Why Is Tanning Lotion So Expensive?

100 US DollarThere are a couple of reasons why indoor tanning lotion is so expensive. If you’ve never been to a tanning salon before you may be shocked when you get there and they try to talk you into buying a bottle of lotion that’s $60, $80 or even $110. It is imperative that you use a lotion on your body during a session in a bed and you can’t use the stuff you use outdoors.

Let’s start with the secondary reason tanning lotions cost so much. These types of lotions have very special ingredients and their formulas take time to be developed by chemists and scientists. Some of these ingredients include hemp seed oil, tinglers and more commonly added skin bronzers. The use of such unique ingredients in the formulas is one of the reasons why the price jumps to a level that seems very high to most.

The main reason indoor tanning bed lotions are as expensive as they are is… well there isn’t really any good reason. The profit margin on lotions is extraordinarily high, much more than most consumer products. The sale of indoor tanning products is a big part of a salon’s business model when it comes to the bottom line. However, some tanners dislike the idea of having to pay that much for a consumable product that they’ll need to buy again in 2 months. Add that on to the price of tanning itself and you have a pretty decent monthly expense. The good news is that if you have some negotiation skills you can usually become friendly with the salon operator and they’ll start giving you nice discounts on bottles of lotion.

Even though it may be very costly we still recommend that you stay away from cheap tanning lotion. This is something you spread over your entire body so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re using a very high quality product.

19 comments... leave yours here.
  1. Mika says:

    I totally agree with this article. Buying the lotions at the salons are such a rip-off!!! Before I knew about this site I used to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the lotions and then would use them so sparingly that I wouldn’t get good results! Buying online is not only economical but there are so many more choices!

  2. Peaudor says:

    I have not used the mentioned product but I use Peau D’ Or sunless tanning solutions. Their ‘Pure Elements’ range is for everyday use which has 3 shades to choose from. These products have deep colour which stays longer and the skin looks healthy and glowing. The products are world class with no visible side effect till date.

  3. Apryl says:

    My friend bought a lotion at her tanning salon and they charged her $125.00. She had a bit left so I tried it and loved it. I knew I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money on a lotion when my monthly package was cheaper than the lotion, so I went online and found the same exact lotion for $45.00…when I told her what I paid, she almost fell over!! We have been to that website 4 times now and have a variety of lotions….all with tingle bronzer! Love them!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The people that pay these high prices at the tanning salons for indoor tanning lotions are crazy!!! What a rip off!!! You can buy these lotions on line, or at Sally’s Beauty Supply for 3.99-8.99. They will not lower the prices on these lotions until people quit buying from them. Then they will lower the price. They charge more for the lotions than they do for the tanning!!!!!

  5. Jillian says:

    you make an awful argument. define ‘tinglers’ — i know what it is and what it feels like but i want to know what it’s chemical compound is and why it is so rare and expensive – hemp seed oil is certainly not ‘unique’ at all and has a base value that dosnt even approach the exorbitant prices that salons boasts. If the ingredients are the same in a cheaper lotion, than clearly it is like buying stop n shop butter or lando lakes butter. exact same ingredients. — different price. choose cheaper!!

  6. Tabbitha says:

    i have managed a tanning salon for over 5 years, and would NEVER buy online lotion. Designer Skin does NOT sell to 3rd party people. You have to be a salon owner to have a contract with them. you never know what someone is going to do to the lotions or what your actually getting.

    a lady bout a tingle online one time and it had hot sauce in it. it gave her the worse rash you’ve ever seen!!!

    people steak out the designer skin plant in AZ and wait for them to toss a bunch of lotion that is not formulated right so they can steal it!! of course then they are black marketing it. or better yet, they are robbing the shipment trucks and then selling it.

    its all bs.

    bottom line. quit being cheap and buy salon lotion. at least you know where it came from.

  7. Kim says:

    I have owned a tanning salon for 6 years, before I opened the salon I was a regular tanner during spring and summer season… For all those inexperienced commenters on here… Remember this, you get what you pay for. The 8.99 tanning lotion from walmart, sallys, etc. Damages the acrylics in a commercial or residential tanning bed, because the ingredients are not formulated properly and do not help to give you a healthy tan. There are many SALON FORMULATED inexpensive INDOOR (not indoor/outdoor rip offs) tanning lotions that are affordable. I have an excellent reputation in my salon and I never overcharge any customer or sell them anything they dont need. My goal is to provide the healthiest and a relaxing experience they expect. We in the tanning industry are trained (or most of us should I say) to know what works best for each individual person. Btw…online tanning lotion companies selling online, have been blacklisted by Designer Skin and the rest of the manufactures of the industry….. Think about that. Research is a powerful tool. I respect others opinions and this was just my experienced opinion.

  8. derek says:

    Tanning lotion prices are borderline criminal. There are no magical (read: expensive) ingredients, and development costs do not significantly exceed the average store brand hand lotion. “Scientifically formulated” is a meaningless marketing ploy – every product on the market could make the same claim. Additionally, whenever a retailer or industry is “blacklisted” (as per a previous comment) or disparaged in industry reports, a likely reason is potential reduction in companies’ bottom lines. Every industry has trade groups whose sole job is to maximize industry profits. One major strategy is convincing customers of the exclusivity and superiority of certain products.
    This is not to say all products are equal – we all know they are not.. However, price is absolutely no indication of quality. None. Trial and error is a consumer’s best (only?) option. Manufacturers use veiled marketing-based claims as though they were some scientific indicator. This deliberate obfuscation makes comparing products extremely difficult, to the benefit of the manufacturers. Otherwise everyone would see their ruse and the market would no longer support obscene prices.
    This is mostly generic advice, applicable to most any industry. Always be wary of product claims when the author has a financial stake in your purchase (though even knowing this is difficult – trade groups often publish PR articles designed to look like independent analysis.)
    Apologies… did not intend on such a long response.

