Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: What do you think of these so-called sunless tanning products?

Q. My teenage daughter wants to be tan when we go down to Florida for our winter vacation in February. I have suggested one of these so-called sunless tanning products, but she says they don't look natural and wants to go to an indoor tanning salon instead. What do you think?

A. Sunless tanning products have been around for decades. The old products, especially the ones you applied yourself, were streaky and they turned the skin an orangey-brown.

Today, the results are much better. People get an even, natural look, especially from the spray-on products applied by hand or by airbrush in booths at salons and other businesses. Several people in my office have gotten spray-on sunless tans, and I was impressed with the results. I also had a patient who was a bodybuilder and, like many bodybuilders, she would get a spray-on sunless tan before her competitions. I thought it looked quite natural — the tan, that is, not her muscles.

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