The best tanning bed lotion

Jennifer Blair

Since some tanning bed lotions can stain, it’s best to wear a bathing suit or clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty when you tan.

If you don't want to rely on the sun to give you a golden tan, a tanning bed is one alternative. But to develop an even, natural-looking tan indoors, you need a good tanning bed lotion to help speed up the process. Tanning bed lotions also keep your skin moisturized, preventing burns and other damage, and help your tan last as long as possible. If you're not sure what to look for in a tanning bed lotion, check out our handy shopping guide for help choosing the perfect formula for your tanning needs. Our top pick is Australian Gold's Cheeky Brown Accelerator, which prevents streaks for a smooth, flawless glow that lasts all summer long.

Considerations when choosing tanning bed lotions


Tanning bed lotions are available in several different types, so you should choose a formula that best meets your needs.

Bronzer tanning bed lotions help deliver instant color to your skin like self-tanners, deepening your indoor tan for a darker glow. They are usually rated with a number that indicates how dark the lotion can help you get. The higher the number, the darker your tan will be.
Tingle and hot action tanning bed lotions use heat to boost blood circulation in the skin, which stimulates melanin production to darken your tan. This type of lotion is best if you have experience using a tanning bed. It can cause redness and tingling, though, so it isn't advised for sensitive skin.
Coolant tanning bed lotions have a refreshing cool feeling when smoothed over your skin. They can help keep you cool when you're lying in a tanning bed and work especially well if you plan to tan for a longer period.
Accelerator tanning bed lotions help hydrate the skin, allowing you to achieve an attractive base tan because moisturized skin tans more easily. They're a perfect choice for anyone who's tanning indoors for the first time or tanning for the first time in a while.
Maximizer tanning bed lotions allow you to achieve a deep, rich tan after you've developed a base tan. They are a good option for people who regularly tan indoors.


Application area

While any tanning bed lotion can help you develop a tan, most are not intended for use everywhere on the body. Lotions for the body tend to be heavier, richer formulas, while those for the face are typically lighter and not as greasy. That prevents the lotion from clogging your pores and causing breakouts. Always make sure to check where a tanning bed lotion is supposed to be used on the body so you don't run into issues.



The consistency of a tanning bed lotion affects how easy it is to apply. Thinner lotions are usually runny, which means they can drip and cause a mess when you apply them. Thicker formulas, on the other hand, don't create a mess because they don't run as you rub them in, making application easier.


While it may seem to defeat the purpose to choose a tanning bed lotion with SPF, it can actually help if you have fair skin that burns easily. To prevent a burn, choose a lotion that's SPF 8 or lower, so your skin is protected but still able to develop a beautiful glow.

Developing time

It can take some time for the full color of your tan to develop with a tanning bed lotion. Some lotions take longer than others, though, so for the most convenient tanning, choose a lotion that allows you to develop your full color in just four to six hours.


You'll have a more enjoyable tanning experience if you choose a tanning bed lotion with a pleasant scent. Many formulas have tropical scents with coconut and pineapple notes, but you can also find lotions with a floral fragrance.


Tanning bed lotions generally range from $7 to $70. You'll typically pay $10 to $35 for coolant lotions and $15 to $45 for maximizer lotions. Bronzer lotions usually cost between $7 and $60, while tingle and hot action formulas generally range from $13 to $60. Accelerator lotions typically cost between $11 and $70.


Q. Why should I use a tanning bed lotion?

A. The main benefit of tanning bed lotion is that it keeps the skin hydrated so that it isn't dried out by the tanning bed's UV rays. Skin that's well-moisturized also tans more easily, so you're able to develop a healthy glow more quickly.

Q. How many tanning sessions do I need to develop a base tan with a tanning bed lotion?

A. For most people, it only takes five or six tanning sessions to develop a good base tan. However, if your skin is extremely fair, it may take up to 10 sessions to reach your desired base tan.

Tanning bed lotions we recommend

Best of the best: Australian Gold Cheeky Brown Accelerator

Our take: An effective tanning bed lotion that not only hydrates the skin but also helps deepen your tan.

What we like: Contains natural bronzers for an instant glow but doesn't go on streaky. Natural oils and vitamins A and E hydrate for soft, smooth skin. Has a pleasant tropical scent.

What we dislike: Formula is fairly thin, so it tends to run when you apply it.

Best bang for your buck: Maui Babe Browning Lotion

Our take: An affordable tanning bed lotion that still provides a healthy, even tan.

What we like: Water-based formula doesn't clog pores. Applies smoothly and evenly. Doesn't feature any bronzers, so you don't have to worry about streaks. Won't stain most fabrics either.

What we dislike: Some users are not fond of the strong scent.

Choice 3: Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion

Our take: The reliability and consistency of this tanning bed lotion make it a favorite among experienced tanners.

What we like: Contains coconut milk and coconut oil to provide intense hydration. Features a pleasant tropical scent. Thick consistency allows for smooth, streak-free application.

What we dislike: Some users experience an allergic reaction to the formula.

Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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