Self tanners – really harmless?

Self tanners – really harmless?

How safe is it to fake it? Self tanners have traditionally been seen as an easy way of getting a sunkissed look without risking UV-damage. And although I agree that they’re much less harmful for your skin than baking on a beach or – heaven forbid – a sunbed, I do have my reservations. And that’s apart from the ‘burnt biscuit’ whiff….

Self-tanning formulas usually rely on DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a sugar-derived molecule that stains the horny layer of your skin brown due to a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. Self-tanners don’t induce real pigment formation then, but only stain the skin’s surface layer. Sounds harmless. But the ‘Maillard’ reaction still generates a certain amount of free radicals and oxidative stress in your skin. And although that amount may not be high, I personally try to avoid products that generate free radical activity in my skin, in order to limit the risk of premature ageing. It is also important to remember that unlike a natural tan, the colour you get from a self-tanner provides hardly any sun protection at all.

So my advice is, love and accept your skin’s natural colour. Noticed how more and more celebrities in glossy magazines are dumping the perma-tan in favour of their own, natural tone? Each skin colour has its unique beauty. So isn’t it time we celebrated that?

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