The 11 Best Tanning Oils of 2021

Get your glow on—as safely as possible—with these standout tanning oils

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Tanning Oils Sun Bum Hawaiian Tropic

Tripsavvy / Chloe Jeong

The Rundown

Best Overall: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil at Amazon

"Ideal for enhancing existing tans."

Best Non-Greasy: Australian Gold Exotic Oily Spray at Amazon

"Easily absorbed, leaving behind a non-greasy formula."

Best for High SPF: Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil at Amazon

"Has an SPF of 15—a high number for a tanning oil."

Best Water-Resistant: Sol De Janeiro Bum Bum Sol Oil at Sephora

"Its water-resistant formula offers protection of up to 80 minutes."

Best Hypoallergenic: B.tan Tanned AF Body Tanning Oil at Amazon

"It's 100 percent vegan, paraben-free, and has no scent – ideal for those with sensitive skin."

Best Natural: Art Naturals Glow Tanning Oil at Art Naturals

"Contains a mixture of natural botanical oils such as jojoba, safflower, and olive."

Best for Fair Skin: Maui Babe Browning Lotion at Amazon

"Results in a natural-looking, fast dark tan."

Best for Dark Skin: St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse at Amazon

"A lightweight mousse that gives the skin a subtle lit-from-within glow."

Best Shimmer: Caribbean Cool Natural Bronzer at Amazon

"Leaves a subtle shimmery glow on the skin."

Best Self-Tanner: Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil at Dermstore

"This fast-absorbing body oil soaks in quickly so you don't have to wait around."

Best Drugstore: Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil at Amazon

"This wallet-friendly spray can be more evenly applied than lasting oils."

When it’s time to head to the beach or sunbathe by the pool, a little tanning oil can go a long way to help enhance a golden glow. But there are a variety of products on the market, such as spray oils, organic formulas, hypoallergenic options, or oils with built-in sun protection, so it's often hard to make a decision. Luckily, we've scoured the internet for the top options to help you get a natural-looking glow.

Here are the best tanning oils available. 

Best Overall: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil

While some tanning oils can get fairly expensive (particularly organic oils), the Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil provides a golden tan at an affordable price. The 8-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. This tanning oil is ideal for enhancing existing tans; however, it does not contain sunblock, so be cautious with staying in the sun for long 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 Non-Greasy: Australian Gold Exotic Oily Spray

Made with sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and tea tree oil, the Australian Gold Exotic Oily Spray is easily absorbed, leaving behind a non-greasy formula. The reasonably priced tanning oil comes in an 8-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. Reviewers loved the glow they received from the oil, as well as the scent and that it left behind no sticky residue.

Best for 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 9-ounce bottle has an SPF of 15—a high number for a tanning oil (though still a relatively low amount when compared to sunblock). This Sun Bum tanning oil is made of organic coconut, argan, marula, and avocado oils, 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 parabens; however, it does contain mineral oil and other chemicals.

Best Water-Resistant: Sol De Janeiro Bum Bum Sol Oil

Sol De Janeiro Bum Bum Sol Oil

 Courtesy of Sephora

The Bum Bum Sol Oil by Sol De Janeiro may be on the pricier side, but its water-resistant formula (with protection up to 80 minutes) means you can reapply it less often than other formulas. While lightweight and non-greasy, this tanning oil is infused with hydrating ingredients, including antioxidant-rich Açaí oil and Cupuaçu butter that results in softer skin. It contains SPF 30 to help protect your skin against the sun, and can also be used at night to give your skin an extra boost of luminance. The scent features notes of salted caramel, pistachio, and jasmine.

Best Hypoallergenic: B.tan Tanned AF Body Tanning Oil

Those with sensitive skin should consider a hypoallergenic tanning product such as B.Tan's Body Tanning Oil. This lotion contains seven different oils to help you get darker skin. It also features coconut oil, avocado oil, argan oil, and grapeseed oil to help lock in moisture and smooth the skin while you sit outside. This formula quickly absorbs into the skin and works to accelerate your tan, so you don't need to spend as much time directly under the sun. It's 100 percent vegan, paraben-free, and has no scent (ideal for those with sensitive skin). Keep in mind that this tanning lotion does not contain SPF.

Best Natural: Art Naturals Glow Tanning Oil

Art Naturals Glow Tanning Oil

 Courtesy of Art Naturals

Art Naturals Glow Tanning Oil is a great chemical-free option if you're looking to give your skin a healthy glow without harming the environment. It contains natural botanical oils such as jojoba, olive, safflower seed, and coconut oil (for UV protection) that can help soften the skin. The chemical free-oil is best used when put on freshly cleansed skin and won't leave residue on your clothing.

