How safe are self-tanning products?

Many people like the striking color and healthy-looking glow of a good tan. However, tanning beds and direct sunlight carry many risks. Because of this, self-tanning products have become extremely popular over the years.

While many of these products are safe, they come with some potential health problems and risks.

How self-tanners work

Spray tans and other sunless tanning products such as lotions, creams, and gels use dyes to create a tanned appearance. Most modern products use the colour additive dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When this chemical comes in contact with the skin, it reacts with dead skin cells to temporarily darken the skin and mimic a tan.

Different concentrations of DHA result in lighter or darker colors, allowing self-tanners of different “strengths”.

because for self-tanning and applying cream before tanning GaViAl / Shutterstock

Research on DHA

Medical researchers first became aware of DHA in the 1920s, although it did not become a prominent part of self-tanning products until the 1950s. Due to its long history, much research has been done on its effects.

DHA was originally a glucose substitute for people with diabetes and studies show that oral administration goods well tolerated. While recent research has linked DHA to DNA damage, it only occurs at concentrations much higher than what’s available in self-tanning products and spray tans.

group of professionals studying DNA on a big screen SolStock/Getty Images

External Use of DHA

Experts believe that the color additive is generally safe for topical use, as long as it doesn’t get into an open wound. While some critics If you’re concerned that the chemical could get into the bloodstream, there’s little evidence to support these concerns.

DHA reacts quickly in the stratum corneum, meaning the body simply doesn’t have enough time to absorb it.

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inhale DHA

Spray tans work the same way as self-tanning lotions and creams, but typically promise more even applications. Due to the method of administration, there is some concern about inhaling DHA in the air and what effects it may have. However, studies have not reached a consensus on the dangers of breathe in spray tan solutions.

Most health professionals believe that spray tanning is safe, although they recommend spray tanning only in a ventilated area.

woman applying spray tanning lotion Stock Video Footage / Shutterstock

allergies

The biggest risk when using self-tanning products is: a allergic reaction, although this is extremely rare. But even if a person tolerates DHA, many products contain other additives that may be responsible for a reaction.

Some products use artificial fragrances to mask the unappealing odor of DHA, which can cause asthma and skin allergies. In addition, cosmetic products may contain parabens that can affect the endocrine system. Always check any product for known allergens and test on a small area first.

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Self-tanners versus tanning beds

One of the most popular self-tanning options is: the tanning bed bed. These beds use ultraviolet (UV) light to create a tan.

Most tanning beds use UVA light, which ages the skin prematurely, causing wrinkles and age spots. It also drastically increases the risk of skin cancer. Tanning beds are much more dangerous than tanning lotions and similar products.

woman in tanning bed LuckyBusiness/Getty Images

tanning pills

Some people turn to tanning pills to get a tan. Instead of using DHA, these pills usually use large doses of color additives such as canthaxanthin. At these doses, these substances give a color similar to a tan, but also cause a range of health problems, such as crystal deposits in the eyes.

As a result, government agencies Like it the FDA do not approve of tanning pills or similar options.

woman taking pill Westend61 / Getty Images

Tanning accelerators

Many people also choose to use tanning accelerators or promoters in their quest for a perfect tan. Most of these products use the chemical tyrosine to increase tanning effectiveness, but there is little to no evidence to support the effects of tyrosine.

Studies also show that adverse effects such as rash and acne are much more common among tanning accelerator users. The FDA has issued warnings for many tanning accelerators.

wife sprays lotion on her body beach Murat Deniz / Getty Images

sun protection

Despite popular belief, a “base color” of tanning lotion or tanning bed does not protect the skin. True UV tanning has an effect equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of three or four. This will hardly protect the skin, as most experts recommend an SPF between 15 and 30.

Tans from DHA-containing products provide even less protection against sun damage. If you’re using a self-tanner, combine the product with a sunscreen or use options that double as sunscreen.

woman applying cream on shoulder Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Tanning behaviour

While self-tanners are safe for general use, experts have noted a few: disturbing trends. People who use self-tanning lotions and other products also use tanning beds more often and spend more time in direct sunlight.

Because of this parallel, those who use self-tanners can use a higher risk of conditions such as skin cancer. Avoid potential sources of skin damage such as direct sunlight and tanning beds.

dermatologist examining patient's skin Kateryna Kukota / Getty Images
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