Help, My Eyes Hurt From a Tanning Bed! - Luxe Luminous (2023)

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So you’ve just done a tanning session at your local tanning salon, but the experience has left your eyes hurting.

Though it is highly advised to wear tanning bed goggles, the fact that they look a bit silly and can leave you with a funny, raccoon-like tan around your eyes has a lot of people not using them. Because after all, you can just close your eyes, right?

Not so fast!

In this article, we are going to take a look at the reasons your eyes hurt from a tanning bed.


  • 1 How a Tanning Bed Works
  • 2 Eyes Hurt from a Tanning Bed
    • 2.1 Tanning Bed Eye Damage Symptoms
    • 2.2 UV Light Eye Exposure First Aid
  • 3 How to Protect Eyes In Tanning Bed
  • 4 Alternative to tanning beds
    • 4.1 Self Tanners
    • 4.2 Bronzers
  • 5 Take Away

How a Tanning Bed Works

First things first – do you know how a tanning bed works? Understanding the mechanics of what is actually tanning you, will go a long way to figuring out not only why your eyes are hurting, but to maybe think twice if you should be using a tanning bed at all.

A tanning bed, sometimes called a sun-bed, is a machine that uses ultraviolet (UV) radiation to trigger cells called melanocytes to produce melanin.

Melanin is your body’s defense against UV rays and reacts by producing a brownish pigment on your skin (a.k.a. a tan).

A traditional tanning bed emits somewhere around 95% UVA and 5% UVB. This is about the same percentage ratio between UVA and UVB rays you would get from walking outside on a sunny day. Bronzing beds use a different ratio of UVA to UVB.

Most of the UVB radiation from the sun is filtered out in the atmosphere before it reaches the earth.

The difference between getting a tan outside and a tan in a tanning bed is that although the percentage between UVA and UVB rays are similar, the ultraviolet rays in a tanning bed are much stronger than those from the sun.

In the last couple of decades, there has been an increased awareness of the health risks of exposure to UV rays, particularly UVB rays, which are the more dangerous and cancer-causing of the two.

Tanning bed manufacturers, in an attempt to salvage their industry in a time where people are becoming much more health-conscious and informed, have developed a series of filters to eliminate UVB rays.

Many tanning salons now offer UVA-only tanning beds. But these don’t produce the same Vitamin D response and are a different experience than full-spectrum beds.

Despite the fact that a lot of tanning beds today filter out the UVB rays, UVA rays can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

And due to the fact that the tanning bed popularity lies in the fact that you can tan faster in a tanning bed than in the sun, you are increasing your risk of these health hazards. Because tanning beds emit anywhere from 12 to 100 times more UV light than natural sunlight (depending on the tanning bed).

You are increasing your risk of things like early wrinkles and skin cancer by using a tanning bed that emits harmful rays up to 100 X stronger than the sun.

(Video) 3 Ways to Improve Your Eyesight Fast at Home

That said, we all take risks every day, including walking across the street, eating food, and breathing. It’s a dangerous world, and we all need to pick the risks we take.

All that said, eye damage is also one of the health risks of tanning beds that is not often talked about.

Eyes Hurt from a Tanning Bed

Help, My Eyes Hurt From a Tanning Bed! - Luxe Luminous (1)

Although just closing your eyes when you use a tanning bed might seem like problem solved, our eyelids are not enough protection against tanning bulb UV rays.

They can pass through our eyelids and damage our eyes. This is over and above the fact that the thin skin on the eyelids burns easily. Eyelid burns are painful!

UVA rays can pass through your eyelids and lead to photokeratitis, a painful eye condition that affects the cornea (clear, protective layer around the eye) and the conjunctiva (cell layer that covers the insides of the eyelids and whites of the eye).

Photokeratitis was explained by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) as being like a “sunburned eye”, and is sorta similar to snowblindness.

And you thought a skin sunburn was painful! What makes it worse is that photokeratitis is not usually detected until well after the damage has been done.

