A Closer Look at Sunless Tanning Pills

Having that sun-kissed look year round can take years off your appearance, and can even make you look more vibrant, healthier, and slimmer. Unfortunately, spending hours in the sun does put you at risk for skin cancer, and even the most powerful sunblock and sunscreen may not block all of those harmful UV rays.

Sunless tanning products such as creams, lotion and sprays are just one way to achieve a natural-looking tan, but popping a pill to achieve the same effects may be another option. 

Are sunless tanning pills as safe and effective as their makers claim? A closer look reveals the truth behind sunless tanning pills:

How Sunless Tanning Pills Work

Sunless tanning pills typically contain a number of vitamins along with pigment-enhancing ingredients such as tyrosine and caretonoid. Tyrosine is an amino acid commonly found in foods such as avocados, fish, chicken, whole grains and pumpkin seeds.  Most people get enough tyrosine from their diets, but some people have reported that their skin turns orange with tyrosine supplementation. Results can be further enhanced by exposing the skin by exposing the skin to UV rays, and many people take sunless tanning pills before hitting the tanning bed in hopes of boosting that tan.  

Caretonoid may also enhance the amount of visible pigmentation on the skin, and colors the layer of fat under the skin’s surface. These pills contain the active ingredient ‘canthaxanthin’ which binds itself to the layer of fat underneath the skin during the darkening process. However, researchers are still trying to determine what the dosage of this supplement is appropriate for human consumption. Dermanetwork.org reports that the amount of caretonoid required to achieve this high level of pigmentation may be dangerous.  

Hidden Dangers of Sunless Tanning Pills

Both tyrosine and caretonoid are ingredients that simply ‘color’ your skin various shades of orange, and some formulas may be powerful enough to turn the skin a very dark and unattractive color. Sunless tanning pills are an unregulated dietary supplement, and are not backed by enough scientific studies to be deemed safe; in fact, the Food and Drug Administration has not given these pills its stamp of approval.  

The Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health explains highlights some important risk factors involved with sunless tanning pills. Common side effects of these pills include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Liver damage
  • Anemia  

Healthy Options for Tanning  

Despite several side effects of natural tanning and artificial tans, millions of Americans continue to make tanning a part of the monthly skincare regiment. Still, there are a few healthy options for obtaining an attractive tan:  

  • Using SPF lotion and tanning outdoors – protecting the skin from harmful rays is the first step towards achieving a healthy tan
  • Spray tanning - heading to the tanning salon or spa doesn’t mean you have to stick with the tanning booth; spray tanning services are becoming more popular and readily available at many tanning salons and spas around the country
  • Tan towels – tanning towels and towelettes are a simple way to add color to your skin without increasing your risk of skin damage and excess UV exposure

Bottom Line: Sunless tanning pills are just one of several sunless tanning products available on the market, but lotions, creams and other topical agents may still be a much safer and healthier choice. Meeting with a doctor or physician before making the decision to alter your appearance is a simple way to find out what your safest options may be. 

Learn more about cosmetic enhancements and cosmetic surgery procedures available from a doctor in your area.