Coconut Oil for Tanning: Yay or Nay?

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Everyone has been talking about the health benefits of coconut oil such as promoting cholesterol control, hair growth, or helping with losing weight, and it has earned a stable ranking in the list of ingredients for beauty products. But how about skin? Can you use coconut oil for tanning? Let’s go on a little adventure with us and find out!

Coconut Oil for Tanning - Yay or Nay?

Uses of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is the essence extracted from coconuts. It is extremely rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, thus becoming an effective ingredient in cosmetics.

Benefits for Skincare

Although coconut oil provides little to no protection against UV rays, it can still do a lot of things for your skin. These benefits mostly come from the medium-chain fatty acids existing in coconut oil at a high concentration.

  • Moisturizing: Our ancestors have been using coconut oil as a moisturizer for centuries. If you are suffering from extremely dry skin, you will see an improvement after only two weeks of using this oil.
  • Anti-inflammation: A study in 2018 pointed out that coconut oil might have an important role in reducing chronic inflammation and thus preventing epidermis disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and more. Scientists believe the fatty acids and polyphenols rich in coconut essence are the reason for it.
  • Antimicrobial: Coconut oil can sanitize your skin by eliminating fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Thanks to this property. it will speed up the recovery of burns.

Health Risks

There are not many projects researching on the downside of coconut oil, yet a few concerns worth noticing are:

  • Triggering heart diseases due to the high concentration of fatty acids and saturated fats. These components increase LDL cholesterol, posing a risk for your health.
  • When consumed as food, the fat content is not favorable for most of us.

Coconut oil, however, has no negative effect on your skin.

Coconut Oil for Tanning - Yay or Nay?

Should You Use Coconut Oil for Tanning?

The risk of UV exposure

When you considering using any kind of oil and lotion for tanning, the first thing you need to keep in mind is the risk you have to face upon exposing your skin to the sun: premature aging, sunburn, skin cancer, and more. Using a tanning bed won’t keep you safe either. It functions by radiating UV rays, which is not different from the sun

Does coconut oil have UV protection?

It has been proven that the SPF in coconut oil is around 8, but the result is only in studies and not on a human. According to the index, the oil can block about 20% of UV rays from the sun, and it is clearly far from enough to protect your skin.

Researches point out that we need an SPF of 30 for sufficient protection, and we still have to reapply every two hours. Therefore, you won’t get enough protection if you use only coconut oil for tanning, especially when you stay outdoor for a long time.

How Does Coconut Oil Help You Tan?

First of all, let’s get to know human skin. Although it feels thin to the touch, it consists of many layers. The upper layer is responsible for producing melanin – a protective agent against UV rays that activate when exposed to the sun. The melanin pigment slowly piles up and darkens the shade of skin. It’s why you get darker as you spend time outdoors.

Now, what does it say about coconut oil?

Boost melanin production

With a low SPF index, coconut oil allows UV rays to penetrate and regulate the production of melanin, hence you will tan so much faster. Nonetheless, it is a disadvantage as well. If you are not careful, you will easily end up overexposing yourself to the damage of UV light.

Vitamin D absorption

All tanning lotions and sunscreens promise you full protection against UV light, but the manufacturers rarely admit that these products block vitamin D delivered from the sun. But coconut oil doesn’t forbid this precious vitamin from reaching your skin and getting into your body.

Natural glow

If you only tan without nurturing your skin, it will lose the structure and the shine. What is the point of getting sexy bronze skin when it looks so dull and dry?

Coconut oil can retain moisture and replenish the glow of your skin with its rich vitamins and fats.

Inflammatory and antibacterial properties

While you are sunbathing, your skin is also exposed to bacteria, fungus, and infection-triggering agents. The medium-chain acids like lauric, myristic, or capric have the inflammatory property to reduce infection and protect the epidermis.

As a bonus, coconut oil doesn’t apply harmful chemicals to your skin while doing its job. If you want to maximize the results, virgin coconut oil will be a better choice.

Coconut Oil for Tanning - Yay or Nay?

How to Use Coconut Oil for Tanning?

It’s normal to think about applying sunscreen as a base, but it is not that simple! You won’t know for sure whether the oil reacts to other ingredients in your sunscreen. If something bad happens, your skin will feel irritating and uncomfortable, and you might have to end your session early. Problems remain unsolved.

Fortunately, we have a few suggestions for you!


Choose your coconut oil

Not all coconut oil products you see are the same. You will find the labels tagging with extra virgin, virgin, refined, unrefined, organic, non-organic types. Aside from the components, how the oils are extracted can also classify them.

If you are looking for a good skincare product, you might want to get organic, unrefined oils for nutrients. They are also known as cold-pressed, raw, or virgin.

