Prom season is just around the corner, and as teens prepare for the most memorable night of high school, The Skin Cancer Foundation encourages them to forgo a dangerous indoor tan in favor of a natural glow. Teens considering heading to a tanning salon to achieve a pre-prom glow should beware: using a tanning bed before age 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. In addition, just one indoor UV tanning session increases users’ risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.
“Any tan, whether you get it on the beach or in a tanning bed, is dangerous and damages your skin,” said Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “A tan comes with consequences. In addition to increasing skin cancer risk, tanning leads to premature skin aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation advocates embracing one’s natural skin tone. Those who can’t resist the bronzed look but won’t sacrifice their health to achieve it should consider sunless (UV-free) tanners. They are available in many different formulations, including creams, lotions, gels, pump sprays, aerosols and wipes.

Tips for Properly Applying Sunless Tanner:

  1. Prep your skin. Exfoliate skin with a scrub or loofah and follow up with a moisturizer. This ensures that the sunless tanner will be absorbed evenly.
  2. Follow the package directions closely. For example, wait at least 12 hours after shaving to apply (to avoid dark spots in hair follicles) and don’t use on skin with active eczema.
  3. Be patient. Self-tanners can take 30-60 minutes to produce visible color on the skin, and this color typically lasts about five days.
  4. Repeat as necessary. Generally, the product should be reapplied daily for two to three days, until the desired shade is achieved. Then, reapply about three times a week to maintain the shade.
  5. Go to a pro. Professional spray tans are an option for those who want to safely achieve a bronzed look in a hurry. Many salons provide automated application of high concentration, no-rub, aerosolized non-UV tanning products, while others provide a customized airbrush tan. When receiving aprofessional spray tan, wear protective gear for the mouth, eyes and nose to prevent ingestion or inhalation.
  6. Don’t rely on sunless tanners for sun protection. Even if your self-tanner contains sunscreen, reapply a separate broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours when spending time outdoors. Note that sunscreen is not the only form of sun protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use.