Is Self-Tanning Harmful?

The short answer is no, self-tanning is not harmful. The self-tanners that are being used nowadays contain a harmless formula that gives the skin a temporary tan.

There are rare cases of allergies or irritation so you might want to do a test first or check the ingredients before using a self-tanner but generally, self-tanning products should be safe.

The fake tan that you normally get from self-tanners will then be shed off by the skin through colored dead skin cells a few days after.

If you have been wanting to try self-tanning but is hesitant because of the harmful effects that you think it will bring, then stick around as this article will help shed light on self-tanning.

Sunless Tanning and UV Rays

A lady rubbing her smoothly tanned legs

With sunless tanning, that does not mean that you get extra protection from the sun’s UV rays. You will still be susceptible to the harmful effects of UV rays even with a fake tan.

So if you are planning on spending extended periods under the sun, make sure to slather on some sunscreen regardless if you have a fake tan or not.

Self Tanners Formula

A woman applying sun tan lotion

Most self-tanning lotions contain the active ingredient called additive dihydroxyacetone or DHA which has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

DHA causes the skin pigment to darken within 24 to 48 hours. The tan is only at the outermost dead layer part of the skin.

There will be a gradual fade in about 3-10 days when your skin starts to shed the dead cells and you will need to reapply by then.

The tan that you will get also does not get washed away when you swim in a pool or take a bath.

Tips Before Self Tanning

A woman shaving her leg

Here are some tips before you self-tan:

Do your research – there are now a lot of self-tanning products on the market and it can be quite overwhelming. Look for a self-tanning product that has good reviews and is within your budget.

  1. Do a patch test first- before you slather on the self-tanner all over your body, do a patch test first to see if you will have an allergic reaction to the product.
  2. Exfoliate first- this will help remove dead skin cells and will give you a more even tan.
  3. Apply lotion – if you have dry skin, make sure to moisturize first before applying the self-tanner.
  4. Choose the right formula – there are now different kinds of self-tanning formulas on the market. Choose one that is right for your skin type.
  5. Read the instructions – this cannot be stressed enough. Read the instructions first before using the product to avoid any mishaps.
  6. If you have scars or stretch marks, see if the specific self tanner you bought is good enough to cover them (they most likely won’t completely cover them so keep that in mind).

What to do After Getting a Self-Tan?

A woman inspecting her tanned legs

After getting a self-tan, several tips can help your gorgeous tan stay longer than normal.

Here are some tips after getting a self-tan:

  1. When bathing in a pool or shower, it is recommended to pat dry instead of rubbing your body with a towel.
  2. Wear loose clothing – this will help avoid any friction that can cause your tan to fade.
  3. Avoid shaving- if you can, try not to shave as this can also cause your tan to fade.
  4. Use a tan extender- there are now products on the market that help extend your tan. Even with all of these tips, a self-tan will still only last for about a week so you will need to reapply by then.


With all of these said, self-tanning is safe and is a great way to get that summer glow without having to spend too much time under the sun. Just remember to do your research, patch test, exfoliate, apply lotion, and follow the instructions when using a self-tanner.

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