What Does Tanning Lotion Do?

woman using tanning lotion

If you have been researching how to get the perfect tan this summer, you will have come across a number of tanning lotions claiming to be essential to achieve that glow. But what does tanning lotion do?

Tanning lotions all aim to make you more tanned with a variety of different techniques. Some tanning lotions are used to intensify the effect of the sun or tanning beds on the skin, Others make the skin darker through things like bronzer and DHA, so no sun exposure is needed.

Let’s take a closer look at the lotions available and how they work.

Tanning Lotion to Use in the Sun/Tanning Beds

If you are using sunbeds or even tanning in the sun to achieve your tan, you might have heard that tanning lotion is a good idea. But you might have been left thinking, how does tanning lotion work?

Sunbed tanning lotions are not like other products, and you shouldn’t use a normal sunscreen on tanning beds. Whereas outdoor tanning lotions sometimes include SPF. But what does tanning lotion do? Let’s have a look at the main types you can find, to help you choose the right one for you.

Maximizers and Accelerators

Maximizers and accelerators are the most common types of lotion you will find available to buy in tanning salons. They contain high levels of moisturization to keep your skin hydrated whilst using tanning beds.

The ‘accelerating’ or ‘maximizing’ effect comes from ingredients in the lotion like psoralen and tyrosine, which stimulate the production of melanin in the skin. Because melanin is responsible for skin color, you will get a suntan in a shorter time than normal.

These lotions can also protect your skin from burning but that is more common is outdoor tanning lotions. It’s important to consult a technician at the salon if your skin is particularly sensitive to burning. You will also find that with these lotions, your color will continue to develop after using the sunbeds.

Tingle Lotions

Tingle tanning lotions are also popular amongst more experienced tanners. The lotions give the same hydrating effect as the others, but work in a slightly different way.

Tingle lotions contain ingredients that increase blood and oxygen circulation to the epidermis (the surface layer of skin). They get their name from the tingling sensation you feel as this happens.

When blood and oxygen flow to the surface of your skin, it stimulates melanin production, so again, you are able to get a darker, long-lasting color in a shorter time.

It is not recommended to use tingle lotions during your first tanning sessions, as the chemicals are powerful, so it is important to see how your skin reacts with more gentle lotions first. They are a well-loved favorite amongst regular visitors, however.

How to Apply Tanning Lotion for a Tanning Bed

So, you’ve found the perfect lotion, you’re ready to tan, lotion-in-hand, thinking, ‘what now?’ Unfortunately, you’re going to need to go back a few steps before applying the lotion to your skin.

Preparing for applying your tanning lotion is just as important as applying the lotion itself. Remember, you are using lotion to achieve a more even glow, so you need to give it a smooth and clean surface to work with!

It is vital to shower and exfoliate before visiting tanning beds. This will remove any excess dirt trapped in your pores, as well as any dead skin cells. If you normally remove body hair, now is the time to do that too. Making sure your skin is clean and smooth is the first step in achieving a great tan.

To apply the tanning lotion itself, be generous and make sure the coverage is even. You might need to ask a friend or a salon technician to help with your back.

Starting at your feet, work the lotion in until it is absorbed into your skin. Either use a tanning mitt like our special Blackout Tanning Mitt or bring a towel to wipe your hands afterwards – if the lotion contains a bronzer, you don’t want it getting stuck in between your fingers!

Once you have evenly applied your lotion, you can lie back, relax, and let the bed and the lotion work their magic.

It’s a good idea to bring old clothes to wear after using tanning lotions on sunbeds, that you don’t mind getting sticky or slightly bronzed.

Sunless Tanning Lotion

The other major tanning lotions on the market are the bronzer, or sunless tanning, option. This gives you the opportunity to get a great tan, without any time spent on sunbeds or sunbathing outside.

Sunless tanning lotions are becoming more and more popular as people become more aware of the health-risks associated with sun exposure. Natural tans look great, but they do come with some risk.

Natural tans are actually a sign of skin cell damage. Over time, this can lead to early signs of aging like wrinkles and age spots.

Fake tan might bring images to your mind of orange, patchy skin and send fear through your spine. But the products have come a long way since the 90s, and it is absolutely possible to achieve an even, natural-looking tan with these lotions.

Sunless tanning lotions come in a variety of forms. There are temporary bronzing lotions, gradual tan building moisturizers, and long-lasting lotions.

Temporary bronzing lotions contain make-up to give your skin a bronzed sheen. They are a great option if you want to top up your tan for a night out, as they hydrate the skin as well as give a bit of color. It is important to remember, however, that the color that comes from make-up is temporary, so will wash off in the shower.

Gradual tan building moisturizers add a very light layer of color to your skin, with the main component being the hydrating moisturizer. These are a great option to build into your skincare routine if you want to have a bit of color year-round.

Long-lasting sunless tanning lotions contain a cosmetic layer of color, as well as an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), that reacts with your skin to give you a longer-lasting tan.

When you apply this kind of lotion, it is important to wait about eight hours for those reactions to take place. You then simply shower off the cosmetic layer and are left with a golden glow that will stick around.

How Long Does Tanning Lotion Last on Skin?

Okay, so sunless tanning lotions sound amazing, but how long do the effects last?

Sunless tanning lotions come in a variety of forms, as I mentioned above, so how long they last totally depends on the product you choose.

A bronzing lotion will be temporary but will last until you have a shower and wash off the product. Gradual tan moisturizers need to be used daily to keep up the bronzing effect, which is why it’s a good idea to build one into your normal night-time skincare routine.

Sunless tanning lotions that contain DHA will last longer. Because the ingredient reacts with your skin to achieve the color, it will not wash off in the shower or whilst swimming. You can expect the color to last about seven days.

Related Questions

What Are the Benefits of Using Tanning Lotion?

One of the benefits is that the skin stays well hydrated to counteract the drying effect of UV rays. Furthermore, tanning lotions can enhance the effects of the UV rays, meaning you don’t need to stay as long on the tanning bed to achieve great results.

If you use a sunless tanning lotion, the enormous benefit is that you can achieve a bronzed look without the dangers posed by sun exposure. Sunless tanning lotions are also very hydrating for the skin.

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