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Autobronzant : les risques

Self-Tanner: What Are the Risks?

Many people wish to have a tanned complexion all year round, without necessarily exposing themselves to the sun. The application of a self-tanner on the face and body is in this case an option of choice. Is it safe to use this type of product? Find the answers in this article.

Published December 1, 2022, by Maylis, Chemical Engineer, — 5 min read

Self-Tanner: Definition.

A self-tanner is a product that allows you to obtain a tanned face complexion without exposing yourself to the sun's UV rays, which can be harmful to your skin (sunburn, accelerated skin aging, skin cancer, etc.).

This product generally contains a self-tanning compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Of synthetic or natural origin, this tanning agent reacts with the amine functions carried by the amino acids of the upper layer of the skin, i.e., the dead cells of the horny layer. This reaction, called the Maillard reaction, results in a browning effect on the skin.

Note that without reiterating the application of a self-tanning treatment on face and body, the browning of the skin gradually fades and disappears completely in 5 to 7 days. This phenomenon is explained by the frequent renewal of the horny layer (natural process of desquamation).

What Are the Risks of Using Self-Tanning Products?

The SCCS (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) has declared the DHA present in self-tanning products as non-toxic as it does not present any health risks for consumers at a maximum concentration of 10%. In addition, no scientific study has proven that DHA penetrates the skin's protective barriers. Self-tanner is not contraindicated for pregnant women and safe for them to use.

On the other hand, a self-tanner containing DHA can cause irritation if applied to sensitive skin parts of the face and body. Therefore, all parts of the body covered with mucous membranes should be free of self-tanner. Moreover, inhalation and ingestion of this type of care is not recommended. This can cause asthma as well as DNA damage and cancer risks.

In addition, due to the presence of DHA, the application of this type of self-tanner on your face can dry out the skin and increase its sensitivity to the sun. Note that this characteristic is often counterbalanced in self-tanning formulas by the presence of humectants such as glycerin and sugar derivatives. To combat this potentially drying effect, be sure to moisturize your skin daily, morning and night, both on your face and body. The 9-ingredient face moisturizer is enriched with hyaluronic acid and coconut oil; it is a minimalist formula that moisturizes and nourishes the epidermis. Its light, non-greasy texture is suitable for dry, normal and combination skin, even sensitive skin. For the body, choose the 10-ingredient body moisturizer, which moisturizes all skin types, even sensitive ones.

Please be aware that self-tanner does not mean sun protection. Always remember to protect your skin, whether sensitive or not, with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to avoid the harmful effects of UV rays.

Sources :

  • KOCHEVAR I.E. & al. Factors influencing sunless tanning with dihydroxyacetone. British Journal of Dermatology (2003).

  • Opinion on dihydroxyacetone. Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (2010).

  • CIRIMIMNA R. & al. Dihydroxyacetone: An updated insight into an important bioproduct. ChemistryOpen (2018).

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