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Best Budget: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Sun Care at Amazon "The Hawaiian Tropic oil is ideal for enhancing existing tans."
Best Shimmer: Caribbean Cool Natural Bronzer at Amazon "Unblock clogged pores while detoxifying and removing excess oil from the skin."
Best with High SPF: Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil at Amazon "The tanning oil is made of organic coconut, argan, marula and avocado, as well as moisturizing ingredient."
Best Sunless: Botanic Tree Self Tanner at Amazon "The quick-dry formula will not stain clothing or leave streaks."
Best Chemical-Free: Isabella's Clearly Gold Best Natural Bronzing Tanning Oil at Amazon "Contains a mixture of natural oils and ingredients such as olive oil, carrots, grape seed oil and coconut oil."
Best Spray: Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil at Amazon "The six-ounce spray has a pleasant fragrance of coconut and grape seed oil."
Best Non-Greasy: Australian Gold Tanning at Amazon "There is no mineral oil in this tanning oil to clog pores."
Best Hypoallergenic: Hempz Hypoallergenic Dark Tan Maximizer at Amazon "More lotion than oil, the tan maximizer has no scent – ideal for those who are sensitive to strong odors."
Our Top Picks
Best Budget: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Sun Care
While some tanning oils can get fairly expensive (particularly organic oils), the Hawaiian Tropic oil provides a golden tan at an affordable price. The eight-ounce bottle of oil contains a variety of natural scents such as coconut oil, passion flower, papaya, mango and guava fragrances for a pleasant odor, as well as cocoa butter and aloe to soften the skin. The Hawaiian Tropic oil is ideal for enhancing existing tans, however, it does not contain sunblock, so be cautious with staying in the sun for longer periods of time. Buyers appreciated that the oil left skin soft without remaining greasy, and the fact that it was a budget-friendly purchase.
Best Shimmer: Caribbean Cool Natural Bronzer
If you’re seeking a tan that leaves you shining, the Caribbean Cool Natural Bronzer is an excellent choice. The oil is infused with a small amount of “glitter,” leaving a subtle shimmery glow on the skin. Made with Jamaican black castor oil, it can also help to unblock clogged pores while detoxifying and removing excess oil from the skin. Other ingredients include coconut milk, argan oil to soften the skin, as well as hemp seed oil to prevent dryness. The tanning oil creates a dark golden tan and won’t stain clothing. Be aware that it does not contain any type of sunscreen (SPF), so you may want to consider applying sunblock for longer exposure to the sun.
Best with High SPF: Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil
For an oil that yields a golden tan while still keeping harmful rays from your skin, opt for the Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil. The nine-ounce bottle has an SPF of 15 – a high number for a tanning oil (although it is a relatively low amount when compared to sunblock). The tanning oil is made of organic coconut, argan, marula and avocado, as well as moisturizing ingredients such as aloe vera, green tea butter and Kona coffee plant extract – creating a pleasant scent. The oil is sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes and does not contain paraben, however, it does contain mineral oil and other chemicals.
Best Sunless: Botanic Tree Self Tanner
If you’re seeking the results of the sun, but don’t have the time to hit the beach, the Botanic Tree Self Tanner is a great choice. Unlike other sunless products, the Botanic Tree Self Tanner does not leave an “orange” hue to skin or an oily feel, and is made of 100 percent organic products. The quick-dry formula will not stain clothing or leave streaks. The product contains shea butter (for leaving skin smooth), jojoba, apricot, avocado and rosemary, plus passionfruit, coconut and vanilla for a fantastic-smelling lotion. The temporary tan lasts around seven days, so you’ll need a second bottle for to keep that glow going longer.
Best Chemical-Free: Isabella’s Clearly Gold Best Natural Bronzing Tanning Oil
Those who prefer a chemical-free tanning oil for a healthy glow to their skin should consider Isabella’s Clearly Gold Best Natural Bronzing Tanning Oil. The higher-priced oil comes in a two-ounce bottle and is manufactured in the United States. It contains a mixture of natural oils and ingredients such as olive oil, carrots, grape seed oil and coconut oil (for UV protection) that can help soften the skin. The chemical-free oil is not tested on animals, and won’t leave any residue on your clothing. Buyers said that although they loved the product, they wish it came in a larger bottle. Consider buying a second if you plan on spending a significant amount of time soaking in the rays.
Best Spray: Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil
Tanning oil is also available in spray bottles, allowing for a quick dry instead of a lasting oil. The Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil is a clear-dry spray with an SPF of 4 (but is also available in SPF 8) and is extremely water-resistant for that quick dip in the ocean. However, after several trips, it should be re-applied. The six-ounce spray has a pleasant fragrance of coconut and grape seed oil, is lightweight and can be applied at any angle – making it easy to cover all areas. Unlike other sprays, it leaves your skin soft but moist - instead of a dry, crisp feeling - and doesn’t discolor clothing or fabrics.
Best Non-Greasy: Australian Gold Tanning
Made from sunflower seed oil, olive oil, tea tree oil and other ingredients, the Australian Gold Tanning Oil is easily absorbed, leaving behind a non-greasy formula. The reasonably-priced tanning oil comes in an eight-ounce spray bottle and features a color-enhancing formula to add a touch of instant bronzer for even more glow. There is no mineral oil in this tanning oil to clog pores, however, it is not entirely chemical-free. Additional sunscreen is recommended since it does not contain any SPF protection. Buyers loved the glow they received from the oil, as well as the scent and the fact that it left behind no sticky residue.
Best Hypoallergenic: Hempz Hypoallergenic Dark Tan Maximizer
Those with sensitive skin should consider a hypoallergenic tanning cream such as Hempz Hypoallergenic Dark Tan Maximizer. The colorful, nine-ounce bottle contains all-natural hemp seed oil to soften skin, but also includes natural calming extracts from oatmeal and mango seed butter to hydrate. The formula quickly absorbs into the skin and is 100 percent vegan. More lotion than oil, the tan maximizer has no scent – ideal for those who are sensitive to strong odors. Buyers stated that while most scented lotions and oils cause rashes, the Hempz Tan Maximizer did not, but it did leave a golden, bronze glow and moist skin. Keep in mind that this the tanning lotion does not contain SPF.
What to Look for in Tanning Oil
SPF A lot of tanning oils don’t come with SPF protection in the formulations, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without. Some come with the most basic levels of sun protection—we’re talking SPF 5 here—while others get up as high as SPF 15, which, yes, is high for a tanning oil. Think about your skin’s needs—and remember that adequate protection should always take priority.
Cost Depending on how much you plan to use tanning oil—whether you’re hoping for a pre-vacation glow or it factors heavily into your summer beauty routine—you’ll want to do a quick cost-per-use evaluation. After all, tanning oil—like most other beauty products—will expire after a time, so don’t spend a ton of money on something you might not use more than two or three times a year.
Waterproofness If you’re just hanging out on the beach or poolside with little mind to take a dip in the water, there’s not a lot of need for a super-waterproof sunscreen. However, if you’re going to be hopping between boat and lake or lounger and waves, you’ll want to look for one that does a little more in terms of staying on.