Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?

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Is it okay to tan without tanning lotion? What are the conditions for a healthy and even tan? We have got you covered!

Is it okay to tan without tanning lotion?

The answer is: It depends. If you choose one of the indoor tanning methods, you will most likely need a tanning lotion to speed up and enhance the result. These lotions are also important for people whose skin is fairer than average, although you would want to be cautious and protect your sensitive skin.

Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?

What is tanning lotion?

Tanning lotions are DHA-formulated substances that react to the skin cells in the top dermis layer of your skin and darken them to a tanned shade. If you receive UV rays from the sun or a tanning device, these lotions will help you tan evenly.

However, it is rare to find a product that acts only as a tanning lotion. Instead, you will usually find a combination of sunscreen and suntan oil with an SPF below 15.

Last but not least, tanning lotion and sunscreen are not the same things. A tanning lotion will help you bronze your skin, while a sunscreen will reduce the risk of burning.

Different Types of Tanning Lotions

Knowing the main types of lotions used for tanning might give you a much easier shopping time!

Self-tanning bronzers

An instant tan is not a fairy tale anymore with the invention of self-tanners and the DHA component. If applied properly, it will give you the skin tone you want for a few hours. You can expect these benefits from bronzers:

  • Moisturization for glowing skin
  • Promoting melanin production
  • Darkening skin by working with natural amino acids

Tingle lotions

Formulated with nicotinate and benzyl, these lotions bring tingles and warmth to your skin, a slight flush even. They activate cell oxygenation and improve blood circulation, but they are not suitable for first-time tanning. Some benefits of tingle lotions are:

  • Soothing or tingling sensation
  • Moisturizing for even tanning
  • Enhance the effect of UV rays and boost melanin production

Accelerators & Maximizers

If you are tanning outdoor, an accelerator can speed up the process and develop a great base tan for you. These products are usually very good at moisturizing and nourishing skin, thus suitable for indoor tanning as well. Besides, they have other benefits to offer:

  • Prevent burning
  • Accelerate the process by amplifying UV rays
  • The effect continues for a few hours after the session
Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?

Things to Know About Tanning without Lotion

Indoor Tanning vs. Outdoor Tanning

Using a tanning bed or lamp is very different from getting a natural tan from sunshine.

For outdoor tanning, there are many tanning oils you can consider. It is a large number of sunscreens added to the substances that make the variety of products. You will have a two-in-one lotion – applying it to your skin every two hours will ensure a deep yet healthy tan.

However, using two separate products – tanning lotion and sunscreen – gives you more flexibility, though you will need to be more careful with the ingredients. For example, components that have been part of the traditional sun cream like oxybenzone and avobenzone are now impending for safety review.

By using sunscreen as it is, you no longer need to worry about getting sunburn when you spend time under the sun for that essential vitamin D.

If you plan on swimming after your tanning session, remember that most tanning lotions will fade away underwater. Even the ones labeled as waterproof will still wear off if submerged in water for too long.

Skin Tones

Different skin types call for different methods.

The rule of thumb is: the darker your skin, the less likely it is to suffer a sunburn, yet the cancer risk is still there.

If you have blonde or red hair, high chances are your skin belongs to the sensitive group, which can hardly avoid burning when developing a tan. This case also applies to a small number of individuals whose hair is dark.


Like every other product, tanning lotions are not for everyone.

When you know you are allergic to an ingredient, it is a bad idea to be stubborn and go for the lotion. Instead, you can try something hypoallergenic or find shelter from the UV source.

How long you plan to tan is also important, whether you choose outdoor or indoor tanning. The more exposed you are to UV lights, the more protection you need. It is a wise choice to divide the session into many short intervals.

Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?

The Benefits of Tanning Lotion

Easy to use

You don’t need to have an assistant or be an expert since applying tanning lotions isn’t different from applying other moisturizers or skincare products. You won’t go wrong or get unwanted results!


Many tanning lotions also have special features of protection against UV rays. The level of protection can also be determined by the SPF index – the higher it is, the stronger protection you have.

Although people tend to pick a product with SPF now, there are still lotions that don’t provide enough protection. However, having them will still be better than no protection at all.


When you have direct contact with UV rays from the sun or the tanning beds, the skin cells will suffer a drying effect and thus flake. If you have a lotion with enough moisture, you won’t feel your skin is dried out and pained.

Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer

Without the right protection, you will constantly face the risk of skin cancer. Picking a tanning lotion with little to no SPF might give you a deep tan, but the damage you take in will also increase tremendously.

Prevent Premature Aging

The UV rays from the sun and the tanning devices are the best catalysts for our aging process, resulting in an outburst of wrinkles and marks. With sufficient protection from the lotion, you can thoroughly enjoy the session and expect a nice tan without negative effects.

Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?

When Tanning Outdoors

Many experts would agree that the sun is good for your body and mind.

First of all, sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D you can’t get from only food. Fair enough, people who easily burn under the sun will receive more vitamin D, which makes up for the disadvantage! Sunbathing also lifts our spirits, hence we tend to feel more energized and inspired if we start the day with a walk or exercise in the sun. You can do outdoor tanning by being outside for a few minutes!

With that said, when you ride a vehicle, you might also get some sunlight through the windows. However, it is not favorable, since having the tan on only one side is awkward!

Light-skinned or dark-skinned, we all need to take prevention methods if we want to remain outdoor for a while. Along with the benefits, sun rays can be painful! Here are some notices for you:

  • Early morning and late evening are the best time for you to be outdoor, for the intensity of the UV light is not too strong. Likewise, you should avoid the hours from 10 AM to 3 PM.
  • You don’t need to stay under the sun for hours to generate sufficient vitamin D.
  • Prepare protective clothing regardless of how easily or difficultly your skin burns.
  • Change your position frequently so no area on your body ends up burning.
  • Beware of the water body. It is reflective, and you might get much more sun than necessary. The same goes for snow. therefore, you will still need to limit sun exposure even during winter.

If you still choose to not use sunscreen and lotion, be sure to seek shades and cover yourself properly! We recommend a set of a white, long-sleeved shirt, loose pants, and a hat with a wide brim. They will give you an easier time compared to revealing clothes.

When Tanning Indoors

No matter how much we talk about the sun and its benefits, sometimes you simply can’t have it naturally, due to your schedule or your location. When you rely on a tanning bed or something similar, you would want to have a tanning lotion to obtain that nice tan and keep your skin moisturized at the same time.

Don’t forget the downsides of tanning beds! It is faster than natural tanning, for sure, but it exposes you to UVA and UVB rays, which are the main source of skin damage and cancer.

For a quick and safe tan with tanning beds, read more about tanning bed tips!

Recently, sunless tanner and spray tan have become quite popular because they are not likely to put users in danger.

Can You Tan Without Tanning Lotion?


Is there a safe way to use a tanning bed?

Firstly, tanning beds are not safer than the sun. The best way to soothe the effects of a tanning bed is using a formulated lotion. Of course, you can still tan without tanning lotion, but the UV lights will dry your skin and reduce efficiency.

You should apply your tanning bed lotion half an hour before the session, so the substance has the time it needs to penetrate dermis layers and reach as far as possible. Also, do it when you have arrived at the salon and avoid getting your clothes messed up.

Why do I smell after tanning?

Don’t worry, your skin is not burnt. The smell comes from the bacteria on the upper layer of the dermis, which releases this signature odor upon absorbing the heat from tanning beds or sun rays.

Can I use regular lotion in a tanning bed?

The answer is short and simple: NO. You should never use a random lotion for your salon sessions, no matter how tempting and reasonable it might seem.

Lotions for tanning beds have special formulas that contain no harmful ingredients for your body as well as the tanning bed. You won’t find such components in a regular lotion.

What to use if I can’t use tanning lotion?

If you don’t have a compatible tanning lotion, moisturizing your skin will be your top priority. Keep an eye on products with vitamin E! It is a great agent for antioxidation and moisture thus it becomes a favorite ingredient for people who prefer a natural look.

No matter what you do, don’t resort to tanning with baby oil. It will burn your skin far more than desired.

Tanning lotion is optional yet worthy. It helps you develop an even tan while staying moisturized. If you don’t have a lotion, make sure to grab a good moisturizer before and after the session.

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So yes, you can tan without tanning lotion, but there are things you should consider. The lotions help your skin tan evenly and moisturize it concomitantly, giving you a dreamy glow. Some lotions also consist of waterproof and sunscreen properties, though they won’t be as good as the specialty products. Pick wisely and be a healthy beauty!

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