Tanning Bed Eye Damage Symptoms

Symptoms of photokeratitis include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Tearing
  • Gritty feeling, like something in your eye
  • Swelling
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headache
  • Halos
  • Small pupils
  • Twitching eyelids
  • Temporary vision loss or color change (rare)

The UV light in tanning beds is so strong that even closing your eyes during a tanning session won’t protect them. If you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms above, the source of your eye pain is most likely photokeratitis.

Though photokeratitis is the most common form of eye damage caused by tanning beds, it is not the only one. A few of the other eye health problems that can result from tanning beds are cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eye, and blurry vision.

UV Light Eye Exposure First Aid

Although painful, the good news is photokeratitis will not cause long-term damage and will heal within a few days. Here are a few things you can do to relieve the pain and discomfort while you give your eyes a chance to heal:

  • Apply cool, wet compresses to the eyes
  • Use artificial tears
  • Seek isolation in a dark room
  • Do not wear contact lenses
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes
  • If you feel the case is severe, see your ophthalmologist who may prescribe medicated eye drops.

How to Protect Eyes In Tanning Bed

Prevention is the best medicine. Not using a tanning bed is the best way to protect your eyes (and skin).

If you do choose to go against the advice of basically every health and medical professional on earth and choose to use a tanning bed, at the very least always wear tanning bed goggles specifically intended for indoor tanning.

And be sure to wear them properly to completely cover your eyelids.

These work well:

Help, My Eyes Hurt From a Tanning Bed! - Luxe Luminous (2)

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Sunglasses are not enough to fully protect your eyes from the UV rays produced by a tanning bed.

Alternative to tanning beds

According to the American Cancer Society, the vast majority of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. The majority of melanoma cases are attributable to UV exposure.

Compared to tanning in the sun, exposure to UV rays in tanning beds exponentially increases the risk of all skin cancers, including melanoma, Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Merkel cell cancer, which are also types of skin cancers you are more at risk of, if you’re tanning.

Okay so tanning beds are dangerous and can lead to a multitude of skin and eye problems, not to mention lots of cancer, but still looking for that glowing bronzed skin? Don’t worry – there are much safer alternatives!

First off, go get a spray tan!

And of course, self-tanners and body bronzers are a perfect alternative to get that tropical vacation glow without ever leaving your house.

Both are meant to mimic the sun’s natural tanning effect on your skin, and both come without the health risks of using a tanning bed.

Self Tanners

Self-tanner is basically a suntan in a bottle. There are lots of different varieties of sunless self tanners on the market, from lotions and mists to foams, mousses, and serums, and most recently tanning water.

Self tanners darken your skin by using DHA. DHA reacts with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan. They last for about 5-7 days.

Here are a few excellent self-tanners to check out, which we have thoroughly reviewed.

  • Beauty By Earth Self Tanner Review
  • Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Foam Review
  • Tan Physics Review: Beautiful True Color Sunless Tanner
  • Mystic Tan Reviews. Find the Perfect Mystic Tan for Your Needs!


Bronzers are another way to add color without sun. These products work like makeup and will wash off in the shower. Body bronzers come in powder, mist, and lotion forms. You can also choose between matte and shimmery finishes.

Essentially bronzers are a topical cosmetic that contains a translucent color that temporarily darkens the surface of your skin, and can be washed off.


Help, My Eyes Hurt From a Tanning Bed! - Luxe Luminous (4)

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Summer Express Body Makeup Lotion, Medium, 3.55 fl. oz.

Streak-free, even-looking, bronzed skin; All day hydration, flawless, smooth skin; Transfer and sweat resistant


Help, My Eyes Hurt From a Tanning Bed! - Luxe Luminous (6)

Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish, 3.38 Fl Oz

Great for use on the face and body, alone or under foundation as the ultimate makeup prep; Unit count: 3.38

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***It’s important to note that most self-tanners and bronzers do not provide you with sun protection. You still need to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 if you are spending time outside in the sun.

Take Away

If your eyes hurt from a tanning bed, it’s probably either due to having burned your eyelids and/or photokeratitis, which is like an eyeball sunburn.

Just closing your eyes is not enough protection from the incredibly strong UV rays in a tanning bed. It’s those rays that can also lead to pre-mature again, cancers as well as other long-term eye problems.

