Using self tanning skincare products can be a double-edges sword in my opinion. On the one side, no doubt they are better than actually tanning in the sun (or using sun beds of course).
As all dermatologists will tell you, you should not only avoid burning in the sun, but also tanning. Tanning in fair skin types is actually your skin’s ‘cry of help’. Your skin is telling you that it has been damaged on a cellular level and is producing more pigment to try and protect itself from further damage. So my advice is to avoid burning AND tanning if you are fair skinned.
But coming back to self tanners – that gets me to my first reservation about these products. While self tanners are no doubt better than actually tanning in the sun, they perpetuate the notion that tanned skin is desirable and something we should all aim for, even if it’s not our natural skin type.
What I would much prefer is seeing a shift in perception. I would love to see people celebrate their natural skin colour: fair skin is beautiful when it’s light and black skin is beautiful when it’s dark (and all shades in between!). Using self tanners however is reinforcing wrong objectives and doesn’t help changing our society’s view on artificial tanning long-term.
But even more important – whilst self tanners will make your skin look browner, this darker skin colour offers no significant UV protection. Despite this many people believe that as they are ‘tanned’ their skin will be more resistant from the sun. This isn’t true. Exposure to the sun without adequate sun protection is one of the biggest causes of premature skin ageing (and skin cancer!), so it really is important to make sure you apply your SPF every single day (and avoid the sun!).
Last, but not least, the reaction that produces the brown colour in self tanned skin (the so-called Maillard reaction) actually involves generation of free radicals (albeit on a low level), again not something I would personally be aiming for.