Natural and organic self-tanners are a bit of an oxymoron. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make your skin appear darker without treating it with some sort of chemical. At first thought, you may think that slathering your whole body with a self-tanner is a better option than sitting out in the sun for hours with tanning oil on.
And yes, while self-tanners drastically limit your exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays, which does not mean those self-tanners should automatically get the green light of safety.
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- One 4 oz. tube of Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner Lotion
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Most of the common self-tanners on the market, whether they are cheap drugstore self-tanners or expensive designer tanners, have toxic chemical ingredients that do a chemical reaction on your skin to make your skin appear darker and sun-kissed. Sounds scary right?
Not only that but they include other harmful ingredients like artificial fragrances, preservatives like parabens, mineral oils, and so much more. Let’s now take a further look into the harmful effects of self-tanners.
The Problem with Conventional Self-Tanners
Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is the most common active ingredient used in most self-tanners. It is a sugar molecule that comes from plants and it reacted with the amino acids on the outermost layer of your skin. The result of this chemical reaction is a darker skin pigment, giving you the allusion you have the perfect sun-kissed glow. It typically takes a few hours for this reaction on your skin to take place fully.
In 2012, a repot from ABC News came out stating that DHA has the ability to damage human DNA and cause a wide variety of health issues in humans. This is because DHA has the ability to penetrate the deeper layers of your skin, the epidermis, and dermis. In fact, it was found that 11% of DHA penetrates into these layers of skin and then can go into the bloodstream.
Even if only a small amount makes it into the human bloodstream, it can still have potential health consequences like the development of certain cancers. More recent studies suggest that when DHA penetrates the dermis and epidermis it can actually interfere with your DNA and increase your exposure to free-radical damage.
* Important Note:
Despite the many harmful ingredients in self-tanners, it is nearly impossible to find a 100% clean and natural self-tanner. Self-tanners need to react with your skin in order for you to develop a darker skin tone, which must come from a form of DHA or sugars that react with your skin’s chemistry. If you want a traditional and long-lasting glow, you will have to compromise somewhere and focus on finding a tanner that is the least offensive with chemical-based ingredients as it is impossible to avoid completely.
The only way to avoid any form of DHA or other chemicals is to use a self-tanner that temporarily tints your skin with ingredients like cocoa powder or natural mineral bronzers. However, please note that these types of tanners are not going to work as a traditional self-tanner. They will typically go on much differently, will not last with water, showering, or sweat, and will not give you a deep and dark glow.
The most important take away is to be aware of the realities of self-tanners and to make an informed and conscious decision as to what you are putting all over your body and how frequently.
Fragrance and parabens are two more ingredients that find their ways into most self-tanners. These chemical ingredients pose heaps of health hazards. You can read more about these ingredients in this post.
Also look out for these toxic and harmful ingredients commonly found in self-tanning lotions, sprays, wipes, etc.:
- Mineral oil – “a derivative of petroleum, it can be carcinogenic, is comedogenic (blocks your pores). It’s used because it’s a cheap carrier, creates slip and assists with spreadability.”
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate – “ this masquerades as a ‘natural preservative’ and in high concentrations is a skin and eye irritant. It’s also been found to contain formaldehyde (added during processing) and may break down into formaldehyde once it has permeated the skin.”
- Amyl acetate – “an ingredient used in the dry cleaning business.”
- Octyl stearate – “an irritant and also comedogenic (blocks pores).”
- Isopropyl Myristate– “also comedogenic and may bind to nitrates in the body… nitrates are carcinogenic.”
What to Look for in a Natural Self-Tanner
Even though finding a truly natural and organic self-tanner that is safe is a very difficult feat, there are some pretty decent options becoming available on the market. At this point in time, there are only a small handful of options that are worth using and won’t have any adverse effects on your health.
When looking for your natural and organic self-tanner, of course, you must avoid the ingredients listed above. Steer clear of the products that contain DHA in particular.
So, instead of using tanners with DHA to make your skin darker, look for brands that use natural ingredients to give you skin a healthy and beautiful glow. Opt for products and brands that use natural cocoa or fruit extracts to give you’re a bronze tone. Try and find options that don’t have a ton of ingredients – be wary of lists so long you can’t possibly read the entire ingredient list without getting dizzy.