The standard advice is to stay away from tanning beds altogether, but you need to make your own choices. If you are going to use a tanning bed, you need to use goggles.

And remember, you don’t have to choose between your health and looking good! You can still get a great-looking tan without UV damage if you opt for a sunless self-tanner or bronzer.

(Video) Joe Rogan and Ben Greenfield on The Health Benefits of Infrared Vs Dry Saunas


How can I tan without my eyes hurting? ›

Protecting Your Eyes While Tanning

If you choose to tan in a tanning bed, always wear goggles specifically intended for indoor tanning, and be sure to place them properly to cover your eyelids completely and prevent eyelid burns. Sunglasses will not full protect your eyes from the UV rays produced by the tanning bed.

Why do my eyes hurt after a tanning bed? ›

Photokeratitis is a painful, temporary eye condition caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. It's sometimes compared to a sunburn, expect it affects the corneas of your eyes.

Is closing your eyes in a tanning bed enough? ›

Closing Your Eyes Isn't Enough

The UV light in tanning beds is so strong that even closing your eyes during a tanning session won't protect them. A few of the eye health problems that can result from indoor tanning are cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eye, sunburn, and blurry vision.

What happens if you don't wear eye goggles in tanning bed? ›

Your eyes can get sun burnt! Tanning with no eye protection can cause red, itchy or watery eyes. These symptoms are all indications of short-term eye damage.

Are standing or laying tanning beds better? ›

Stand-up booths are capable of giving you a deeper tan. The bulbs used in them give off stronger rays compared to a tanning bed. The higher intensity of the UV rays increases melanin production which results in a darker complexion. For those who want more than just a “sun-kissed” look, stand-up booths are better.

How can I look pretty without tanning? ›

Here are some tips to help you start embracing your natural, beautiful pale skin:
  1. Reduce the amount of fake tan you wear. ...
  2. Follow the pale skin hashtag on Instagram. ...
  3. Take more photos of yourself with no fake tan on. ...
  4. Invest in some amazing highlighters.
Sep 9, 2019

How long does eye irritation last? ›

How long does it take for an irritated eye to heal? Minor eye irritation usually goes away in a day or two. More serious infections may cause eye irritation lasting one to two weeks. See your healthcare provider if your eye irritation lasts longer than 48 hours, even if it's mild.

How long does it take to damage your eyes in a tanning bed? ›

Tanning beds produce high levels of ultraviolet (UV) light, which can tan the skin but can also burn the cornea, the clear covering of the eye. You do not feel the burn until 6 to 12 hours after exposure, so you can suffer a severe corneal burn without realizing it while tanning or immediately after.

Do eye drops help sunburned eyes? ›

“Like a sunburn on your skin, photokeratitis will usually go away on its own after one to two days,” said Dr. Altenbernd. “Which means that treatments mostly focus on reducing your discomfort.” Over the counter and/or prescribed eye drops will help to reduce irritation.

Are you supposed to flip over in a tanning bed? ›

Don't Flip – Our tanning beds tan all sides of you at once – don't worry about flipping during the process. You might want to move your arms from your sides to over your head to get a tan on your underarm areas.

Will a towel protect eyes in a tanning bed? ›

It is a common misconception that simply closing your eyes or placing a towel over them will serve as adequate protection from UV rays. However, the skin on your eyelid is very thin and the UV rays can still penetrate through.

Should you lay face down in a tanning bed? ›

Lay on your back inside the tanning bed with your arms and legs spread. Laying with your legs together or with your arms resting against your sides can lead to an uneven or spotty tan. Stretch out your body when you first lay down to ensure all parts of your skin get exposure.

How do you get rid of racoon eyes from tanning beds? ›

The right lens corner should cover the right eyelid before switching the goggles to your left side so that the left lens corner protects your left eye. Regularly adjusting your goggles can ensure that the entire around your eyes receives equal coverage, thereby preventing raccoon eyes.

What is the equivalent of 10 minutes in a tanning bed? ›

In a recent survey of adolescent tanning bed users, it was found that about 58 percent had burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning beds/lamps. 10 minutes in a tanning bed is equal to four hours on the beach!

