Health&Fitness Talk

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Sunless Tanning is not safe! Sunless Tanning is not safe!
Ever since the incident of the "tanning mom" hit the news the message that the FDA, CDC and numerous other agencies have been trying... Sunless Tanning is not safe!

by Kimberly Allen R.N.

Ever since the incident of the “tanning mom” hit the news the message that the FDA, CDC and numerous other agencies have been trying to get everyone to listen to has been rejuvenated and it’s louder than ever.  Tanning is not safe!  That is tanning through exposure to UV rays.  Unfortunately despite all the warnings many people want that “sun kissed glow”  and are willing to take the risk to get it.  What if you could have that “sun kissed glow” without exposing your skin to UV radiation?

Sunless tanning is a method of tanning that is safe and doesn’t involve exposing your skin to UV radiation.  Sunless tanning using lotion’s, gels, creams or sprays is a safe alternative to traditional tanning.  The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a simple sugar that has a long history of use in the cosmetic industry.  This colorless sugar reacts with the dead cells on the surface of our skin causing the dead cells to darken in color giving the appearance of a tan.  Most sunless tanning products are clear when you apply them though there are a few on the market that have a very light tint making it easier to see and apply evenly.  The DHA takes approximately one hour before you start to see the color of your skin begin to darken, the skin will continue to darken for 8-12hours.  These “tans” do not wash off, however, they do only last from a few days to a week.  The reason they don’t last is because they are not absorbed into our skin.  Sunless tanners only affect the dead skin cells and our skin sloughs off thousand of dead skin cells everyday.

The best way to get a nice even tan is to exfoliate, in other words wash the dead skin cells off, also if you shave your legs regularly do so before applying a sunless tanner as shaving after removes dead skin cells shortening the life of your tan.  Always apply alight even coat, and because the skin over the knees and elbows have drier, thicker skin you should apply less tanner to these areas.  Remember there are dead skin cells on all skin surfaces, that includes the palms of our hands so always apply the tanner to all areas except the backs of your hands.  then thoroughly wash your hands, between the fingers and under the nails this will prevent coloring your palms.  After washing your hands use a cotton ball or cosmetic pad to apply tanner to the backs of your hands.  To ensure your tan stays even wait for the tanner to dry completely before getting dressed.

Because sunless tanners are not absorbed into our skin they are safe and pose no risk.  They can be re applied as often as needed to maintain your tan.  I have many risk factors including fair skin.  I had the whitest legs in town until I started using sunless tanners several years ago.  I applied it everyday after my shower just like lotion and not only did I have a nice tan that no one could tell was a “fake” tan I had the approval of my doctors.

Other than the occasional allergic reaction the only safety issues are preventing the tanner from getting into your eyes, nose and mouth, that includes the lips.  The other important factor to remember is that most sunless tanners do not include sunscreen protection so if you’re planning to be outside it’s important to apply sunscreen.

Sunless tanners are considered to be a healthier tan because they are not permanent therefore do no permanent harm to our skin, unlike getting a “sun” tan which breaks down the DNA of our skin cells causing permanent damage.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at