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Sunless Tanning Lotion Dangers

author image William Peterman
William Peterman is a registered nurse with experience in mental health, surgery, urology, drug research and critical care. Peterman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and also has a Master of Business Administration. His articles on health and nutrition have appeared on various online publications.
Sunless Tanning Lotion Dangers
A woman is applying lotion to her legs. Photo Credit: Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Sunless tanning lotions have become popular in recent years due to concerns regarding ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Many people want to achieve the healthy tanned look without actually going out in the sun, turning to the supposedly healthier option of sunless tanning lotions. However, sunless tanning lotions may not be as good as once thought, and have several dangers or risks associated with their use.

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Free Radicals

Sunless tanning lotions may contain a compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which is actually a sugar that degrades to free radical products upon exposure to light, according to the University of North Carolina Chemistry Department. Free radicals can biologically damage your body and skin, and accumulate in your body over time. DHA is the compound in sunless tanning products that reacts with your skin to darken it.

Allergic Reaction

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reports of skin rashes have been received from some consumers who use sunless tanning lotion products. The FDA states that they are uncertain as to which ingredients or combination of ingredients cause an allergic reaction in some people. Before using a sunless tanning product, it is wise to test a small area of your skin with the product to make sure you do not have an allergy to it.

False Sense of Protection

A 2007 article in the "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology" states that one of the dangers of using sunless tanning lotions is that they promote users to increase their exposure to UV radiation through sun exposure or indoor tanning devices. This journal article goes on to state that the darkened skin color achieved with sunless tanning products may instill a false sense of protection from UV radiation, and users are less apt to practice safe sun behaviors.

No Sun Protection

Sunless tanning lotions contain no--or very little--sunscreen, providing inadequate protection against the sun’s UV radiation. Wearing only a sunless tanning lotion without an additional sunscreen product can put your skin at risk for a sunburn or excess sun damage.

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