Here comes the sun. Or not. Sunless tanning.

  Being the good health educator that I am, I know all too well the dangers of getting too much sun as well as some of the unwanted cosmetic effects it can have over time.   Summer


Being the good health educator that I am, I know all too well the dangers of getting too much sun as well as some of the unwanted cosmetic effects it can have over time.   Summer time is supposed to be a time of, well, SUN!   While I don’t hide from the sun when I am outside, I also don’t bake in it and do use my sunscreen judiciously.  But I also like a little bit of COLOR!

I am sold on the use of self-tanners.    You can do a basic Google search and do a review on ANY and all self-tanners out there.  We all are looking for different things, and what I’ve learned from talking to friends who use self-tanners, one that works for me may not work for someone else.  So if you are interested in getting a little bit of a bronze glow, but don’t want to bake in the sun, it may be worth your while to take a look at some of the reviews, and give a few of them a try. There are all kinds of varieties – lotions, gels, creams, sprays – something for everyone. There are even “professional” spray tans that are offered at tanning and beauty salons.  There are plenty of choices.

A few things to remember:

  • MOST Self-tanners do NOT contain sunscreen. You still need to protect your skin with sunscreen when using a self-tanner.
  • Remember to exfoliate with an exfoliating sponge before applying self-tanner or getting a professional spray tan. Concentrate on areas around the elbow, ankles, and knees to make sure all of the dead skin cells are sloughed off.
  • Divide your body into “sections” and after doing a few “sections” take a break to wash your palms with soap and water so you do not see discoloring on your palms. Be careful to not get the self-tanner on the bottoms of your feet as well.
  • Allow yourself time for the self-tanner to dry. Usually 30 minutes is more than enough, though if you are in a hurry, and depending on the product, 10-15 minutes might be plenty.
  • Avoid taking a bath or sweating for several hours. Check the directions on the package or ask at the salon if you are getting a spray tan, how long you should wait before showering or exercising.
  • Practice using the self-tanner on a day or night where it’s o.k. to go out if you don’t get it perfect the first time. It takes practice!

Are self-tanners safe?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – the key ingredient in sunless tanners – is safe for external application to the skin.   The FDA also states that DHA should not be inhaled or applied to areas covered by mucous membranes, which include lips, nose, or around the eyes.  The risks of exposure to these areas are not yet known. As long as you are following directions on the label and avoid the eye, nose, and mouth area, the product can be considered safe.   If you are visiting a salon, they should tell you how to protect yourself from getting the solution in your mucous membranes, but if they don’t, ASK!  Some places will offer goggles (also called “sunnies”), a nose filter, and barrier cream or lip balm.   You may have heard of “tanning pills” which is a completely separate topic. These are NOT safe!

My self-tanner usually lasts for about 3 days.  If I get a professional spray tan, it sometimes will last up to a week, but usually for at least 4-5 days.  Your results may vary, but it’s worth a try if you are looking for that sun-kissed look without the sun!

Have a wonderful sun-filled – yet sun-safe- summer, and may you find JUST the self-tanner that is right for you if you choose to get your glow from a bottle, tube, jar, or salon!


Tanning products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed May 20, 2017.
Sunless Tanning – What You Need to Know. . Accessed May 20, 2017.
What about tanning pills and other tanning products? American Cancer Society. Accessed May 20, 2017.
How to apply self-tanner. American Academy of Dermatology. May 20, 2017.


Cindy Chafin
Cindy Chafin, M.Ed., MCHES® serves as project director for the Women Survivors Alliance and New Focus Daily magazine. Cindy is masters-level certified in health education by the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and was part of the first cohort to receive master's level designation. NCHEC certifies health education specialists, promotes professional development, and strengthens professional preparation and practice. She is proud to be a CHES® and has been a public health professional for many years after receiving her degree in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Cindy has been involved in multiple cancer activities and projects since 2000, including serving as the state coalition coordinator for Tennessee for 13 years, and currently is involved with several cancer organizations. She currently is the Associate Director for Community Programs for the Center for Health and Human Services at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, located just outside of Nashville, where she has been a project director of multiple grants since 2002 and served as interim director from 2015-2018. She has been touched by cancer personally after seeing both family and friends alike suffer from the disease.

Cindy offers her consulting services and volunteer hours under the umbrella of Community Health Collaboratives, LLC which she founded in 2002 for organizations such as the Women Survivors Alliance and other non-profit and charity organizations. She is pleased to partner with New Focus Daily and WSA.

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