Is Tanning Oil Actually Okay To Use?

One of the reasons why many look forward to the summer sun is the start of the tanning season. After a long winter where the climate may have gloomy and cold, there's nothing more exciting than getting out into the sun again. Everyone knows that winter can lead to paler-looking skin, making the summer weather much more appealing. With the start of this season, many turn to products to help speed up their tanning process. Products like tanning oils are staples for the summer season, as they can help you appear tanner, even if you've been stuck inside for months. While tanning oil seems like a great idea for a quicker tan, it can be quite harmful to your skin.


It's a known fact that sunbathing or spending time outside without sunscreen is one way to increase your risk of developing skin cancer. The sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause significant damage to your skin, which goes beyond the usual sunburn. Tanning oil harnesses the effect of UV rays to change your skin's color. As opposed to sun lotion, tanning oils work by putting your skin in front of these UV rays. While many products claim to have UV-protecting ingredients, it's never been proven to be a safe option for tanning oil.

How unsafe are tanning oils?

Because tanning oils work by emphasizing the effects of UV rays on the skin, this product is considered very unsafe for use. Whenever you expose unprotected skin to the sun, you are increasing the chances of skin cancer. Tanning oils only serve to get a tanner shade and have no protecting characteristics. Even if you do add sunscreen to your skin, this protection would interfere with the results of your tanning oil, making you choose between your tan and healthy skin. Many tanning oils also claim to have moisturizing or hydrating qualities. Even though they may contain hydrating ingredients, they remain harmful to your skin.


While tanning oils can be dangerous, many will take the risk for a bit of color. If you plan to use tanning oils, ensure you don't spend more than 2 to 3 hours outside, according to Hawaiian Tropic. Stay away from direct sunlight and don't attempt to tan during peak hours of the day. Avoiding as much direct sunlight is key if you want to limit the effects of the rays on your skin. Frequently take breaks from your tanning to enjoy the shade and give your skin a pause from being in the sun.

Safer alternatives to tanning oils

There are plenty of other ways you can get a tan without causing skin damage. Options like spray tans and self-tanning lotions are some of the easiest ways you can get a tan without exposing yourself to the sun. While they aren't long-lasting solutions, they can give you the extra color you seek. Some of these options have their own risks, but neither increases the risk of skin cancer via UV rays. As long as you use them in low concentrations, spray tans and self-tanning lotions are ideal alternatives.


If you're looking for a long-term tan, there are a few options that offer more protection than tanning oils. Artesian Tan explains that coconut and olive oils are two alternatives that contain some natural SPF protection. While the SPF level they offer is very low and isn't considered the optimal amount, it's still more protective than tanning oil. Certain foods like cantaloupe, tomatoes, and carrots can naturally help warm up your skin through the addition of carotene. However, this option is a long process and isn't optimal for overnight results.