DIY Sandalwood Tanning Oil

Homemade tanning oil with natural oils and bronzer

I prefer to eat my sunscreen rather than slather it on my skin…

I do occasionally use my homemade sunscreen if I’m going to be out in the sun for a long time without shade or layer, but in general, I prefer to get the free Vitamin D from its original source via moderate sun exposure.

When I’m going to be at the beach (can I just live there, please?) or somewhere where I can alternate between sun exposure or the shade of an umbrella and a good book, I prefer to just use natural oils that nourish and slightly protect my skin without blocking Vitamin D (like many sunscreens do).

I’ve used a variation of this homemade tanning oil for years and when a friend recently asked about a natural tanning oil, I figured it was time to share the recipe.

Sun Protective Oils…

Though many of my recipes are solid (like lotion bars) or body-butters, this one is a liquid oil, which makes it easier to use when on the go. If you prefer a more solid recipe, you can absolutely make this with unrefined coconut oil that hardens at 76 degrees and store in a small jar.

This tanning oil recipe uses oils that are naturally sun-protective:

Some of these oils are more sun protective than others, and you can adapt the proportions based on your preference and how much sun protection you want. It is important to note that these are all low-SPF and not a substitute for regular sunscreen.

I also added bronze mica powder for a subtle bronze glow, but you can omit this if you don’t have it or don’t want to use it.

Since Olive and Avocado oils have a lower SPF, they are great for someone with naturally dark skin who is looking for a little protection. In fact, olive oil has been used traditionally in Mediterranean countries as a natural skin protectant in the sun, creating a gorgeous dark tan.

Those (like me) who aren’t naturally olive skinned may want to at least start with more of the higher SPF oils like Raspberry Seed and Carrot Seed.

Since this is not a sunscreen, but a mild sun-protectant recipe, it is important to test with small amounts of time in the sun to find what works best for your body and skin type. I’m sharing what worked best for me, but tweak to fit your skin type and desired result.

Natural Tanning Oil Ingredients (my version)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Raspberry Seed Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil
  • 10 drops sandalwood essential oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 tsp bronze mica powder

DIY Tanning Oil Instructions

Mix all oils and mica powder (if using) and store in a dark-colored glass container. If you decide to substitute coconut oil for the olive oil, store in a jar instead, as it won’t work with a pump.

I use this as needed for mild sun exposure and it has helped me tan naturally without burning.


Of course, all of the usual disclaimers apply- sunburn is never healthy and should absolutely be avoided. You should not spend long periods of time in the sun, especially if you have very sensitive skin and if you are unable to tan, this recipe will not magically help you tan. I’m NOT advocating regular tanning in an electric bed, and only use this for moderate and natural sun exposure. Check with a dermatologist if you are unsure about any of these ingredients or want to know if this recipe is specifically good for your skin.

Do you use tanning oil? Ready to try a natural version?

This natural tanning oil uses oils with a natural SPF like olive, avocado, raspberry seed and carrot seed with natural bronzers.

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Reader Comments

  1. thank you for sharing this. I have never used sunscreen on myself or the kids. This freaks other people out?. I had no idea that oils had natural SPFs. Makes a whole lotta sense. What a wonderful Creator we have, indeed! Love it!!!

  2. Given coconut oil’s SPF of 8 (the same as olive oil) and its revitalising nature would fractionated coconut oil not be a viable (and valuable) addition to this recipe?

  3. Love it, love it, love it! Thank you – have been looking for a version of this for a long time…. Btw, how on earth do they ‘mine’ oil from tiny little carrot seeds?

  4. where does one find bronze mica powder and is it something we wear a mask as to not inhale when using?

  5. Where would I find theses oils and are they costly?

  6. Are these oils the same as or different from essential oils?

  7. 80% of what we consider to be aging is really sun damage:

    Any level of tan entails sun damage. If you are comfortable with that (absolutely preventable aging, damaged skin) then that is your choice, but please inform yourself.

    “Homemade sunscreen” is a particularly dangerous idea to spread:

    Do you get every batch of sunscreen you make lab-tested, Katie? Do your readers?

    Your blog has provided my family and I with countless bits of information & inspiration for a healthier lifestyle, and I really appreciate that. But I really feel you are being negligent here.

    Everyone, please inform yourself & do your own research.

