The term, “sunless tanners” (also known as self-tanning, or UV-free tanning) refers to products that are applied to the skin to produce an effect similar in appearance to a traditional suntan without exposure to UV light. Achieving a sunless tanned appearance can be accomplished in a number of ways. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) based products are sunless tanning or self-tanning lotions that contain this FDA approved color additive that, when applied to the skin, imparts a brownish color similar to a sun tan. The tan is not a dye, stain or paint, but a chemical reaction between the DHA and the amino acids in the outer layer of the skin surface. DHA has been approved for cosmetic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Canadian Health Ministry and the European Commission. Bronzers can also be used to impart temporary color. Sunless tanners and bronzers provide no UV protection.
- Sunless tanners and bronzers alone do not provide protection from the sun. Only those sunless tanners that contain approved sunscreen active ingredients and are labeled with sun protection factor ("SPF") numbers provide protection. Per FDA requirements, all sun tanning preparations that do not contain sunscreen ingredients are required to carry the following warning statement on the label:
- "Warning--This product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer and other harmful effects to the skin even if you do not burn."
For ingredient and safety information on sunless tanning products, use the links below.
Find out more about FDA regulation of sunless tanning products.