Sunless tanning: Is it safe?

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a product that, when applied to the skin, can produce a long-lasting tan color without exposure to ultraviolet light.

What we know.

Although cultured skin cells can demonstrate alterations at the cellular level, human studies have not shown any harmful effects. DHA is FDA-approved for topical application and studies have found no systemic absorption. Thus, it is a safe product when applied in this method. The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology maintain that self-tanning with sunscreen use is safer than tanning by ultraviolet radiation.

What we don’t know.

It is unknown if DHA is safe as a spray due to unknown risk if inhaled, ingested or applied to areas covered by mucous membranes. Thus, misting spray tans or at-home sprays are best avoided to prevent inhalation or ingestion.

Contact reactions are the most common adverse event associated with DHA use.


Use eye goggles, face masks and lip balm when using spray products.

Do not expose to the eyes or lip area.

Sprays that are applied using a mitt and then rubbed onto the skin are safer than aerosolized products applied directly to the skin.

Spot-test the product before applying to large areas.


Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid with mitt provides a very even application. Make sure to spray away from your face onto the mitt. Fake Bake also makes a Body Polish to exfoliate areas, like the legs.

Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer provides a small level of color with daily lotion application. It is available in different tones.

Rachael L. Cayce, MD Founder DTLA Derm

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