Best Tanning Oil

Updated October 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

33 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best tanning oil

We'd all love to be able to spend our summers outdoors soaking up the sun's rays, but most of us are too busy to get that perfect bronze tan naturally. Instead, we turn to tanning oils to help speed up the process. These oils reflect the sun's rays and lock in moisture to help you get a darker tan in half the time.

It's important to choose your tanning oil carefully. If you select the wrong one, it could put you at risk of sunburns and dry, flaky skin. Proper protection from UVA and UVB rays is essential to skin health.

Here's a short guide to help you understand what elements to explore when choosing a tanning oil.

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Talk with your doctor before purchasing a tanning oil if you're on any medications that may make you more sensitive to UV light.

Key considerations

Indoor vs. outdoor tanning oils

You can use any tanning oil when tanning outdoors, but if you intend to use your oil in a tanning bed, you must be more careful. Certain tanning oils contain ingredients that may damage the tanning bed acrylic. Always check with the manufacturer to verify you can safely use the tanning oil in a tanning bed before doing so to prevent any issues.

It's possible to use indoor tanning oils outdoors, but an outdoor oil may be better since they usually contain small amounts of sunscreen to help you avoid painful sunburns.

Moisturizing ingredients

The sun and tanning beds can dry out your skin, leaving it itchy and flaky, and this can also prevent your skin from tanning quickly. The best tanning oils will contain moisturizing ingredients to help nourish your skin and keep it soft and healthy. Some of the most common moisturizing ingredients you'll find in tanning oil are:

  • Aloe vera
  • Cocoa butter
  • Argan oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Green tea butter
  • Vitamin E

Try to choose a tanning oil that contains multiple moisturizing ingredients for the most nourished results.

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Don't apply tanning oil over a tattoo. Frequent tanning can cause tattoos to fade.


Sun protection factor (SPF)

Some tanning oils contain a small amount of SPF to help protect your skin from burning. Tanning oil SPFs typically range from SPF 4 to SPF 15, so they shouldn't interfere with your tanning. SPF isn't essential because you can always use your own sunscreen if your tanning oil doesn't include any, but a tanning oil with SPF means one less thing you need to bring with you to the beach. If you choose a tanning oil with SPF, be sure it offers broad spectrum coverage. This means it shields you against UVA and UVB rays, both of which are harmful to your skin.


Some tanning oils include a bronzer to help speed up the tanning process even further. This is a good choice if you hope to see results quickly, but you must be careful when applying it. If you don't apply it evenly, your skin will appear streaky, and if the oil gets on clothing, it may stain it. When comparing two tanning oils with bronzers, you can use the color of the oils to determine which has more bronzer. Typically, the darker the oil is, the more bronzer it contains.

Other ingredients

You may see vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E on your tanning oil's ingredient list. These extra ingredients can help keep skin nourished and healthy, but they're not essential for tanning, so it's up to you to decide if they're important.

"Always read through the list of tanning oil ingredients before you buy to check for potential allergens."

Water resistance

If you intend to use the tanning oil at the beach or on a humid day, choose a tanning oil that is water resistant. This will prevent it from washing off if you sweat or go in the water. The manufacturer should indicate whether the oil is water resistant, and if so, how long it will be. Make note of this and reapply accordingly, or reapply after you get out of the water anyway, just to be safe.


Some tanning oils absorb right into the skin, while others leave a greasy layer on top of skin which can feel unpleasant and leave your skin looking oily. You won't necessarily be able to find any information about this on the product's packaging. If the oil you're interested in has a number of complaints, you're better off choosing another product.


Your tanning oil may be scented like coconut or something else, or it may be unscented. This is a matter of personal preference, and it likely won't be a deciding feature when choosing a tanning oil, but it could help you choose between two similar oils.

Tanning oil prices

Most tanning oils range from $8 to $20 in price, with most falling around $10. When comparing tanning oils, don't just focus on the overall cost. It may be worth paying a little extra for a product that comes in a much larger bottle. In order to determine which product offers the best value, you should compare them by price per ounce instead. Divide the total cost by the number of ounces of oil in the bottle. Most tanning oils cost around $1 per ounce, but some may cost up to $2 per ounce.

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Did you know?
Tanning oils do a better job of hydrating your skin than tanning lotions, and they're gentle on skin.


  • If you have sensitive skin, try the tanning oil on a small area first to be sure it won't cause irritation.
  • Consider shaving and exfoliating before applying the tanning oil to help your skin tan more quickly.
  • If you don't think your tanning oil is providing enough moisture, consider using a moisturizing lotion in addition to it.
  • It's best to tan gradually. Avoid the hottest part of the day until you've developed a base tan, and only tan for small 30- to 60-minute doses.
  • Apply your tanning oil at least 15 minutes before sun exposure to give it time to absorb into your skin.
  • If you're concerned about spilling the tanning oil, go with one that comes in a spray bottle so you can better control how much comes out of the bottle at once.

Other products we considered

Panama Jack Tanning Oil contains multiple moisturizing ingredients, including coconut oil and aloe. Its light, tropical scent is pleasant without being overbearing. There are two versions: one doesn't have any sunscreen and the other only has 4 SPF, so the manufacturer recommends it only for those who already have a base tan and will be less prone to sunburns. The spray bottle does not clog, and you can use it from any angle, even upside down.

Absolutely Natural Platinum Tanning Oil is pricier and it contains a number of exotic oils, including rosehip, kukui, macadamia, and squalane to nourish and moisturize your skin. There are also some essential oils including jojoba oil to help give the oil a pleasant, natural scent.

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Sit on a towel when applying tanning oil to prevent the oil from accidentally staining clothing or furniture.


Q. Can you use tanning oils on your face?
Check with the manufacturer before applying tanning oils to your face. The face is a delicate area and it's possible that the tanning oil could clog your pores or expose your skin to too much sun, which could cause it to age prematurely.

Q. How long will it take to get a tan with tanning oil?
That all depends on how you're tanning, how tan you are to start with, how dry your skin is, and what types of products you're using that may speed up or slow down the tanning process. If you keep your skin moisturized and use a tanning oil, you will tan more quickly.

Q. Are tanning oils safe?
Tanning oil in and of itself is not bad, but it can encourage bad behaviors, like staying out in the sun for too long with minimal protection, and this can damage your skin. Always follow the directions from the tanning oil manufacturer and don't tan for more than one hour at a time.

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