Q: Are Self-Tanners Safe? Or Not Really?

We know that using tanning beds or sunbathing until you’re crispy is harmful (both can accelerate skin aging and increase the risk of skin cancer). This leaves few “legal” ways to achieve a golden retriever-like glow for your face and body. One of these ways is using self-tanner. Just be careful not to overdo it!

How Do Self-Tanners Work?

Self-tanners come in various forms such as creams, sprays, and gels that provide a lasting tan when applied to the skin. This is the main difference between self-tanners and bronzers – bronzers are not long-lasting and wash off with water. The key ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a simple sugar that, when applied to the skin, interacts with proteins in the upper layers of the stratum corneum. Because self-tanner only penetrates this outer layer, it doesn’t last longer than a week on the skin. The free amino acids in the skin’s proteins react with DHA in what is known as the Maillard reaction. You’ve seen this reaction at work even if you haven’t used self-tanner – it gives roasted meat its color and makes croissants golden brown.

Back to DHA. The FDA approved DHA for use in self-tanners back in 1977, allowing concentrations up to 15%. The self-tanners we buy typically contain between 2-5%. Official documents specify that DHA should be used only on the skin – its risks when inhaled, ingested, or when it comes into contact with mucous membranes are unknown.

Is It Safe?

DHA is recognized as a safe ingredient, and self-tanners are considered an optimal way to achieve a tan without the harmful effects of UV radiation. Although some laboratory studies on cell cultures have found potential side effects, such as DNA damage, there’s no need to panic: how a substance behaves when directly applied to a cell in a lab setting doesn’t always reflect how it behaves on real human skin with its protective barrier.

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your hands after applying self-tanner!

9 Amazing Self-Tanners

Here are some examples of popular self-tanners that you can try:

  1. St. Tropez Self Tan Mousse: Known for its easy application and natural-looking results.
  2. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer: Gradually builds a natural-looking tan while moisturizing the skin.
  3. Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water: Available in different shades to match your skin tone, and includes color-correcting ingredients.
  4. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam: An Australian favorite that gives a long-lasting tan with a pleasant scent.
  5. Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops: Allows you to customize your tan by mixing the drops with your favorite moisturizer.
  6. L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse: Provides a streak-free tan with a hydrating formula.
  7. Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion: Offers a natural-looking tan with added skincare benefits.
  8. Vita Liberata Tinted Mousse: Promises a long-lasting tan that can last up to three weeks.

Using self-tanners is a safe and effective way to achieve a sun-kissed glow without the harmful effects of UV exposure. Just make sure to choose a product that suits your skin type and follow the application instructions carefully.


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