Are Self-Tanners Good For Your Health?

I love my daily dose of sun and I definitely love the beach. Summer is my favorite time of the year and there’s nothing that can stop me from getting my surf on. There’s also something about tans that make you feel like it’s really summer because of that sun-kissed glow. I love taking my bikinis out and I’m just so excited for that tan line to show up after a few hours of bathing under the sun. I’m guilty, yes. Most of us are. Tans can become an obsession, others even need a little boost— like self-tanners and tanning sprays. Some of us could really use some golden glow, even with the help of these canned or tubed formulas.

Are Self-Tanners Good For Your Health?

First and foremost, let’s discuss how self-tanners, including spray tans, work.

How does self-tanners work?

The active ingredient in tanning products is dihydroxyacetone or also known as DHA. It is a simple carbohydrate that can be derived chemically or from natural resources. Once DHA is applied, it causes a reaction with the amino acids in your skin’s top layer, which generates compounds called melanoidins. This helps in creating the brown color because it absorbs certain wavelengths of light. This is called the “Maillard Reaction”.  The reaction starts within two to four hours and may continue up to 72 hours until the dead cells shed and causes the tan to fade.

Is it safe?

Let’s say that these products can give you a temporary tanned glowing look. However, it can also increase your free radical exposure. The issue with self-tanners is that the DHA reaction or Maillard Reaction is synonymous to what happens when you caramelize sugar or grill meat. Picture that reaction on your skin and it’s pretty much clear that it’s not as safe as we thought it would be.

Are Self-Tanners Good For Your Health?

Lately, there’s a rise in DHA-free tanning products, mainly because of these reasons:

  • Oxidative Stress – The reaction triggered by DHA generates free radicals. Free radicals are known to be highly reactive chemical byproducts that attack cell structures and damage collagen and elastin fibers– which is linked to wrinkles, premature aging and sagging skin.
  • Increased Sun Damage – Oxidative stress worsens once you go out in the sun after applying tanning products with DHA.
  • DNA Damage – Long-term use of DHA can produce consequences to the genotoxic capacity of DHA and have been found to induce DNA damage.
  • Less Vitamin D Production – Using DHA can disrupt the body’s process of producing vitamin D.
  • Contact Dermatitis – Prolonged use of DHA can lead to irritation and inflammation which can cause contact dermatitis.

I think I really need my tan despite all these, what do I do?

Choose your self-tanner wisely. Be mindful of checking the labels for ingredients that could possibly harm your health. If by any chance that you still choose to use a self-tanner, consider skipping spray altogether and opt for creams instead. This doesn’t mean that you should regularly use it too, you might want to just use it on special occasions that you feel like you need it most.

There are cleaner formulas out there and you just have to find your perfect fit. Most drugstore and department store brands mostly have toxic ingredients such as dyes, synthetics, fragrance in addition to DHA may cause reactions. Others even include carcinogens and hormone disruptors. Look for brands that are made with natural and simple botanical ingredients.

Are Self-Tanners Good For Your Health?

For something that is more natural, you can try smoothies that can give your skin a golden glow. While I still recommend that you stop using self-tanners overall, I know that others may feel like they simply need these formulas for a bigger cause. I know people who have skin discolorations that they want to hide on certain occasions, so they choose to use tanning creams in order to create an illusion of an even skin tone. This is acceptable, I understand completely. However, some of you might want to consider that loving your skin as it is may be a better option than risking your health over beauty standards. I think all of you are beautiful and that’s what matters most.

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15 Comments

  • May Baker says:

    Are these different from lotions that have pigments in them and causes a tanned/bronzed look?

  • Mara O' Conner says:

    I think people should just respect the colors of their skin and be contented with it. I don’t understand where the idea of looking orange is the most acceptable way there is, especially if you’re American. I’ve seen ladies looking like a burnt carrot instead of tan and I don’t understand why people think that’s pretty. It’s very unnatural and it damages your skin.

  • Elza Olsen says:

    I would rather slather on sunscreen instead of self-tanners. Have you guys ever wondered how western women usually have older looking skin? This is because we’re too obsessed about looking tan when our skin is supposed to be light. Let’s not alter it for the sake of trying to fit in.

  • Bella Perry says:

    Nobody should be worrying about tanning because it can occur naturally. Just stay under the sun! Put on some SPF though.

  • Kaye Hilton says:

    Who even cares if you’re too pale? That’s what bronzers are for. It looks so unnatural when it’s too obvious that your skin is light and you slather on some fake tan.

    • Alice Torres says:

      I agree, it looks really weird. I just learned to put some color on my face using makeup that enhances my features instead of tanning myself. I don’t want fine lines!

  • Robyn Jordison says:

    Scary! I usually use them during summer time in order to enhance my tan. I agree that there’s something about tans that make you feel like it’s really summer and you just want to look good in that bikini.?

  • Kiara Shaw says:

    Next thing we know, even sunscreens are toxic.

  • Cheryl Cox says:

    I’ve seen oils that sort of act as a tanner. It’s colorness and has no dyes, it’s literally just like oil that you use in cooking. Is that bad too?

    • Sara Washington says:

      Check the label for the ingredients. It probably has DHA too in order to quicken the process of tanning. We’re not exactly like pork that we just put in pans to fry.

  • Edith Glover says:

    If you’re going to the beach, or simply expose yourself to the sun, you’ll get tan without any help of toxic products like this. I feel like it’s a waste of money to be even patronizing something that’s useless.?

  • Shannon Gutierrez says:

    I haven’t tried self-tanners but I’m glad that I didn’t. The only reason I’m reading this is because I’ve seen a lot of women opt for tanning salons or products and services like such. I thought I was missing out, but apparently, I’m not.

  • Maureen Owen says:

    When I was a teen I admit I was so obsessed with tanning. It’s like I didn’t feel like I looked normal without it when I started tanning on a normal basis. I felt like there was something wrong with how my skin looked and I was bothered by it. Boys would even tease me that they found it weird that my skin would change color after a week (from tan to lighter again). I got tired of being teased about it so I just tried my best to go through an entire week of seeing my normal skin after my tan fades. I got used to my normal skin color again and eventually they just stopped mocking me for it.

  • Cristina Clarke says:

    People need to get over the notion that tanned skin looks better. It’s not.

  • Sharon Reese says:

    Lately, the issue about cosmetics not being good for our health should already be a red flag. Almost everything that has something to do with our obsession of looking better is backfiring!! Why not just trash out beauty standards instead??! I think that would create better results!

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