Ever since I have been in practice, I have encouraged patients to avoid sun exposure.  As we all know, the sun damages the skin breaking down collagen, creating free radicals, and accelerating aging.  An alternative for many, as they have moved away from a sun induced glow, is to use self tanners or receive spray tans.  A concern I have had for patients and a challenge with all self tanners and spray tan solutions is the combination of ingredients contained in the formulas.  In fact, many salon products are even exempt from labeling what their self tanning products contain.  Many of these ingredients can be irritating, and in some instances, toxic to the body.  This is why we’ve chosen to offer in our office Organic Spray Tanning.  Not only are all the ingredients non-toxic, but many key elements in our solution are actually nourishing to the skin.  A winning combination for glowing, radiant skin.  Here is a guide of what to look for with your self tanning solutions in order to avoid potentially harmful, irritating ingredients.

  1. DHA (dihydroxyactetone) – The most common ingredient in all self tanners and spray tan formulas.  It has a long history of safe use and has been FDA approved for external use.  Its natural form is carbohydrate derived from sugar cane or beets.  However, many spray tan and self tanning solutions use a synthetic DHA which should be avoided in favor of its natural form which is better for the skin.
  2. Propylene Glycol – Propylene glycol is a petrochemical alcohol that works as a humectant as well as a solvent for fragrances and preservatives. Best to avoid self tanners with this ingredient as it can be irritating to the skin.
  3. Retinyl palmitate – A chemical which has been shown to speed the development of skin tumors in the presence of sunlight.
  4. Propellants – The propellant used in some spray tans is called dimethyl ether. This colorless gas is commonly used in aerosol products. It can irritate the skin, and is toxic if inhaled – best to avoid.
  5. Preservatives: Many self tanning products still contain parabens, which can cause increased reactions to UV-B radiation and has been implicated in a potential role in breast cancer by mimicking estrogenic activity. Phenoxyetanol is one of the less irritating preservatives that can be used instead but I would recommend avoiding all of these additives.
  6. Stabilizers – Disodium EDTA, or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, is often used as a stabilizer. It prevents ingredients from binding with trace elements in water and with other ingredients. Such binding can cause undesired changes to the odor, texture or consistency of a product.

If you’re going to receive a spray tan and aren’t opting for one with organic ingredients, bring goggles and nose plugs if you can, or choose an airbrush spray tan that will give less direct fumes.  If you decide to go organic, look for some of these great non-toxic ingredients for the skin.

  1. Aloe Gel (Lily of the Desert) – Aloe contains many health promoting components which protect the skin and add hydration to avoid the often dry, flaky skin that accompanies sunless tanning solutions or spray tans.
  2. Vitamin E – One of nature’s most dynamic cellular renewal antioxidants and healing ingredients. It’s also extremely effective as an easily absorbable moisturizer for the skin.
  3. White and/or Green Tea Leaf Extract – Contains powerful antioxidants that inhibit the formation of free radicals and help prevent skin cell damage caused by sun exposure and pollution. It is also anti-inflammatory and an anti-irritant.
  4. Vitamin C – Reverses photo-aging and boosts the skin’s collagen production for smoother, firmer skin. I recommend this for daily use on the face, hands, and chest to all my patients.  It also inhibits UVA and UVB radiation-induced damage which results in younger looking skin.