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Ranking The Best Tanning Oils of 2021

Best Premium Choice

Bum Bum Sol Oil

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Best Overall Choice

Sun Bum Tanning Oil

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Best Budget Choice

Panama Jack Amplifying Oil

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Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on June 8, 2021.

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Tanning oils have come a long way. Once upon a time people might run some sunflower seed oil or baby oil on their skin and head to the beach. Once we learned about the harmful effects of UV rays, the industry changed. That didn’t make tanning oils go away, though. Choosing the best tanning oil means picking one that can accelerate a tan. But also not to damage your skin. Remember, these are different than tanning lotions. You want to be able to moisturize and get darker. Let’s take a look at some of the best tanning oils on the market.

Best Premium Choice

1. Bum Bum Sol Oil

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If you trust that the people of Brazil know about tanning, try some Bum Bum tanning oil. The price point is at the higher end of the spectrum but it’s well worth it. The smell is totally unlike any other oil on the market. It’s nutty and sweet and will make you think of a tropical dessert. Definitely a high point.

The oil goes on dry and smooth. It won’t make a sloppy mess that leaves you feeling greasy. It also provides a brilliant shimmer to your skin.

The SPF on this is 30 which puts it much higher than other oils. Still be careful if you spend too long in the sun. We found it works best when you already have a bit of a base tan. That’s not to say it can’t be used on untanned skin by any means. It just might offer a smoother, more even color with a solid base.

Best Overall Choice

2. Sun Bum Tanning Oil

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Sun Bum has put together a great mix of oils here. Featuring coconut, avocado oils, argan, and marula oils. This mixture is perfect for moisturizing. It’s also hypoallergenic. That means even if you have had problems with other oils in the past, you should be good to go here. There’s green tea butter and aloe included as well to help go on smoothly and leave you feeling fresh and clean. Great for dry skin.

If you’re using this before a day at the beach, you are good to go. It’s water-resistant so you’ll still be able to go swimming. In fact, you’ve got nearly an hour and a half in the water before you need to reapply. It was also reef-safe oil. That means it’s not going to harm the ocean. Fish and coral reefs I’m going to suffer for your tan. Neither did anything else for that matter. The ingredients are 100% vegan and cruelty free as well.

The oil has an SPF of 15. That’s minimal protection from UV rays but it’s pretty good for tanning oil. The company still recommends using a proper sunscreen along with their tanning oil. They’re also really good about education. They share important information about sun safety with their customers. Things like how long you can stay in the sun with the SPF factor they provide.

Sun Bum works well with all skin types. From fair skin to darker skin, you’ll likely get good results. It works great in tanning beds as well as in outdoor tanning. You’ll get that sun kissed glow either way.

Best Budget Choice

3. Panama Jack Amplifying Oil

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Panama Jack’s formulation is made from fruit and nut extracts. It smells fantastic, and it also works incredibly well. They call it an amplifying oil because it’s meant to boost your tan ability. It offers no sun protection at all, so keep that in mind.

The oil itself is not nearly as thick and messy as some can be. If you’re not a fan of having a heavy oil, this is definitely worth a try. It goes on light and smooth and blends into your skin with ease. Even though it’s designed for a serious tan, it’s fairly gentle on your skin. There is aloe in the mix just for that reason.

One overlooked feature of Panama Jack is the spray pump. We gave it a try and it really does work at any angle. That’s handy when you’re just laying down on a beach towel and want to spray your chest or arms without actually getting up.

Remember to use this with sunscreen if you plan on an extended stay in the sun. Also, this works best with a base tan already. It is an amplifier, after all. If you use this with no tan, you could end up with a bad burn.

4. Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil

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Another big name and tanning is Hawaiian Tropic. They’re one of the top tanning oils out there. Their dark tanning oil spray offers exceptional moisturizing as well as tanning properties. Chock full of vitamins including A, C, and E it’s full of antioxidants which help promote youthful skin. They also prevent skin dryness. There’s also aloe vera and cocoa butter to maximize that moisture factor.

