By now, everyone knows that lying out in the sun is bad for your skin, which means that, by association, tanning oils also have a pretty bad reputation. Regardless of how beautiful you think a sun-kissed glow is, any type of deepening of your skin tone by the sun is considered skin damage — there's no other way to slice it. Obviously, that still doesn't stop people from slathering on oils and lying out in the sun. And if you're one of those people, you're probably interested in discovering the best tanning oils — and hopefully, learning about the safest ways to use them.
If you're going to sunbathe using a tanning oil, please put on some form of sunscreen first, since most tanning oils only have an SPF of 15, if any at all. This will help prevent burning, but it won't affect your ability to get a tan. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher, so if you're shopping for a new one, check out these lists of the best sunscreens with SPF 50, the best high SPF sunscreens, and the best Asian sunscreens you can buy.
If you do burn, try to avoid any further sun exposure until you're healed. If you do have to go outside, make sure you're wearing an SPF on your face and any exposed body parts. Using an aloe gel or lotion will also help soothe and moisturize dry, burnt skin — and they also make aloe gels for your face.
Below, check out the five most highly-recommended tanning oils you can buy.
1. The Overall Best Tanning Oil
Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
If you're like me, and you grew up surrounded by people who loved to tan, then you're probably already familiar with Hawaiian Tropic's Dark Tanning Oil. This bottle is a mainstay in beach bags during the summer because of how effective it is, especially considering its under $10 price point. In addition to encouraging a deep tan, it also keeps skin moisturized using a mix of cocoa butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera. With its iconic coconut fragrance that's blended with mango, papaya, and other fruit extracts, it literally smells like a tropical vacation in a bottle.
2. The Best Spray-On Tanning Oil
Panama Jack Tanning Oil
If you prefer a spray-on formula, try Panama Jack's Tanning Oil. Like the Hawaiian Tropic oil, it has a delicious, summery scent and contains a blend of oils and fruit extracts to keep your skin soft. You can also buy it in a two, six, or twelve pack to stock up, and it also comes in a version that contains an SPF of four.
3. The Best Reef-Friendly Tanning Oil Without SPF
Australian Gold Dark Tanning Exotic Oil
For a more environmentally-friendly oil, reach for Australian Gold's Dark Tanning Exotic Oil. This formula contains a skin-healthy mix of ingredients, including tea tree oil, which helps keep your skin from breaking out. As another bonus, the Dark Tanning Exotic Oil is reef-friendly, meaning it's biodegradable and won't affect the delicate ecosystem of the ocean.
4. The Best Reef-Safe Tanning Oil With SPF
Sun Bum Tanning Oil SPF 15
Another great reef-friendly option is Sun Bum's Tanning Oil with SPF 15. It does contain some sun protection, although it's not nearly enough if you plan on spending time out in the sun. The non-comedogenic formula contains coconut oil, argan oil, and avocado oil, as well as aloe vera and green tea butter to soothe skin. Sun Bum's products are also fairly natural, with this particular formula being hypoallergenic, vegan, and free of parabens, phthalates, and even gluten.
5. The Best Chemical-Free Tanning Oil
Isabella's Clearly Gold Sun Tanning Oil
Prefer your tanning oil totally chemical-free? Then you'll love Isabella's Clearly Gold Sun Tanning Oil. This formula is completely free of nasty chemicals and toxins, making it the most skin-friendly option on this list. It's vegan, cruelty-free, and doesn't contain any sulfates, parabens, phthalates, DEA, formaldehyde ... the list goes on. It does, however, contain squalene — an extremely beneficial ingredient for your skin —as well as beta carotene, pro-vitamin A, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil. The result? Skin that's not only sun-kissed, but healthy and moisturized, too.
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