One of the surest ways to get a natural-looking tan is to sit in the sun, exposing your skin to UV rays and building your tan over time. While there are some great benefits from exposure to the sun, such as the absorption of vitamin D, too much exposure can be harmful.
The time it takes to build a tan naturally in the sun increases your chance of skin damage, and sometimes the damage done by the sun is irreversible. To accelerate the process and cut down on time spent in direct sunlight, you could use tanning oil, but you might not like tanning oil or prefer something more natural.
So what are the best substitutes for tanning oil? The best substitutes for tanning oil are natural oils such as coconut, avocado, olive, Argan, hazelnut, sunflower, wheat-germ, and sesame oils or aloe vera. These oils help accelerate the tanning process while still giving your skin much-needed nutrients and hydration.
While you should always tan in the sun in moderation, below is a list of substitutes for tanning oils for you to try to achieve a gorgeous tan!
What Is Tanning Oil?
Tanning oils help you tan deeper and quicker in the sun without having to spend hours on end exposed to UV rays. These oils have a low SPF, which is low protection against UVB rays. This means that they do offer some protection to the skin, but not enough to prevent you from tanning.
Tanning oils attract and focus the UV rays from the sun onto your skin, which accelerates the process of tanning. This obviously still increases the risk of skin damage from the sun and does need to be done in moderation.
Some people prefer not to use tanning oils, as they can contain chemicals that might cause irritation or even be harmful. Instead of using tanning oils, there are some natural oils that work well to accelerate the tanning process as well.
Most of the other oils you can use as a substitute for tanning oil are readily found in kitchens and grocery stores and often cost less than commercial tanning oils.
It is important to keep in mind that the natural oils might not provide as much SPF protection as tanning oils, so you do need to be careful with the amount of time you spend in the sun.
Best Tanning Oil Substitutes
Natural oils are a great substitute for tanning oils. They offer nutrients and vitamins and help to nourish and hydrate the skin through the tanning process.
The below oils all have different benefits for your skin, and for tanning, but the choice you make will also depend on your personal preference and what you might have on hand.
Here are the best tanning oil substitutes:
- Coconut oil – Coconut oil is a great option for sensitive skin and has the natural protection of SPF4. It is an ideal natural tanning oil.
- Avocado oil – Avocado oil contains essential fatty acids and vitamins which help to soothe skin that has been exposed to the sun.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – Olive oil is known for its high vitamin E content, which soothes and moisturizes the skin while helping it achieve a golden look.
- Aloe vera– Aloe Vera is a treatment used for sunburned skin, and the same nutrients and vitamins help to neutralize UV radiation and care for your skin.
- Argan oil – Argan oil works well to hydrate skin and protects it from damage done by the sun.
- Hazelnut oil – Hazelnut oil is a popular ingredient in tanning oil. It has a high vitamin E content and is packed with fatty acids.
- Sunflower oil – Sunflower oil works well to tan the skin quickly while adding moisture to the skin during the process.
- Wheat-germ oil – Wheat-germ oil gives the skin a wonderful golden glow while providing the skin with vitamins D, E, and A, to help protect it from damage.
- Sesame oil – Sesame oil should not be used too often on its own, but it is a great addition to some coconut oil. It has a natural SPF of between 4 to 6.
All of these choices will work well to give you a darker, richer tan in a shorter time and do not contain the harmful ingredients that some other tanning oils might.
However, remember that while these oils all contain nutrients and vitamins that are beneficial to your skin, they need to be used in moderation, and should not replace your regular sun protection. The oils should only be used now and then to build a natural tan.
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in many beauty and health products. It is used on its own for a wide variety of reasons, including as a soothing and nourishing oil for after-wax care. In fact, we have another article on the best coconut oil to use after waxing.
What makes coconut oil easy to use is how quickly it absorbs it into your skin. While it sits at a solid state at room temperature, it does melt in warmer weather and will be absorbed into your skin easily.
When it comes to being used as tanning oil, coconut oil is probably the best option out there. It does wonders to nourish and hydrate the skin and is perfect for sensitive skin too, which makes it a great alternative to tanning oils that contain irritating chemicals.
It is rich in fatty acids, which help with absorption, but it also has an SPF rating of between 2 and 8. This is relatively low when it comes to sun protection, but it is a decent level for tanning oil.
To choose the right coconut oil for tanning, make sure to choose one that is virgin and cold-pressed. Processed coconut oils will not be as effective and won’t hydrate your skin and protect it as well as the purer versions. Pure coconut oil also smells incredible!
2. Avocado Oil
Avocados are loved for their taste and versatility in cooking, but avocado oil has many great uses as well. Avocados, and therefore avocado oil, is high in monounsaturated fats, which help the oil absorb into the skin and deliver a punch of nutrients and vitamins.
For some protection in the sun, avocado oil has a natural SPF between 4 and 10, so it offers a small amount of protection while you build your tan. Avocado oil is produced in a similar way to olive oil but is not as thick. Some find this makes it easier to apply to the skin, and others prefer a thicker oil.
