Tanning products


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What are Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths?

Self-tanners are agents that you apply to your skin, such as gels, sprays, or lotions, to cause a tanned or bronzed look without the need to expose yourself to sunlight. Self-tanning agents contain a chemical compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

Tanning pills are pills that contain a coloring chemical agent, usually a carotenoid compound called canthaxanthin, that reaches your skin and makes it look tan.

Tanning booths, sometimes called tanning beds, are body-sized booths that shine ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays on your skin to make it tan.

Is there a safe amount of Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths to which I can be exposed during pregnancy?

DHA has been approved for tanning by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for several decades, for lotions and gels that you apply to the skin, for use in the quantities that you receive in special booths that spray self tanner all over your body. Safety issues of rubbing DHA onto your skin during pregnancy are not well understood and the FDA warns that the agent should not be inhaled or applied to mucous membranes. A small amount may be absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream, but it is not known what this may do to the developing baby. Nevertheless, wearing a self tanning product on your skin does not protect you from the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight when you go outside the way that sunscreen protects you, nor even at the level that having a real tan provides some protection against burning. If you spend time in the sun, you need to wear a hat, other protective clothing, and sunscreen just as you would if you did not use a self tanner.

Canthaxanthin is approved by the FDA only for use in small concentrations as food coloring, but not for the much larger quantities that you ingest in a tanning pill, so it is wise to avoid it during pregnancy. It is also possible that canthaxanthin in tanning pills can cause allergic reactions or problems in your eyes and liver.

Tanning booths are not considered to be any safer than exposing yourself intentionally to sunlight in order to tan. As with actual sunlight, the UV rays in tanning booths can cause burns and skin cancer.

Can Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths make it harder for me to get pregnant?

Use of tanning booths does not impact your fertility. When you rub DHA all over your body, only a small amount may be absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream. There has been some concern that use of self-tanners as well as tanning pills may indeed interfere with your fertility, but the issue has not been studied well enough to know for sure.

Can Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths cause a miscarriage?

Tanning booths can burn you, just like the sun. If the burn is severe, it can lead to loss of body fluids, which causes dehydration. They can cause changes in regulation of body temperature that can disrupt your physiology, leading to light headedness, dizziness, and fainting. Severe burns can also lead to infections, since the skin is an important barrier against penetration of agents into the body, including microorganisms. These complications, in turn, increase the risk of preterm labor, which can have long-term effects on the childs health as an infant, and possibly behavioral effects later in childhood. Such physiological changes, along with simply heating up your body, also increase the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).

Can using Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths during my pregnancy cause a birth defect?

Tanning booths are not good for your skin, but they do not cause birth defects. There is no solid evidence that self-tanners and tanning pills cause birth defects, but the issue requires more research to know for sure.

Are there long-term consequences from my using Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths?

There are long-term consequences for you in that use of tanning booths is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. There are no long-term consequences for the baby, unless you overheat or dehydrate, in which case there is an increased risk of preterm labor, which can have long-term effects on the childs health as an infant, and possible behavioral effects later in childhood.

I just found out I am 6 weeks pregnant and last weekend I used Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or a Tanning Booth. Will my baby have a problem?

Most likely, your baby will be just fine. If there is any problem with self tanners and tanning pills, the problem is the result of long-term use. A session in a tanning booth would not have harmed the developing baby, unless you overheated severely, or developed a severe burn or dehydration. But if your pregnancy is healthy at this point, it should be fine as it proceeds. You should avoid tanning booths, self-tanners, and tanning pills from this point onward.

Is binge use of Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths on only some days of the week as risky as using Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths everyday but at lower amounts or levels?

It is not known how differences in the patterns of how you use self-tanners and tanning pills affects the risks. As for tanning booths, spending particularly long sessions inside greatly increases your risk of suffering a severe burn, so in this case binging would be even more risky compared with more frequent but modest use. On the other hand, both patterns increase your risk for skin cancer.

Is it ok to use Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths after the first trimester?

To be on the safe side, you should avoid Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths throughout the course of your pregnancy.

How will I know if Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths have hurt my baby?

It would be difficult to know for certain whether a self-tanner or tanning pills have hurt your baby, if your baby has a problem, since there is always a chance that a baby will have a problem for a variety of reasons. When it comes to tanning booths, if you suffered a severe burn or overheating with consequences to your physiology, such as fluid loss and disruption of electrolytes, prior to loss of the baby, it would be plausible to think that the tanning booth was the cause.

Is there any hope for a baby whose mother has used Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths throughout pregnancy?

Yes. Most likely, the baby will not suffer any problem. To be on the safe side, however, you should avoid Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, and Tanning Booths throughout the course of your pregnancy.

Can I use Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths while breastfeeding?

In the quantities present in tanning pills, canthaxanthin enters the blood stream and enters breast milk enough to darken the milk, so it is wise to avoid tanning pills while you are nursing. If you use a self-tanning lotion or gel, be very careful to avoid putting it on your breasts where it can get into the infants mouth. Tanning booths are not a particular problem while youre nursing, unless you become dehydrated, but they are not good for you either, so you should avoid them.

What if the father uses Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths prior to conception?

Use of self-tanners, tanning pills, or tanning booths prior to conception will not cause any issue once the pregnancy gets started.

Resources for Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths in pregnancy:

For more information about Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, or Tanning Booths du
ring pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:


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Last Updated: 10-08-2018
General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.