We all know that sun exposure has been linked to skin cancer. But protecting your skin from dangerous UV rays doesn’t mean you can’t have a tan. Sunless tanning products have come a long way over the past several decades.
In the early days of sunless tanning, there was Coppertone. Unfortunately, it left your skin looking more orange than tan. But today’s products are much more advanced and can leave you looking like you just spent a week at the beach.
Most sunless tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This ingredient reacts with dead skin cells to darken, or brown, the outermost layer of your skin. Basically, it stains your skin. It doesn’t wash off, however, as your skin sheds the dead skin cells, the color fades. The color you get from sunless tanning only lasts a few days. For a continuous tanned looked, most products suggest reapplying every 3 days.
Safety and Sunless Tanning
DHA has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for external or topical use and is considered safe. However, it has not been approved for use around the mouth, eyes or nose so you should avoid these areas when applying a sunless tan product.
Many salons and spas offer spray tanning. This type of tanning product also contains DHA. If using spray tanning, be sure to wear goggles and protect your mouth and nose from the spray. You should also wear nose plugs to avoid inhaling the spray.
Many sunless tanning products don’t contain any sunscreen or protection from the sun. Check the label for the product you are using. If there isn’t any sunscreen, be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen.
Applying Sunless Tanning Products
These types of products are available in creams, lotions or gels. They go on clear with color slowly darkening over the first 24 hours. They work best for people with medium complexions. Those with freckles, dark spots or scars may see these areas become even darker.
For the best results and for an even looking tan:
- Use a washcloth to rub off any excess dead skin cells before applying a sunless tanning product.
- Shave your legs and any areas you normally shave before applying the product.
- Apply the product evenly over all areas you want to tan. Use a light touch to avoid using too much product and having your tan look uneven. On dry skin areas, use a little less.
- For hard-to-reach areas, ask someone to help you to avoid streaks and uneven color.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before applying the product to the tops of your hands. (Otherwise you may color the palms of your hand)
- When finished, remove any product from under your nails.
- Wait for the product to fully dry before getting dressed.
Remember, the color goes on clear and you won’t see the results for up to 24 hours. Don’t repeat the process because it doesn’t look dark enough.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.