Winter tanning


So, winter is here and sunbathing is out of the question this time of year.  Although we live in Tampa, where it’s sunny all year round… but we consider this time of the year a bit too nippy to be out there sunbathing.

What options do people have if they want to have a tan look all year round? Well, there are always tanning booths.  However, did you know that they are JUST AS DANGEROUS to the skin as it is to sunbathe outdoors?  Really! It doesn’t matter what they tell you, booth tanning uses UV rays and UV rays are very bad for your skin.  So, maybe they diminish the risk of developing skin cancer, but that’s n0t your skin’s only concern, you know?

Your skin becomes thinner, loses its elasticity, develops pigmentation problems (hyper or hypo pigmentation)… basically, you add years to your skin.

There are yet other options: spray tanning or self-tanning lotions.  According to Mayo Clinic, sunless tanning is a safe alternative to sunbathing or booth tanning.  So in this section, I will talk about how they work and tips on how to maximize the benefits.

Our skin is made up of two main layers: the epidermis on the outside and the dermis on the inside. Whether you are talking about sun tanning or self-tanning, the epidermis is where the action occurs.   The epidermis is also made up of layers. The deepest layer of the epidermis, called the stratum basale (basal layer), is affected during sun tanning. The stratum corneum (horny layer) is the outermost layer of the epidermis — it is this layer that is affected by most sunless-tanning products.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most effective products available are sunless- or self-tanning lotions that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum of the epidermis. As the sugar interacts with the dead skin cells, a color change occurs. This change usually lasts about five to seven days from the initial application.

Every day, millions of dead skin cells are sloughed off or worn away from the surface of your skin. In fact, every 35 to 45 days, you have an entirely new epidermis. This is why tans from sunless- or self-tanning lotions will gradually fade — as the dead cells are worn away, so is your tan. For this reason, you must re-apply the products about every three days to maintain your “tan.”

Is sunless tanning safe?

Topical sunless tanning products are generally considered safe alternatives to sunbathing, as long as they’re used as directed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved DHA for external application to the skin. However, the FDA hasn’t approved the use of DHA for application to areas near the eyes, mouth or nose. If you’re using a sunless tanning cream, it’s easy to avoid these areas. With spray tanning, this might be more difficult since the product is usually applied to the whole body to ensure even color and may cause you to inhale the product.

Further research is needed to determine the risks — if any — of this type of exposure. In the meantime, protect your eyes, mouth and nose when spray tanning and avoid inhaling the product. Be sure to wear goggles and nose plugs, and hold your breath while the spray is being applied.

As a warning note, scientific studies have shown DHA to cause genetic mutations when applied to cells in a dish.  No studies have been conducted in humans, so it’s not clear whether genetic changes would occur in people, or whether the changes would pose health risks.  However, experts called the findings concerning, and called for more research on spray tanning.

Additionally, most sunless tanning products don’t contain sunscreen. If you spend time outdoors, sunscreen remains essential~!

What about other forms of sunless tanning such as pills?

Yes! Although gels, lotions or sprays that contain DHA are said to be the most reliable and useful, there are dozens of other types of products on the market. Tanning accelerators — lotions or pills that usually contain the amino acid tyrosine — claim that they stimulate and increase melanin (color cells) formation, thereby accelerating the tanning process.  At this time, there is no scientific data available to support these claims.

Sunless tanning pills, which typically contain the color additive canthaxanthin, are unsafe. The FDA has approved the use of canthaxanthin in food, it does not approve its use as a tanning agent. When used as a color additive, only very small amounts of canthaxanthin are necessary. As a tanning agent, however, much larger quantities are used. After canthaxanthin is consumed, it is deposited all over your body, including in your skin, which turns an orange-brown color. These types of tanning pills have been linked to various side effects, including hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy, a condition in which yellow deposits form in the retina of the eye.

Another popular form of sunless tanning is the bronzer. These powders and moisturizers, once applied, create a tan that can easily be removed with makeup remover.  More like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off.

It’s important to remember that most of these products, unless they contain an added sunscreen, will not protect you from the sun’s UV rays.   Even products that do contain a sunscreen won’t be of much help, since they lose their efficacy within hours of application. So, if you’re planning to head outside to show off your new glow, be sure to apply some extra sunscreen.


1) Always test-patch to make sure that you will not have an allergic reaction.

2) Wash your body well, leaving no residue, shave or wax hair off and exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate!

3) Do not use deodorant, lotions, oils, gels, perfumes, etc before the tanner. Your skin needs to be super clean.

4) Once you put the product on, avoid bathing or exercising for 24 hours. Wear lose clothing so that the product doesn’t stick to your clothes for the first 24 hours.

5) You should not bathe in the ocean or pool either!

6) When you do take a shower, do not rub the towel over your body. Instead pat-dry.

7) A professionally-performed spray tanning is ALWAYS better than DIY spray tanning. That’s why they are professionals.  🙂

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