11 Clean Self-Tanners To Get A Glow This Summer Without A Side Of Skin Cancer

Transforming into a tanned, glowing goddess doesn't have to come with health hazards and skin damage.

By Simone Sydel2 min read
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Shutterstock/Look Studio

Whether it's the confidence boost that comes with a golden complexion or the subtle reminder of days spent by the beach and adventure in the sunshine, there's something so alluring about tanned skin.

Unfortunately, basking in the sun might make us look better in the short term, but it doesn't come without some potentially serious consequences. From premature skin aging to pigmentary disorders and even skin cancer, getting our glow from the sun isn't worth the risks.

So does that mean you must let go of your dreams for a sun-kissed complexion? Absolutely not! Nowadays, there are plenty of safe and healthy ways to get that summer glow without putting your skin at risk. And the best way to go about it is with a self-tanner. We found some of the best clean and non-toxic self-tanners on the market to help you get your sun-kissed glow.

But let's first talk about what self-tanners are, how they work, and, most importantly, address the concerns some people have about them.

Can Self-Tanners Be Toxic?

Self-tanners are safe to use externally; however, not every product is made the same, and some may contain potentially harmful ingredients. The active ingredient in most self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a 3-carbon sugar that interacts with the outermost, protein-rich layer of our skin to produce melanoidins, which are brown chromophores that cause temporary staining of the skin.

While DHA is currently the only FDA-approved active ingredient for self-tanners, there have been concerns about its safety. The main issue is that there are no long-term studies evaluating the effects of DHA on human health, raising the possibility of potential skin or health problems down the line. For example, while many studies suggest that DHA is well tolerated when applied externally, it has been known to cause short-term allergic reactions in some people. Additionally, most studies on the rather limited safety of DHA advise that the ingredient be used with caution, as inhaling or ingesting it can be hazardous, which is particularly concerning when using spray tans.

But to its credit, DHA is an ingredient derived from natural sources like sugar cane, which means it's not necessarily harmful by default, as not all DHA-containing products are made the same, and many modern brands that carry self-tanning products are making efforts to make them safer. This means that, while DHA can be problematic, not every self-tanning product on the market is toxic, and with a bit of research, you can find safe options that produce a natural-looking tan without putting your health at risk.

But besides DHA, there are other potentially toxic ingredients commonly found in self-tanners, such as parabens, which are preservatives linked to endocrine disruption, and artificial fragrances, which can contain numerous undisclosed chemicals, some of which may be harmful and cause uncomfortable symptoms ranging from skin irritation and itching to headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

Moreover, some self-tanners, particularly those that also double as sunscreens, may contain oxybenzone, a chemical that has been detected in our bloodstream (due to also being used in shampoos) and associated with hormone disruption and potential cell damage that may lead to some forms of cancer.

Finally, many self-tanners contain synthetic colorants and dyes made of petroleum and sometimes coal tar. Some of these have also been linked to organ toxicity and aquatic destruction, so many environmentally-conscious brands are moving away from using them.

But, with all that said, while it's worth noting that using self-tanners comes at a risk, many studies also suggest that for potential hazards and health issues to occur, exposure needs to be way higher than what's typically experienced when using self-tanners.

But why risk it with the many clean self-tanning options on the market?

Non-Toxic Self-Tanners That Will Make You Look Like You Just Got Back from the Beach

There's nothing wrong with enjoying the sun and getting a healthy glow; however, we can't just ignore the risk of skin damage and cancer. These issues, unfortunately, occur because natural tanning is essentially your skin's response to damage caused by exposure to UV rays that degrade the very DNA of our cells and cause them to malfunction. 

Therefore, if you want to look like you just got back from the beach without putting yourself at risk of skin damage, self-tanning is a good alternative. Here's our selection of clean and non-toxic self-tanners that will give you an unmatched glow this summer without a side of skin cancer:

Evie's product selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We only recommend products we genuinely love.