    • Hi Lex,

      Thanks for reading and for the detailed reply. To be clear, I’m not claiming this is a sunscreen or that it has any certain SPF. It is for tanning, so obviously it does not completely protect against the sun. For this reason, I did not have it tested.
      At the same time, I don’t agree that all sun exposure is harmful or that all aging comes from sun damage… there are a lot of factors, like sugar in the diet that breaks down collagen, consumption of rancid vegetables oils, ability to obtain nutrients in the gut and many others that have also been statistically shown to have a direct impact on aging. Of course, sunburn is always doing damage to the skin and should absolutely be avoid (I prefer a hat and cover-up when possible), but I personally think there are tremendous benefits to sun exposure that when done in moderation, can outweigh the risks. I wrote about it here, but I have difficulty getting Vitamin D from food or supplements due to some gene mutations, therefore I actually need sun exposure to get enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a myraid of problems, including many types of cancers. I can absolutely see your point and I can tell that your comment was made from a genuine place of love and caring (which I sincerely appreciate), but I also think that sun exposure is an issue where moderation (not either extreme) is prudent. Thanks so much for reading and for the thoughtful comment. 🙂

      • Very informed response. You are so smart and sensitive. I love your website. Moderation is key in all areas of life. BTW. I love the coconut clusters!

      • Well said Wellness Mama!

    • There are some things you can just agree to disagree with. Katie is sharing her information. If you think that for thousands of years people have worked and spent hours a day out in the sun, clearly, God gave us the ability to handle it and even benefit from it. Baking to a crisp will age you, for sure. But slathering on sunscreen or staying indoors makes people severely vitamin D deficient and more likely to die prematurely. They may die with unwrinkled skin but still. It is all about benefits versus risk. Kati was clear to point out that we should take precautions and be responsible.

      • Amen….nicely written.

    • Well some of us have Doctors orders like me, that I have to get 15 minutes of sun exposure each day. So this recipe is beneficial to me.


  8. Olive skin is green undertones. You either are born with it or not lol. Some people are peach, yellow, olive (green)…etc. I am pale but still have green undertones. I burn but tend to tan easily. Just thought I’d share. ?

  9. This will be my first homemade tanning oil and in the past I’ve always taken my oils with me since I reapply throughout day. Will the ingredients in this recipe break down or become less effective if kept in warm/hotter weather?

    • It should be fine since all are shelf stable and you won’t be heating to really high temps.

  10. Can you use this if you are swimming?

  11. Wow! I’m definitely going to have to try this recipe. I had no idea raspberry seed oil and carrot seed oil were natural sun protectors w/ spf!

  12. Hi Katie! Going barefoot on grass early morning to get Vitamin D is a wonderful feeling. It makes me feel energetic and relaxing. I think early morning is the best time to be out in the sun. After 10 PM if I get into the sun for a longer period of time I get unbearable headache. I was getting continuous headaches daily without knowing the reason. Later I found out it was because of the sun. Regarding this recipe, I have a question, does this oil feel too greasy?

  13. I just purchased some Tamanu oil which I read has an SPF of 18 – 22. It is also supposedly an awesome oil for those with rheumatism helping with tissue regeneration and joint pain relief. What do you know of this oil? I’m assuming it can replace the olive/coconut oil?

  14. I love your idea. It is so perfect to me. I mean this is what I am looking for.

  15. I know there has been a lot of controversy with olive oil bein cut with other oils. Which brand do you use for this and in the kitchen?

  16. Really interesting DIY here! How shimmery is the brozning powder you recommend here? I am looking for something that looks natural and not glittery. If the one you recommended here is a bit too shimmery for my taste, do you have an alternative rec?
    Also, what is your experience with the staying power of the bronzer on the skin? I am worried about rub off/staining of clothing. And appearing like a streaky mess :). Thx!

    • The one I linked to is very subtle and not overly shimmery, but it is also very subtly bronzing…

      • Thx Katie. Does the bronzer wipe off easily/get on clothes?

        Question about the sandalwood oil: is this just for fragrance?

        • Also, if someone cannot have FODMAPS in their
          diet (e.g.. Avocado), is it okay to put on the skin?

  17. I just wanted to ask that you add a warning to those who try these oils thinking that the SPF factor is protecting them. One thing I forgot when I used coconut oil was the fact that it has a shine to it and that actually accelerates the burning process. My son ended up with blisters and the worst sunburn he has ever had.

  18. Happy day to you.
    I have a question, is this recipe for tanning oil that will help you get a tan, or just a lighter sunscreen? I was always confused between the two.
    LOVE your page. Thanks for all of your awesome information

    • I would say that it is skin nourishing with mild sun protection (so that you are not blocking the tanning properties of the sun), and imparts a gentle bronze color while you are in the process of tanning. I hope this clarifies!

