Indoor tanning and outdoor tanning are distinct. Both activities involve UV rays hitting the skin, but there are several differences between the two activities. Both outdoor and indoor tanning enthusiasts love to use tanning oils, accelerators, bronzers, and the like to make their tans progress as quickly as possible.

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But there are so many different products available on the market! It can get confusing to discover which products work best in which environments, and which items to use when. Can you use indoor tanning lotion outside? What about outdoor tanning lotion inside? And what about bronzers, sunless tanners, and tingle tanners? How do they interact with the sun?

In this article, I’ll look at the various categories of tanning products, and provide some guidelines as to what products to use in each circumstance.


A Primer on Tanning Products

There are a few different categories of tanning products, which can be broken down into the following basic groups:

Tanning Lotions – These speed the tanning process, and cause the skin to darken rapidly in the presence of UV lightBronzers/Self Tanners – These products cause the outermost layer of skin to darken due to the chemical reaction of DHA with skin cells.Sunscreens – These products protect the skin from the potentially harmful impacts of UVB and (in the case of Broad Spectrum Sunscreens) UVA raysTingle Lotions – Tingle lotions bring the blood toward the skin, and cause a tingling sensation that some find painful. This formulation will amplify the tanning process, producing a (temporary) redness on the skin for a couple of hours, and then a deeper tan

All of this can get confusing because many of the products on the market that are advertised as tanning lotions are a mixture of these four different product categories.

See this article on what tanning oils do for more information on these products.

What is Tanning Lotion?


My advice is to pick an outdoor tanning lotion (with spf) for outdoors, and an indoor tanning lotion for indoors. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with both.

This is the best course of action.

But if you have an indoor tanning lotion that you absolutely adore, you can wear it outside. It will certainly work.

You just have to keep the following issues in mind when you’re tanning outdoors with an indoor tanning lotion.

Put on a layer of sunscreen along with your tanning lotion. Most suggest doing a sunscreen layer first, then the layer of tanning accelerator lotion. Use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30+.If you go in the water for a dip, you need to reapply your sunscreen and your tanning lotion. Both of these will wash off in the water. And sunscreen should be reapplied even if it says it’s water resistant.Your indoor tanning lotion may be oily, and you may find that it makes your skin glisten or look overly shiny. When you’re done tanning, you may want to shower or wash more quickly than normal in order to remove the tanning lotion.

Can Indoor and Outdoor Tanning Lotions Be Mixed?

Mixing indoor and outdoor tanning lotions really isn’t a great idea. Stick to using an outdoor lotion outside, and an indoor lotion inside.

The mixing process may not blend all that well on the skin. You may end up with splotchy, uneven tan colors across your body as the indoor and outdoor tanning lotions don’t spread out evenly. Throw sunscreen in the mix as well, and there will simply be too much going on.

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Plus, your skin will probably look pretty heavily oiled up, and you may not even want to show your face at the beach after all that!

Tanning Lotion Recommendations

Lotion for Indoor Tanning

I love the Millennium Paint it Black 50x Lotion with Bronzer. Couple that with a broad-spectrum sunscreen for UVA protection.