Wanna know how to get rid of the self-tanner rash? I have been there and I know how irritating it is but don’t worry as I am here to help you. Today I will be telling effective ways to prevent self-tanner rash.
Spring is around the corner, and if you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, you probably haven’t seen a sunny day up until now. We are entering the summer with pale skin, and many of you may want tanned skin to look good in spring dresses.
Some choose tanning beds, while others prefer self-tanning mousses or lotions as a safer method. If this is your first time trying a self-tanner, people may have already warned you about uneven tanning or tanning strikes.
But, what they may have failed to mention is that often, self-tanners may cause a rash on the skin. This type of rash is more prevalent in people with sensitive skin types, but not only.
Tested ways to get rid of Self Tanner Rash
The self-tanner rash is characterized by itchiness and redness that may last a few days. Let’s look at ways to prevent self-tanner rash so you can have the tanning experience.
Choose your self-tanning mitten carefully
The right tanning mitten can help you have an even tan, and the wrong will not only leave strikes on the skin (or patches) but also can cause a potential irritation.
Choose a soft tanning mitten, because the constant rubbing on the skin acts as a harsh exfoliation, and can damage the first layer of the skin. Damaged skin is very sensitive, and it will react when you apply the tanning lotion or mousse.
In addition, make sure to cleanse the tanning gloves often and adequately. They can act as an environment for bacterial growth and infect the skin.
If the glove is too harsh and/or you apply too much pressure, it will create tiny entrances for bacteria to enter the skin and inflame it.
Don’t exfoliate before tanning
Don’t exfoliate right before or right after tanning. Scrubs and exfoliation gloves are physical exfoliants, and they do the mechanical removal of dead skin cells.
Sometimes they create micro-tears on the skin, and when you apply the self-tanner, you will experience an itchy and burning sensation that can develop into a rash.
Whether you use a chemical or mechanical exfoliation method, make sure to exfoliate at least 24 hours before using a self-tanning product, and don’t exfoliate right after tanning.
Don’t shave before tanning
Since we are still on ‘don’t traumatize’ the skin before using a tanning lotion, it should be mentioned that shaving, waxing, or any other kind of hair removal shouldn’t be done right before or right after using your self-tanning product.
When you remove the hair, the hair follicle is opened and damaged. If you use a waxing method, it will also damage the upper layer of the skin, and the tanning product will irritate the area and cause a rash.
Read the ingredients list carefully
Certain ingredients in self-tanner products can cause skin rashes, especially in those who have sensitive skin. Read the ingredients list and stay away from ingredients like fragrances, preservatives, alcohol, or other added chemicals.
Fragrance, in particular, can cause skin sensitivity, irritation, and even hives. Synthetic fragrances are one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis.
Many products, including self-tanners, have this ingredient corporated in their formulas to mask any unpleasant odor due to other ingredients.
Even if you have been using a self-tanning product several times, you can still get a rash from the chemical ingredients in it. This happens because our skin barrier has a repairing function, and can handle the damage caused by fragrance or other chemical agents until a certain point.
Many may ask why did I develop a rash now, even though I have been using this product for months? The answer is: your skin couldn’t handle it anymore.
If you experience a rash due to the chemicals in your self-tanning product or know that your skin is sensitive in general, choose fragrance-free and as natural as possible self-tanners.
Don’t forget to patch-test
Patch-testing is a method that helps you determine if your skin will develop a rash from a product or not. This test is recommended for any cosmetic product you plan to apply to the skin, including self-tanning products.
How to do a patch test
Choose an area of the skin where the product won’t be easily removed or in contact with water, like the neck, behind the ear, inner corner of the arm or thigh.
Cleanse the area and let it dry. Apply the self-tanning lotion as you would typically do. Leave it for at least 24 hours without washing it and observe the skin.
If you notice any type of irritation or rash, it means that this product is unsafe to use on your skin. American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends repeating this test twice a day for at least a week to see if you will develop any late reaction rash[L1] .
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
Itchiness and redness after using a self-tanning product can happen due to dry skin or lack of nourishment. Self-tanner on itself doesn’t cause dry skin, unlike tanning beds/booths, but certain ingredients can react with your skin and cause dryness (for example, alcohol).
This doesn’t happen to everyone, so it’s a very personal experience. On the other hand, if your skin is already dry and compromised, applying a self-tanning lotion can make things worse and cause a rash.
Make sure to moisturize your skin properly before and after using a self-tanning product. However, don’t moisturize right before you apply the self-tanner.
If you do so, the lotion will create a barrier on your skin and the self-tanner will apply patchily.
Be careful of DHA
If you read the ingredient list of a self-tanning product, the second ingredient, right after water, is probably dihydroxyacetone or DHA. This is the ingredient that makes your skin look tanned.
DHA is a type of sugar that interacts with the amino acids present in the top layer of the skin. This reaction forms a pigment in the skin called melanoidin, which is the one that makes your skin look tanned.
DHA can be organically sourced (from cane sugar or beet for example) or it can be lab made or synthetical. Synthetical DHA has a high potential of causing contact dermatitis or even allergy (2 in every 100.000 people are allergic to DHA[L2] ).
Contact dermatitis can be manifested with a severe rash, itchiness, and redness. In this case, it’s recommended to contact a dermatologist.
What to do if you develop a rash due to a self-tanning product?
- Rinse it out! This may not work on self-tanning products as it does for other skincare products, but taking a shower with warm water is always the best idea.
- Use an aloe vera lotion to soothe the irritation and itchiness. If you have access to an antihistaminic cream, that would be optimal.
- Don’t scratch the rash and stay away from UV exposure (use sunscreen spf 30 or above). External irritants will aggravate the rash and delay healing time. You should know about the best UV for tanning before exposing yourself to the sun.
- If the rash gets progressively worse or it takes more than five days to heal, seek professional help because you may need prescription medication.
Frequently asked questions?
Can a self-tanner rash be contagious?
Skin rashes due to self-tanner are caused by chemical agents present in the product, and this is a very personal experience.
Since no bacteria, viruses, or fungi are involved, this means that tanning bed rash is not contagious.
Is patch testing a safe method to prevent self-tanning product rash?
Patch testing is a dermatologically approved method to prevent rash caused by any cosmetic product, including self-tanning lotions or mousses. It is a safe method that anyone can use in the comfort of their own home (read above for a step-by-step procedure). Patch-testing differs from prick test, which is a test made by a medical doctor. Patch test indicates if you react to substances in contact with your skin, while prick test indicates if you react even to inhaled allergen.
What to look for in a self-tanning product?
Look for products as natural as possible or with a low concentration of DHA in order to prevent any type of rash, especially if you are just starting self-tanning.
As mentioned before, read the ingredients list and avoid products that are formulated with fragrance, known allergens, alcohol, and preservatives.
If you have dry skin, choose a self-tanner that is nourished with oils and humectants like hyaluronic acid, argan oil, or coconut water, and make sure that you moisturize the dry spots on your body properly.
If your skin is greasy, however, stay away from oil-based self-tanners; look for something with a thin consistency and formulated with ingredients like aloe vera and hyaluronic acid.