This one has a coconut scent to it. It’s not overpowering like some can be. It also delivers on its promise of a deep dark tan. One thing to remember though is that there is no SPF in this particular mix. It’s designed to soak up those UV rays and really give you a deep color. That means you’re going to want to combine it with a reliable sunscreen to keep your skin safe. The UV rays penetrate quickly when no sunscreen is used.

The upside to using Hawaiian Tropic dark tanning oil is time. This one is pretty fast acting next. If you’re looking to get some color in a short amount of time, you are going to want to choose this. Pale skin can get a natural looking tan in no time.

You’re safe to head to the water when you are using Hawaiian Tropic. It’s reef friendly and won’t hurt any animals. Sprays on easily and offers smooth coverage. You shouldn’t have to worry about streaking when you’re using it.

5. Banana Boat Protective Dry Oil

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Banana Boat’s protective dry oil is a good choice if you don’t like mess. Dry oil tanning oils are less messy. As the name suggests, they tend to be less runny overall. It’s a reef-safe formulation. That means it won’t pollute the water if you go swimming.

Because it’s a dry oil, Banana Boat will dry quickly. It’s not going to stain your clothes, either. The coconut oil and banana extracts in the formulation make for a great smell. It’s also a good moisturizer. The tanning oil spray mist goes on evenly and quickly. It’s also waterproof, so you can safely take a dip in the water if you like. That makes the tanning process a little less stressful overall. You don’t need to worry about constant reapplications.

Banana Boat tanning oil offers some sun protection as well. It’s broad spectrum and SPF 15. Remember to use another sunscreen if you plan to spend a long time in the sun, however. Skin cancer is not something to take lightly.

6. Maui Island Secret Browning Formula

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Straight from Hawaii, the Maui Island Secret Browning Formula is truly unique. The smell of this one smells incredible if you like coffee and the effects are very profound. The oil is a mix of unusual oils found only in Hawaii. There’s kukui nut, passion flower and macadamia nut oil. Definitely an unusual mix. There’s also coffee and tea extracts as well.

If you’re looking for a fast and dark tan, this is the tanning oil you want. Unlike some tanning oils, this one can really take hold in just a couple of hours. The benefit of this is two-fold. You get a fast tan, which is great. But you also avoid extensive sun exposure. That means less damage to your skin.

The formulation doesn’t contain dyes, so it’s less likely to cause stains on clothes. That said, it’s still oil based so you’ll want to avoid getting it on your clothes if possible.

7. Hawaiian Tropic Broad Spectrum Protective Dry Oil

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A nice alternative to Hawaiian Tropic’s regular tanning oil is the broad spectrum dry oil. Broad spectrum means it offers protection from UVA and UVB radiation. That’s a big difference from the usual Hawaiian Tropic tanning oils. The sun protection can offer you some time in the sun without worrying about getting a bad burn.

As you might expect, the tanning oil has that familiar Hawaiian Tropic smell. It’s loaded with antioxidants and moisturizers to keep your skin feeling smooth. Because it’s a dry oil, the feeling is a little different from other oils. Some people prefer the lighter feel of a dry oil. But it’s not for everyone.

One of the big upsides to Hawaiian Tropic tanning oils is their usability. This works well for people with sensitive skin.

8. Carroten Intensive Tanning Oil

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Made with carrot oil, Carroten Intensive Tanning Oil offers a nice, rich tan. This tanning spray also offers an instant color once it’s applied. That’s thanks to the beta-carotene from the carrot. It’s great for use on fair skin when you want a deep tan look. It will also do this much faster than other tanning oils. When you spend a couple hours in the sun, the results are an even, smooth color overall. It also has a pleasant smell and leaves your skin smooth and shiny. It comes out thin so you don’t feel like you’re slathering on butter.

