How it works
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a simple sugar derived from the sugar cane plant that has been used worldwide in the cosmetics industry for over 30 years. DHA is a colourless sugar that interacts with dead surface cells in the outer skin, staining the skin darker. The effect is temporary, because as the dead cells naturally slough off, the colour fades, disappearing within a week unless the lotion has been reapplied. Products containing this chemical don’t age the skin or contribute to skin cancer.
Why you should op for a fake tan
A fake tan is much healthier than a suntan because, while suntans also start fading after a few days, the harm done to the skin is permanent. It may be argued that the risk of actually developing skin cancer is small and that most cases are treatable. However, it is inarguable that sun exposure causes premature ageing of skin. Sunless tanners help you avoid this premature wrinkling and ageing of your skin.
Some types of skin i.e. redheads or strawberry blondes with pale skin and freckles will not tan – they just get more freckles and without a protective tan, run a real risk of skin cancer. So for these skin types, fake is the only way to go!
Does fake tan product me from the sun?
Quite simply the answer is no. Fake tan gives you a tanned look, but it does not give you any sun protection. Whilst some tanning products do contain sunscreen they will only give you a few short hours of protection after you put the fake tan on. The protection will NOT last as long as the change in your skin colour does. Fake tan users still need to continue to protect themselves from the sun and take care not to burn.
What to avoid
Tanning ‘enhancers’, ‘accelerators’ and ‘promoters’ interact with the sun to create the tan so they actually end up accentuating the damage done to the skin. They speed up the production of melanin so they could in turn, increase your chances of getting melanoma. There needs to be lots more research before they can be recommended.
‘Tanning Pills’ contain beta-carotene chemical, which does not provide UV protection and turns users a rather unattractive shade of carrot orange (including hair and nails) as opposed to a realistic tanned colour. Tanning injections are a real concern as they stimulate melanin in your skin. There have been no long term clinical studies and the side effects are unknown but again could include increased melanoma skin cancer. Although illegal to purchase in the UK, injections can still be obtained from the online illicit global trade of pharmaceuticals. No matter how tempting these seem, avoid at all costs.
If you remember that melanomas can cause serious damage to your skin and health, safe tans become immediately the only way to go.