Can you keep your eyes open on a sunbed? ›

Merely closing the eyes while on the sunbed does not offer full protection, experts advise. UV damage caused by sunbed lamps can cause long-term damage and growths in the eyes, as well as skin cancer. The college recommends people wear the goggles or "winkies" provided by tanning salons.

Do sunbeds help you lose weight? ›

Tanning Sessions Can Reduce Weight

Being exposed to sources of UV-light ensures that the metabolism in a person's body is increasing. This is done so by nudging the thyroid gland for being even more active. This increase in the metabolism more often than not reflects in a substantial weight loss for you.

What foods accelerate tanning? ›

In addition to cherries, watermelon and other red fruits, peaches, apricots and melons are also ideal tanning foods. They are seasonal fruits and, as you might guess from their orange color, they are rich in beta-carotene.

What level tanning bed gives you the best tan? ›

Level 3 offers medium pressure lamps with lower UV rays and more UVA rays, providing a faster and deeper tan than Level 1 and Level 2. And finally Level 4 tanning beds (and up) feature ridiculously fast tanning times, with sometimes next to zero UVB rays, guaranteeing a dark tan with virtually no chance of a sunburn.

How do celebrities get the perfect tan? ›

They spray tan!

There has never been more talk about the dangers of tanning salons and harmful sun rays. Celebrities know that, if done correctly, spray tanning is the ultimate solution to getting the bronze shimmery glow, without the risk of damaging the skin.

What color makes you look less tan? ›

Citrusy Colors

All shades of orange, from peach to carrot, will make your tan especially noticeable. You'll want to stick with the shades of bright yellow, as they will do your skin the most favors. WIth red, you'll want to try to find a balance somewhere between pink and orange.

Why do people look good with a tan? ›

A bronzed tan helps to define muscles, creating a slimmer, more toned silhouette without stepping foot in the gym. For extra definition, contour your tan in key areas such as around cheek bones, under your triceps and on your abs to look more defined.

What is a home remedy for eye irritation? ›

Warm and cool compresses

People can try applying a compress for immediate relief of itchy eyes. Warm compresses over the eyes may help relieve itching due to allergies. If itchy eyes feel warm and swollen, a cold compress on the eyes might help ease the itch.

What is a natural remedy for irritated eyes? ›

Because of aloe vera's anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, some natural healers recommend using it to alleviate sore eyes. Mix 1 teaspoon of fresh aloe vera gel into 2 tablespoons of cold water, and then soak cotton rounds in the mixture. Place the soaked cotton rounds on your closed eyes for 10 minutes.

What medicine helps irritated eyes? ›

Antihistamine pills and liquids work by blocking histamine to relieve watery, itchy eyes. They include cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra), or loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), among others. Some may cause drowsiness. Antihistamine eye drops work well for itchy, watery eyes.

Can you open your eyes in tanning bed with goggles? ›

Basically, your eyes can be opened or closed while in the tanning bed, as long as you have goggles on, because the goggles are what's blocking out the UV rays. If it wasn't for the fact that you were being blasted by UV rays, you wouldn't need the goggles in the first place.

Does Lumify help burning eyes? ›

The Lumify brand of brimonidine ophthalmic is available without a prescription, and is used to relieve eye redness and irritation.

What is best eye drops for burning eyes? ›

Antihistamine eye drops, like olopatadine (Pataday) and ketotifen (Alaway, Zaditor), block histamine in the eyes to help relieve itchiness. Decongestant eye drops like naphazoline/glycerin (Clear Eyes) can help to treat dry, burning eyes.

How do you get rid of swollen eyes from sunburn? ›

How to treat sunburned eyelids
  1. Cool compresses. Wet a washcloth with cool water and place on your eyes.
  2. Pain relief. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) when you first notice the sunburn.
  3. Protection. ...
  4. Moisturize. ...
  5. Avoid contact lens use.
Apr 18, 2018

What is the golden rule of tanning? ›

The golden rule is “NEVER SUNBURN.” That's why the controlled exposure times recommended for you in a Smart Tan salon are a great way to get a beautiful tan without burning. Plus, indoor tanners have known for years that a “base tan” offers natural sunscreen protection.

