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Get the skin – ny on a guilt-free tan

Skip the tanning salon and still get the look you love

Focused on Health - February 2013

by Amber Presley

skin tannersThere’s no doubt many of us feel like we look healthier when our skin has a bit of color. But tanned skin isn’t healthy skin.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays (UV) from tanning beds and the sun can increase your risk for skin cancer.

“Fortunately, you can achieve that same, bronzed look from a variety of self-tanning and spray tanning products,” says Susan Chon, M.D., associate professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Dermatology. “And, using these products won’t increase your risk for skin cancer.”

READ ALSO: How to Have the Tanning Bed Talk with Your Kids

Self tanners are safe and easy to use

tan bodyWhen self tanners first hit the market, many of the products were hard to use and left skin looking streaked or orange. Luckily, that’s changed. 

“Spray-on tans are safe and really quick,” says Chon. “Self tanners, instant bronzing mousses and lotions also work really well and can be used daily. They have an active ingredient, called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which slowly stains the top layers of the skin and fades away gradually.”

But beware: your skin may react differently to certain types of self tanners. So, it’s a good idea to spot test a new product before using it all over your body.

Use these tips for a flawless self tan

  1. Exfoliate: Prior to application, use an exfoliating body and facial scrub when you shower. Focus on your feet, elbows, knees and body parts with dry skin. Dry skin quickly absorbs the self tanner, causing skin to look darker or orange-tinged.
  2. Set aside time: Give yourself 30 minutes for application and drying time. You want the self tanner to be completely dry so it won’t stain your clothing.
  3. Cover tan-free zones: Use lotion on parts of your body you don’t want to tan. Focus on the palms of your hand, fingernails and toenails, as well as between your fingers and toes. This is especially important when using spray tans.  
  4. Don’t rush: Go easy if it’s the first time you’re using an at-home product – you can always reapply more.
  5. Wash your hands: Do this immediately after application. Remember, your hands can absorb color too.
  6. Delay your shower: Once you’ve completed your tan, wait four to six hours before taking a shower.

skin tannersIf you make a mistake when applying your self tanner, exfoliate to remove some of the color. If that doesn’t work, don’t worry. Most self tanners don’t last long and will fade when you shower.

Protect your skin with SPF 30 sunscreen

While using a self tanner is safe, it won’t protect you from the sun. So, use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when going out.

“For sunscreen to do its job, you should apply one ounce of sunscreen — the size of a golf ball — to every part of your body exposed to the sun,” Chon says. That includes your ears, feet and back of the neck.

READ ALSO: Sunscreen: Tips to Wear It Well

As the seasons change and you long for some color on your skin, remember there’s a healthy way to get that glow. Go faux! Your skin will thank you now – and for years to come.

Did you know you can get your skin exam along with a personalized prevention plan at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center? Schedule an appointment today by calling 713-745-8040.  

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center