  19. Hi Katie, I have severe eczema and, after many, many doctor recommendations I tanned in a tanning bed for a few months a few years ago. (Starting at a very minimal time and working up slowly to be gentle on my skin). It was tremendously helpful, and I just started going again. (I would have continued but I live most of the time in China, where white skin is valued and tanning beds don’t exist to my knowledge!) Not wanting to use commercial lotions, I used coconut oil after tanning, but I’m concerned about drying out too much if I don’t use something before tanning. Could I use this lotion in a tanning bed? Do you have any other suggestions?

  20. I am one of those people that is incapable of tanning (I burn VERY quickly!), so I tend to keep my sun exposure to a serious minimum. But this is an interesting product! I bet it smells fantastic.

    • I too was one of those people who could not step outdoors without being covered from head to foot. The sun not onlt turne every part it touched bright red but gave me migraine too. The migraines I cured with feverfew, the burning with a sunbed – not the tanning type but the UV kind you can only stay on for seconds at a time. Mother had bought it to prepare her own skin in advance of a trip to South Africa and I borrowed it whilst she was away. I have never really had any problems since – though I have never convincingly tanned either.

  21. As a question, how did you determine the ratio of the raspberry and carrot seed oils to add to the recipe? I wanted to know since that would determine how protective the oil ends up being. Thanks!

  22. Hi,

    would be be a good idea to add a tablespoon of zinc oxide to increase SPF, or it would not work?


    • It may have some trouble staying mixed since this is all oil based, but you definitely could add some.

    • I would go with a more traditional sunscreen recipe if you prefer more spf coverage.

  23. Hi Katie. Thank you so much for a recipe for a tanner, exactly what I was looking for to make with my other DIY products before our beach trip. I don’t have sandalwood though. Is there anything that I can sub for that or just omit it? Young Living Sandalwood is pricey! On the list one day. Thanks so much.

  24. Can this be worn swimming?

  25. I know you don’t advocate tanning beds BUT can you use this in a tanning bed? Do you have a tanning bed vs sun article or something I can read as well?

  26. Hi! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
    I just have one doubt!… I thought that it was the carrot infused oil (also called ‘macerate oil’) that was useful as a tanner… What is the difference with the carrot seed essential oil?!? In terms of properties I mean! Thanks

  27. Hi,

    I really like your website but tagging these oils with SPF factors that aren’t clinically proven is very misleading. I believe you should explain that those ingredients are very mild UV protectors, but tagging them ‘SPF#’ is simply erroneous information that jeopardizes the credibility of your recipes.
    Again, I really enjoy your website, but please make sure your info is as accurate as possible and backed up scientifically when possible !



    • These ingredients are known to have a natural SPF but I agree that they are low SPF and not comparable to regular sunscreen. I’ve added a note to the post to make this more clear.

      • awesome, thank you ! Also, I was wondering if you have a coupon code for Mountain Rose Herbs ? I plan to buy a bunch of things …

    • I’m sorry but are we on the same page here? The one wherein Katie discusses making a sunscreen to *nourish and slightly protect* her own skin – one that isn’t going to block the sun she needs access to so she can still make vitamin D through her skin? Given the context, does ‘slightly’ not correlate to ‘mild’ the world over?
      The SPFs quoted have been proven in one way or another, for example Thus there is nothing any more misleading in the information above than there is in claims made for ‘clinically proven’ SPFs of chemically enhanced shop products, all of which have historically failed to stipulate the depth to which they need to be applied in order to achieve the so claimed SPF.
      Let’s face it, the panic evinced by bringing those high SPF creams onto the market and consequential erosion of the sensible habits of our forefathers has contributed to worldwide deficiencies in vitamin D and increases in skin cancers. Thank goodness natural products are not comparable to regular sunscreen, perhaps now we can get back to respecting our environment.
      Katie what possibly needed clarifying judging from comments, if anything at all, was that mixing SPF 35 oil and SPF 8 oil results in a lower final SPF not the higher 43 you’d get by adding the numbers together.

  28. Can I use fractionated coconut oil in place of olive oil? Can I swap the avocado oil with olive oil?

  29. Hi, I love your recipes and Thanks for sharing , Idont have rasberry seed oil so what is a good substitute and u would like a spf of about 30 what do you suggest? Thank you

  30. Hi Found your site by accident and love it! Thanks for all the info. …Have you ever made a lotion for tightening skin? My arms are getting flabby! Just wondering and hoping you have and can share?
    Many thanks.