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Sunless tanning: A safe alternative to sunbathing
Sunless tanning is a practical alternative to sunbathing. Find out how sunless tanning products work, including possible risks and how to get the best results.By Mayo Clinic staff
Don't want to expose your skin to the sun's damaging rays, but still want that sun-kissed glow? Consider striking a compromise with sunless tanning products. Start by understanding how sunless tanning products work — and the importance of applying them correctly and carefully.
How do sunless tanning products work?
Sunless tanning products, also called self-tanners, can give your skin a tanned look without exposing it to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sunless tanning products are commonly sold as creams, gels, lotions and sprays you apply to your skin. Professional spray-on tanning also is available at many salons, spas and tanning businesses.
The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When applied to the skin, DHA reacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of skin to temporarily darken the skin's appearance. The coloring doesn't wash off, but it gradually fades as the dead skin cells slough off — typically within a few days.
Most sunless tanning products don't contain sunscreen. If you spend time outdoors, sunscreen remains essential.
What about sunless tanning pills?
Sunless tanning pills, which typically contain the color additive canthaxanthin, are unsafe. When taken in large amounts, canthaxanthin can turn your skin orange and cause hives. Sunless tanning pills can also cause liver damage and lead to the formation of crystals in the retina of the eye (canthaxanthin retinopathy).Next page
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