How can a redhead get a tan? There are two ways. The first and the safest is to use a self-tanner.
The second is to use the best tanning lotion for redheads. No, you won’t find a tanning bed lotion labeled for gingers. But there are options as you’ll see below.
Those with light skin tones tend to burn even if they can tan. The trick is to avoid the burn and go straight to the bronze. How can you do that without a sunless tanner?
It starts with keeping your time brief under UV lamps or in the sun. Be patient and realize that taking your time to tan gets better (less painful) results.
Also, use sunscreen in combination with tanning lotion. It may sound strange, but you can actually tan with sunscreen alone. It drastically cut your risk of painful sunburn and skin cancer down the road. Check out the highlights here then go in-depth with the tanning lotion reviews below:
|The best tanning lotions for redheads
|Why we love them
|Maui Babe Browning Lotion
|Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
|Coppertone Tanning Dry Oil Sunscreen Continuous Spray SPF 15
|Australian Gold Sunscreen Lotion with Instant Bronzer, SPF 30
|St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
Why is it hard for gingers to tan?
Those of us with light-colored hair and skin have less pigment. We literally can’t produce the deeper color matter how much time we spend in the sun. Some people never naturally tan at all.
The famed Fitzpatrick scale categorizes skin types like this:
- Type I has the whitest skin that never tans and always burns
- Type II usually burns but can lightly tan
- Type III might burn but usually bronzes evenly
- Type IV infrequently burns and tans well
- Type V easily tans
- Type VI never burns
It doesn’t help to be jealous of Types III through VI. It’s not their fault that they have it easy.
If you’re Type I like many redheads, you’re going to have to settle for sunless tanning, and that’s a good thing. It drastically reduces your risk of developing melanoma. With self-tanner, you can achieve a fabulous color within hours.
On the other hand, if you’re Type II, you can still bronze that fair skin if you take it slow. That’s why we recommend using sunscreen while tanning outdoors. Even SPF30 only filters out 97% of the UV rays which means 3% can activate melanin production and make you tan. It just takes longer.
How redheads can get a tan
Now, that’s not a recommendation to spend hours outdoors. SPF30 can keep you from burning for thirty times longer than you normally would, but it’s not a suit of armor. SPF15, meanwhile, offers a 15X extension of time. Therefore, if you normally burn in ten minutes, SPF 15 should protect you for 150 minutes or a little over two hours (1).
Let’s be honest, most of us don’t put on the recommended quantity of sunscreen. That affects how well we’re protected, too.
Seriously, you’re supposed to use a shot glass-full amount for the whole body. And you need to reapply it every two hours or immediately after swimming.
So, how can gingers get a tan? They can use tanning lotion with sunscreen on top, or sunscreen alone.
At the indoor tanning salon, the staff will set you up for a series of brief sessions of a few minutes each in the correct type of bed. But this only happens if you’re Type II or darker. They should suggest a spray tan session for Type Is.
Outdoors, it’s trickier because the UV exposure isn’t controlled. You probably already know you can burn even on a cloudy day. The reflection from water, sand, and snow greatly intensifies the UV rays as well (2).
Get the app that shows the UV index in your area on the day you want to tan. If the index is 0, 1, or 2, you might be able to stay outside for as long as an hour without sunscreen and without burning. Of course, you’re probably not going to tan very much if at all.
If the UV index is between 3 and 5, you’re likely to burn in twenty minutes without sunscreen or shade.
At 6 or 7, it’s essential to wear sunglasses and stay out of the sun as you’ll be roasted in twenty minutes or less without protection.
Once the UV index hits 8 or higher, redheads should stay out of the sun, especially between 10 AM and 2 PM. Remember, the goal is to bronze not broil.
The sweet spot for pale-skinned people to tan is when the UV index is around 5 to 7. Rub on the sunscreen fifteen minutes before you go outdoors then soak up the sun for fifteen minutes to half an hour. Don’t forget to turn and roast both sides evenly. Most importantly, don’t overstay your welcome. You may not see much of a difference that day because it takes time for the melanin to activate.
Skip a day and go back again the next. Why wait a day? Again, it’s because your body needs time to do its job with the UV rays it absorbed.
Repeat the process until you’re satisfied, or switch to sunless tanning. It’s a whole lot easier.
Best Tanning Lotion for Redheads in 2024
Try one of the best tanning products for redheads below.
Maui Babe Browning Lotion
Vacationers to Hawaii have known about Maui Babe’s lotion for years. It’s how fair-skinned tourists get a deep bronze in the tropical sunlight. Moreover, this company makes no secret of the fact that their lotion plays well with sunscreen.
FYI: this is the version with mineral oil made for outdoor tanning. For indoor tanning, you’ll need a lotion without mineral oil, like the Maui Babe coconut oil formula.
The eight-ounce bottle is enough for a week on the beach. It’s a simple concoction with Kukui nut oil, antioxidants, Kona coffee plant extract, aloe, and potassium iodide. It smells like coffee and coconut and it may discolor your towel or bathing suit if you don’t wait until it dries. (Thankfully, it washes out easily).