Choose an avocado oil that is as pure as possible, and which is made with all-natural ingredients. This is the best way to ensure you are getting all the benefits and the protection from the avocado oil, without any hidden ingredients.
Look for unrefined, cold-pressed avocado oil. It will be packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins that your skin will love.
3. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil has so many great health benefits. Whether it is used in cooking or as tanning oil, it is a must-have in your home.
Rich in vitamin E, olive oil contains the antioxidants necessary to prevent skin damage and to heal the skin from damage done by the sun. It also works as a moisturizer, which does wonders to help the skin develop a rich, golden look when tanning.
Olive oil has a natural SPF between 2 to 8, which is around the average of what you could expect from a tanning oil.
There are a variety of different olive oils available, all varying in purity. It is important to only use extra-virgin olive oil, as this is the oil that is extracted from the first press, and is the version of olive oil that contains the highest amount of vitamins and nutrients. There are no harmful additives.
Many people love using olive oil as tanning oil, as it helps to give a gorgeous sun-kissed look. To help develop this color even more, you could add in a few drops of carrot juice to the olive oil to give your skin a darker tan.
Some people choose to add a few drops of iodine to the olive oil as well, to help prevent burning.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is known to be a great treatment for sunburns. It is loaded with many different minerals and vitamins which help to treat burns and skin conditions, as well as boost the immune system. While it is used to treat sunburns, it is also ideal to use when tanning as well.
Using aloe vera while tanning helps to prevent sunburn and any damaging effects it might cause. The antioxidants and soothing compounds in aloe vera hydrate and boost the skin with all the right nutrients and vitamins it needs to protect against damaging effects from the sun.
Your skin will still develop a beautiful tan when using aloe vera, but the damaging effects will not be as bad, which is definitely more important than toned skin!
5. Argan Oil
Argan oil is made from the Moroccan argan tree. It is widely used in health and beauty products thanks to its incredible properties which help to nourish hair and skin.
When applied to the skin, argan oil helps to refresh, hydrate, and soothe skin, as it is loaded with vitamin E. The high concentration of nutrients in argan oil help to prevent damage done by the sun, while simultaneously boosting the skin with much-needed nourishment.
To use argan oil as tanning oil, make sure to use 100% argan oil, so that you can be sure it is the best possible formula for your skin, and that it does not contain any harmful additives that might not work as well for your skin.
6. Hazelnut Oil
Hazelnut oil is a popular ingredient in tanning oils, due to its high content of vitamin E. It also has a high fatty acid content, which means that it is easily absorbed into the skin.
You could also mix some hazelnut oil with coconut oil or olive oil to make your own tanning mix.
The hazelnut oil provides amazing nourishment for your skin, and your skin will be thankful for the extra nutrients and vitamins when it is trying to recover from its time spent in the sun!
7. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is a common item found in most kitchens, and back in the day, many used to use sunflower oil as a tanning oil.
While sunflower oil can be used as tanning oil and even works as a great moisturizer, it does attract quite a high level of UV rays, which could end up being dangerous.
If you are wanting to use sunflower oil for tanning, you’ll need to do so carefully. Do not spend too much time out in the sun when sunflower oil is applied to your skin, as there is a high chance you could end up with burns.
Other than this, sunflower oil helps to ensure that skin retains its natural elasticity and helps to deeply moisturize the skin too. It protects against fine lines and wrinkles as well, which is a common side effect from too much time in the sun.
8. Wheat-Germ Oil
Wheat-germ oil might not seem like the obvious choice, but it does a good job of smoothing out skin and providing a natural golden glow when used to tan.
Wheat-germ oil is high in vitamins E, D, and A, which help to improve the elasticity of the skin and work to protect skin against the harmful side effects from the sun, such as wrinkles, sagging, and fine lines.
You could always add wheat-germ oil to olive oil or coconut oil if you do not want to use it on its own. Your skin will still reap the benefits.
9. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is the last option and it should not really be used on its own. Sesame oil has a thick consistency and quite a strong scent. It is a good idea to mix some sesame oil with coconut oil. The two mix together well and form a great combination to help the skin tan, while still protecting it from damage.
Sesame oil has a natural SPF of between 4 to 6, so it adds to the protection your skin will be receiving when it is mixed with other natural oils.
To make up your own tanning oil mix at home, follow the below ratio:
- 80% coconut oil
- 10% sunflower oil
- 5% sesame oil
- 5% olive oil
You can always play around to make a formula that suits your skin best and helps you to achieve your desired tan.
How Do You Prepare Your Skin for Tanning?
It is advisable to prepare your skin before you tan to achieve the best results possible. First, you should exfoliate your skin the day before. This removes any old product and dead skin cells.
Moisturize your skin leading up to a tan and following a tan too. This is so important to ensure that your skin has the right nourishment and hydration to not only hold a tan but to heal from sun exposure as well.
Will Coconut Oil Darken Your Skin?
No, coconut oil will not darken your skin on its own. It will help attract UV rays to your skin if you apply it to your skin and sit in the sun. It will also deliver some moisture and nourishment to your skin.