If and when you choose to take a trip to the faux beach (read: tanning bed), you simply must lather up with an indoor tanning lotion. And, not just any tanning lotion, no! never!, but the precise lotion suited to deliver your desired outcome. Whether you want a relaxing UV exposure without darkening your skin or you aspire to achieve the bronzed-to-a-crisp look, there are varieties upon varieties of tanning lotions to suit you.
It took me over a year of working at a tanning salon to master the art of tanning lotions. There is a ton of tanning lotion jargon flying around, and not a lot of clarity surrounding it. I’m going to describe the four most common tanning salon customers I became acquainted with, and prescribe the lotions that suit their needs best, in my experience. Maybe you’ll find yourself somewhere in here.
Description: This tanner is in it for big bronzing results. You will find him or her at the salon on a regular basis. He or she will hold a tanning package that allows them to tan in the highest-powered bed, and they will use it religiously, rain or shine. This tanner uses tanning stickers to measure bronzing results.
Prescription: This type of tanner could dramatically lessen trips to the salon by getting a bigger bang for the buck of each session. So many people are afraid of tingle lotions because, well, they give a startling tingling sensation and redden skin. But it isn’t for naught. Tingle lotion increases circulation in the outer layers of the skin, bringing melanin to the surface. You’ll tingle. You’ll redden. That will subside, and you’ll turn a seriously dark shade of bronze within a few hours. Start out with a lower tingle to see if you can handle the “pins and needles” feeling. If you’re a seasoned tingle-er, seek the “hottest” bronzer you can find. Don’t put tingle on your face, tanners! Use facial lotions for that.
Description: This tanner is fearful of UV exposure of all kinds, but gives in against his or her better judgment once every few months to escape cold, dark weather. This tanner wants to be hugged by the heat of a tanning bed and receive some light exposure on their skin. They will know their stuff about light bulbs and will ask which bed emits the most UVB light.
Prescription: I advise this tanner to stay away from bronzers and tingles and sick to the intensifier or accelerator lotions. Both “intensifier” and “accelerator” refer to the same kind of lotion. The name may throw some Nervous Nellies for a loop because they don’t want an “intense” tanning experience. But, The Relaxing Type will find cracked, peeling skin that happens if you don’t use lotion is quite intense on its own. Even those who are not seeking any bronze whatsoever should use an accelerator or intensifier that will deliver essential moisture and nutrients to the skin. The idea is this: when your skin is healthy, it will react better to UV rays, thus the “accelerator” or “intensifier” label.
Description: The Sensitive Type can be either a fair skinned tanner or one with a dark complexion. He or she is seeking a bronzing effect, and has used lotion after lotion after lotion to achieve a bronze, only to find that each one delivers its own brand of irritation. Many of these tanners brave the tanning booths again and again, each time leaving blotchy and itchy and red. This type of tanner will visit the tanning bed for a week at a time, go through undue pain until it’s unbearable, then swear off the salon for the next few months.
Prescription: First, find a tanning lotion for sensitive skin types. It will be labeled “hypoallergenic.” Make sure it doesn’t have fragrance or use DHA bronzers. Give that a go. If you’re still irritated, make the switch over to self-tanners. There are so many sunless options that give a real bronze. Technology has evolved way beyond the old days of the sunless burnt-orange look. Bonus: you can use sunless tanning lotion in the comfort of your own home.
The Macho Type
Description: This can be a male or female tanner who doesn’t love the fruity and flowery scents of many tanning lotions. It could be a tanner who is avoiding shimmers and shines like the plague. This tanner may or may not want to be seen at the tanning salon altogether, worried someone might catch him or her in an act of “femininity.”
Prescription: Realize that tanning is for everybody, and there are now a big selection of tanning products to reflect that. Try a line of lotions for men that deliver masculine scents and no glitter, or try a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free lotion. Go forth and tan shamelessly!
When you find the lotion that suits you, don’t buy one sample at the time from your salon. It's more economical to invest in a bottle. Note that the price of bottles in salons can be unruly, and lotion bottles sold by unauthorized online sellers can be expired, damaged, or filled with a different product altogether. Find your chosen lotion at a reasonable price, sold by an authorized distributor and you’re golden. Golden brown, that is.