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As temperatures drop, for those of you whose tan lines are fading, now is a great time to consider alternative options for achieving the ever-desirable self tanner face“sun-kissed” glow. This kiss of the sun, however, is not as pleasant as the phrase implies. Cancer-causing and otherwise damaging UV-rays that penetrate the skin have consequences that far outweigh any flattering result that comes from sun-tanning. I, for one, would choose my pale skin over scars, wrinkles, and possibly terminal illness any day. Like any cosmetic product, sunless tanners have their drawbacks. Some of you may have even heard of alarming warnings about the use of these products. However, current research indicates that these warnings are unfounded. I would like to clarify some of these misconceptions, and offer you all a safe and effective way to use sunless tanners.

To start, let’s talk about how sunless tanners work. The active ingredient in the majority of sunless tanners is dihydroxyacetone, a color additive that I will refer to as DHA. This is not a dye or a stain, but rather it is a chemical reaction between DHA and the amino acids in the dead cells within the skin’s surface. The temporary darkening of the skin does not affect your skin pigmentation and will fade after a few days. Something to note is that DHA and erythrulose, another common ingredient, makes skin more susceptible to UV-rays for at least 24-hours after application. For this reason, users of sunless tanners should avoid exposure to sunlight directly after application, and should keep up with their daily practice of applying sunscreen. It is also important to remember that although these are generally considered safe products, the FDA advises to avoid product around the face, nose and mouth. Especially when applying spray-products, always keep eyes closed and block your nose and mouth to avoid inhalation.

Aside from safety, some people avoid sunless tanning products for fear of coming out “orange” or “spotty”. If you are selective about your product, and mindful of your application, these unsightly results can be avoided. One way to ensure proper application is to get a professional spray tan. Although the cost can be off-putting to some, ranging from $25-$50 or more for one session, it is still a bargain when compared to the real cost of indoor tanning. To achieve the same beautiful result from one spray-tan session, you would have to commit to two or more weeks of indoor tanning which go for about $10 a session. This is even without considering the preventative savings taking place by dramatically decreasing the chance of needing medical treatment.

Understandably, some people might prefer the convenience and privacy of applying sunless tanners at home. The topical creams, mousses, and gels are also a good way to avoid the possible inhalation of chemicals that is affiliated with spray tanners. A piece of advice is to do some research before selecting a product. Look at customer reviews that are consistently positive, and try to find out if the tanner is best suited for your natural pigment of skin. Always follow carefully the instructions provided on the package of whichever sunless tanner you choose. Additionally, if you do decide to take matters into your own hands, try following these steps outlined by the Mayo Clinic for optimal results:

1. Exfoliate first. Before using a sunless tanning product, wash your skin to remove excess dead skin cells. Spend a little extra time exfoliating areas with thick skin, such as your knees, elbows and ankles.
2. Apply in sections. Massage the product into your skin in a circular motion. Apply the tanner to your body in sections, such as your arms, legs and torso. Wash your hands with soap and water after each section to avoid discoloring your palms. Lightly extend the product from your ankles to your feet and from your wrists to your hands.
3. Wipe joint areas. The knees, elbows and ankles tend to absorb more of sunless tanning products. To dilute the tanning effect in these areas, gently rub them with a damp towel.
4. Take time to dry. Wait to dress at least 10 minutes. Wear loose clothing and avoid sweating for three hours.

Research may still be developing related to any risk that might be associated with sunless tanners and DHA, but the research surrounding the dangers of exposure to UV rays is clear. If a tan is something that you can’t live without, consider the safe practices outlined above with sunless tanning. The End



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