Sunless tanning is a practical alternative to sunbathing. Sunless tanning products, also called self-tanners or tanning extenders, can give your skin a tanned look without exposing it to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Though generally recognized as safe, sunless tanning products do carry some risks, depending on how they’re used and applied. How do sunless tanning products work?The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is the only color additive approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in sunless tanning products. When applied to your skin, DHA reacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of skin (stratum corneum) to temporarily darken the skin’s appearance. The coloring doesn’t wash off, but it gradually fades as the dead skin cells slough off. In most cases, the color is completely gone after five to seven days.
Many forms of sunless tanning products are available for home-use, including lotions, creams, gels and sprays. They typically go on clear, and you might see results after about an hour. Full color appears within eight to 24 hours. Some products contain a tint, which darkens your skin right away. Besides home products, spray-on tanning is available at salons, spas and tanning businesses. These professional applications can provide an even, full-body tan. Is sunless tanning safe? Sunless tanning products are generally regarded as safe alternatives to sunbathing.
The FDA considers DHA safe when applied to your skin. Spray-on tanning or mist-on tanning from a salon or spa is typically applied to all parts of your body — including your face — to ensure an even color. This creates a potential for the product to get into and around your eyes, near your nostrils or onto your lips. The risks, if any, of inhaling or ingesting DHA are unknown, so special care is needed to be sure that your spray-on tan is safely applied. Be sure to shut your eyes and hold your breath while the tanner is applied. You may also want to request or bring along protective devices such as goggles or nose plugs.
You may have seen ads for sunless tanning pills, but these products are unsafe and aren’t approved by the FDA. Sunless tanning pills contain large amounts of the color additive canthaxanthin. When taken in large amounts, canthaxanthin settles in parts of your body, including your skin. It can turn your skin orange to brown and can cause canthaxanthin retinopathy, the formation of crystals in the retina of the eye. Tanning pills can also cause nausea, cramps and diarrhea.
Sunless tanning tips: For an even-looking tan Sunless tanning products no longer cause that orange-brown, streaky appearance. Today the products offer an even, natural-looking tan if they’re applied correctly and carefully. For best results, follow these tips:
· Choose a light- or medium-toned product, which tends to look more natural.
· Before using the product, wash and exfoliate your skin with a wash cloth or sponge to remove excess dead skin cells. Women should shave their legs for an even application.
· Apply the sunless tanning product evenly and lightly. Use less product on dry skin or thickened skin, such as over your ankles, knees and elbows. These areas tend to absorb more product.
· After you apply the product to your face and body, wash your hands with soap and water to avoid coloring your palms. Be sure to remove any product from under your fingernails. Then use a cotton ball to apply the sunless tanner to the top of each hand.
· To prevent staining your clothes, wait until the sunless tanner dries completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Most sunless tanning products don’t contain a sunscreen and, therefore, don’t protect your skin from the sun. If you spend time outdoors, be sure to apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) before going outside.