Are Spray Tans Safe for Your Skin?

Are Spray Tans Safe for Your Skin?

As we near the end of winter and get closer to the warmer parts of the year, you may be thinking about that classic summer tan. While bronzed, glowing skin may be a trend that never goes out of style, we’re learning more and more about the damage that sun exposure can cause to your skin.

Spray tans can be a good alternative to direct sun exposure, but it’s still important to be proactive about protecting your skin!”

  • Shani Darden, Esthetician

At the same time, many people look forward to their summer tans, and some people even use oil to attract UV rays in an attempt to speed up the tanning process, which I do not recommended!

So what are your options? And what’s wrong with tanning the good, old-fashioned way? Let’s talk about the types of tans you can get and why spray tans may be the best option if you want to look tan and keep your skin healthy this summer.

What Are the Downsides of a Natural Tan?

Tan skin wasn’t always the beauty standard it’s seen as today. As recent as the 1920s, having pale skin was equally as fashionable, as it indicated a certain social status. 

However, around this time, tan skin started being associated with general health. After all, it’s only natural to get a little tan when you spend time engaging in outdoor activities. This shift created a rise in products and practices intended to help give skin a “healthy” glow. 

Unfortunately, this idea has no legitimate basis. While you may do healthy things (like running a marathon or hiking up a mountain) outdoors, a tan itself can actually be a sign of sun damage. 

When UV rays from the sun reach your skin, they can damage your skin cells. Not only can this sun damage lead to several well-known health issues, but it can also interfere with your skin’s natural collagen production, which can lead to wrinkles, fine lines, and even the appearance of sagging skin.

At the same time, sun damage can trigger your skin to produce extra melanin in an attempt to protect itself. This is what causes your skin to look darker after sun exposure. 

While tanning when you’re young may seem fun and low-risk, if you tan your skin on a regular basis, the damage can show up as you get older in the form of wrinkles, dark spots, and rough skin texture.

Are Tanning Beds Safer?

I love a golden glow as much as the next person, but unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a safe, natural tan. Whether you’re tanning outside or lying in a tanning booth, your skin can be exposed to wavelengths of light that are known to cause skin damage and, later down the line, health issues.

Going to the tanning bed may seem like a healthier option, but the risks are still the same. UV light from any source can have the same negative consequences.

What Are Spray Tans?

Many people use spray tans as an alternative form of tanning. 

Spray tans effectively “paint” your body with an active ingredient known as dihydroxyacetone (DHA). While different companies may include additional ingredients or different amounts of DHA in their formulation, DHA is the universal foundation for most spray tan formulas.

When DHA is applied to your skin, it undergoes a chemical reaction in response to your skin’s amino acids. This reaction is what gives spray tans their life-like appearance.

You can also choose the tone of your spray tan. Whether you’re looking for a deep bronze or a gentle glow, there’s a spray tan out there that matches your preferences.

Are Spray Tans Safe for Your Skin?

Because spray tans don’t involve any exposure to UV rays, they don’t carry the same risks as more traditional methods of tanning. In fact, DHA is FDA-approved and has no known side effects.

That said, it’s still important to take proper care of your skin, even if you have a spray tan. It’s still generally recommended to wear sunscreen every day and reapply it as needed.

How Can You Protect Your Skin With Skincare?

Even if you don’t regularly expose your skin to the sun or go to a tanning booth, it’s impossible to avoid exposure to UV rays altogether. UVA rays, the type responsible for aging, can even damage your skin through windows. 

Because of this, it’s important to have a consistent skincare routine to help minimize incidental damage. It’s also important to minimize sun exposure where you can.

There are some key things to remember when planning a protective skincare routine:

1. Be Proactive

While using certain products can help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and reduce the appearance of other symptoms of sun damage (like dark spots), skincare products can’t reverse damage after it has occurred. That’s why prevention is the goal of a protective skincare routine.

Using products like my Retinol Reform regularly, consistently, and from a young age can help minimize the effects of sun damage. 

2. Always Apply SPF

Alongside your regular skincare routine, it’s important to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every morning. Even if you have a spray tan, you’ll want to apply SPF daily! 

While I know it might be tempting to opt for the three-in-one moisturizer, sunscreen, and foundation combo, it’s important to find a product that prioritizes sun protection. Look for a product that provides broad-spectrum protection, and check to make sure it’s formulated for your specific skin type.

3. Antioxidants Are Your Best Friend

Antioxidants are helpful ingredients to work into your skincare routine if you’re trying to keep your complexion looking clear, bright, and youthful. Ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and niacinamide can have antioxidant effects that aren’t just great for helping your skin look bright and nourished.

They can also increase the protection offered to your skin by SPF. This is because antioxidants can help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause UV damage in the first place. While antioxidant ingredients are no replacement for sunscreen, they can add another layer of protection against sun damage.

The Takeaway

You may love the look of a golden tan, but exposing your skin to UV radiation can ultimately damage your health and your complexion in the long term. Even going to the tanning bed carries a risk that it’s generally best not to take.

If you still want the look of a darker complexion, spray tans are an acceptable and generally low-risk alternative to traditional tanning methods. Just make sure to apply sunscreen and take care of your skin — you’ll thank yourself later.


The Risks of Tanning | Food and Drug Administration

UV Radiation & Your Skin | Skin Cancer Foundation

Changes in Skin Tanning Attitudes Fashion Articles and Advertisements in the Early 20th Century | National Library of Medicine


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