There are a number of reasons why some people seek a tanning lotion as opposed to a sunscreen or sunblock when it comes to getting a great looking tan. While there are tons of people turning to sunscreen in order to block harmful UV rays, there are others that actually invest in this alternative product to help amplify the effects of ultraviolet rays.
What is a tan?
There are a few varieties on the theme:
Indoor lotions are predominantly designed to produce more melanin, which is the substance that gives our skin its natural color. The more melanin that is present in our skin, the darker the skin will appear. Additionally, indoor lotions use other ingredients to help speed this process up. The most common ingredients used include natural oils, tea oil, copper, green tea extract, and certain oils for fragrance.
Indoor tanning lotions are mostly used in tanning salons. Because tanning beds can dry the skin out in the process, the majority of lotions also contain ingredients made to keep your skin sufficiently moisturized. When the skin is hydrated and moisturized, it will appear smoother and healthier as well as tanned. These lotions are designed to moisturize in the same way that regular body lotions do but usually do not contain as much alcohol. There seem to be quite a few that are formulated with hempseed oil due to its moisturizing ability, since it is high in fatty acids and locks in moisture after application.
An interesting and quite common feature of these products is known as the "tingle factor". The physical science contained behind this experience is not entirely proven in many people's opinions, but essentially is achieved through the use of skin irritants or chemicals in the lotion ingredients. These cause a reddening sensation, or flushing of the wearer's skin by increasing the skin's blood flow. Although rare, some people have been known to experience slight pain from the tingle factor but it varies from person to person. No system has yet been created that can objectively rate the tingle lotions that are available. However, some manufacturers, or the tanning salons themselves, offer tingle ratings in an effort to provide some guidance to their consumers, but it is not universally standardized or legislated in any way. Because many people find the tingle sensation either unpleasant or uncomfortable, most manufacturers produce tanning lotion options, with and without the tingle ingredients. Without understanding the actual science of what is making their skin tingle this way, many consumers opt veer away from the tingle option.
When looking for an indoor lotion recommendation, a visit to your local tanning salon will more than likely produce a list of their recommendations, which will fall in line with their experience as well as which brand they are affiliated to.
Tanning without the added benefit of the suns UV rays, or indoor tanning salon UV rays, has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years or so. Self tanning lotions, contain what is termed "bronzers", most of which use the ingredient called Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. This will be combined with other ingredients to help boost the tanning process. This is somewhat different than the use of DHA in sunless tanning, as the goal is to get an immediate tan but then be allowed to go in the sun. In other words, they are used to get a head start on the tanning process. If these bronzing lotions combine the 'tingle' ingredients, they are known as Hot Bronzers. If combined with any cooling agent ingredients like Menthol, they are known as Cool Bronzers.
Sunless lotions, in contrast to the self tanning lotions, will stipulate that contact with UV rays will be detrimental and is to be avoided. Results might involve blotching, or an irregular tan.
The best tan will be obtained if you apply the lotion generously all over your exposed skin. As indoor tanning usually requires an all over tan, a 250ml bottle of lotion will last about 8 - 16 applications. This depends quite obviously on how generous you choose to be with the lotion as well as how much body there is to cover! eg. A small frame, short woman on one extreme will require a whole lot less than a large frame, tall man on the other extreme! Bottle sizes are usually 250ml or 500ml in size and even larger when used in bulk on salons.
The tanning salon industry has become a huge industry in the last decade or so and as a result the competition between tanning lotion brands has produced some interesting innovations. Graphic designs on the tubes or bottles of lotion are mostly colorful, sexy, zany, flashy and provocative. They promise some truly amazing results like "delivers instant, dramatically dark color" while appealing to "the discriminating tanning connoisseur".
As the public become more aware, manufacturers are focusing on improved formulas too, like excluding parabens: including antioxidants and botanical oils; being more natural; being Hypoallergenic; and using natural fragrances and not chemical ones.