Smart Tips about Self Tanners from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Self TannerAlthough we know the dangers of excessive sun exposure, many people still look forward to summer as a time to lie out in the sun and get a tan. Of course, this is really not a smart idea these days. While we do still need to get some sun exposure for good general health, excessive exposure can cause damage to the skin and can even lead to skin cancer. Luckily, today there are many fine self-tanners on the market that can help you get a healthy glow without actually endangering your health. These products are not regulated by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but this agency does provide sound advice on finding good sunless tanning products and using them safely. In this article, we will share some smart advice from the FDA that will help you make wise choices when selecting self-tanning products. Read on to learn more.

What Are Self Tanners?

Comparing to indoor tanning lotions or tanning oils, self tanning lotions are typically cosmetic products that you can apply yourself at home. Two of the most commonly used types of self-tanning products are simple cosmetic products known as sunless tanners and bronzers. These two products may seem similar, but actually they work using very different principles.

Sunless tanners work by actually darkening your skin tone with ingredients such as dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This type of ingredient darkens your skin ton by interacting with proteins and amino acids found on the surface of your skin. These products darken your skin semi-permanently without exposure to the sun. Although sunless tanner does not wash off, it will eventually wear off so regular applications are recommended for best results.

Bronzers impart a tanned appearance to the surface of the skin in much the same way that blush gives you rosy cheeks and eye shadow gives you blue eyelids. Bronzers usually come in the form of powder that you can brush on or tinted moisturizer (similar to makeup) that you can apply to your skin. Bronzers will wash off, so they are not the ideal choice for attending a beach party.

Are There Other Safe Self Tanning Processes?

Many salons and spas provide tanning booth services. This type of tanning typically makes use of spray-on sunless tanning products containing DHA. It is important to keep in mind that the FDA has only approved DHA for external use on the surface of the skin. If you use the services of a spray tanning booth, be sure that your eyes, nose and mouth will be protected from the spray. While inhaling or ingesting a small amount of DHA accidentally, once or twice may not be particularly dangerous, repeated exposure could prove problematic. It is always best to protect yourself.

How Can You Be Sure A Sunless Tanning Product or Bronzer Is Safe?

There are many cosmetic products marketed today that can help you get a nice looking tan without exposing yourself to the rays of the sun or artificial radiation, such as that used in tanning beds. While the FDA does not regulate these products, it is a good source of information regarding them.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, so it is important that you proceed with caution when applying cosmetic and other types of products. Always read labels carefully. When choosing a self tanner, always check to be sure that all of its ingredients are individually approved by the FDA. This is an indication of a safe and well formulated product.

Do Self Tanners & Bronzers Provide Sun Protection?

It is important to note that sunless tanning products and bronzers often do not contain sunscreen, so you should be sure to protect your skin when you go outdoors. If using a bronzer, apply your sunscreen first. If using a sunless tanning product, apply the sunscreen over the product a day or two after you have completed the sunless tanning process. By giving your new tan a little time to “set-up” you can avoid marring it when you apply sunscreen.

While most sunless tanning products and bronzers do not contain sunscreen, some do. There is no reason to double up on sunscreen if the sunless tanning product you are using already has it. Look for Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on the product label. If there is no sun protection provided, you should see a warning about the dangers of excessive sun exposure clearly printed on the label.

Is Continuous Use Of Sunscreen Safe?

For the past several decades, doctors and dermatologists have recommended painting yourself from head to toe with sunscreen every time you step outdoors. While it is generally true that you should protect yourself from excessive sun exposure, recent studies by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicate that excessive use of sunscreen can also be hazardous to your health. We do need some sun exposure in order to be able to process vitamin D3. Small amounts of exposure to the sun can be helpful in preventing problems such as fungal infections.

While it is very wise to protect your skin from excessive exposure to UV rays, this does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Rather than coating your entire body with sunscreen every day, simply be sure to wear clothing that effectively shades and protects your skin. Wear a hat with a wide brim, and protect your eyes with good quality sunglasses. Sunscreen often contains a cocktail of chemicals, and slathering it all over your skin every day for years on end is bound to have negative effects on your health.

If you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time (e.g. at a sporting event, water park or other lengthy outdoor activity) by all means, cover yourself with sunscreen. For everyday errand running and other normal, brief sun exposure you will probably be better off simply shading yourself with clothing and/or a parasol or umbrella. When you do use sunscreen, always choose an FDA approved product with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.

Be an Educated Self-Tanning Consumer

Before beginning a self tanning process, it is smart to learn as much about it as you can. Although the FDA does not regulate products for sunless tanning, its website provides a wealth of information regarding the safety and effectiveness of these types of products. Remember that your skin is the largest organ on your body, and anything you apply to your skin has the potential to affect your health. That’s why it’s always smart to do good research and get all your questions answered before using any cosmetic or personal care skin product.

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