I’m as white as a sheet of paper and I heard about it all the time when I was growing up. “Are you an albino?” “Oh look, here comes Casper.” Nice, huh? Needless to say, I grew up thinking that pale was gross and tan was the only way to go. At fifteen, I started using spray-on tanners with mixed results. Some turned my skin a light bronze and some made me look like a skinny oompa loompa. The worst part is when I missed a spot. I’d end up looking like I bleached part of my leg or midsection. The unique tan lines made my ‘fake bake’ a dead giveaway at summer camp but hey, I tried right?
By my twenties, I finally found a liquid bronzer and makeup combination that made me look tan so, I kept it up. Little did I know the negative effect the constant fake tanning was having on my health.
I remember the last time I used the bronzer. I was in the bathroom with one foot on the closed toilet lid slathering up a leg and watching in fascination as ominous clouds darkened the sky and a storm blew in. It must have been a warning. Less than a week later I was diagnosed with skin cancer.
I don’t blame it on the sun. I burn after five minutes of exposure so to avoid painful, burning skin, I’m careful to apply sunscreen. I started doing some research on the chemicals not only in artificial tanners but also in all the lotions, creams and body washes I’d been using for twenty-seven years. What I found was alarming.
The main ingredient in most self-tanners is DHA, dihydroxyacetone which has been reported as safe for external use, however, many if not most commercial beauty products have harmful additives the public has little information about. For example, propylene glycol. This chemical is called ‘industrial anti-freeze’ and has been linked to kidney abnormalities and liver damage. Sodium laurel sulfate, another common additive in commercial products, has been linked to cellular damage and cancer. Mineral oil may seem like a harmless additive but remember, the skin needs to breathe and if you’re using something on your skin every day, mineral oil will have a suffocating effect. Aluminum has been linked to gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Phthalates have been reported to cause problems in both male and female fertility and has been banned in Europe.
The next time you go shopping for your favorite beauty products, take a look at the ingredients. There are harmful, disease-causing chemicals in self-tanners, lotions, creams, hair care products and cosmetics that you use everyday. There are also plenty of natural alternatives. Take care of your skin and avoid those chemical-laden products. I haven’t yet tried a natural self tanner and I’m not sure I will but they do exist. Check out the links below for natural alternatives to commercial beauty products and discover a new world of health!
Sources: Personal experience and the following website: