You’ve probably heard about the wonders of tanning oils and how beneficial they are in achieving a beautiful glowing tan while keeping your skin healthy. A lot of people have asked me about it, curiously asking how it works and if it’s really safe for our skin.
Well, tanning oil does work, though it may not be for everyone. But how will you know if this product is good for your skin and future tanning sessions? Read on to find out what tanning oil is, what it does, and if it’s worth the investment!
What Is Tanning Oil?
Before anything else, what is tanning oil in the first place?
Tanning oils, just like the name suggests, are oils specially formulated to help with your tanning process. This is different from tanning lotions, which accelerate the natural tanning procedure to intensify results. Oils would help get the results you want a bit more accurately.
Besides helping you achieve a tan, high-quality tanning oils have a unique composition which can help provide more benefits, like:
- More sun protection
- Faster and even tan
- Moisturizes the skin
- Antioxidant and anti-aging properties
- Help repair damaged skin
- Revitalizes the skin
Some oils have additional ingredients including bronzers, sunscreens, tingle activators, and more, which make them even more effective in specific situations and conditions.
How Our Skin Gets Tan
Before we get into how these oils work, let’s first get into how our skin tans in the first place.
Our skin has two major levels, which are the epidermis (outside layer) and the dermis (inside layer).
The epidermis is a barrier that protects delicate organisms in our dermis layer. In the dermis layer, you will find things like your sweat glands, hair follicles, nerve endings, and more.
The epidermis does not have any of those things, nor does it have a direct blood supply. Because of this, this layer is targeted for the tan.
The epidermis also consists of other layers. The stratum basale is the deepest layer, which is usually affected throughout the tanning process when the skin receives the darker glow when under direct sunlight. So if you want the tan, you want to get to the stratum basale, which is where the melanocytes are located.
Melanocytes are cells giving color to your skin. When under UV rays, these melanocytes will activate and produce melanin, causing your skin to become darker and tanner.
When exposed to UVB rays from the sun, this is harmful to the dermis and may cause skin cancer. Melanocytes would produce even more dark melanin when exposed, so it would protect the dermis. The more melanin in the skin means fewer UVB rays would penetrate to the dermis, so it serves against UV radiation.
The next layer of the epidermis is the stratum corneum, the outermost portion of the epidermis. It’s made of dead skin cells that are gradually shed from your skin, which are what turn into a dark color when exposed to DHA. DHA is an active chemical in self tanners and bronzers.
How Do Tanning Oils Work?
Now that you know more about how our skin gets tan and the layers it should target, the next question is: How do tanning oils work?
Tanning oils would work on our skin’s epidermis layer. It will activate the melanocytes, encouraging them to produce even more melanin at quicker rates. When you apply tanning oil before going under the sun or tanning bed, it speeds up the process so you tan quickly. Furthermore, it would amplify the effects of the UV rays on your skin, which will help you produce even more melanin.
Very effective tanning products would contain bronzers that have dihydroxyacetone, an active ingredient, a form of colorless sugar. This would interact with dead skin cells, and once worked into the dead skin, the color will change. However, take note that the effects of the oils would last to 7 days or so, since the dead skin cells would wear away, developing new skin cells.
Some oils contain moisturizers, usually containing vitamin E, glycerine, panthenol, sodium PCA, or sodium isethionate. These would help hydrate the body, with moisturized skin tanning even better and preventing skin peeling.
Are Tanning Oils Safe?
In general, tanning oils are safe to use, containing ingredients that have little to no harm to our skin or overall health. BUT, the excess and/or prolonged use may cause issues, which vary depending on your skin condition, among other factors. This is why it’s crucial to check the ingredient list to ensure that your skin doesn’t receive any chemicals it may react negatively to.
One particular ingredient a few people should avoid is gluten, which is a naturally occurring protein from mineral oils. If it is absorbed by the skin in excess, it may cause serious problems and skin disorders, such as dermatitis herpetiformis or chronic blisters, especially if you are allergic to gluten.
Furthermore, these oils would usually have low Sun Protection Factor (SPF), since they are labeled for tanning. And since tanning oils attract and focus UV rays on the skin to produce melanin production, this may end up being bad on the skin. That’s why it’s important to get tanning oils with enough SPF (at least 30 SPF), and even if it may not give you instant results, it provides better protection on the skin.
Unfortunately, even when you do exercise caution, there is no such thing as a 100% safe tan.
The best way to minimize the risk of excess sun damage is to make sure that you use SPF daily, check the tanning products’ ingredients to prevent allergic reactions, and to check your skin a couple of times a year for any signs of skin conditions that your doctor will need to check out. Furthermore, avoid too much sun exposure, only staying under the sun for less than half an hour daily.
Besides what I mentioned above, here are a few quick tips for using tanning oils for a good tan:
- Make sure that you apply the product evenly across the parts of your body you’d like to tan. When applying it on delicate areas such as your face, do so gently and evenly.
- If you want to speed the tan up further, reapply the oil every 2 hours, especially if you sweat a lot from exercise and work, or swim frequently. To avoid over-tanning quickly, reapply it every 3-5 hours instead, depending on your preference and skin type.
- Once you have applied the oil, allow your skin to soak it all up, as they need to be absorbed by your skin to begin the tanning process. Do NOT wash it off right after, as they work best when they are on your skin until they are completely used up. I recommend getting water-resistant tanning oil for best results if you plan to wade in the waters or sweat.
As you can see from above, tanning oils are very effective if you would like to achieve an excellent tan in a shorter period, compared to going without any tanning products. However, you have to be wary, as it may contain ingredients not suitable for everyone. As long as you read the ingredient list beforehand and tan under the sun or tanning bed safely, then you can have the awesome sun-kissed glow without negatively affecting your skin.
I hope that my article answered your question on how tanning oils work and if they are safe to use. Now that you know the answers, begin your search in finding the most suitable tanning products for you and visit here to check out tanning oil reviews to know what you should invest in.
Do you have questions, or would you like to share your insights on tanning oils? Share them in the comments section below, I appreciate all of your thoughts.