Best for Fair Skin: Maui Babe Browning Lotion

Maui Babe Browning Lotion

 Courtesy of Amazon

Suitable for all skin types and tones, the Maui Babe Browning Lotion even works well for sensitive and fair skin. The 8-ounce browning lotion was made using a secret Hawaiian formula with natural ingredients including aloe, Kona coffee plant extract, and more. The results: a natural-looking, fast dark tan. The Maui-imported lotion is especially loved by reviewers who normally don't tan easily.

Best for Dark Skin: St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse

St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse

Courtesy of Sephora

Most tanning products are targeted toward people with fair to light skin tones, which overlooks a huge section of people with darker skin who like to get a glow, too. This lightweight mousse is great for adding a little tan from the comfort of your own home—no harmful UV rays required. While it’s on the pricey side, you can rest assured that you won’t see streaks with this formula—it dries evenly for glow all over.

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 Self-Tanner: Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil

Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil

Courtesy of Dermstore

While you might have to hold out for the results a little longer than anticipated, the glow that comes from this self-tanner is worth the wait. Made from a blend of regular and light pure argan oils, the oil feels just like the stuff you’d put on to bake under the sun, but it's much safer. The tan dries quickly (no need to wait around for it to absorb) and lasts about three days. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free so you can feel good about using it.

Best Drugstore: Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil

Tanning oils that come in spray bottles tend to be more evenly applied than lasting oils. The Banana Boat Ultra Mist Deep Tanning Dry Oil is a wallet-friendly option that sprays on dry with an SPF of 4 or 8. It has a pleasant fragrance of coconut and grapeseed oil, is lightweight, and can be applied at any angle, making it easy to cover all areas. Banana Boat's tanning spray is water-resistant, too, so you can take a quick dip in the ocean if you get too hot in the sun. However, after several trips, it should be reapplied. Unlike other sprays, it leaves your skin soft but moist (instead of a dry, crisp feel) and doesn't discolor clothing or fabrics.

Final Verdict

If we had to choose one option from this list, we would use Hawaiian Tropic's Dark tanning oil (view at Amazon) underneath sunscreen on our next day at the beach. It's budget-friendly, doesn't leave a greasy residue, and will last for multiple trips. However, if you have sensitive skin, we'd recommend going with the B.tan Tanned AF oil (view at Amazon).

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's made to stay on.

FAQs

What SPF should I look for in a tanning oil? 

“The recommended SPF number you are looking for is in the SPF 15 to SPF 30 range,” says Dr. Orit Markowitz, a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist at Optiskin Medical in New York City. “The key with SPF is proper application. I recommend my patients wear SPF 30 and reapply every two hours.” 

Most tanning oils don’t come in formulations above SPF 15, says Dr. Daniel Belkin, a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist—it kind of defeats the purpose. “A traditional tanning oil will likely not have an SPF over 15 because the goal is to enhance penetration of UV rays and not protect from them.” 

What are the risks involved with using tanning oils? 

“The number one risk of using tanning oil is developing skin cancer and melanoma,” says Markowitz. She adds: “The number one cause for skin cancer is cumulative UV exposure over time, and this occurs with tanning and burning. While a sunburn has the added immediate discomfort, tanning has the same negative long-term side effects as a sunburn does. Even if you don't develop skin cancer over time, sun exposure can lead to premature aging and skin damage.” 

“I can't, in good conscience, recommend any tanning oils,” says Belkin. “Truly, the best behavior vis-a-vis the sun is to use sunscreens with SPF 50 or higher, cover up with hats, sunglasses, and sun protective clothing, and seek shade. If you want a tan, the only truly safe way for your skin health is to use sunless tanner or bronzers.” 

What happens to your skin when it tans?

“As a dermatologist, we always promote that the natural color of your skin is the most beautiful,” says board-certified dermatologist Scott Paviol. “‘Tanning’ is really your skin adapting to injury, specifically DNA damage, which increases the likelihood of future skin cancers by making more melanin. Therefore, any activity that you engage in where the goal is to tan the skin via sun exposure or a tanning bed is increasing your risk for skin cancer, and I don't advocate that.” 

How can I use tanning oils responsibly? Is it possible? 

“If you are talking about a tanning oil that does not contain UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection and has an SPF that is 15 and under, then the answer is no; there is no way to use this kind of tanning oil responsibly,” says Markowitz. “However, there are many newer sunscreens that now come in an oil format. Many people don't love the texture of sunscreens, and this oil formulation is a great way to get that glowing finish that comes with tanning oils, but you are still protecting your skin. If you love the bronzed, tan look, the safest way to achieve this is by using a sunless self-tanner.”

Why Trust TripSavvy?

TripSavvy authors are experts in their topics and spend hours researching and reading user reviews to make sure the products they’re recommending are the right ones for you. For this piece, the author drew on hours of research, dozens of customer reviews, and several highly qualified expert sources.

Was this page helpful?
Continue to 5 of 11 below.
Continue to 9 of 11 below.