We all love the look of sun-kissed skin throughout the year. But are self-tanners safe for our skin? Find out how these products work!
I confess: I’m a sunless tanning addict. I have always considered self-tanning lotions the best alternative to look tanned, and still protect my skin from sun exposure. While it is OK to sunbathe after applying SPF properly and, of course, reapplying it after a couple of hours, I still think at-home sunless tanners are a much better option to prevent premature skin aging and hyperpigmentation.
All to know about sunless tanning
What you need to know before getting a self-tanner
Self-tanners usually come in lotions, creams, and sprays you directly apply to your skin, there are some self-tanning pills and you can also get professional spray-on tanning at salons for a seamless tan.
Self-tanners contain the color additive dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which reacts with dead skin cells in the outer layer of the skin to darken the skin. Fortunately, for those who have experienced some problems with the application, and the color wears off after a few days.
Topical sunless tanning products are safe alternatives to sunbathing, but you must follow some instructions (more on that to come)
On the other hand, self-tanning pills contain color additive canthaxanthin, which may turn your skin orange or brown and when taken in large amounts can cause hives, and even liver damage and impaired vision. So, my recommendation is to stay away from them.
How to prevent catastrophic results when applying sunless tanning lotion
As a general rule, follow the instructions on the product's label. That being said, read these tips for better results.
- Never apply to your lips, nose, or areas around the eyes, because the effects on mucous membranes have not been tested.
- Don’t inhale self-tanning sprays.
- It does not protect you from sun exposure, so make sure you don't skip sunblock.
- (Again) follow the directions on the label.
- Exfoliate: if you remove the excess dead skin cells can help you achieve an even color.
- Apply in a circular motion in sections, your legs, torso, and arms. Wash your hands after doing so, because you will have applied several layers to your hands by the time you’ve finished applying the lotion.
- Make sure to extend the self-tanner to your ankles and the back of your hands.
- Be careful with your joints: as elbows, ankles and knees tend to absorb more lotion, try to apply less product –I usually mix the self-tanner with some regular lotion to achieve a more natural look.
- Let it dry: wait for at least 10 minutes before dressing up if you don’t want the lotion to stain your clothes.
If you still don’t feel too confident in achieving a seamless result, and every time you apply sunless tanners you end up looking patchy, here’s an extra tip for you: Instead of applying the lotion directly from the bottle, mix equal parts of self-tanner and body lotion and apply the mixture to your skin for 3 days and you’ll be less likely to end up looking like Anne!