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Monoï pour bronzer

Monoi or Tanning Oil: Is it Good to Use for Tanning?

An unmistakable scent of summer, monoi oil, whether pure or in tanning butter, is sometimes used to accelerate tanning. Good or bad idea? Continue reading to find out.

Published June 4, 2024, updated on June 4, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Monoi and Milking Grease: What are we talking about?

Monoi oil is a product native to the islands of Polynesia. Made by macerating tiare flowers in coconut oil for several days, it is highly valued for its exotic fragrance and skin benefits. Indeed, monoi oil is renowned for its moisturizing, nourishing, and repairing properties and is widely used in the formulation of cosmetic products. Monoi oil penetrates relatively easily into the epidermis, leaving the skin soft and silky while strengthening the skin barrier. As a versatile ingredient, it is also found in hair care products where it imparts shine and flexibility to the hair.

Udder balm, as it is known, originates from the agricultural world. Indeed, this mixture of vegetable oil (coconut, monoi...), paraffin, and petroleum jelly was initially used by farmers to facilitate the milking of cows, hence its name, udder balm. It is highly nourishing and forms a occlusive barrier on the skin's surface, preventing it from dehydrating and protecting it from external aggressions. Udder balm is now very popular as an intensive tanning product.

Can we use Monoi oil or tanning butter for sun tanning?

If summer sun exposure is such a widespread practice, it's partly for the lovely tan it provides. However, while achieving a tanned skin is indeed aesthetic, it is not without risks to the skin: sunburn, brown spots, melanomas, carcinomas... Indeed, as an emitter of UV rays, the sun has harmful effects on the skin and promotes the production of free radicals. These reactive species damage DNA and can cause mutations and the formation of cancerous cells. They also react with the fatty acids of cell membranes and disrupt their organization.

To protect the skin from these inconveniences, it is essential to apply a sunscreen before each exposure.

Despite the benefits it brings to the skin, monoi oil cannot fulfill this protective role. Even though substituting a traditional sun protection with a vegetable oil might seem like an interesting natural alternative, it is actually a misguided idea. Indeed, monoi oil does not contain any UV filters and therefore cannot be used to protect the skin from the sun and the burns it causes. The only positive consequence of using monoi in the summer: this ingredient is antioxidant and can be useful in fighting against oxidative stress induced by UV rays. Moreover, it can serve as a after-sun and compensate for water loss, re-lipidize the epidermis, and reduce inflammation.

The same goes for the application of milking grease for tanning: this ingredient offers no UV protection to the skin. On the contrary, dermatologists believe it acts like a magnifying glass on the skin by intensifying the reach of the sun's rays, hence the belief that it would be a tanning accelerator. However, far from providing the desired tanned complexion, milking grease increases the risks of burns and developing the aforementioned problems. Even though everyone is at risk, the danger is especially present for light phototypes who, disappointed by not tanning much tanning, are tempted to apply milking grease. However, just like monoï oil, it can potentially be used as an after-sun due to its emollient and nourishing properties.

Key Takeaway : Applying monoi oil or milking grease cannot protect the skin from UV rays, nor can it accelerate tanning. On the contrary, it may promote sunburn.


  • ANANTHASWAMY H. & al. Toxic effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology (2004).

  • CHAUHAN A. & et al. UV-blocking potential of oils and juices. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2016).


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