How to Apply Lotion for a Tanning Bed Session

You might think that you don’t need tanning lotion because you’re stretching out on a tanning bed. You actually need it to create an even, glowing tan to your skin.

Without the lotion, you’ll end up with dry, splotchy skin, and that’s never attractive. It’s not difficult to apply the lotion for a tanning bed. It’s all about preparation and care of the skin during the process.

tanning bed

You might have to make a few purchases before you begin, though.

Stay with us to learn how to properly prepare yourself for a perfect tanning bed session and what to do after you finish with your session. Here is exactly what we are going to talk about today:

  • Can You Use Regular Lotion for a Tanning Bed Session?
  • Choosing the Right Lotion
  • Showering Before Your Visit
  • Applying Indoor Tanning Lotion
  • After the Session

Let’s start by discussing whether you can use your regular lotion for your tanning bed sessions.

Can You Use Regular Lotion for a Tanning Bed Session?

tanning bed

The simple answer to this question is no, you can’t and you should not use regular tanning lotions for your tanning bed sessions. Here is why:

Regular tanning lotions are made of ingredients that can cause damage to the tanning beds. These ingredients over time build upon the surface of the beds and slowly start to deteriorate it.

That’s why most salon owners will not allow you to use a regular lotion in their tanning salons.

Although a wide range of tanning lotions is available in the market, you should use only specific tanning lotions that are specifically made to be used in a tanning bed.

If you want to achieve beautiful golden skin, you must use indoor tanning lotions. These lotions are made of such ingredients that will nourish your skin and make the tan stay for a longer period.

No worries, we will help you choose the right lotion for your tanning bed sessions. Keep reading!

Choosing the Right Lotion

Best Indoor Tanning Lotion

The process of applying the tanning lotion begins long before your tanning visit. You should always look into purchasing your own tanning lotion.

You don’t want to rely on the salon having the right lotion perfect for your skin. They’ll have their preferences, but that might be based on the majority of their clients’ needs – not yours.

Indoor tanning lotion has different properties than outdoor tanning lotions. They don’t have as much SPF factor at work, so that will help you find tanning bed lotions versus outdoor lotions.


Tanning bed lotions will vary from bronzing lotions to moisturizing creams. There are even sprays that can be used in a tanning bed.

In suntan lotion, the UV rays are blocked while lotions are used to enhance rays in the tanning bed. The process is entirely different, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the lotions are different, too.

Next, we explain why you should take a shower before your visit to a tanning salon.

Showering Before Your Visit

Before you worry about how to apply the lotion, you have to prepare your skin for the process. While this might seem like a huge list of tasks for preparation, it’s actually easy and should already be part of your beauty routine.

Shower and exfoliate before your visit to the salon. This will remove any lotions and other products from your skin that could block the tanning process.

While showering, it’s a good time to shave. Any area that you want to tan should be hairless. Otherwise, the lotion could sit in the hair follicles giving you dots of bronzing and uneven tanning.
Moving on…

Applying Indoor Tanning Lotion

What Is A Tanning Accelerator

Bring the lotion with you, so you can apply it immediately before climbing into the tanning bed. Along with the lotion, bring clothing that you don’t mind ruining with the lotion after your session.

Most lotions have bronzers that will be activated by the light of the tanning bed. That could ruin clothing when you’re dressing after the appointment.

Bring an elastic for your hair, and it can’t hurt to wear gloves or use a mitt when applying tanning lotion.

At the very least, bring your own towel for wiping your hands or other places that you don’t want to tan like the bottoms of your feet or between your toes.

Dry skin won’t absorb the lights from the tanning bed as well or as evenly. Use a generous supply of lotion. Start at your feet and add more squeezes of lotion to your hands as you go.

Girl on a Sunbed

Don’t skimp on the lotion but remember that it shouldn’t be a layer of white covering your skin. It has to be rubbed in completely. Lighter areas of your body can receive more lotion, but make sure it’s mostly an even process.

You’ll need some lotion on your face, neck, and back. A technician can help with the back, or you can bring a friend with you to the salon.

If you tan at the gym, you might need a lotion applicator for your back. You’ll want an even tan on your back that can’t happen without even application of the tanning lotion.

Next, we talk about what to do after the tanning session…

After the Session

Woman on tanning bed
You’ll likely be visiting the tanning bed more than once. As you tan, you’ll notice areas that need more or less lotion. Assess the outcome each time you’re in the tanning bed. You might forget areas like under the arms or plan on doing some areas gradually.

Wait at least 2 to 3 days between visits to the tanning bed. This will give the skin time to heal as well as time for you to exfoliate and use a moisturizer on your body.

Tanning saps moisture from the skin, and that can be what causes your tan to fade within a day or two. Tans should last longer, but only if you are caring for your skin properly.

You should have exfoliated before your first appointment, so you can keep that to a minimum during your visits to the salon. You’ll definitely want to do a light scrubbing during your shower but always apply a good moisturizer after you get out of the water.


It’s not difficult to apply tanning lotion for a tanning bed session. It just takes some preparation and time spent taking care of the skin during the process of tanning.

It helps to understand the tanning process, too. Basically, it’s vital that you exfoliate and apply the lotion evenly to the skin as much as possible.

Avoid too much lotion in areas around the face where it can get dark – especially if you’re using a bronzer.

Feature Picks – Best Tanning Bed Lotions

Tan Asz U Luau 200X Island Black Bronzer – 135 Oz

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Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion, 135 Oz

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Millennium Tanning Products: Dark

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Baja Bae Bronze Tanning Lotion For Indoor

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About the author: Sariya is our resident tanning expert.  Being Turkish, she has a tendency to tan easily, which she considers a blessing. At the same time, Sariya minored in chemistry, so, when it comes to various lotions and bronzers, Siriya knows a thing or two.  As much as she loves her tan, she knows that sun safety is also very important.

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