The Truth About Using Baby Oil For Tanning

There are numerous reasons why people enjoy tanning. A 1992 survey in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology even found that participants with medium-tanned skin enjoyed more attention from the opposite sex and therefore felt more confident about their appearance. Tanned applicants, as noted in a 2015 study in the North American Journal of Psychology, got rated more favorably by employers compared to those who were non-tanned. Besides, the soothing process of natural tanning also releases endorphins that make you feel comfortable and boost your mood.

Nonetheless, given the busy life that we lead today, not many of us have the time to lounge in the good old sun until we get the tan we want. For this reason, many people who desire healthy, glowing darker skin use baby oil for a quick fix. Baby oil is generally composed of unscented mineral oil blended with a dash of fragrance and moisturizer. When applied, the oil rests on the skin's surface and therefore softens the skin. 

On top of that, baby oil can help your skin tan faster, dermatologist Michele Farber told Byrdie. So, here comes the question that's as old as the sun: is baby oil the perfect approach to a quicker tan, and how safe it is to use in the sun?

Baby oil does help you tan faster

The truth is, baby oil does help you get a good, even tan faster. The science behind this is that baby oil can draw the UVA and UVB rays directly to the skin, amplify their intensity, and help them penetrate further into the skin. This is why many hardcore tanners wear baby oil in the sun to get a smoother, deeper tan, as naturopath Dr. Kim Harris told My Imperfect Life. "Once you apply the baby oil, you can feel the sunlight getting into your skin," dermatologist Dr. Ahmad Fayyaz Chaudhry explained to My Imperfect Life. 

Unlike traditional tanning lotions, which usually leave your skin sticky, baby oil hydrates your skin and keeps you comfortable throughout the tanning process, per Talking Tan. Another benefit of wearing baby oil is that it doesn't leave any stains on your clothes, while tanning lotions might. So, basically, baby oil is an excellent solution if you want to tan darker and faster in the sun. 

Wearing baby oil in the sun puts your skin at risk

Unlike sunscreen, which has ingredients that stave harmful UV radiation off your skin, baby oil does the exact opposite. It doesn't contain any sun protection factor (SPF) and acts as a conduit that invites harmful rays to go deeper into your skin, per Tanning Crush. Sunburn, melisma, and freckles are some of the irritating short-term effects of tanning in the sun with baby oil on. Sunburn can occur in as little as 11 minutes if baby oil is used prior to sunbathing.

According to Insider, penetration of UV rays into your skin can break down collagen, a protein that keeps your skin from sagging. Once collagen is down, the skin sags and wrinkles. For this reason, excessive sun exposure, even with sunscreen, can speed up aging.

Overexposure to UV rays puts frequent tanners at risk for skin cancer, a prevalent cancer that affects one in five Americans, per the American Academy of Dermatology. Recreational tanning, as explained by Cancer.Net, has been associated with non-melanoma and melanoma cancers. Melanoma, the rarest and most malign kind of skin cancer, is capable of spreading to other organs if not treated promptly.

The next time you think about tanning or adding baby oil to get better tanning results, consider the risks you're putting your skin through. The tan might lend you a healthy glow, but it could also weaken your skin over time.