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Sunless tanning: A safe alternative to sunbathing
What can you expect from sunless tanning products?
Sunless tanning products typically go on clear. It usually takes about an hour to see results. Full color typically appears within eight to 24 hours. People who have medium complexions without freckles often get the best results.
Is sunless tanning safe?
Topical sunless tanning products are generally considered safe alternatives to sunbathing, as long as they're used as directed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved DHA for external application to the skin. However, the FDA hasn't approved the use of DHA for application to areas near the eyes, mouth or nose. If you're using a sunless tanning cream, it's easy to avoid these areas. With spray tanning, this might be more difficult — since the product is usually applied to the whole body to ensure even color. Spray tanning might also cause you to inhale the product.
Further research is needed to determine the risks — if any — of this type of exposure. In the meantime, protect your eyes, mouth and nose when spray tanning and avoid inhaling the product. Be sure to wear goggles and nose plugs, and hold your breath while the spray is being applied.
What's the best way to promote an even-looking tan with sunless tanning products?
Sunless tanning products can provide an even, natural-looking tan if they're applied correctly and carefully. For best results, follow the package directions carefully. In general:
- Exfoliate first. Before using a sunless tanning product, wash your skin with a wash cloth or sponge to remove excess dead skin cells. If you typically shave your legs, do so before you apply the sunless tanning product for an even application.
- Use a light touch. Apply the sunless tanning product evenly and lightly. Use sparingly on dry or thickened skin, such as over your ankles, knees and elbows. If necessary, ask someone to help you apply sunless tanner to hard-to-reach spots.
- Save the tops of your hands for last. 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.
- Take time to dry. Wait to dress until the sunless tanner dries completely.
Remember, most sunless tanning products don't contain sunscreen. If you spend time outdoors, protect your skin with generous amounts of sunscreen.Previous page
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- What about tanning pills and other tanning products? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/SkinCancerPreventionandEarlyDetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-tanning-pills-and-products. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
- The sun and your skin. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_sun.html. Accessed Oct. 20, 2009.
- Sivamani RK, et al. The benefits and risks of ultraviolet tanning and its alternatives: The role of prudent sun exposure. Dermatologic Clinics. 2009;27:149.
- Pagoto SL, et al. Design and methods for a cluster randomized trial of the Sunless Study: A skin cancer prevention intervention promoting sunless tanning among beach visitors. BMC Public Health. 2009;9:50.
- Tanning products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/Tanning/ucm116434.htm. Accessed Oct. 20, 2009.
- Sunless tanners and bronzers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm134064.htm. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 4th ed. New York, N.Y.: Mosby; 2004. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/166102149-3/905511598/1195/132.html#4-u1.0-B0-323-01319-8..50021-2--cesec51_2399. Accessed Oct. 21, 2009.
- Yourick JJ, et al. Fate of chemicals in skin after dermal application: Does the in vitro skin reservoir affect the estimate of systemic absorption? Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 2004;195:309.