#AskID : Prof Ryan discusses fake tan

We asked Prof Caitriona Ryan:
‘I am a huge advocate of self-tanning preparations and often tell my patients that the only healthy tan is a fake tan!

It has been shown that having a tan makes people look more 'attractive', 'slimmer' and feel more confident within themselves. As a result many people sunbathe or use tanning beds even though this harmful UV radiation considerably increases their risk of melanoma and other skin cancers and accelerates the aging process. In fact, it has been shown that tanning can be an addictive behaviour.

Self tanning preparations can make your skin look tanned without exposing it to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The American Academy of Dermatology actively endorses self-tanning products and recommends them as an alternative to tanning in UV light from the sun or an indoor tanning bed.

The active ingredient in all of these products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive often derived from plant sources. DHA binds to proteins in the top layer of skin, causing it to darken or stain. Even organic tanning preparations contain DHA, but it is typically derived from natural ingredients rather than synthetic types.

Occasionally the constituents of self tanning preparations can cause irritant or allergic contact dermatitis resulting in dry, itchy eczema-like rashes, but usually these products are considered safe. While the concentration of DHA in self tan is safe for the skin, special care should be taken to avoid inhaling, ingesting, or getting it in your eyes, particularly with spray tans.

It is important to remember that a fake tan affords no protection against the sun. A broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF30 or higher should still be regularly applied.

Before I commenced Dermatology I was a sun worshipper and have spent many years since trying to reverse the photoaging on my face and neck with skin care and various procedures.
Now I am a fake tan addict and apply my self tan weekly. My favorite is @tanorganicofficial TanOrganic Self Tan Oil – an Irish Vegan, Cruelty Free product which produces a very natural coloured tan and uses a great moisturising formulation which is easy to apply and mess-free. I truly believe that the advent of self tanning products will make a significant difference to the number of melanomas we see in young women, who in previous times would take to a tanning bed to maintain a year-round glow. Our younger generations seem to be more mindful of skin health and tend to opt for a fake tan instead.’