Does Baby Oil Help You Tan?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When it comes to how to get the best tan, you could ask ten different people and get ten different answers. Tanning lotion, foam, spray tan, airbrush, tanning beds…

But one question that seems to abound in the world of tanning is whether baby oil helps you tan or not. 

It’s a question that’s as old as the sun (not really, but I thought that analogy fit, given the topic.) 

In fact, the baby oil tanning fad started around the 1960s. But today, I’m going to settle it once and for all.

Does baby oil help you tan? Technically, yes. Baby oil absorbs the sun But (and that’s a BIG BUT) you should NEVER use baby oil for tanning. 

If that’s all you read of this article, that’s fine by me. As long as you know that using baby oil in the sun is dangerous and should never be done (and you promise not to do it) then I’ve done my job.

If you have more questions about baby oil for tanning, or you’re curious about why you should avoid it like the plague, then keep reading.

Why You Should Never Use Baby Oil For Tanning

Unlike sunscreen which has ingredients that deflect harmful UV rays, baby oil does the exact opposite – it attracts the sun and allows harmful UV rays to deeply penetrate your skin. 

Overexposure to UV rays is the leading cause of most skin cancers, including deadly melanoma, which unlike some other forms of skin cancer, has a tendency to spread quickly to other organs in the body. (1)

So while slathering yourself with baby oil and laying out in the sun may make your skin tan faster, you’re also greatly increasing your risk of painful sunburn and encouraging skin cancer. 

woman with sunburn on her legs

Does Baby Oil Make You Darker?

Baby oil can make you darker because it attracts UV rays. However, UV rays also cause sunburn and are the leading cause of skin cancer, so tanning with baby oil is not worth the risk.

In addition, UV ray exposure causes dark spots and other signs of aging, like wrinkles.

How Long Should You Tan With Baby Oil?

You should never apply baby oil to your skin before you go out in the sun.

It takes as little as 11 minutes to get a sunburn, and given that baby oil attracts UV rays, sunburn is likely to occur even sooner if you’ve applied baby oil to your skin. (2)

What To Use Instead of Baby Oil For Tanning

I understand the temptation to use baby oil for tanning. But please, don’t do it. It’s not worth the risks.

There are so many safe, effective tanning products on the market that there’s no reason whatsoever to be using baby oil for tanning. 

Below are two of my favorite tanning products I recommend:

bondi sands self tanning foam

Bondi Sands Aero Self Tanning Foam

When it comes to self-tanning foams, I can’t go past Bondi Sands Aero self-tanning foam. It’s easy to apply and very moisturizing. The smell isn’t too strong (if you’re used to the smell of tanning products, this one is very mild) and it gives a dark, deep, natural-looking tan.

black coconut love self tanner

Tanning Paradise Black Coconut Love

If you’d prefer a self-tanning lotion over a foam, then I recommend the Tanning Paradise Black Coconut Love lotion. This tanning lotion is one of my favorites – I’ve been using it for years and I love the results. In addition to providing a deep, dark tan that you can build on over time, it has coconut butter and cocoa oil which keeps your skin super soft and silky.

A Cautionary Tale About Using Baby Oil For Tanning

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should avoid using baby oil for tanning, I want to share a short (true) story with you.

When I was a teenager, I remember buying a cheap, stinky self-tanning lotion from my local drugstore in an attempt to tan my feet. As an avid runner, my feet were snow white and my legs were deeply tanned. (White socks weren’t in fashion back then.)

The cheap, crappy tanning lotion did nothing except make my entire bathroom smell terrible. 

That weekend, my Aunt visited and mentioned that when she was a teenager, she used to slather herself with baby oil to get a deep, dark tan. 

I’m sure she had good intentions when she shared that with me, but it didn’t turn out too good for me, unfortunately.

Long story short – I slathered my feet in baby oil, laid out in the midday sun for a couple of hours, and basically roasted my feet like a rotisserie chicken.

My feet were so badly burned that my skin blistered. I was unable to wear shoes for over a week until the blisters burst and I was able to cover them with big bandaids. 

It’s great to learn from other people’s mistakes, so you don’t have to make them yourself. This is why I shared my (slightly embarrassing) baby oil story.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a fast, deep tan then it’s tempting to reach for the bottle of baby oil.

But please be aware that tanning with baby oil is incredibly dangerous – at the least, you risk painfully burning your skin – at worst, it could cause potentially deadly skin cancer to develop. 

There are many products specifically designed to help you safely tan, so there’s no need to use something as dangerous as baby oil for tanning.



Resources related to “Does Baby Oil Help You Tan?”

Leave a Comment