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Sun Tan vs. Self-tanning: Which is Safer?

We have talked a lot about the hows and whats of self-tanning before we realized something big: we haven’t spoken about the why in length. Between a tanning session under the graces of the good ol’ sun versus an indoor lather session with a bottle of self-tanner, which one is safer? If you have friends who swear by their self-tanners, why do they pick their tan-in-a-bottle versus the real deal? Sit tight because we have the answers for you.

First things first. Is self-tanning even safe?
If you’ve been a long-time self-tanner fan or if you’re looking to make the jump for the first time, we are happy to say that yes, dermatologists as a general whole believe that self-tanners are safe for those running after a sun-kissed look. They particularly prefer self-tanners over the risks of being under direct sun exposure for prolonged periods of time.

Self-tanners are safer than basking in the sun or even sun beds because the latter two present very real risks of sunburn. They also pose risks for premature photo aging and skin cancer. Dermatologists suggest that, as long as a patch test is taken to avoid allergens and known irritants, self-tanners are generally safe for everyone to use – even those with sensitive skin types.

In fact, some of the real dangers of self-tanning generally fall along the categories of ugly tanning: orange tints, streaks, patches, and generally uneven tans. (Don’t worry, we have tons of resources for getting that perfect glow on here.)

DHA sounds intimidating. Are there known side effects to it?
If you compare the ingredients list for self-tanners, you will notice a common ingredient: DHA or dihydroxyacetone. In this age of increasing awareness over health and wellness, we’re often told not to trust ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Do we agree with that? Yes and no.

We agree with it because unknown ingredients merit ample research and study by the consumer. It is our responsibility to be aware of what is going onto our bodies. We also said no because if you did your research, you would easily find that not all DHAs are the same.

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DHA is a simple sugar that works with the amino acids found in dead skin cells, which gets your your glow. There have been previous concerns raised on the toxicity of concentrated DHA. Despite this, self-tanners have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). How would you know who to trust?

As long as you are using DHA at low levels, the risk is very low. Self-tanners generally contain only 3-5% DHA, which is a level that is deemed as non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. But perhaps our biggest tip is this: DHA can either be synthetic or natural. To feel entirely secure with using self-tanner, make sure that your self-tanner uses natural DHA, usually derived from beet or cane sugar.

Our suggestion: our range of Bondi Bodz self-tanners that use only natural DHA

Okay, I feel more relaxed. But are self-tanners safe for pregnant women to use?
Again, it depends on the formulation of the self-tanner you are using. For a more in-depth guide on self-tanning for pregnant women, read our article here.

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