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Certain oils, such as coconut, can condition and protect your skin while you tan. Coconut oil contains moderate levels of lauric acid, an essential fatty acid that helps to retain and add moisture to the skin. However, because the oil has a limited sun protection factor, or SPF, of 8, never tan outdoors with this product alone. To protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, mix pure coconut oil with a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher.

Coconut Oil Clues

Buy coconut oil at your local grocery or health food store. You will find it in virgin, refined and partially hydrogenated formulations. Straight from the bottle or jar, virgin coconut oil is a white, solid substance or a clear liquid with a mild scent. It is 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 are chemically deodorized and bleached. All three types of oils are beneficial to your skin when tanning outdoors, but virgin coconut oil is the only chemical-free option.

Smooth Consistency

Liquefy solid coconut oil to spread over your body evenly and smoothly. Submerge the bottle or jar into a pan or bowl of hot water for 15 minutes or more, or rub a quarter-sized amount of the oil in your palms. To add a scent to your tanning oil, combine 1/2 cup of coconut oil with two to three drops of gardenia fragrance or gardenia oil.

Fun-in-the-Sun Prep

Before you start slathering your skin with oil, exfoliate your skin in the shower with a loofah brush. The loofah helps to remove dead skin, and allows your skin to tan smoothly and evenly. After your shower, place a quarter-sized amount of the liquefied 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 mixture at the top of your feet, around the ankles and up and around your calves. Continue adding small amounts of the oil and sunscreen to your hand until you've covered your entire body, except around the eyes. Let these two products seep into the skin for five minutes before you begin tanning.

The Dangers

While the high-fat content of coconut oil conditions the skin, a 2010 study in the “Journal of Pharmacognosy Research" 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 product with a SPF of 30 or higher that can block and absorb UV rays effectively. Without sunscreen, do not tan with coconut oil alone for longer than 15 minutes, reports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website. To minimize additional sun damage, avoid direct exposure to the sun’s rays between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

About the Author

Mimi Abney

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.