Carroten doesn’t offer any sun protection like some tanning oils so you’ll want to use it with a good sunscreen. It should be reapplied after going in the water or sweating a lot, too. It could also stain fabric so keep an eye on that as well.

9. BaliBody Watermelon Tanning Oil

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BaliBody’s Watermelon Tanning Oil offers up a unique mixture. It’s infused with watermelon seed extract. The smell is clean and refreshing compared to many other oils. You can also get peach and pineapple scented versions. It goes on very smoothly. There’s a low SPF factor as well. That means you’ll want to use sunscreen along with it to prevent burns.

In terms of function, it’s quite powerful. You’ll accelerate your tan very well with this tanning oil. The effect is a nice, golden glow. If you spend a long time in the sun it will of course get darker. But keep track of your time and avoid too much exposure, just to be safe.

One thing to be aware of with BaliBody is the size. At 3.4 oz, the bottle is a lot smaller than you might think at first. Given the price, that could put you off. However, the fragrance of BaliBody is really second to none. If that’s important to you, then you may want to give this one a try.

10. Choco Solis Organic Suntan Oil

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Not everyone cares about the smell of their tanning oil. But if you do, then give Choco Solis a try. When we opened this bottle, the rich smell of chocolate was pretty intense. You’re going to need to resist the urge to actually taste it.

The formulation includes some powerful moisturizers. They will prevent your skin from drying out. You’re safe to use this on the beach or even in a tanning bed. It includes sweet almond oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and vitamin E. All five oils are also organic. If you’re concerned about where your products come from, the organic oils make this a great choice. They work well on all skin types, including sensitive skin.

One thing that’s worth remembering is that, because there is coconut oil, this may solidify. That’s perfectly natural. You just need to warm it up. If it’s a hot day, just let it sit out in the sun for a little bit. Otherwise he may need to let the bottle soak in a bowl of warm water before you use it. If you have naturally light skins, you should be able to get a decent chocolate color from using this. Just remember, you need to pair it with sunscreen. If you don’t, you may end up burning.

11. Dr. Mercola Natural Tanning Oil

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If you’re worried about what’s going on your skin, Dr. Mercola tanning oil has your back. And your front. This mixture is about as pure as you’re going to find. There are no artificial fragrances or ingredients included. The natural ingredients are organic and are completely hypoallergenic. That said, it’s still able to offer you substantial tanning power. You can get a deeper tan with this than you might think.

Dr. Mercola is made from many natural ingredients. Sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, sweet almond oil and tea leaf extract. The chain that offers is actually very rich, and dark. The thing you do need to worry about is the fact that there is no sun protection Factor. As always, you should be using this with a sunscreen.

If you’re concerned about what goes into your sun tanning oil, definitely try this one out. Many other brands will use fragrances, preservatives, and emulsifiers. Dr. Mercola works as good as any of those, if not better. And it’s much better for the environment. The company offers you a 90-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with it. There’s not much to lose when it comes to trying this one out.

Things to Remember About the Best Tanning Oils

As you can see, there are a lot of tanning oils on the market. Not every tanning oil is going to meet your specific needs. Let’s take a look at some things you should consider before picking the right one for you.

Purpose

Obviously the purpose of using a tanning oil is to help get a tan. But do you want a light tan or a dark tan? Are you going to be spending all day in the sun or are you trying to get as dark as possible as quickly as possible? These are things you need to consider before choosing the best tanning oil for you. Some tanning oils would not serve you well if you spend all day at the beach. You could end up with some pretty bad skin damage after a few hours.

Most tanning oils work by basically amplifying the sun’s rays. When you apply tanning oils you are exposing yourself to potentially harmful rays. This is true whether an you are using outdoor tanning oil or a tanning bed.

Always check the label on any changing oil before you make a purchase. Make sure it’s going to suit your needs and how you plan to tan. Some of these contain self-tanning agents to help boost the color. Some of them can get extremely dark very quickly. Others offer SPF protection from the UV rays, but some do not. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. The last thing you want to do is end up getting too dark and having to wait out a bad tan.

