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Self-Tanning: Is Fake Tan Safe?

By HERWriter Guide
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Skin, Hair & Nails related image Photo: Getty Images

Pale and interesting! Dark and mysterious! We like to imagine how the tone of our skin shapes our personalities. Well, summer is here for some and nearly here for others. That means open toed sandals, fewer and shorter clothes and lots of exposure to the elements. My very pale Irish skin actually tans very well but I long put those days basking in the sun behind me once I finally realized the damage I was doing to my skin. Despite this, I still like a tan. I like how it looks and I--for whatever reason--feel better when my skin is a little darker. So what’s a pale person who likes a tan to do?

*Fake tanning is an option that many people choose, especially women. But people worry about the chemicals in fake tanning sprays and creams – are they safe? Can they cause cancer or other health conditions?

Fake tanning sprays and lotions contains a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (generally known as DHA) that is found in sugar and temporarily causes the skin to darken. Some create an instant tan, others take a couple of days to show. Once the skin sheds (every few days) the tan will go, along with the old skin. A reapplication is needed to keep the skin dark. DHA is generally harmless; the only issues that occur seem to with allergies, and these allergies could be from the DHA or from the other ingredients like scents or moisturizers, but otherwise, the tanning creams don’t cause harm. Spray tans are less safe when not done correctly. Users need to make sure their faces (eyes/noses/mouths) are completely covered so that nothing is inhaled. Although a spray tan can take several minutes and breathing is essential, covering the face can drastically reduce the risk of breathing in the chemicals or having the eyes exposed.

Some tips for self-tanning: a full body scrub once a week is essential in order to slough off dead skin cells and avoid clustered pockets of color or streaking. This also helps tanning cream to go on the skin more smoothly. Use plenty of moisturizer or a tanning cream that has moisturizers built-in and if skin is sensitive, choose a lotion without added fragrances.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.