How long after tanning should you wait to shower? ›

Tanning lotion also doesn't take long to develop and can be washed off after two to three hours. Meanwhile, mousse and gradual tanners take at least six to eight hours to develop. You can shower immediately after using a tanning oil since that's a natural tan and not a solution that can be washed off.

What do you wear in a tanning bed? ›

Wear nothing in the tanning bed. If you want to achieve a perfectly even all-over tan, you will get the best results if you tan in the nude. Salons are inspected and beds are cleaned after each client. Many salons even leave out extra cleaning supplies for clients to give the bed a wipe-down themselves.

Does covering your face while tanning help? ›

Many people think that covering the face with a towel or other material will protect against serious consequences. Unfortunately, this is a misconception! Reaching for it will only help you reduce radiation by 5 SPF. So you can see that using a cloth still provides too little protection.

Does covering your face on a sunbed work? ›

You may think that covering your face with a towel is enough to sufficiently protect your eyes. The truth, however, is that a towel placed on any body part can reduce the radiation only in an amount comparable to 5 SPF.

How do you cover your eyes in a stand up tanning bed? ›

Put on goggles before getting into the bed.

Goggles protect your eyes from UV ray damage. Most of the time, the salon will offer you a pair, sometimes at a small fee. You can also purchase your own pair of goggles, but they have to be labeled specifically for use in tanning beds.

What should you not do after tanning bed? ›

Don't shower.

Tanning experts recommend waiting several hours at least after tanning to take a shower in order to maintain the oils in the skin. Try to wait at least four hours.

Should I put sunscreen on my face before tanning bed? ›

Generally, sunscreen isn't necessary during tanning bed use. The exposure to UV rays is limited by time and the regulated levels of UVA and UVB light. Further, the SPF could hinder your tanning goals, requiring more sessions in the bed.

Where do you put your head in a tanning bed? ›

This can cause wrinkles in your tan, which are not pretty. Wherever the UV rays do not reach, your body will not tan, so try this: prop your head up slightly on a pillow or lean it slightly forward (or use the pillow if the place provides one). Now, think about any wrinkles in your neck in that position.

What does racoon eyes look like? ›

Raccoon eyes is a condition that refers to bruises around both eyes. These bruises look like the dark patches around the eyes that are characteristic of raccoons. Raccoon eyes signal a serious condition related to a skull or brain injury. Prompt diagnosis is crucial to reduce the risk of complications.

Why are my eyes swollen after tanning bed? ›

Tanning beds can emit ultraviolet radiation 100 times stronger than the sun, putting you at greater risk for damage to your skin and your eyes. Too much UV exposure can cause sunburned corneas, called photokeratitis. Symptoms include tearing, swollen eyelids, and a gritty sensation when you blink.

Why do you wear goggles in a tanning bed? ›

Remember that the eyes do not have the ability to build melanin cells, therefore the skin can't protect itself from radiation. Therefore it is our responsibility to take care of our own eyes in a tanning salons and the staff should always remind their customers to use protective goggles.

Will 4 minutes in a tanning bed do anything? ›

People with Type 5 skin will tan rapidly, even with short tanning sessions. If this is your skin type, you can begin anywhere between four and ten minutes. Increasing your sessions by one to two-minute intervals is optional if you want to achieve the deepest color.

Do you get vitamin D from tanning beds? ›

Getting enough vitamin D from tanning beds isn't possible.

It doesn't. The bulbs used in tanning beds emit mostly UVA light; however, your body needs UVB light to make vitamin D. To get vitamin D safely, board-certified dermatologists recommend eating a healthy diet.

Will 5 minutes in a tanning bed do anything? ›

Yes, 5 minutes in a tanning bed can give you a light tan. The amount of time you spend in the sunbed will determine how dark your tan is; the longer you stay in, the darker your tan will be. Ideally, you should tan for 5-15 minutes a few times in a month if you want to build up an initial tan from scratch.

Why do my eyes hurt after sunbed? ›

Photokeratitis is a painful, temporary eye condition caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. It's sometimes compared to a sunburn, expect it affects the corneas of your eyes.

