Category Archives: Safe Tanning

Sunless Tanners

By Kira Mayo

Sunless TannerFall is here, which means the sun’s strong summer rays are fading away. I know, I know. You still want a nice glow to carry you through the winter, right? Well don’t even think about lying under the harmful rays of the tanning bed. Sunless tanners are the safest way to accrue your darker hue, and the latest ones produce a flawless tan.

Sunless tanners have come a long way since Coppertone introduced the first product in 1960. The streaky, fake, orange-hue days are officially behind us. The most popular products today, such as Neutrogena’s Instant Bronze and Clinique’s Self-Tanning Body Mist, produce seamless tans if you apply them correctly. Many of them take about 45 minutes to activate. So once you factor in drying time, you could be looking at about three hours spent achieving that sun-free tan.

The most effective products available are sunless or self-tanning lotions that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located on the outer layer of the skin and changes their color. Millions of dead skin cells are wiped off the surface of your skin every day, so any color change only lasts up to seven days. (Hey, that’s longer than a real tan.)

To help your tan look it’s best, follow the directions on the bottle. Keep in mind that one of the most important steps is to cleanse and thouroughly exfoliate your skin, and let it dry completely before applying the sunless tanner. This will reduce the amount of streakage.

Beware of the other products on the market. “Tanning pills” are lotions or pills that contain tyrosine, an amino acid that allegedly stimulates and increases melanin formation, thereby accelerating the tanning process. But there’s absolutely no scientific data available to support these claims.

Tanning accelerators” contain canthaxanthin, an additive used to change the color of certain foods. Canthaxanthin is deposited all over your body when you consume it, and ingesting enough of the chemical will make your skin turn an orange-brown color. Although the FDA has approved the use of canthaxanthin in food, in which only a small amount is required, it hasn’t been approved as a tanning agent, for which much larger quantities are required. These types of tanning pills have been linked to various side effects, including hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy, a condition in which yellow deposits form in the retina of the eye. Bottom line: do yourself a favor and stay away.

So there you have it. Grab a bottle of a sunless tanner that contains DHA. But remember that most sunless tanning products, unless they contain an added sunscreen, won’t protect you from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. So if you’re planning to head outside to show off your new glow, be sure to apply some extra sunscreen.

Originally reported for