Back in the day, I didn’t go anywhere without about 10 layers of sunless tanner on. You can only imagine how bad I must have smelled. But hey-I was tan. Once I got pregnant with my first daughter, something dawned on me-what was this stuff I was intensely layering all over my body? Rather then do research and find an alternative, I just threw my bottles away and haven’t really looked back since. Well, this year I decided it was time to find out exactly what is in sunless tanners and are they really that bad for us?
The main ingredient in sunless tanners is DHA or dihydroxyacetone. Sounds pretty scary. This ingredient is in every sunless tanner I have ever picked up to investigate the ingredients. Because I can’t pronounce it, I just assumed it was harmful and went on my merry way feeling like sunless tanners were just not an option anymore.
As I dug deeper I found that DHA may or may not be harmful. It largely depends on the type of application. When rubbed on the skin, Dihydroxyacetone does not penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin. It is actually just a sugar that reacts with the skin’s proteins to create a brown appearance. However, when dihydroxyacetone is inhaled like in a spray tan, it is very harmful because it can contains mercury, lead and arsenic!
Beyond DHA, there are other harmful ingredients in many sunless tanners that must be avoided. One obvious ingredient that should always be avoided are parabens which are used to preserve a product. ** Any ingredient containing the words “ethyl,” “butyl,” “methyl” and “propyl” is a paraben. Another common toxic ingredient that should be avoided is 1,4 Dioxane. It is actually a byproduct found in 46% of sunless tanners. A very common harmful ingredient found in most sunless tanners is artificial fragrance. Fragrance can be hormone disruptive as well as cause irritation and inflammation. An ingredient to also watch out for is oxybenzone. This is the toxic ingredient in many sunblocks that should always be avoided.
So what’s a pasty white girl to do? Seems like the more I dug, the more contradictory information I found. Many sites claimed DHA is non-toxic and derived from natural sources. Other sources stated that DHA contains harmful metals and could be very toxic to the system. It makes sense to me that spray tans are the bigger threat because there is no way to not inhale while being sprayed. If DHA does not go past the stratum corneum, then applying a lotion that omits other harmful ingredients seems like it would be safe.
My personal opinion is to really look at labels. Find a tanner that is as natural as possible. I think like everything, use sunless tanners in moderation. Using a sunless tanner lotion once a week at most, is a good plan. Many natural self tanners are full of nourishing, organic oils that nourish the skin. DHA only makes up 2-5%. Get the majority of your color by soaking up vitamin D for 10-20 minutes a day minus the sunblock. Read more about that HERE.
Below I have rounded up several of the top organic and safe sunless tanners. These sunless tanners are all available on Amazon and have great reviews. Like I said, I haven’t used self-tanners for sometime so I have not personally used these. I do plan to order 1 now that I’ve finally done my research and know what I’m getting into.
Natural Sunless Tanners:
- Beauty By Earth-Self Tanner
- Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunless Tanner
- Lavera Sunless Tanner
- Nature’s Gate Glow Lotion
- Jane Iredale Tantasia
- True Natural Face and Body Self Tanner
I feel as if the mystery has been solved. All though there is some contradictory information on DHA, I feel that there are natural options out there for those who would like to use self tanners. I feel safer and more confident about using a self tanner now. Now to solve the next mystery-which is the best natural tanner. Anyone use one they like?