A dermatologist tackles the “Are sunless tanners safe?” question, and describes the best tanning lotions and gels. Self-tanning is not only safe and effective, it can keep you from burning your skin to a crisp in the sun!
Self-tanners can help prevent skin cancer (by reducing your time spent in the sun), keep your skin wrinkle-free, and reduce age spots and other discolorations that the sun can contribute to. These tips for the best tanning lotions and gels will keep your skin soft and young looking.
Before the tips, a quip:
“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit,” said Ada Louise Huxtable. “A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.”
To keep your skin healthy, you may want to keep your clothes on hot summer days — but I love Huxtable’s advice about shedding your tensions! One way to reduce stress is to stop worrying about skin cancer or age spots — perhaps by using a sunless tanner like the Millenium Tanning New Paint It Black Tanning Lotion.
And, here’s a basic summary of tanning without burning in the sun, plus info about tanorexia (an addiction to tanning beds).
Are Sunless Tanners Safe? The Best Tanning Lotions and Gels
Sunless tanners are more popular than ever because they’re fast, easy, and reduce wrinkles and aging skin. Plus, they keep you out of the sun, which could contribute to a lower risk of skin cancer. There are more and more self-tanning, streak-proof products on the market – such as the airbrush tanning kit (similar to SheerTan’s above).
Tanning lotions and gels work by combining an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) with the amino acids on your skin. This interaction causes your skin to get that tan color – so when you buy a self-tanner, make sure it says “DHA” on the label.
Are self-tanners safe? Here’s the good news from Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University Medical Center: “There are a lot of equally good products and they are all extremely safe. You can put them on and go into the sun, but you will probably still need sunscreen for protection.”
What’s the best sunless tanner on the market? That’s the “burning” question! “A self-tan that may be great on one person makes someone else look orange,” says Bruce E. Katz, MD, the medical director of the JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City. “Do a small area first before you commit and try not to experiment before a major social event.”
To find the best sunless tanner, you have to keep experimenting with lotions or gels until you find the right one for your skin type. The best one for your skin type may not be the most popular self-tanner on the market. Katz says, “It’s trial and error and really a question of finding the right one for your skin.”
Dr Katz is a fan of the sunless airbrush tan, which involves spraying the DHA solution on your skin with a spray gun. “It is actually very reliable and you get good results. Not much in the way of streaking,” he says. “You can do it in a spa or purchase an at-home kit.”
Sunless tanners: gels or lotions? “Gels are drying,” says Dr Ostad. “I’d choose lotions or sprays because they go on easier.” When you’re looking for a good self-tanner, avoid the gels. To keep your skin healthy and young-looking, read How to Improve Your Skin Naturally – The Best Foods for Healthy Skin.
“Tanorexia” is an unhealthy dependence on tanning beds, with withdrawal symptoms similar to alcohol and drug addictions. Researcher Carolyn Heckman, Ph.D., of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Pennsylvania, says that tanning dependence is known as tanorexia because of its similarities to both substance addictions and body image disorders, such as anorexia. “There is some evidence that UV tanning dependence may have biological underpinnings like other addictions, such as the production of endorphins as in the ‘runner’s high,’” she says.
Tanning Lotions and Gels
- Paint It Black Tanning Lotion
- Fake Bake Self Tanning Lotion
- Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark Self Tanning Lotion
For more tips on sunless tanners – and how the sun affects your skin – read How Does the Sun Cause Skin Cancer? Summer Cancer Prevention.
If you have any thoughts about sunless tanners or tanning lotions and gels, please comment below…
Source of the info on self-tanning products: WebMD’s “Summer Buyers’ Guide, Sunless Tanning Lotions.”
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.