Have you started wearing your shorts? Are you white legs showing? We are happy to have the warmer temperatures but having very pale legs can make some people feel self-conscious. We know we should not use tanning beds but how about the sunless tanning products?
Sunless tanning products are recommended by the American Academy of Dermatologists. But are they safe? The most common ingredient in sunless tanning lotions is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is a color additive approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for external application on the skin. DHA has not been approved to be applied to areas near the eyes, nose and mouth, so avoid these areas when applying. DHA comes from sugar and when it is rubbed on the skin it produces a golden brown color. The reaction is much like a peach turning brown when exposed to the air. The color usually fades in 7-10 days.
No clear evidence has appeared indicating DHA is harmful as long as it is applied externally as directed on the container. Self-tanning sprays carry some concerns to risk of inhalation and ingestion of which neither is recommended. If using spray tanning products you should wear protective gear for your eyes, nose and mouth protecting the mucous membranes.
Shopping for a sunless tanner
Look for products containing dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as an active ingredient. Most preparations contain 3-5 percent DHA. Avoid products that do not contain DHA as they may be a tan accelerator or contain skin irritants. Self tanning products are available in lotions, creams, sprays, and towels or wipes.
Applying sunless tanners
To achieve even coverage from your sunless tanner follow these steps:
1. Exfoliate. Using an exfoliating soap or rub will help remove dead skin cells, especially rub ankles, knees and elbows.
2. Make sure skin is dried off before you start to apply the sunless tanners.
3. Apply to your body in sections. Apply to your legs, then your arms and then torso. Apply in a circular motion to achieve uniform color. Lightly apply to areas from the ankles to the feet and wrists to the hands. You should not apply tanner on your soles of your feet or the palms of your hands. Wash and dry your hands after applying to each section of your body.
4. Dilute sunless tanner on joints. Your knees, ankles and elbows tend to absorb more tanning solution, so lightly rub these areas with a damp cloth or apply some moisturizing lotion.
5. Allow at least 10 minutes to dry before you get dressed. Wearing loose clothing and avoiding sweating for the next three hours will help you have better results.
The American Academy of Dermatology has a YouTube video on applying sunless tanners check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqpGvQwTaao
Sunless tanners do not protect you from Ultraviolet light, so apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least at 30, before you go out in the sun.
Author: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County, Miami Valley EERA
Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Fairfield County, Heart of Ohio EERA
American Academy of Dermatology, . Dermatologists give young adults something to tweet about: tanning is out, American Academy of Dermatology. Available at http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/dermatologists-give-young-adults-something-to-tweet-about-tanning-s-out
Bank, D. . Ask the expert: Can sunless tanners cause cancer? Skin Cancer Foundation. Available at http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/study-finds-sunless-tanning-deters-uv-tanning
Mayo Clinic Staff, . 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. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/sunless-tanning/art-20046803
Palm, M., . Ask the expert: Are self-tanners safe? Skin Cancer Foundation. Available at http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/ask-the-experts/can-sunless-tanners-cause-cancer
Skin Cancer Foundation, . Study finds sunless tanning temporality deters UV tanning. Skin Cancer Foundation. Available at http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/study-finds-sunless-tanning-deters-uv-tanning