Is it safe to use fake tan during pregnancy?

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Fake tanning lotions and sprays are a popular and safer alternative to spending time in the sun to get a tan.

The active ingredient in fake tan is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). It is a non-toxic substance that reacts with cells in the outermost layer of the skin and produces a brown pigment (colour) called melanoidin. The outer skin cells are already dead, and are shed as the skin constantly renews itself. This is why fake tan needs to be regularly re-applied to maintain the colour. The DHA doesn’t go beyond the outer layer of skin and therefore isn’t absorbed into the body.

Although there are no known dangers of using tanning lotions, they can sometimes cause an allergic reaction. For this reason, it’s advisable not to use fake tan during pregnancy, as changes in hormone levels can make the skin more sensitive than normal. If you do use fake tan, always test the product on a small area of skin first to see if you have a reaction.

Although some fake tans contain sun protection, the SPF (sun protection factor) is usually very low. Increased skin sensitivity when pregnant can mean you’re more likely to burn, so use a high protection cream (minimum 15) and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Tanning pills are banned in the UK and should not be used by anyone, including pregnant women. They contain large quantities of beta-carotene or canthaxanthin, which are commonly used as food colourings and can be toxic to an unborn baby. Other side effects may include hepatitis and damage to the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.


NHS Choices
Published Date 2010-09-16
Last Review Date 2009-01-15

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