A Tanner's Guide to Bronzer Lotions


We all want to look and feel our best. For many, that means maintaining a tan. But this can be tough to do with natural sunlight alone – especially if you don’t live somewhere that receives year-round sunshine.

That’s why the global market for self-tanning products is nearly $1 billion. Products like bronzer lotions enable people to maintain the complexions they want without having to be in the sun all day.

We put together this guide to help you find the best bronzer lotion for your goals.

Here’s what you’ll learn

  • What bronzer lotion is and why it’s worth using
  • How long bronzer lasts and whether you can get tan while wearing it
  • How to pick your ideal bronzer lotion
  • More information about instant tanning products and how to use them safely

What is a bronzer lotion, exactly?

Bronzer lotion is a cosmetic product that tans your skin when you put it on, to mirror what you would look like with a suntan. This enables you to achieve an instant glow without having to spend a lot of time outside in the sun to get it.

Do they work?

Yes! Bronzers really do work. Every company uses its own formula to deliver the glowing skin that consumers want. But many contain the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

Researchers learned that DHA tanned the skin entirely by chance. German scientists were using it as part of the X-ray process in the 1920s when some of it accidentally spilled on a person’s skin.

They realized that the impacted part of the person’s skin tanned a few hours later, which gave them the idea that this could be used for sunless tanning purposes. An American scientist made a similar discovery in the 1950s.

Over the years, companies have fine-tuned their formulas to use DHA in more precise and powerful ways, so that now, sunless tanners are capable of delivering beautiful glowing skin.

Why use a bronzer lotion?

Get an instant glow

People are often busy, and it takes hours of lounging in the sun to achieve a natural tan. 

That’s another one of the main reasons why instant bronzer has become so popular: it helps people get the glowing skin that they want without having to spend a ton of time in the sun to get it.

Nourish your skin

Bronzers can also be good for your skin. At Australian Gold, we use all-natural ingredients like Kakadu Plum, aloe vera, and energizing caffeine in our sunless products. This enables you to look after your skin while also helping it look its best.

Gain confidence

Exposing your skin for the world to see can make you feel vulnerable. If you’re not happy with the way it looks, then you might be tempted to stay bundled up and sheltered.

Bronzer can help you get the confidence you need to break out of your shell. If you’re happy with the way your skin looks, you’ll be much likelier to get out and do the things you love.

How long does bronzer lotion last?

The answer to this question depends on the specific type of bronzer lotion that you’re using. There are two major formulations to consider.

Some bronzing products are designed to wash off instantly. You put them on your skin before going out, get the instant glow that you’re looking for on that day, and then remove the glow the next time that you bathe.

But some self-tanners are designed to last longer than that. These will generally leave your skin looking tanner for about 7-10 days after application.

That’s because the skin exfoliates itself naturally with a process that takes about 7-10 days to complete. At that point, the tanned skinned cells are replaced with new ones.

Side note: That’s why natural sun tans last 7-10 days as well.

Can I get tan while wearing bronzer?

Yes, you can still get a natural tan while wearing a bronzer. That means you can put on a bronzer to get the instant glow that you want right away while also working towards achieving the natural tan that you want. 

Here’s why that’s true:

The science behind tanning with bronzer

The question of whether you get tan or not comes down to how much exposure your skin gets to the sun’s UV rays. When UV-B rays hit your skin, melanocytes produce melanin. This is the molecule that’s responsible for the instant glow of tanned skin.

On their own, bronzer lotions won’t block UV-B rays from getting to your skin at all, so they don’t interfere with this natural process, which will continue working just as though you weren’t any bronzer.

That being said, some bronzer lotions also have built-in SPF protection. These special products do limit some of the sun’s UV-B rays from reaching your skin.

You can still get tan while wearing a bronzer with SPF protection. But the rate of tanning (and your rate of getting sunburns, by the way) won’t be as efficient when you use this type of bronzing lotion.

How to pick your ideal bronzer lotion

Now that we know what bronzer lotion is, how it works, and why it’s worth using, let’s figure out how to select the right option for your specific skin goals. Here are step-by-step instructions to get you started:

Step 1: Make a decision about SPF

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people should wear SPF 15 every time they leave the house and SPF 30 when they know that they’re going to be in the sun for most of the day.

You don’t have to get that SPF protection from your bronzer lotion. But you have the option of doing so, and you may or may not want to exercise that choice.

The question comes down to how you plan on using the bronzer lotion. Are you looking for an instant glow while going about your daily life? Or do you want a bronzer to wear the next time you’re spending a day outside?

If you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, you’ll probably want to opt for SPF protection. Finding a bronzer lotion that offers this will let you protect your skin while getting the glow you want without having to use multiple products to achieve this.

Step 2: Choose the characteristics of your tan

There are a few different types of tans that you can get from bronzer lotions and similar products.

One class of product will give you a full glow instantly, which will go away the next time you wash your skin. This is a good choice if you’re just looking for some extra glow on a specific day.

Another type of product will keep your skin looking tan for 7-10 days. If you’re looking for a sunless tan that doesn’t go away, then buying this kind of bronzer and reapplying it every week or so is going to be your best bet.

Finally, there are also gradual tanning products available. Most of these are also designed for daily use, but they don’t give you a full glow right away. 

Instead, they gradually build up to a full glow over the course of several hours. The idea behind these products is to more naturally replicate what a natural tan progress buildup would look like.

Each type of bronzer lotion can be effective. The one that’s right for you just depends on the kind of tan that you want.

Step 3: Look for companies that fit your values

Now you’re ready to begin zeroing in on some specific companies that you might purchase from. While doing this, it’s good to look at the manufacturing practices that the companies follow to make sure they meet your goals.

For example, Australian Gold is a cruelty-free organization – meaning we don’t test any of our products on animals. You might also want to prioritize buying from businesses that protect the reefs or don’t use any harsh chemicals in their products.

Step 4: Choose a product with nourishing ingredients

Finally, once a product has passed each of the last three checks, you can select the one with the ingredients that are best for your goals.

For example, you can look for bronzers that also help to moisturize the skin. Other products may help to energize your skin with ingredients like caffeine.

Australian Gold has a bronzer lotion for everyone to enjoy

Are you ready to get started with bronzer lotions? If so, Australian Gold has you covered with our wide selection of sunless tanning products.

We’ve also got a great variety of bronzers with sunscreen. These are a great way to bring a little extra glow to your skin the next time you need some protection from the sun.

You can take a look at our full online shop to get an even closer look at everything we have to offer.