Ingredients

Sun tanning oils can be made from many different things. Obviously there’s going to be an oil a base. But there are other ingredients that are included as well. Depending on your skin type and personal feelings, this can have an effect on the oil that you want to use. Some oils are made with entirely organic ingredients. If that’s important for you, you can search those ones out. Others advertise themselves as being a vegan. You might think that all tanning oils are vegan but that’s not necessarily the case. Some contain things like beeswax, or oils to drive from animal sources. Most tanning oils are cruelty-free but it’s always good to check the label.

In addition to oil, you can double-check what other ingredients are included. Some include moisturizers to help keep your skin looking and feeling fresh. Vitamins, especially vitamin e, are often included as well. These can help keep your skin feeling healthy and preventing dryness. And of course, things like fragrance may also be added. It all depends on what your personal preferences are.

Sunscreen vs Tanning Oil vs Sunblock

Sunscreen, sunblock and tanning oil are not the same thing. Some people will use the terms interchangeably. The purpose of a tanning oil is to help you actually get a suntan. It’s going to help your skin get darker. So a tanning oil has an aesthetic purpose.

The purpose of sunscreen is to allow you to spend more time in the sun. It will have a higher SPF factor and offer you protection from harmful UV rays.

Sunblock has the highest SPF factor. Its purpose is to offer the best protection possible from the rays of the Sun. In many ways a sunblock is the opposite of tanning oil.

Your best bet is to try to get a good tan while protecting yourself from the sun’s rays. That means you should try to combine a sunscreen and a tanning oil. There’s also the option to use tanning oils that have an SPF factor to keep you protected. These will always be lower than a sunscreen and especially the sunblock. Some tanning oils have no sun protection factor whatsoever. If that’s the case, you need to be mindful of your time in the sun. Don’t forget a good pair of sunglasses as well. Ideally, some polarized sunglasses as well.

Coconut Oil vs Other Oils

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is very strongly associated with tanning oils. It’s a great body oil for producing an overall change in appearance. And, the smell is appealing to most people. In fact, the smell of coconuts and feelings of Summer go hand-in-hand. But there are many other oils that may be used in your tanning oil.

Avocado oil: Avocado oil is a good choice if you have dry skin. The oil is full of fatty acids which can keep your skin hydrated. It’s also good for helping heal damaged skin.

Cocoa butter: This is another popular choice in a lot of tanning oils and lotions. It’s made during the process of producing chocolate. It’s the fatty residue left over from the cocoa beans. It’s a good moisturizer, and it has UV protection. The smell is also appealing in a lot of products.

Argan oil: Argan Oil comes from something called an argan tree. You’ll see this often used and fancy moisturizers. It’s good for boosting hydration but it does tend to cost a little more.

Almond oil: This is another one that has a pleasant smell. It’s also used for its antioxidant properties. It offers good hydration and can give you a decent, dark color.

Olive oil: Some people will just use this on its own as a tanning oil. By itself it doesn’t offer much in the line of UV protection. However, it’s great for getting a dark tan. And it also has some pretty good hydrating properties.

Hemp Seed Oil: This can offer good hydration as well as nourishment. Your skin can achieve a good, dark tan with hemp seed oil. The smell isn’t the best, so expect it to have other additives.

Tea Tree Oil: This is most often used in things like shampoos. It can be beneficial in a tanning oil, however. The smell is an acquired taste, some love it, some don’t. But an added bonus is that it can also keep insects away.

Corn Oil: This is another oil that people will use to improvise tanning oil. Corn oil is full of linoleic acid. That’s going to help give you a dark color. But you should definitely proceed with caution if you’re using a mess. That tan can become a sun burn pretty quickly.

The Bottom Line

The best tanning oil out there is going to be the best one for you. You may need a deep tanning oil spray or even self tanning oils. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is safety. Protect your skin. Use something with an SPF to keep you safe, and tan only in moderation. Be safe and have fun.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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