What kind of eye damage can you suffer from a tanning bed? ›

Constant exposure to these intense UV rays can cause damage to the eyes, including photokeratitis (a sunburn on your cornea), cataracts, skin cancer around the eye, macular degeneration as well as corneal infections and conjunctivitis.

What is the safest way to tan? ›

Use self-tanner

The only safe way to tan is to use a self-tanning product or get a spray tan. Most self-tanning products and sprays are safe and FDA approved. These cosmetics do not penetrate the skin to cause harm like UV rays, and instead, just coat the outer layer.

How can I tan easier without burning? ›

Do not lay out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The sun's rays are strongest during those hours, and you're more likely to get a sunburn. Build up your time in the sun slowly. Start by laying out for 15 minutes and add 5 minutes or so per week. Your tan will progress more gradually, but you'll avoid getting burned.

What color makes eyes not hurt? ›

The best color combination to use is black text on a white background. If you must use other colors, make sure they consist of dark text on light backgrounds, and not the other way around.

Is there a pill to take to make you tan? ›

In their quest for the perfect tan, some people may look for a "magic pill" that will help them achieve this with minimal exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are no such pills approved for this purpose.

What time is safest to tan? ›

The practice of lying in the sun is actually risky and increases the potential of developing skin cancer. If you're going to tan, however, and your goal is to tan quickly, the best time is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

What makes you tan faster? ›

To get tan quickly, you'll need to apply a lotion or oil with a low SPF, but you still want to make sure you have some protection from the sun's powerful rays. Choose between rub-on lotions, aerosol sprays, and oil rubs that all contain some SPF.

What is the best tan accelerator? ›

Our Picks of the Best Tan Accelerators
  • Revolution Tanning Rapid Tan Accelerator SPF20.
  • Comfort Zone Sun Soul Cream Gel Tan Maximiser.
  • Piz Buin Tan and Protect Spray SPF 15.
  • Bali Body Watermelon Tanning Oil SPF15.
  • Lancaster Sun Tan Maximizer After Sun Lotion.
  • Dr. Russo After Sun Body Repair Tan Maximizer.

Is baby oil good for tanning? ›

Dermatologists strongly agree that it is not safe to use baby oil for tanning. In fact, they say that there actually is no safe way to tan. Tanning simply isn't healthy. “[Baby oil] can make you tan more quickly because it absorbs the sun better,” says Sperling.

Why do tan people not burn? ›

Melanin is the body's way of protecting skin from burning. Darker-skinned people tan more deeply than lighter-skinned people because their melanocytes produce more melanin. But just because a person doesn't burn does not mean that he or she is also protected against skin cancer and other problems.

What's the healthiest eye color to have? ›

Of all eye colors, brown seems to be the only one that could be called “advantageous” from a survival perspective. While more research is needed, darker irises are linked to a number of health benefits, including these: Reduced risk of macular degeneration. Lower melanoma risk.

What color is best for eyes at night? ›

What Is The Best Color Light For Reading And Studying During The Nighttime? Amber light and red light from Blue Light Blocking Lightbulbs are the best color lights for reading and studying at nighttime because they don't affect your circadian rhythm or disrupt hormone balance.

What colors are best for eye strain? ›

Background Colors

White is a good choice, since it provides the most contrast; but it also produces bright displays, since our computer displays emit light rather than reflecting it. Pale (desaturated) yellow and very light gray are also good background colors.

What do the Kardashians use to tan? ›

Tropez's Jumbo Self Tan Express Mousse is one of Kim Kardashian's all-time favorite self-tanners, she previously revealed on her KKW blog. It's a lightweight, fast-absorbing tanning mousse that doesn't leave your skin feeling sticky after application.

What vitamin makes you tan better? ›

Beta carotene, found in vegetables such as carrots, spinach and peas, is a precursor to vitamin A, which has multiple benefits for the skin, the eyes, cell renewal and organ health. It also boosts the production of melanin, which will improve your ability to tan.

What does Jennifer Aniston use to tan? ›

Moriz Professional Instant Medium Self Tanning Lotion, which "can be used as your everyday body lotion," she says.


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