Sunless ☀️ Tanning: Best Options and Hidden Hazards


Sunless tanning may seem like a non-toxic way to get glowing skin, but actually, the active ingredient in all of them (even the natural ones) is DHA. It basically toasts your skin to create the tanned look. The negative effects aren’t just just topical effects; they can cause major problems for your liver and adrenal functions over time.

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What Sunless Tanner Does to Your Skin:

DHA is described as harmless because it is derived from sugar beets. But that toasting effect of your skin is what creates that famous smell of self tanners.

In addition to DHA, most sunless tanning products are loaded with other chemicals, fragrances (to try to cover up that strong smell of your skin caramelizing), and preservatives.

Two preservatives in particular are sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Those two ingredients, when combined with vitamin C in the bloodstream (anything absorbed into our skin gets into our bloodstream) become carcinogenic.

Credit: Jessica Ash Wellness

For more information, here is an outside link with more details on the health effects of sunless tanning products, and another link about using it while nursing or pregnant.

Least Toxic Sunless Tanning Brands:

I learned all this after I decided to use a sunless tanning product because I was asked to model bikinis in a fashion show in December. I live in Florida, but even here, it does get prohibitively cold at that time of year to tan naturally. I normally do aim to get full body sun exposure, but it’s for vitamin D; not in the aim of getting a tan. I think that all skin tones are beautiful and people shouldn’t feel pressure to be tan at all costs.

However, like I said, I had an extraordinary reason why I used it this one time, and perhaps you do too. For occasional use, the best brands I found are:

Chocolate Sun. Amazon Associates link:

Beauty by Earth Foam. Amazon Associates link: I think Chocolate Sun might have slightly preferable ingredients, but Beauty by Earth makes a travel size and I knew I only wanted a small amount. The travel size was enough for several applications in the days leading up to my event. Beauty by Earth also makes a cream version, but from the reviews it seems the foam gives better looking results. I did not find it to be orange looking.

DIY Natural Alternatives:

Recently I learned of two natural DIY alternatives that claim to have a tanning effect on the skin, without DHA. I have not tried either of these.

One uses black tea and vanilla. Do be aware that non-organic tea has pesticides and is risky for heavy metals and mold. It is described in this link.

The other one is bacuri butter, and I recently saw a few people claim that it can be used to create a tan look. Be aware that I couldn’t find any certified organic versions, and also saw reviews that it has a strong smell. Amazon Associates link:

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