  9. Alonso says:

    No, you will not tan faster. Your skin will burn bauecse sun-screen and abstaining from the sun are the only ways to not get burned.Tan skin isn’t sexy. It’s damaged. You age quicker, and it looks awful.References :

  10. YourMom says:


    Get off your high horse. Who are you to say what is and isn’t sexy? Get over yourself.

  11. Amanda says:

    Everytime I have bought offline. I brought it I’m and compared it to the product in the store. Offline was consistently- a slightly different color, smell was off, more watery consistency, if it had bronzes- they would bead up when i applied them, the packaging was ever so slightly off and it didn’t feel as good on my skin or smell as good after. I have bought if quite a few sites like amazon and tanning websites. All without fail seem to not be exactly what they have in the salon. That doesn’t mean I didn’t continue to use the lotion.. But honestly I still felt ripped off because I paid 25 instead if 60… But the quality was significantly less! Someone else was obviously making a profit off of a cheap knockoff lotion!

  12. JoJo says:

    I am looking for a tanning lotion that I used about 15 years ago it was a set before and after it was the best stuff and the bottles looked like a tanning bed together. Does anybody know or remember these lotions or no where I can get them? I can’t remember the name. Just thought I’d ask 🙂

  13. tami says:

    I always find it comical when an owner of a tanning salon trys to justify outrageous pieces for a product and limIt the channels which they are avaiLable through misinformation and fear mogering. The next urban legend, people stalking a tanning cream’s Manufacturing plant to steal cream from the dunpster. Yep, that’s believable…lol.

  14. notbuyingit says:

    Of course a salon owner is going to tell you not to buy in-store. It’s all smoke and mirrors and snake oil.

  15. dee says:

    For years, I’ve applied posh salon lotion everywhere except on the middle of my back, since I can’t reach there very well. No difference, I tan evenly all over. ’nuff said!

  16. Kalei says:

    I work at a Salon. I am not the owner, so I am going to be fair and honest, but try to keep things simple! I am not pro or con about this issue.

    There is no such thing as a safe tan. Different lotions do different things. Tingles, bronzes, accelerators.

    It is okay to tan without lotion at all, but your skin dries faster, so it’s best to stay hydrated. If you really wanted to, you could just bring normal lotion to keep hydrated.

    There again, are a few differences. Lotions in salons have different scents. So if you want to stay hydrated but also want to smell like peaches, you can get a $25 lotion. Bronzers are always more expensive because it is the lotion that actually gives you the “instant tan”, not the tanning bed itself.

    The lotions that smell better generally cost more. Some have silicones in them, and to learn more about what silicone lotion does, you may google it, but don’t worry, it’s not going to kill you or anything!

    Lastly, a lot of employees work off commission, so the more they sell, the more they make themselves.
    Other than that, they rest goes for other expenses, such as maintenance and profit for the salon.

    I do not agree with the prices at all. We have lotions here for $100, that is ridiculous. There is not much of a difference between our $100 lotion and out $25 lotions besides the smell. But again, the ingredients are different as well, so it is up to you as the buyer to decide if it’s worth the money! But to me, it is not.

    FINALLY x2, there is NOTHING wrong with Walmart lotion. It must go through inspection, you aren’t going to die and there is no additional damage. I wouldn’t trust online. They are not the same product, I promise. You have to order from special catalogs to get the correct product, so if you want that $60 half off (or even more!), find a catalog online and go through their magazine and I GUARANTEE you WILL save money!

    That is all the help I can offer but I hope it was useful!

  17. Celeste says:

    I work for a corporate chain of tanning salons. As part of the training we get aside from learning the ins and outs of tanning, we also have special lotion classes that we are required to go to each month. While buying online is “economical” it’s also dangerous. Distributors don’t sell online, only to tanning salons. When you buy a lotion online what makes them so cheap is the fact that 85% of the lotion is water. Also, they contain bacteria where artificial bronzers are being used instead of the natural ones to have a lower price. The lotion is authentic and was sold to you for a cheap price from somewhere other then online or the salon, it’s a tester bottle that the salon threw out. We have people digging through our dumpster all the time. Even the cheapest lotion at any salon is better than an online one.

  18. Megan says:


    You must not know how tanning lotions work. It is not working on the surface of your skin. Your body produces two chemicals that allow you to tan which are tyrosine and melanin. It normally takes your body 7-10 minutes of being under the UV light to start produces those chemicals. Tanning lotions have tyrosine added into them which speeds up production to the first 30 seconds of your tanning session. That’s another reason it’s important to NOT buy online products that are often times counterfeit. These lotions permeate the skins surface!!

  19. Pete says:

    It is only some tanning lotion products that have these ‘unique’ ingredients. Hemp, and tingle ingredients such as cinnamon oil and chili oil are readily available and not expensive. What we’re dealing with here is retailers getting away with the ‘perception’ that you need to spend so much for the perfect tan. It’s the mark up. Working in the industry gives you a behind the scenes look, and the average mark up seems to be 300 %. Sadly, those 200 dollar bottles sit on the shelf for a year or longer, since most cannot afford them. Check for expiry dates when you purchase to ensure you’re not getting a stale product. After approximately a year, indoor tanning lotions start to degrade, and using them could get you a nasty rash or other reaction. It’s no wonder people buy on Amazon; I see the newest, top of the line products at way less than half the retail shop cost.

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