Fake It, Don’t Bake It!

Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Dermatology
Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 10:28am

Tanning, whether from the sun or from indoor tanning beds, is a leading cause of skin cancer and skin aging. You owe it to yourself and your skin to stay safe from harmful UV rays and always practice sun safety.

For those who desire a tan look, there are excellent sunless tanning products that can deliver a healthy and safe glow.  The key to achieving a flawless and safe bronzed appearance is in the preparation. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Method

  • Sunless tanners come in lotions, sprays, gels, and mousses; each has certain advantages.
  • Keep in mind: the only FDA approved chemical for faux tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA).
  • Read reviews! Find a specific product that works well on your skin type and meets your needs and budget.

Step 2: Prepare Your Skin

  • Start by exfoliating to avoid the appearance of dark patches in dry areas.
  • Use a coarse scrub (avoid anything oil-based) to remove dead skin cells from your body. Certain areas, such as your knees and elbows, may require extra exfoliation due to their thick skin.
  • On your face, use a gentle cleanser containing glycolic or salicylic acid and a skin brush.
  • Allow your skin to dry completely. Wait at least 10 minutes after showering and toweling off.
  • Massage a tiny amount of lightweight, oil-free moisturizer on your dry, rough areas.

Step 3: Apply the Product

  • Start with a spot test to ensure your skin isn’t sensitive to the product.
  • When applying, avoid your eyes, mouth, and nose, as DHA isn’t approved for application near these areas.
  • Start at the bottom of your body and work your way up. Use clean hands, latex gloves, or application mitts. Complete your arms and hands last.
  • Blend the product in small, circular motions. Streaks occur when you try to spread too little product over a large area.  
  • A spray bottle or helpful friend are good options for those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Be cautious on your face to avoid appearing too dark. You may want to use a separate face-product, or apply two coats on your body and one on your face.
  • Wash your hand immediately after you finish. Dark palms will appear quickly if you don’t get the product off!

Step 4: Don’t Forget Sunscreen

  • Don’t falsely believe that your tan-appearing skin will protect you from sun. You still need to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Properly applying sunscreen is extremely important! Follow these tips.
  • Even if your sunless tanner contains SPF, you must still apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours.

Step 5: Maintain and Fix Streaks

  • Rub lemon juice on areas that appear streaky or splotchy. You can also use baking soda or whitening toothpaste to lighten certain areas.
  • The more you moisturize, the longer your sun-kissed glow will last!

If you’ve unsuccessfully tried fake tanners in the past, give it another shot! Orange, streaky self-tans are a thing of the past. These products have come a long way in recent years as more people realize the true danger and harm caused by UV rays.

Good luck with your bronzing! Congratulate yourself on keeping your skin and body safe.