TikTok Trend Watch: Browning Lotions and Summer Tans

June 30, 2023
Tik Tok Trend Watch Browning Lotions and Summer Tans image

Leading dermatologist urges caution on growing use of tanning accelerators.

Skinfluencers on social media are praising browning lotions for perfecting their summer tans.

What is browning lotion? 

Browning lotion or tanning accelerators work with the sun's UV rays to darken your skin faster.

What could go wrong?

Lots, says dermatologist Dr. Alexis Young with Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. “A tan is never considered to be healthy and exposure to UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin cancer, that's the first issue I have,” says Dr. Young. “A tan is a warning flag or a sign of sun damage, and the second problem I see is that products like this might make it seem as though people are somewhat protected from the sun’s UV rays when they are not.” 

There’s another issue. “With the browning lotions, in particular, I think there is a misconception that they offer some protection from the sun’s damaging rays when they do not,” she says. “Browning lotions work when the compounds in the product absorb certain wavelengths of light resulting in the browning of the skin. “

 What is the better messaging for patients?

“These new products are often marketed on social media, so I think it’s important for dermatologists to be aware of the latest trends and get out ahead of them - reminding our patients that a tan is evidence of DNA injury from UV radiation,” she says. “A tan is never healthy, and it is certainly not "protection" from the sun.”

The best and only way to protect yourself is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. “Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing either titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide,which provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays, liberally to all uncovered skin, especially your nose, ears, neck, hands, feet, and even your lips,” she explains.

Dr. Young also recommends reapplying every two hours and after going in the water. Photoprotective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses are also excellent ways to protect from the sun. 

Using any form of tanning accelerator, including browning lotion, can expose you to different types of skin cancers including melanoma. If you really want to look a little sun-kissed without the dangers of sitting in the sun, Dr. Young recommends sunless self-tanners. “They really have come a long way from the days of orange streakiness.”

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