To enjoy the advantages without smelling like coconut oil, refined products are the right choice for you. Nevertheless, the refining process they went through might reduce the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

People with oily skin wouldn’t benefit much from coconut oil, whether it is refined or unrefined. A non-comedogenic product will be better!

Exfoliate your skin

No matter which method of tanning you choose, exfoliating is an important step to remove dead skin cells and make your skin ready for the session. Don’t be too rough though! Try a gentle scrub or a brush.

Prepare the oil

You can get coconut oil in either liquid or solid form, depending on the temperature of the surrounding. It obviously should be liquid for you to apply to the skin.

Do NOT directly heat the oil! Put the jar of oil in a bowl filled with hot water and let the hotness melt the solid compound.

Use Coconut Oil in Tanning

Step 1. Massage your body with coconut oil. The more evenly you apply the oil, the better your tan will be. If you are heading out, you can store it in a pump bottle.

Step 2: Cover your hair and eyes with a pair of sunglasses and a hat. Our hair can be dried out if exposed to the sun for too long, and the skin around the eyes is very sensitive. However, sunglasses might leave funny tan lines on your face, so you should be careful with them. Don’t ever fall asleep while tanning outdoor!

Step 3: Happy tanning! But remember keep the session around 15 – 20 minutes, for it is more than enough to give you a sufficient dose of vitamin D as well as the desired tan.

Tips for Using Coconut Oil

1, Use it as a moisturizer

While coconut oil is not reliable as a tanning oil with an SPF effect, it deserves your faith as a moisturizer. Furthermore, the fats in coconut oil will nourish and retain the smoothness of your skin, preventing it from going dull after tanning.

  • Be generous and apply a large amount of virgin coconut oil in advance. Since we are putting our skin on the line here, giving it extra nourishment is a must!
  • Reapply: Yes, it is a common step for sunscreen and not tanning lotion, yet using coconut oil for tanning means you are taking risk of overexposure. Adding film after film of the oil will keep your skin hydrated.
  • Once the session finishes, you might spot some sunburns, and coconut oil can soothe the pain for you. The aforementioned antimicrobial property will limit the infection and heal the burn more quickly.

2. Try a product with both coconut oil & SPF

If you love the smell and the sensation, you can find an SPF product with coconut oil as an ingredient. Make sure the product is SPF, so you get enough protection against the sun.

3. Wear protective clothing

Clothes such as wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses will protect your hair and eyes from the negative effect of sunshine and UV rays. When heading out for tanning, you would want to have a long-sleeved shirt and loose pants (or a skirt)!

Coconut Oil for Tanning - Yay or Nay?

Coconut Oil for Tan Removal

Many people like using coconut oil to remove their tan, but we find the process quite slow. The tan comes from increased melanin and coconut oil has little to no effect on it, hence your tan won’t fade as long as you interact with UV rays frequently.

However, it might work if your tan is from sunless tanning, in which only the first layer of skin is affected. In this case, you can remove the tan by exfoliating with a coconut oil scrub – a mixture of coffee grounds, salt, or sugar with coconut oil.

Coconut Oil vs. Other Tanning Oils

  • UV protection: Coconut oil has a low SPF, while most tanning lotions nowadays are SPF 30 at least.
  • Effect: You can get a tan or darken your skin tone in a few minutes with coconut oil, but other tanning oils will take more time due to the difference in SPF.
  • Sunburn: Both of these oils will not protect you from sunburn, though the risk is lower with tanning lotions because of the higher SPF they have.
  • Usage: You should only apply coconut oil when tanning outdoor, while tanning lotions are fairly flexible with a wide variety of products available.
  • Natural: Coconut oil is chemical-free and tanning oils usually contain chemicals besides some natural ingredients.
  • Price: If money is an issue for you, coconut oil will be a better choice.


Can I use coconut oil in a tanning bed?

In short, no, coconut oil is not the most compatible product for tanning and using it for a tanning bed only worsens the risk of threatening you. Furthermore, it might cause some functional problems for the bed, and the salons will strongly advise you to not use it.

Is coconut oil good for oily skin?

Coconut oil is comedogenic, hence it can easily clog your pores and trigger serious acne problems. If you have oily skin, you would want to stay away from coconut oil as a moisturizer.

Is coconut oil a natural sunscreen?

No, you should never rely on coconut oil to be a standalone sunscreen. The SPF of coconut oil is not enough to be a shield against UV rays.

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Coconut Oil for Tanning - Yay or Nay?


Despite the many benefits that coconut oil can provide your skin, we don’t recommend using coconut oil for tanning. While it moisturizes well, the protection from it is not enough for you to tan safely. If you want to reply on this oil, you’d better find a good sunscreen to pair with it!

Self-tanner is also a safe and inexpensive choice! They can give you a glowing tan without damaging your skin, yet the tan is temporary.

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