Overall, if you are going to use a self-tanner, you are going to encounter toxic and chemical ingredients in one form or another. The key to using even a more natural self-tanner is to find options better than the conventional self-tanner and to not use these self-tanners on a regular basis.
The 5 Best Natural and Organic Self Tanners:
With that said, here are the top 5 best natural and organic self-tanners we could find. Explore the options below and choose the one that will suit your needs the best!
The great thing about this self-tanner option is that it is 100% DHA-free. That is very hard to find and why it has made it to this list despite the other questionable ingredients on the label. This is a fast-absorbing formula and comes in the form of dry body oil. It is hydrating on the skin, but non-greasy at the same time.
Instead of using DHA as the active ingredient, they use raspberry-based keto sugars that give your skin its darker glow. On average it takes 1 – 3 days to develop the darker glow, but the glow will then last about 2-3 days before you will have to reapply if you want to keep the tan for a longer period of time. It doesn’t have any harsh smell, it won’t leave streaks on your body, and won’t stain your clothes.
This is a super healthy and unique self-tanner that may just be your new go-to because you can use this every single day without any guilt! This amazing self-tanner only has 4 ingredients – yes, you heard that right. It uses vanilla essential oil, shea butter, cocoa, and cocos nucifera oil. This is a handmade product and every lotion is made to order, so you know you are getting a freshly made product every time.
It is great for moisturizing your skin and had a wonderful chocolate scent. This product is meant to balance out your skin tone and give you a realistic and mild golden glow, so don’t expect to get super dark with this product. Of course, there are absolutely no DHA or DHA-like ingredients in this product as the color comes from cocoa. This self-tanner is also 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
*Contains vegetable-derived DHA.
The Lavera brand is a German brand that is certified by BDIH in Germany. They are known for having the most challenging and toughest certification processes anywhere in the world for organic and natural beauty and self-care products. Their products are specifically designed for those who have sensitive skin and they only use pure formulas that include healthy ingredients like organic plant oils, flower extracts, herbs, etc. they also never use parabens, fragrances, preservatives, petroleum, and more.
Their selfless tanner lotion uses special soy extracts combined with natural sugar extracts as the active tanning ingredient to replace harmful DHA. Other ingredients in their formula include soothing ingredients like organic jojoba oil, lavender, rose water, and cooling aloe vera for super hydration. It takes 3-4 hours for the tan to develop is long-lasting, streak-free, hydrating, and free of harsh chemical ingredients.
*Contains vegetable-derived DHA.
This special self-tanner is always made in small batches to ensure quality and freshness. It is an anti-aging self-tanner that has a smooth and creamy texture and gives your skin a medium to dark sunless tan. They only use a few simple organic ingredients such as Organic Argan Oil, Hyaluronan, CoEnzyme Q10, and Organic Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Sesame, and Jojoba oil.
There is also no orange tint or any streaking with this sunless tanner, the silky and moisturizing texture of the lotion makes it go it smoothly and effortlessly for the evenest coverage possible. You apply the lotion every 4-5 days for the most natural tan look, it is not meant to be used every day.
This tanner is formulated without the following:
- Added Fragrance
- Sodium Laureth Lauryl Sulfates
- Stearic Acids
- Mineral Oils
- Animal Testing
*Contains vegetable-derived DHA.
True Natural self-tanner is also a better option to go with over conventional self-tanners it is meant for the face and body and is all-natural, gluten-free, vegan and free from toxic chemicals. Instead of using DHS as the active ingredient they use certain fruits and veggies naturally occurring sugars to react with the amino acids in your skin – which is what makes your skin look tan.
The tan will appear within 3-4 hours and lasts anywhere from3 -10 days. This tanner also contains natural anti-aging ingredients to help protect your skin. It also works well to hydrate your skin with jojoba oil, aloe vera, and green tea extracts for powerful anti-oxidant and free radical protection.
This tanner is formulated without the following:
- Propylparaben dimethicone
- Synthetic fragrance
- Synthetic colors
- Mineral oil
- And other heavy metals.