use Coconut Oil

Melt solid coconut oil to spread over your body evenly and smoothly. Submerge the bottle or jar into a bowl of hot water until melted, or warm a quarter-sized amount between your palms. To add a scent to your tanning oil, combine 1/2 cup of coconut oil with two to three drops of your favorite essential oil.

Fun-in-the-Sun Prep

Before you start slathering on oil, exfoliate in the shower with a loofah brush. This helps to remove dead skin and primes your skin for a smooth and even tan. After the shower, place a quarter-sized amount of coconut oil into the palm of your hand. Squeeze an equal-sized amount of waterproof sunscreen into the same hand. Mix the two products together thoroughly. Beginning at your feet, smooth on the oil and sunscreen at the top of your feet, around the ankles, and up and around your legs. Continue adding small amounts of the oil and sunscreen to your hand until you’ve covered your entire body. Let these two products absorb into the skin for five to 10 minutes before you go outside.

The Dangers

While the high fat content of coconut oil conditions the skin, a 2010 study in the “Research Journal of Pharmacognosy” found that the oil has only a limited sun protection factor of 8. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends that you use a sunscreen an SPF of 30 or higher that can block and absorb UV rays effectively. Without sunscreen, do not tan with coconut oil for longer than 15 minutes. To minimize additional sun damage, avoid direct exposure to the sun’s rays between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.