The ingredients turn it into a cosmetic bronzer that gives the skin a temporary caramel color. Therefore, you won’t blind anyone as you’ll look like you’ve already been to the beach.
What’s more, the caffeine from the Kona coffee plant. It stimulates blood circulation to speed tanning while the antioxidants defend against photoaging.
The texture is thick and buttery and very moisturizing. It helps to be able to wash your hands or wipe them after applying it. Use little dabs and work in small sections for even coverage. It may feel a little oily at first, but it absorbs.
Our investigation found that every redhead we heard from highly recommended pairing it with sunscreen to avoid burning. The lotion intensifies the sun’s effects, which is great if you want to tan, but bad if you burn easily.
- Time-tested miracle for tourists that builds bronze rapidly
- Simple formula with antioxidants to counteract photoaging
- Smells like coconut and coffee and moisturizes the skin
- Performs well when used with sunscreen
- Contains a cosmetic bronzer for instant caramel color
- May temporarily stain towels and swimsuits
Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion
What’s the best tan accelerator for gingers? It’s hard to beat the Quad Tyrosine Blend and Melano Bronze in this indoor tanning lotion. Both encourage pigment production in the skin. Then, there’s Melactiva that synthesizes melanin, too. All of these are proprietary components developed by one of the biggest brands in the tanning industry.
Furthermore, this lotion has no artificial bronzers. The color you achieve is all natural. But if you have tattoos, the lotion protects them from fading.
It’s very moisturizing, which is essential since tanning can dehydrate the skin. It makes the skin so silky that some people use it as body lotion even when they don’t tan. Plus, it has a delicious coconut vanilla fragrance.
Reviewers say it’s excellent for building a base tan on pale skin.
- Features three melanin-stimulating tanning accelerators
- Creamy, moisturizing lotion with a coconut vanilla fragrance
- No artificial bronzers– builds a natural bronze
- Protects tattoos from fading
Coppertone Tanning Dry Oil Sunscreen Continuous Spray SPF 15
What about the best tanning oil for gingers? We’d recommend Coppertone’s dry oil with SPF 15 or SPF 30. It’s not greasy at all even though it’s an “oil”. It absorbs like magic into the skin.
What’s more, it’s perfect for the beach, the pool, or outdoor sports because it’s water-resistant for up to eighty minutes. If you sweat, it’s not going to run into your eyes and make them sting.
On the downside, if you have sensitive skin, be advised that it relies on chemical sunscreen filters like avobenzone and it contains a fragrance.
- Easy to apply and not greasy
- Water-resistant for eighty minutes; won’t sting the eyes
- Available with different degrees of protection
- May not be appropriate for very sensitive skin
- Tricky to apply enough protection when it’s a spray – use more than you think you need
Australian Gold Sunscreen Lotion with Instant Bronzer, SPF 30
This brand makes both sunscreen and tanning lotion. They take their inspiration from Down Under and include exotic ingredients like Kakadu plum and tea tree oil. Both of these are packed with antioxidants that ward off wrinkles and sun damage.
This delicious lotion has caramel, an instant bronzer. It offers an instant sun-kissed glow from the moment you apply it. When you shower, it washes off.
The formula is water-resistant to allow you to go swimming and still filter the sun’s rays. Happily, it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and contains no gluten.
- Instant bronzer provides a sun-kissed glow
- Packed with antioxidants from tea tree oil and Kakadu plum
- Water-resistant, vegan, and cruelty-free
St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
Here’s the best self-tanner for redheads. Actually, we recommend any of the sunless tanning products from this brand. If you’re in a hurry, try the Express version that will bronze you within an hour. Or if you have more time, try the lotion that builds color more gradually than the Classic mousse, taking days instead of hours.
Although you can apply the mousse with your hands, it’s ideal to use a mitt. It prevents your hands from getting stained and makes for flawless coverage.
This self-tanner will never turn you orange or leave streaks if you follow their directions. It’s much cheaper than a spray tan and lasts almost as long. The color looks great for about week but may last as long as ten days. As it fades, it looks about the same as a suntan fading. Plus, you’ll never burn, blister, or peel.
The mousse has a lovely fragrance and none of that self-tanning smell that some products have. It’s caused by DHA (dihydroxyacetone), the ingredient that interacts with your skin to bronze it. Fortunately, this formula next to no noticeable odor.
After four hours, you’ll develop a light tan. It goes deeper if you wait eight hours before showering. Once it’s dry, you don’t have to worry about color rubbing off onto clothing or sheets.
- Easy to apply, pleasant fragrance, no strong self-tanning odor
- Develops a sun-kissed glow in four hours, and a decent tan in eight hours
- Available in Express and gradual tanning lotion formulas
- It really is easier to apply with a reusable mitt, which increases the initial cost
Redheads can tan even if it comes from a bottle. If you crave that summertime bronze, you can achieve it with patience and the right tanning lotion.
We hope the reviews helped you find the best tanning product for your needs today. If so, tell us about it in the comments below.
1. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/ Reviewed by
Elisabeth G. Richard, MD, last updated: January 2021, accessed June 20, 2021
2. https://www.summithealthcare.com/blog/how-much-sun-too-much-uv-index-explained accessed June 20, 2021