Is Sunless Tanning Safe?

Beauty, Home & Family
on January 21, 2012

The warm glow of the sun is something many cannot live without. Unfortunately the effects of the sun — or rather, prolonged exposure to the sun — is something many of us cannot live with, either. One solution to the dilemma may be sunless tanning. Discover the answer to the burning question: “Is sunless tanning safe?”

What is sunless tanning? Self-tanners are also known as sunless tanning and are generally considered safe when used as directed. These are products that give you the look of a suntan without having to sit in the sun and expose your skin to damaging ultraviolet rays. The product contains a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Upon contact, the outer layer of the skin becomes darkened temporarily. The color does not wash off but does fade over time — usually within a few days. Continual reapplication is necessary to maintain the sun-kissed look for a longer period of time.

Sunless tanning at a tanning salon. The same chemical in the self-tanner lotions, gels and aerosols found at your local grocery store is used at the tanning salon. The primary concern with getting a DHA spray tan in this setting is that the spray gets into your eyes, nose and mouth. The effects of ingesting DHA are not known at this time. Eye and nose protection is highly recommended — and don’t forget to hold your breath.

Sunless tanning pills. It is always wise to consider the safety of anything you put into your body. In the case of sunless tanning pills, this is especially true. These pills contain a chemical called canthaxanthin. Canthaxanthin is not considered safe to ingest, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause hives, liver damage and canthaxanthin retinopathy (the formation of crystals in the retina).

Sunless tanning tips. There are a few things you can do to help sunless tanners work optimally. Remove dead and dry skin by exfoliating well. Dry and dead skin will appear darker than the rest of your skin. Always apply an even thin layer of the product to ensure a uniform result. Do the tops of hands and feet last and remove product from under nails and on palms with soap and water. Finally, let the product dry completely before dressing to avoid smears and staining.

This article was originally published as Is Sunless Tanning Safe? on