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Can A Spray Tan Protect Your Skin From the Sun?

by kelly / January, 13 2021 01:30

Photo of spray bottle in front of a pink background

What do you do when the sun kissed glow of the summer has faded? For many that want to recreate the warmth of summer year-round – they reach for sunless tans such as spray tan products. While this is a practical alternative to sun tanning it doesn’t provide you with a pass to lay out in the sun. In short, there is no such thing as a base tan and a sunless tan doesn’t give you sun protection.

What Is Sunless Tanning?

Sunless tanning, also known as self-tanners, give your skin a tanned look without UV exposure and self-tanners can be sold as creams, lotions, or sprays that you apply to your skin. There are also professional spray tan options as well. Some where you stand in a booth while sprayed all around.

Rather than UV light, many self-tanners use the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA). What happens is DHA reacts with cells in the skin to temporarily darken the skin and it usually fades after a few days to a week.

Is Sunless Tanning Safe?

Generally, yes. According to the Mayo Clinic “topical sunless tanning products are generally considered safe alternatives to sunbathing, as long as they're used as directed.”

I mean, it’s definitely better than sitting out in the sun to get a tan. Although, one thing to avoid is inhaling the stuff.

You see, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates color additives and DHA is classified as one. So the FDA suggests avoiding inhaling, ingesting, and getting DHA near the eyes or other parts of the body covered by mucous membrane such as the lips and nose.

So if you’re using a spray product, hold your breath, close your eyes, and ideally don’t spray it directly on your face. It’s probably better to spray it on your hand and use your hand to apply it to your face being careful to avoid the eyes, lips, and nostrils.

FYI - sunless tanning pills are no-no. The pills typically contain the color additive canthaxanthin and when taken in large amounts can cause organ damage.

Sunless Tans Do Not Provide Sun Protection

While a sunless tan maybe safer than getting a tan from sitting out in the sun – it doesn’t give you a shield against the sun. Again, there is no such thing as a base tan that gives you sun protection.

In some cases a sunless tan might even give you a false sense of protection because you won’t easily see your skin turning red as it sunburns.

I’m not saying don’t get a sunless tan. Heck I wouldn’t mind one right now. But if I do it, I’m going to get one safely and still apply my sunscreen every morning. I want to have my cake and eat it too Smile.

Suncare Smarts

So now you know. Sunless tans can be a safe way to get a tan but they don’t protect you from the sun’s UV rays.

For even more suncare, sunscreen, sun tanning information and news check out our Suncare Smarts blog series.

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