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Self Tanners

August 7, 2007

A listener asks: Do self-tanners give you the same tan as the sun?


Sunshine in a bottle. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s summertime and it’s sizzling out. But what if you want a tan without heading outdoors? Listener Corinna Wu of Alexandria, Virginia asked whether self-tanning lotions and sprays give you the same tan that the sun does. We turned to dermatologist Steve Feldman of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. When exposed to the sun, he says the skin produces melanin, a chemical that creates that tanned look. But self-tanners use a completely different process.

STEVE FELDMAN (Wake Forest University School of Medicine):
Self-tanners do something completely different. They are a chemical that binds to the dead scaly layer on the surface of our bodies and it gives the skin a color.

Feldman says tinting your skin with a self-tanner won’t protect you from the sun, so you should still wear plenty of sunscreen. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.