Debra Lynn Dadd

Safe self tanners?


I recently read an article in Alive magazine (a Canadian publication that promotes healthy living) that states that using a self-tanning lotion is preferable to baking in the sun. I can see why baking in the sun might not be a good idea, but is there such a thing as a safe self-tanning lotion?

POSTED BY TWIG :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 04/03/2007 10:31 AM


To answer, I'm going to give you an excerpt from my e-book Debra's Guide to Choosing Natural Sun Protection...


I've been asked about using sunless tanning lotions as an alternative to sun tanning to get that "healthy glow."

I can understand a desire to have a summer tan. Growing up in California, just as soon as it was warm enough, I would be out on my patio in my swimsuit with my suntan lotion—not sunscreen—suntan lotion to get my skin as dark as possible as fast as possible. I didn't know then that a suntan is a sign of skin damage.

I still think that a little tan looks healthy and nice in the summer, even if scientific facts prove otherwise. But I no longer sit out in the sun, attempting intentionally to damage my skin.

The only active ingredient approved by the FDA for use in sunless tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the upper layer of the skin. As the sugar interacts with the dead skin cells, a color change occurs. The effect is temporary, because as the dead cells naturally slough off, the color fades, disappearing within a week unless the lotion has been reapplied.

Is DHA safe to use? The Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" website ( lists "0" health concerns. The MSDS sheet for this ingredient also lists no health effects from skin exposure beyond the possibility of mild irritation.

The Skin Cancer Foundation ( says, "[Using sunless tanning products is] a lot more healthful than a suntan because...getting a suntan breaks down the DNA in skin cells, but using self-tanners causes no such damage. At worst, sunless tanning products present a minimal risk of irritant or allergic reactions.

If you want to give your skin a darker tan color naturally without going out in the sun, try this concoction:


1. Boil 3/4 cup pure water and brew strong tea with 3 black-tea bags.
2. Put 1/4 cup tea into a blender with ¼ cup lanolin and ¼ cup seasame oil.
3. Blend at low speed.
4. Add remaining tea steadily.
5. Spread sparingly on your skin (try a patch in a hidden spot first to test the color).

Debra :-)

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