No matter how many times experts warn of the dangers inherent in exposing one’s skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays, people still want to enter summer with a tan. There is simply no such thing as a safe tan—unless you leave UV rays from the sun or a tanning bed out of it. And that’s where sunless tanning products save the summer day.
Introduced years ago, the first sunless tanning products contained dyes that often made the skin look orange and unevenly colored. But today’s tanning lotions, sprays, gels and creams work differently and offer much more natural-looking results.
“We are seeing greater demand for sunless tanning products and applications,” says Avani Nayak of Avani Day Spa. “Demand for spray tan has increased over the last several months. Clients are recognizing the convenience of sunless tanning, as well as the health benefits from avoiding sun exposure.” Spray tans at many spas and salons have improved in terms of texture, color and coverage, and Nayak notes that the products she offers also contain beneficial antioxidants.
“The self-tanner we carry actually stimulates your skin’s melanin production, so the color you develop is all your own,” says Erin Murphy, a medical aesthetician with Aurora Medical Spa. Specifically, most sunless tanning products today contain the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a colorless sugar that reacts with the top layer of skin cells, causing them to darken. The color lasts until the cells are sloughed away. “With this type of product, you can build a gradual, natural tan,” she adds.
It’s important to remember that many sunless tanning products do not protect you from UV rays, so a broad-spectrum sunscreen is crucial to everyone’s daily skin care regimen. “We have clients who pay a lot of money for services that are designed to reverse sun damage, and they need to know that preventing further damage is important,” Murphy says. “Of course, avoiding those problems in the first place by protecting your skin all along is the best strategy.”
Sunscreens should protect against both UVB and UVA rays, and one ingredient to look for is Parsol 1789, or avobenzone, which provides such protection. Reapplying every two hours or more if you’re sweating or swimming, regardless of the sun protection factor (SPF), also is key to ensuring maximum sun protection, although sunscreens that contain Helioplex claim to last up to four hours. Using an adequate amount also is important, and the rule of thumb is an ounce—about a shot glass full—for the body.
In case there’s any doubt about the wisdom of indoor tanning as a safer alternative to sun exposure, the American Academy of Dermatology is blunt: “The (AAD) opposes indoor tanning and supports a ban on the production and sale of indoor tanning equipment for non-medical purposes.”
In fact, tanning beds are considered carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) by the Food and Drug Administration, citing a recent report that said, “Exposure to UV radiation, whether from the sun or indoor tanning beds, can cause skin cancer, skin burns, premature skin aging and eye damage (both short- and long-term).”
“Choosing a product with all-natural ingredients is a great idea and good for the skin,” Nayak says. “It is great that people are recognizing that there are other options to give them a sun-kissed look without putting themselves at risk.” LN