What products shouldn’t be used in salon? A guide to some of the worst tanning lotion alternatives

Did you know there has been a significant increase in inappropriate products being brought into a salon for sunbed use? With the impact of inflation hitting clients, it seems TikTok affordable ‘tanning hacks’ have become a main cause of customers looking outside the salon for tanning lotion. However, this is causing problems for both salons and clients. Did you know that the majority of products being brought in risk clients overexposing? They also risk damage to tanning equipment. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of some of the most common products causing problems in-salon this season, and why they shouldn’t be used.

Why is tanning lotion so important?

All clients should be using a tanning lotion on a sunbed. This helps boost tan results and kickstart the tanning process within 30 seconds. Tanning lotion also helps:

  • combat the signs of ageing
  • prevent tanners from smelling
  • soften skin
  • keep skin moisturised
  • UV to tan deeper into skin’s layers, rather than just providing a surface tan.

For all the reasons why a tanning lotion must always be used, check out this blog HERE!

Tanning lotions have also been designed with tanning equipment in mind. The formulas are designed so that none of the ingredients will damage sunbed acrylics. However, this is not the case for many non-tanning products brought in. Non-tanning products have not been designed with salon-equipment care in mind.

“Tanning” products that shouldn’t be used and their impact:

Mineral oils

Mineral oils

Products such as baby oil, vaseline, and petroleum jellies are all inappropriate for tanning. These products have not been designed for tanning. Therefore, they do not contain UV-specific ingredients, or the appropriate skincare needed to care for skin whilst tanning. Mineral oils can magnify UV, making overexposure and burning more likely. What’s more, the use of alcohols and preservatives can dry out skin, meaning that tan results are short-lived and don’t feed, hydrate or care for the skin, or combat the signs of ageing. 

This is especially relevant for indoor tanning. Mineral oils cannot be processed by sunbed acrylics. During the tanning process, the acrylic will expand and contract to accommodate the warmth of the session. When the acrylic expands, mineral oils can be absorbed and cause it to cloud over, visibly showing it’s been used. When absorbed, it is impossible to remove from the acrylic and will prevent it from being able to expand and contract, meaning that the acrylic will crack and be unusable. This costs salons a lot of money to replace and means that the equipment is not safe to use until it has a new acrylic. 

Key takeaways: 

No appropriate skincare is provided, alcohols dry out the skin which can increase the risk of overexposure and burning, and can cause significant damage to equipment.

Spray oils

Although some tanning brands do create tanning Spray Oils, it is a salon’s prerogative to decide whether this is okay to accept in the salon or not. Many brands can create products for both indoor and outdoor tanning; namely, spray oils. 

Although if designed by a tanning brand, typically they will not damage equipment, such as Australian Gold’s Bronzing Dry Oil Spray and Accelerator Sprays, we recommend checking the ingredients listed on a bottle, or check the brand’s website to see if there is a note regarding the use on sunbeds. 

Another point for consideration is whether these are appropriate for use in the salon if you have a hard floor. If not applied carefully, oils can easily end up on the floor and create a slip hazard for themselves and future tanners, risking injury. These products can also easily dirty salon spaces, as trigger sprays can spray oil onto walls, marking them.

Key takeaways: 

All products are different and ingredients or brand websites should be checked to see if appropriate for sunbed use, can cause slip hazards.


Although an old product, this one always pops up occasionally as something people use for tanning. The second ingredient listed in this product is paraffinum liquidum – a form of mineral oil. Plus this also contains Petrolatum and alcohol. These ingredients can dry out skin, are not designed with tanning in mind, and can increase the risk of overexposure and burning. What’s more, these ingredients are not appropriate to use on a sunbed due to the risk of acrylic damage from the mineral oils.

Key takeaways:

Could increase risk of overexposure and burning, will damage sunbed equipment

High street moisturisers

A lot of clients don’t understand the difference between a tanning lotion and a moisturiser. This is where you step in. Not only do many highstreet moisturisers contain preservatives and alcohols that can dry skin out whilst tanning, but they also don’t contain any of the appropriate tanning technologies to help you develop a deep tan. The drying effect can also magnify UV, making tanners at a higher risk of burning, as demonstrated in the photo shared by Boutique Tanning Lounge, York, of a client who used a high street moisturiser whilst tanning. 

These formulas can also risk damaging your tanning equipment too. One key aspect of acrylic care is ensuring it remains clean, using alcohol-free cleaning products. Many high street products contain alcohol which is not appropriate for use on equipment – even stand-ups. We have seen imagery from salons showing vertical sunbed floors peeling, where the wrong product has been used, and the floor has been damaged as a result. 

Key takeaways: 

Typically contain alcohol which can magnify UV and result in a higher risk of burning, alcohols also damage sunbed acrylics and floors.


Sun protection

Although we always strongly recommend using sun protection when spending time outdoors, applying sun cream before a sunbed can be argued to negate the time spent on a sunbed. As time spent indoors is controlled to avoid overexposure, the use of sun cream means the skin doesn’t spend time tanning. There are times when sun protection is necessary:

  • On scars to avoid hyperpigmentation
  • To protect tattoos from fading
  • To avoid microblading from fading

However, on the whole, this is not necessary and won’t allow tanners to see the best results possible. 

Some sun creams also contain mineral oil. This is something that should therefore be checked before someone insists on using sun protection on your equipment, for the same reason as above – mineral oils damage salon equipment. For a brand of sun protection that does not contain mineral oil, we recommend Australian Gold. This also contains a line of sun protection ‘sticks’ which have been designed for tattoo and micro-blading care whilst tanning. 

Key takeaways: 

SPF is not necessary for sunbed use due to limited time spent tanning, meaning the risk of burning is minimal when tanning responsibly. SPF should only be applied to tattoos, scars, and microblading, using a sun cream that doesn’t contain mineral oils. 

Certain high street branded tanning products

There has been an increase in high street branded tanning products being brought into the salon, without understanding whether or not the brand has designed the product for indoor or outdoor use. Below I have listed some of the most common ones brought in the salon, and whether or not this is appropriate.

Shine Brown:

This is not a brand we recommend using on your equipment. Looking at their bestselling product, the first listed ingredient is petrolatum, a mineral oil. Mineral oils can seriously damage sunbed acrylics.

Fox Tan:

This is a difficult one; half of the products are recommended by the brand for sunbed use. However, some are noted that they should only be used outdoors. This means that salons should be checking their website for updates on what is and isn’t appropriate for salon use. For the moment, the ones noted as unsuitable are: Candy Oil and Bronzing Balm.

Below text found as a Google answer to “Shine Brown ingredients list”. As noted, the first ingredient listed is a mineral oil.
Below text found on the Fox Tan website on products Candy Oil & Bronzing Balm

Pure plant extracts

Although ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut oil, olive oil, carrot oil, and cocoa butter are used regularly in tanning lotions, the raw ingredient itself, should not be used in lieu of tanning lotion. Within tanning lotions, these ingredients have been refined and blended into delivery systems that allow the skin to make the most of all tanning technology and skincare provided. On the other hand, pure plant extracts can’t care for skin and combat the ageing process in the same way.

What’s more the use of oils can once again cause a slip hazard in the salon, endangering tanners and staff.


Realistically, for the best tan results, clients must use a professional tanning lotion. These are designed with indoor tanning as their primary purpose, to deliver the best tan results, combat ageing, ensure results last as long as possible, and prevent any damage to salon equipment. For the best relationship between clients and staff, this should be educated clearly before tanning to ensure clients understand the reasons FOR lotion and AGAINST ‘alternatives’.

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