Nobody wants to be that person sitting uncomfortably on a beach, tanning their pasty-white limbs, as they burn to a crisp. Getting a fake tan before heading off for vacation is the perfect way to provide that sun-kissed glow that we are all striving for. Although it was once considered horribly déclassé to have tanned skin, associated with only those that toiled under the elements, our dedication to attaining a golden-look has become somewhat ubiquitous in today's society. And let’s face it, having beautiful, tanned skin can also help you to feel healthy and confident. It defines bone structure, camouflages unevenness of the skin, hides blemishes, and some believe it even makes them look thinner. The splash of color brightens the skin, providing a more youthful glow, boosting the spirit of many. It's of no surprise that there is now a growing perception that pale skin has become obsolete for many of us in western society.
Fake, Don't Bake!
However the growing awareness of the deleterious effects of sunbathing on the skin and the announcement by the World Health Organization in 2009, declaring that sunbeds are as dangerous as smoking, led to the “fake, don’t bake ” slogan being born. All of a sudden sunless tanners, with their cheeto-like hue and biscuit scent entered the mainstream, and were present in every store. Some of them proved to be no better than applying brown dye to your skin, leaving behind the tell-tale splotchy orange palms. Luckily the quality of fake tan has improved since Ross from Friends emerged from the beautician with half his body a golden bronze and the other half pasty and white. We no longer have to endure bad smells, streaks or stains on our clothing or bed sheets.
Thanks to advanced technology there are new and impressive formulas available on the market, now we can say goodbye to messy lotions and uneven streaks. But what are the options for achieving that healthy “glow” and are they safe to use? Below we discuss several products available on the market today:
Spray Tans - No no
A spray tan is described as a fast safer alternative to traditional tanning. This method provides you with a full, even coverage without leaving any tan lines on the skin or exposing you to ultraviolet (UV) rays, therefore removing the risk of cancer risk. However spray tans do contain the ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a simple carbohydrate that reacts with the skin, turning it brown. But unfortunately DHA also has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage when inhaled or ingested.
Although it was once regarded as the “safe” alternative to tanning, experts in the fields of dermatology, pulmonary and toxicology say they “have concerns'' about the safety of DHA. Dr Rey Panetteri, a lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine reported to ABC news report from ABC News `The reason I’m concerned is the deposition of the tanning agents into the lungs could really facilitate or aid systemic absorption-that is, getting into the bloodstream.” Dr Panetteri goes on to emphasize that there is very little scientific literature on the effects of DHA, and that more research needs to be carried out, although he feels he has seen enough to say there are significant warning signs of serious health conditions as a result of being exposed to DHA.
DHA was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 1977 for “external” use, when it was used in tanning lotions. However it was never envisioned as the chemical to be used in a spray tan. The FDA states that DHA should not be inhaled or ingested and that they have not approved the use of this chemical in a spray since there has not been any safety data submitted to them for evaluation to support this use.
Tanning Pills - Say what?
Nowadays you can just pop a pill if you’re feeling a bit pale and watch your skin turn brown, without even stepping outside into the sun. This seems like a no brainer for many of us. But while tanning pills don’t put you at risk of UV rays, they do come with a whole host of side effects. Most tanning pills contain canthaxanthin, which is commonly used as a reddish-orange food coloring. Approved by the FDA to be used in small doses as a color additive, canthaxanthin is often added to foods, but it has not been approved as a tanning agent, despite this you can find many versions of tanning pills online. When canthaxanthin is ingested, it releases pigment-changing compounds in your skin, making your skin turn darker when used for long periods of time. However the color is not always the golden bronze that consumers expect. The FDA explains that the coloring effect is different for each person and while some may achieve that golden bronze glow, some may find themselves looking more like an oompa loompa. Furthermore according to the FDA , large doses of canthaxanthin are thought to cause serious health problems. These include:
- Hives & Welts
- Liver Damage
- Stomach Cramps & Nausea
- Canthaxanthin retinopathy (where crystals form in the retina of the eye and could potentially damage blood vessels)
- Aplastic anemia (where the body stops producing enough new blood cells)
In 1990, tanning pills containing canthaxanthin were responsible for the death of a healthy young woman that was provided with the pills by a commercial tanning salon. The cause of the death was aplastic anemia. A report published at the time stated that although the risk is small, it is still too high to justify its use in cosmetic products.
Tanning Lotions & Foams - SAFEST OPTION!
Lotions and creams contain an ingredient that stains the outermost layer of your skin, in some cases this ingredient is DHA. Scientists discovered that DHA could be used in a tanning agent back in the 1920’s when German researchers used DHA as part of an X-ray process. The substance was accidentally spilled on a person's skin, which changed the color of the skin to a brown after a few hours of exposure. So how does it do this? Through a series of complex reactions the DHA reacts with the skin's amino acids to create a browning reaction-the same kind of reaction when you grill meat and it turns from red to brown. If you find comparing a sizzling steak to a self tanner a little scary, dermatology expert Dr Adam Freidman reassures us that the browning only takes place in the skin’s “ stratum corneum” which is the topmost layer of the skin composed of dead skin cells. Once the tanned skin cells eventually slough off, the darkened appearance disappears. To recreate this process scientists use microbial fermentation to create DHA from simple sugars like glycerol. The sugars react with the amino acids via the Maillard reaction, something you probably heard about in your chemistry class (sorry to get nerdy), causing the production of brown pigments, creating that tanned appearance.
Are there any side effects of using DHA on your skin? The ABC News report cited FDA data suggesting that if used topically, it is completely safe and compared to the well established risks of sun exposure, self tanning lotions are a much safer option.
What we recommend
Due to the lightweight formulas of foams, these self tanners are easy to use and do not leave behind any streaks and patches. They can also be used in different ways, if you have fair skin you can apply it lightly for a honey- like tan effect, or you can layer it up giving you that super bronzed glow. We highly recommend Adonia’s Organic Sunshine Self Tanning Foam, this instant self tanner is 100% plant based, paraben and cruelty free and provides you with sun kissed tones without the orange residuals. You can certainly be rest assured that you are being super kind to your skin with this organic brand.
Face tanning drops are a revolution-they are a super easy solution to achieving that smooth and natural look. The drops contain self tanning products, such as DHA but can also contain many natural ingredients, so they double up as a moisturizer too, perfect for those sensitive skins. The drops are easy to apply-you can choose how many drops you wish to add to your daily moisturizer, the more drops you add, the darker the color. Tanning drops are a breeze to add to your daily routine, they are customizable, they do not streak or stain and give you that beautiful glow without the orange. We highly recommend the Adonai Organic Self Tan Face Drops. This brand only contains a small percentage of DHA, and the rest is made up of 12 Greek botanical oils that provide you with that “just out of Santorini” look. Its natural moisturizing properties and coconut scent will have you using it all year long.
Self tanners come in many forms, there are pros and cons to each, however it is important to avoid tanners that are loaded with unsafe chemicals. Organic products that contain natural oils in addition to tanning agents are a great option, they will not only provide you with a beach glow, but will also keep your skin feeling as smooth as silk.