How Long Before Tanning Should I Apply Lotion?

apply lotion

Tanning is a great way to achieve smooth, dark, and glowing skin. Since getting a tanned look has become quite simple today, most people tend to forget that it also involves taking care of the skin. This includes moisturizing your skin to ensure it stays healthy and nourished.

But, the most important thing that people often wonder is how long before tanning should I apply lotion? 

It is best to apply a lotion before tanning, but the ideal time period can depend majorly on the method of tanning you are opting for. You can start applying a lotion at least 20-30 minutes before going for a sun tan. It will hydrate your skin which in turn helps the skin take on the tan more effectively.

For more on when and how to apply lotion continue reading below – we will cover when to apply a tan for both sun tanning, spray tanning as well as tanning beds.

Why Is It Important to Moisturize Before Getting a Tan?

Moisturizing your skin with a high-grade natural lotion can help relieve dry skin and ensures the outer layer of the skin can retain more moisture. It is not only essential for keeping your skin healthy but also for getting a better tan.

You might have noticed that certain body parts get more tanned, especially if you’re going for artificial measures. You can often notice it on elbows, knees, hands, and even feet. It is because of the fact that the skin around these areas tends to be more dry and thick.

Dry skin that lacks moisture not only makes it difficult to tan and also causes an imbalance compared to more moist skin. It can reflect UV radiation, which reduces the effectiveness of natural sun tanning. In the case of dry skin, it can lead to flaking off the skin and an uneven tan. 

Similarly, if you’re opting for artificial tanning methods like self-tanners, dry skin can reduce its efficiency. These products contain DHA as an active ingredient, which reacts with dead cells on the skin’s outermost layer.

Dry skin tends to retain more dead skin cells, and the DHA has more to react with, giving a darker and uneven tan. Due to this, it is essential to exfoliate the skin before tanning and also moisturize it well to get a smooth and even tan.

With moisturized skin, you also allow the tan to go deeper into the layers of the skin. It ensures the tan stays on for longer and fades slowly.

We Recommend:

Face Cream: Awake Humans Organic Face Moisturizer

Body Lotion: Everyone Nourishing Hand and Body Lotion

When to Apply Lotion Before Tanning?

When it comes to tanning, it becomes tricky to determine when to apply a lotion. If you’re wondering the right time to use a moisturizer on your skin before tanning, here is all you must know about it:

Sun Bathing

Lounging in the sun to get a natural tan is one of the easiest ways. However, it may come with a range of side effects like sunburns and skin damage. Here, it becomes imperative to take care of the skin to avoid any damage.

You must moisturize your skin well before stepping out into the sunlight. It is wise to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 if you are spending more than 1 hour in the sun. That’s especially important on your face, to offer protection from UV radiation. You can also protect your lips with a lip balm with SPF. 

Reapply sunscreen after 2 hours and keep changing your position frequently.

Can you use tanning bed lotion in the sun? Yes, you can use a tanning bed lotion outside. However, these lotions don’t have SPF in them, so may you want to use a lotion that has SPF for natural tanning in the sun. 

We Recommend: Sun Bum Original SPF 30

Spray Tanning

Spray tanning is emerging as a common method of getting a tan. It is not only effective but also offers an evenly tanned look.

In the case of spray tanning, you wouldn’t want to apply a lotion right before the tanning appointment as it can create a barrier between the spray solution and your skin. It can restrict your skin from absorbing DHA and lead to an uneven tan.

You can keep using a lotion for days prior to the tanning appointment to make sure your skin is hydrated and also after a spray tan. On the day of the spray tan, avoid using a lotion. It is better to avoid using any product on your skin before the spray tan, be it moisturizer or makeup.  

Tanning Beds (Indoor Tanning)

Moisturizing your skin with a lotion is also essential while going for indoor tanning options like self-tanners. While you can use any organic lotion before indoor tanning, there are certain specific options available as well.

If you’re wondering how to use indoor tanning lotion, you can use tanning accelerators before going for tanning to achieve a darker and long-lasting tan. Whereas, after the tanning session, you can use a tan extender to keep your skin moisturized enough to retain the tan.

Avoid using sunscreen or tanning lotion before using a tanning bed. For more on indoor tanning check here – 10 benefits of indoor tanning.

How to Choose the Right Lotion to Use Before Tan?

Using a lotion before a tan can nourish your skin and also improve the tan. However, not every lotion or moisturizer can help you achieve that. You need to pick an organic lotion that benefits your skin and learn how to apply tanning bed lotion.

Our Favorite Creams & Lotions –

Body Lotions –

Everyone Nourishing Hand and Body Lotion

Ancient Greek Remedy Organic Facial and Body Butter Cream

Face Creams –

Awake Humans Organic Face Moisturizer

Honey Girl Organics Face & Eye Crème

If you’re confused about which lotion to use, keep these points in mind:

Avoid Fragrance

Plenty of creams and lotions come with artificial fragrances that can have an adverse impact on your skin. It may even contain alcohol which can affect the tan. Using such a lotion might strip your skin of tan and lead to an uneven tan.    

Don’t Exfoliating

You might even find exfoliating lotions that contain small beads that can remove the top-most layer of your skin along with the tan. Exfoliating right before the tan is not advisable and must be done a day before the tan.

The lotion you choose must not be exfoliating. 

Organic Ingredients

The best kinds of lotions using organic ingredients primarily. These sort of ingredients include:

Coconut Oil

Shea Butter

Aloe Vera



No Mineral Oils:

Mineral oils are also an essential part of body lotions. While they tend to be good for your skin, they might not be suitable for your tan. The minerals might restrict the tan from interacting with the top layer of your skin.

Using a lotion with mineral oil might result in patches, streaks, and even spots in your tan.  

Related Questions: 

What Not to Do After Using a Tanning Bed?

After using a tanning bed, it is wise to avoid showering for a while. Showering will not strip away the tan, but avoiding showering will help keep the oil in your skin intact and prevent dryness. Do not shave or exfoliate after a session in the tanning bed.   

Do not let your skin get dry, and keep applying moisturizer to keep yourself nourished. Go for a light and non-oil-based body lotion.

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