Warmer weather is (finally) coming soon – and for many people, so will their desire for bronzed, sun-kissed skin.
As you put your winter gear in the back of the closet and prepare for shorts and swimsuits, the thought of baring your pale skin may fill you with dread. You want to look like you just got back from vacation, not like you’ve been inside all winter. What should you do?
We all know the dangers of spending time in the sun, but indoor tanning isn’t the answer either. Even just one tanning session can increase your melanoma risk. Your best bet? Self-tanner.
The skin care experts at The Derm are here to tell you everything you need to know about self-tanning, including what to look for in self-tanners, how to pick the self-tanner that’s best for your skin, how to apply self-tanner properly, and more.
Risks of sun exposure and indoor tanning
More than 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV radiation – not only from the sun, but also from indoor tanning beds. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan when UV rays are involved.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires warning labels on all indoor tanning equipment for good reason. People who use tanning beds increase their risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 58% and basal cell carcinoma by 24%, two of the most common types of skin cancer.
You don’t even have to be a frequent user for indoor tanning to pose a major threat to your health. Just one indoor tanning session before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – by an astonishing 75%.
Whether you spend time in the sun or a tanning bed, the damage to your skin can result in premature aging, dark spots, and of course, skin cancer. Therefore, self-tanners are your best and safest alternative.
What to look for in self-tanners
Self-tanners come in many forms, including lotions, foams, mists, sprays, drops, and towelettes. The Derm can help you choose the self-tanner that works best for you and your skin. Until then, here are some guidelines to follow:
- For oily skin – Steer clear of heavy lotions and other oil-based self-tanners. Instead, use a lightweight self-tanner that contains aloe vera, vitamin E, and other ingredients that won’t clog your pores.
- For dry skin – Use a self-tanner with hydrating ingredients like argan oil or coconut water. Some self-tanners, especially drops, can also be added to your favorite skin moisturizing product.
- For rough skin – A 2-in-1 exfoliator and self-tanner can smooth rough spots on your skin and help the product apply more evenly.
Remember, it’s okay to mix and match, using different products on various parts of your body if needed.
Another way to make sure that you’ll be pleased with your self-tanning results is to pre-test the product in an inconspicuous area (such as your inner thigh). Try to choose an area that closely matches the skin on the rest of your body, and contact The Derm right away if you experience any negative reactions.
How to properly apply self-tanner
These steps can help you apply self-tanner properly for the best possible results:
- Start by exfoliating – Use a washcloth to remove any dead skin cells, especially on areas where your skin is thickest, like your elbows, knees, and ankles. (If you’re using a 2-in-1 exfoliator and self-tanner, you can skip this step.)
- Dry your skin – You want your skin to be completely dry, which helps the self-tanner go on more evenly.
- Apply in sections – Massage the self-tanner into your skin in a circular motion, starting with your face and arms and then working your way down.
- Stop between sections – Wash your hands with soap and water between sections to avoid having orange-colored palms when you’re done!
- Blend well – For a more natural look, lightly blend the self-tanner from your ankles to your feet and from your wrists to your hands.
- Avoid dark spots – Your elbows, knees, and ankles will likely absorb more self-tanner than other parts of your skin. To dilute these areas, lightly rub them with a damp towel or apply a thin layer of lotion on top.
- Take time to dry – Wait at least 10 minutes before getting dressed, and then wear loose clothing for the next three hours. Try not to sweat if possible to preserve your new color.
Determining your skin type
The Fitzpatrick skin type system uses melanin levels to determine a person’s skin type and skin cancer risk. As you can see below, sun exposure and indoor tanning are far more dangerous for some people than others. If you fall into one of the skin types that burn easily, we can suggest the best dermatologist recommended self-tanners when you visit The Derm.
- Type 1 – Burns without tanning
Very pale white skin, often with green or blue eyes and fair or red hair
- Type 2 – Burns and does not tan easily
White skin, often with blue eyes
- Type 3 – Burns first, then tans
Fair skin with brown eyes and brown hair
- Type 4 – Burns a little and tans easily
Light brown skin, dark eyes, and dark hair
- Type 5 – Easily tans and rarely burns
Brown skin, dark eyes, and dark hair
- Type 6 – Tans darker and never burns
Dark brown or black skin, dark eyes, and dark hair
Do self-tanners harm or age your skin?
Some people experience allergic reactions to the fragrances or preservatives added to self-tanners, but otherwise they are not harmful. Self-tanners also do not age your skin, unlike sun exposure and indoor tanning.
How often should you use self-tanner?
Every self-tanner comes with its own set of instructions, but it usually takes 30-60 minutes for visible color to appear on your skin. Most self-tanners should be reapplied daily for 2-3 days until the desired shade is achieved, then reapply 2-3 times per week to maintain it.
Can self-tanner be used as a substitute for sunscreen?
Absolutely not! Self-tanner does not provide any protection from the sun.
Research shows that it only takes one blistering sunburn prior to adulthood to nearly double your risk of developing melanoma during your lifetime. The Derm recommends wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, especially during the spring and summer months.
Is your skin trying to tell you something? Contact The Derm today
If you notice any changes or suspicious marks on your skin, don’t ignore them. And never let your quest for tan skin put your health at risk! High-quality skin care products and treatments are just a click away. To learn more about the best dermatologist recommended self-tanners, schedule an appointment at The Derm today.