Are fake tan and spray tans safe in pregnancy?

Which type of fake tan is OK, are DHA and erythrulose safe and why are spray tans a problem? Our experts reveal the answers

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In a nutshell

Tanning creams and lotions are OK – but it’s best to avoid spray tans.

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The expert view

Good news for the lily-skinned among us, it’s considered fine to use fake tan creams and lotions during pregnancy.

But, it’s best to avoid spray tans because the effects of inhaling the spray are not known, according to the NHS. The concern is that you breathe in the molecules and no proper testing has been done on the impact of this on your unborn baby. However, industry body the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) says they are safe. As always, it’s important to do whatever you feel comfortable with.

Even though there are no known risks to your baby from using fake tanning creams and lotions during pregnancy, beauty consultant Louise Boothe, founder of Brow Boothe, explains there is a risk you could have an allergic reaction to them.

This can happen because the changes in your hormone levels can make your skin more sensitive than normal. If you do use fake tan, always test the product on a small area of skin first to see if you have a reaction.

“It’s important to always do a patch test, even if you’ve used the product before,” explains Louise. “It’s also advisable to stick to cream and mousse formulations to avoid the inhalation that can occur during a spray tan, as we don’t know how breathing in the ingredients in fake tan could affect you or your baby.”

But they are chemicals…

Yes, we are talking about chemicals, but they’re safe. The active ingredient in most fake tans is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Some self-tanning lotions contain erythrulose, which works in a similar way to DHA. Both chemicals are non-toxic. They work by reacting with the cells in the outermost layer of the skin, creating a brown colour called melanoidin. The tan colour is not a stain or dye – it’s simply a chemical reaction with the top layer of skin.

The DHA or erythrulose doesn’t absorb beyond your outermost layer of skin, and doesn’t go down into your skin’s pigmentation layer. As it’s not absorbed deeply into your body, it won’t harm your baby.

Find out more about whether it’s safe to use a sunbed during pregnancy

Mums in our forum say

“I have always had spray tans while pregnant and so have my friends. I am off to a spray tan party next week and will be having one. They have never done us any harm.” – torch2010

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‘I queried this a while ago and I was told some places will not spray your bump. Not sure why but I decided not bother and used the gradual tanning moisturiser.” – Madam_B

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