The good and bad effects of sunless tanning….

Sun beds, spray tans, tanning injections … how far would you go to get a bronzed body?  Self tanning is fast becoming an addictive, multi million pound business, but with recent negative press about the harmful effects of all three methods, will consumers see sense, and be content to stay a natural colour?  Do you have teenage daughters who are convinced they need to be tanned all year round, and are exploring options on how to achieve that consistent bronze hue?

Everyone knows, or should know, that excess sun exposure is bad for your skin and should be avoided. Because of this, a variety of sunless tanning products have become available over the years. So the obvious question is whether these products are themselves safe.

Fake tan refers to any product that you put on your skin to change its colour and make you look as if you’re tanned.

Some fake tan products, like bronzers, lie on the skin and can be washed off with water. Others contain a substance called dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

DHA actually reacts with the skin so the colour change can’t be easily washed off. The tanned look you get from products that contain DHA normally lasts about a week.

Allergic Reaction

You may have an allergic reaction to DHA or other chemicals or preservatives in fake tanning spray and they can cause dry skin, contact dermatitis, inflammation of hair follicles, skin irritation and rash.


Fake tanning spray does not provide protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun even though it darkens your skin. If you don’t wear sunscreen over a spray tan you could get a sunburn.


Inhaling the Spray

While DHA is approved for use, it is intended for external use only. If you do decide to use fake tanning spray you should avoid getting it on your eyes, lips or mucous membranes.  Inhaling the mist from the spray, or getting it in your eyes, you may be causing yourself damage.  Scientists have recently warned that if the spray enters the lungs and is then absorbed into the bloodstream it could damage DNA and cause tumours. Scientists also claim the chemical may make asthma worse, as well as other lung problems such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

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Fake tan provides a healthier tan than a suntan because while suntans also start fading after a few days, the harm done to the skin is permanent. Getting a suntan breaks down the DNA in skin cells, but using self-tanners causes no such damage.

There are issues with other products that are sometimes called tanning enhancers, accelerators, promoters and/or amplifiers. Many of these products interact with the sun to create the tan, so they actually end up accentuating the damage done to the skin. There are pills – which are banned commercially in the U.S. and the U.K. – which are harmful to the body. They contain the carotenoid chemical (the same pigment found in carrots), and have been associated with hepatitis and hives.

And as for the injections … Thousands of women use Melanotan which is a drug that tricks the skin into producing  the dark pigment melanin – despite the fact it hasn’t been tested properly.  It has not been licensed to be sold in the U.K. however, it is widely available on the internet, and although it is illegal to sell this drug, it is not illegal to buy it!

If you really want to change the colour of your skin, then it may be safer to use a fake tan product on your skin than tan out in the sun or under a sunbed. Using these products can help you to avoid exposing your skin to harmful doses of ultraviolet radiation.

On balance there seem to be harmful effects associated with most methods of acquiring a bronzed body, and it is up to the individual to weigh up the pros and cons, but at least with all the facts available you are able to make an informed choice.


All content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silverhairs to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health.


What are your views on tanning in the 21st Century?


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Mother of three grown-up daughters I am the ultimate multi-tasker and am passionate about my role as Silversurfers Website Editor and Social Media Manager. Always on the lookout for all things that will interest and entertain our community. Fuelling fun for the young at heart!

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