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Although you probably want to soak in as much sunshine as possible this time of year, doctors say you should try to stay out of the direct sun as much as possible during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. (Too much sun can decrease the amount of the crucial pregnancy nutrient folic acid, according to Northwestern Medicine.)
That said, if you still want that bronzy summer glow to show off on your babymoon or another special occasion — only after rubbing in tons of pregnancy-safe SPF, of course — a self-tanner or tinted moisturizer could be your go-to product instead of spending all day in the sun. However, are all self-tanners safe to use during pregnancy? We asked an OB/GYN to be sure.
When it comes to making sure a self-tanner is safe for pregnancy, look at the ingredients on the label. The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products that enhances the pigment by dying the surface layer of the skin is dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. “While there are no studies to prove the safety of DHA in pregnancy, DHA has been used in cosmetics since the 1960s with no reported problems,” Dr. Kelly Culwell, MD, Board Certified OB/GYN, also known as “Dr. Lady Doctor,” tells SheKnows. “When used topically (on the skin), minimal DHA is absorbed and likely even less (if any) could make it through the placenta.”
What you should be mindful of is that the FDA has approved DHA for topical use, and not necessarily as a spray. “So it is probably safer to avoid spray tanning booths in pregnancy where it may be harder to avoid inhaling fumes or getting the product in your mouth or eyes which might lead to higher systemic exposure,” Culwell says.
So what should you look for in a pregnancy-safe self-tanner? It’s okay if the product contains DHA, but it is smart to look for plant-based or organic products, because those should have fewer chemical additives — you should always avoid chemicals including parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde during pregnancy to cut back on your risk of birth defects or preterm birth. Just make sure the label has things like “paraben-free” or “pregnancy-safe” before you buy a self-tanner. And the shorter the list of ingredients, the better!
Other than that, you have plenty of options for formulas of self-tanners that are pregnancy-safe: Some lather on like a lotion, while others can be applied in a thicker foam or drops on the skin. Check out our top picks below.
Eco Tan Invisible Tan
The main active ingredient in Eco Tan’s Invisible Tan Creme is DHA, but its other ingredients include soothing aloe and skin-nourishing avocado. It contains no synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, phthalates, or parabens, so it’s safe during pregnancy (and even when you’re not pregnant).
Whind Ourika Sun
Like the idea of tanning drops better to get a more gradual tan? Whind’s “tinting water” contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin while you get that glow. It’s made from erythrulose, a plant-based DHA alternative that produces color on the skin by reacting to skin proteins. Note: You may need to apply a few layers to match or deepen your skin tone.
Skinerals Californium Sunless Tanning Mousse
This Skinerals self-tanner has a different texture: a fluffy mousse that can help even the skin tone, thanks to antioxidant-packed ingredients like acai berry and fig extract. You can apply the mousse to both your face and body. It’s best to lather it on at night and then shower in the morning to give it plenty of time to set (yet, it won’t transfer on your pajamas or sheets).
Beauty By Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion
Beauty By Earth notes right on the packaging that this self-tanner is pregnancy safe, vegan, and suitable for sensitive skin. It also is great for getting even coverage for stretch marks, if there are any that you choose to cover up, and is made with plant-based ingredients so you don’t have to worry.
Vita Liberata Fabulous Gradual Tanning Lotion
Designed for all skin tones, Vita Liberata’s Gradual Tanning Lotion is buildable on your face or body. The lotion itself is not tinted, so it won’t stain your clothes or bedding (always a win with a tanning product!). Its ingredients include skin soothing shea butter, hyaluronic acid, cucumber extract, and aloe vera for a smooth application and hydrated skin.
Before you go, check out some more pregnancy health products:
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