photo of woman lying in the sand under the sun

Is Sun Tanning Oil Bad for You?

With summer coming again, you are probably looking forward to days on the beach swimming and tanning in the sun. That said, getting a nice tan can be challenging.

Some of us just don’t tan very well, often either staying white or burning or burning and then turning back to bleach white.

Many people use sun tanning oil, a special kind of oil that contains various ingredients designed to maximize the skin darkening effects of the sun’s UV rays.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not quite, because increasing the effect UV rays have on your skin can be problematic, as you might imagine.

Is sun tanning oil bad for you? The answer might surprise you.

It’s Great for Your Self-Image

Starting with the main point in terms of why people use tanning oil, it’s good for your image, your confidence, and your ego. People use tanning oils to look and feel better about themselves.

This may seem a bit trivial to some people, but the fact is that many of us have body image and self-consciousness issues.

A decent tan can make us feel more confident, and that’s a big boost when it comes to overall mental health. However, this is not to say that the use of tanning oils cannot be problematic.

Tanning Oils Themselves are Not Harmful, in Theory

If we are talking about tanning oils themselves, specifically their ingredients, if you find a high-quality product, then no, tanning oil itself is not bad for you.

Many of these tanning oils contain various natural oils and extracts from a wide variety of plants, flowers, and foods.

For the most part, these ingredients are not harmful or toxic. You are likely to find things like olive oil, aloe vera, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and other such things in high-quality tanning oils.

It’s the oily stuff that intensifies the sun’s rays, resulting in a faster and darker tan.

However, some of these tanning oils, particularly the low-quality cheap ones, contain harmful ingredients like phthalates, parabens, and dozens of other potentially harmful components.

If you want a safe tanning oil, go for something all-natural with an ingredient list that you can pronounce.

image of two spray bottles with coral background with palm leaves

Tanning Oil & SPF – Sunburns and Cancer

You always hear people telling others to not forget the sunscreen or sunblock, or else they will burn. Sunscreen is not just a fancy lotion.

The good stuff has SPF, or sun protection factor, and the more SPF a sunscreen has, the better it will protect your skin from burning.

Sunscreen with a low or no SPF rating is essentially useless, no better than a moisturizer. The key takeaway is that sunscreen blocks the sun from getting to your skin.

The reason we wear sunscreen is to prevent ourselves from burning. Moreover, prolonged and constant exposure to the sun, without wearing any protection, is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer.

Tanning oil does the exact opposite by magnifying UV rays, which intensifies the sun’s effects on your skin; you can guess what this means in terms of your skin, getting sunburnt, and your chances of getting cancer.

Using tanning oil, especially when compared to sunscreen, will increase your chances of getting burnt and developing skin cancer in the future.

Some tanning oils have an SPF rating, but it is never good. Sunscreen should have at least SPF 30, 45, or even 60 to offer full protection.

Most tanning oils don’t even have SPF 5 if any at all; they do nothing to protect your skin. What’s more, making tanning oil SPF is nonsense.

Tanning oil does one thing, and the SPF does the opposite, so they would effectively cancel each other out.


The bottom line is that while high-quality tanning oil on its own is not harmful, and while it does help you look better, it does nothing to protect your skin from getting burnt, and it certainly won’t help prevent skin cancer.

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