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 • Beauty  • Does Self Tanner Age Your Skin?

Does Self Tanner Age Your Skin?

All of us are already aware how harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun are for our skin. But what if we still want to get a golden tan for summer. Is self-tanner the safest option? Or can self tanner age our skin as well?

First of all, let’s clear things out. Self tanner is and always will be safer than sunbathing. However, even sunless tanning does come with some risks.

How does skin tanner work?

Before we start talking about the risk of self tanners, let’s first remind ourselves how they even work. The active ingredient in sunless tanners is called DHA. This is a simple carbohydrate that can be obtained chemically or naturally from beets and cane sugar, among other natural sources.

DHA interacts with the amino acids in the top layer of your skin when you use a product containing it. As a result, melanoidin pigments are produced, which give off a brown appearance due to their absorption of particular light wavelengths.

Due to the chemical reaction occurring, you will detect a distinct odor on your skin while this process is active. However, most brands will add fragrance in order to cover the smell. In the end, you will be left with bronze skin that can last up to 10 days. That depends on how fast your dead skin cells naturally shed.

Can self tanner age my skin?

In a way, yes. The chemical reaction that occurs after our skin comes in contact with DHA can in fact age our skin. This process is in a way similar to toasting bread. While you aren’t getting burned in the sun, your skin is still getting “toasted”. However, the damage is still significantly less than if you would expose your skin directly to sun rays.

There are many different ways in which self tanner could potentially age your skin, and we will go over the most significant ones.

Increased Production of Free Radicals

While the chemical process on your skin is making your skin darker, it also produces free radicals. These are extremely reactive chemicals that damage collagen and elastin fibers by attacking cell components. Since UV rays make DHA more unstable, if you walk outside in the sun after using self-tanner, you’ll be exposed to even more of them. That’s why you should never see self tan as a “base” for sunbathing, and expose yourself directly to the sun after using it.

DNA damage

DHA releases free radicals into the body, which leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a major factor in skin aging. Sagging, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles can al be caused by it. Some researchers are concerned about the long-term safety of DHA because it has also been connected to DNA damage. However, there still hasn’t been enough research to prove it.

Skin Rupture

Self-tanner can also be the cause of skin irritation and a compromised skin barrier. Frequent DHA applications resulted in significant contact dermatitis in some individuals. Additionally, we are aware that the majority of self-tanners contain masking perfumes, which can be triggering for sensitive skin as well.


In conclusion, yes, self tanner could age your skin. However, if you really desire to get a tan, rather go for one of these products than actual sunbathing. There are ways to reduce the damage, like applying body lotion that contains antioxidants. In addition to that, try not to self tan your face. You can always use a darker foundation color to match it to your body. But still, in order to preserve your skin in the best possible condition, minimize the use of self tanners as much as possible.


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