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Can You Use Self-Tanner While Pregnant? Here’s What Experts Say

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
Can You Use Self-Tanner While Pregnant_ Here_s What Experts Say

So, you’re pregnant and want that beautiful sun-kissed glow. But you’re worried whether the fake tan process and chemicals involved will risk your unborn baby.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Many tanning options are available, but self-tanner lotions (including creams and foams) are generally safe during pregnancy.

This article discusses why they’re the safest option, how to choose the right product, and how to apply it to get the best tan.

Let’s get started!

Is It OK to Use Fake Tan When Pregnant?

YES! Self-tanner lotions darken your skin using an active ingredient in the formula — namely dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

When the DHA interacts with your dead skin cells, it creates a chemical reaction on the outermost layer of skin, creating a tan.

It is naturally sourced from plants like sugar beets or sugar cane. There’s also NO risk of getting skin cancer from using it!

Topically applied DHA is safe to use during pregnancy. Our skin comprises many layers, and as the DHA only interacts with the outer layer, it doesn’t penetrate your skin.

It basically dyes the skin and does not get absorbed into your body and reach your unborn baby.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many doctors recommend avoiding using any form of fake tan (yes, even self-tanners) during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Pregnant women should also NEVER use tanning pills. 

Tanning pills contain beta carotene, which is usually used for coloring food. This substance won’t just impede baby growth, but it could also cause poisoning.

It’s banned in some countries, even for non-pregnant women!

How to Apply Fake Tan While Pregnant

The application of self-tan products is the same process as when you’re not pregnant:

Step 1: Prep Your Skin

Similar to before pregnancy, shave and exfoliate before the tanning process. It’s best to do this the day BEFORE you tan — but doing it a few hours before is fine too.

During pregnancy (especially when your baby bump is getting bigger), you might have difficulty exfoliating and shaving some body parts.

If that’s the case, it’s best to ask someone to give you a hand.

Step 2: Use a Mild Soap and Rinse Well

After preparing, take a mild soap and use it in the shower on the day of your tanning.

If you shaved and exfoliated on the day you tan, make sure you remove ALL residue of the exfoliating and shaving products and wash them all off with your mild soap.

After your shower, make sure you dry off well and wait at least 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

Step 3: Moisturize

After the 3o minutes is up, take your favorite body lotion. Make sure you also use a pregnancy-safe moisturizer that’s non-toxic and fragrance-free.

Apply your moisturizer on your entire face and body, and put an extra layer on areas that dry out easily, like your elbows, knees, armpits, and feet. 

You also want an extra layer of moisture on your face and hands since this is where the tan fades easily due to frequent washing.

Again, pregnancy might make moisturizing your back, feet, or other body parts hard, so make sure you ask someone for help!

Step 4: Tanning

Next, you’re ready for the best self-tanner!

Get your tanning mitt and apply the tanning product from the legs up. You want to apply it in gentle, sweeping motions for a nice even color.

There’s no need to rub!

You might want to use a makeup brush for areas like the face, ears, fingers, and toes to get all those small hidden areas.

Then depending on the tanning product instructions, leave it on for 2 to 6 hours and rinse with WARM water.

After that, pat (don’t rub!) yourself dry. 

Step 5: Moisturize Again

Don’t forget to moisturize DAILY to prolong your sun-kissed glow!

Again, apply an extra layer to your face, hands, elbows, knees, and feet to avoid dark splotches or the color fading earlier in these areas.

How to Choose a Pregnancy-Safe Self Tanner

You can use all kinds of fake tanning products as long as they’re TOPICALLY applied, from self-tanning lotions to cream and foam!

The most important thing you need to consider when choosing a pregnancy-safe self-tanner is the possibility of having an allergic reaction. 

After all, you don’t want an allergy attack during pregnancy.

Keep in mind that pregnant women are particularly prone to allergic reactions because pregnancy hormones cause them to have more sensitive skin.

So, if you’ve been using a certain product before, and you know it works well with you, it’s best to stick to that.

Don’t go around exploring other formulas so you can avoid any negative side effects.

Even with self-tanners you’ve used before, you should still perform a patch test to ensure it doesn’t irritate your skin.

Ingredients You Should Look Out For

When choosing a self-tanning product, you want something that’s fragrance-free, toxin-free, and filler-free. 

You also want to get a natural self-tan formula and avoid parabens and silicones. 


More questions about other self-tan options? We’ve got you covered!

Is It Safe to Tan Naturally When Pregnant?

No. The main reason why we use fake tanning instead of natural sun tanning is to avoid the UV radiation from the sun. 

UV rays can cause problems such as:

  • Premature aging
  • DNA damage
  • Skin cancer

During pregnancy, when your skin is EXTRA sensitive, too much exposure to UV rays can also cause:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Painful rashes

Additionally, you are prone to melasma during pregnancy. Melasma causes dark splotches on your face and arms after sun exposure.

EVERYONE should avoid tanning in the sun all the time, not only during pregnancy. It’s best to stick to sunless tanners!

Is a Tanning Bed Safe When Pregnant?

No. Like natural sun tanning, tanning beds also use UV radiation to give you that golden glow.

You already know that the risks of UV radiation include skin cancer and DNA damage, but a tanning bed poses an additional risk.

When you lie in a tanning bed, your body temperature will rise.

A pregnant woman’s body temperature should NOT exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or it can hinder baby growth or raise the risk of congenital disabilities.

Just avoid tanning beds altogether, even when you’re not going through pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Use a Spray Tan While Pregnant?

No. NEVER use spray tans while pregnant, especially in tanning booths. That’s because you could be inhaling DHA, the active ingredient used in both self-tanners and spray tan formulas.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is perfectly safe to apply topically.

But it MIGHT harm your developing baby if inhaled in a spray tanning booth and absorbed into your system.

To set the record straight, the risks of inhaling DHA are currently unknown, but it never hurts to be extra safe!

Alongside that, in spray tanning booths, you’re not sure what filler ingredients or other chemicals could be in the spray tan formula.

These things may also harm your baby, so it’s best not to take the risk and avoid it altogether.

Just stick to topical self-tanner products while pregnant. Don’t worry, you’re all safe to return to spray tans when your baby arrives!

Final Thoughts

That’s all we have for getting a safe fake tan while pregnant!

Just stick to tanning lotions, creams, and foams, and you’re all good.

But if you have other questions or concerns, consult your trusted medical professional.

We hope this article has been helpful and informational. Have you tried a topical home tan during pregnancy before? We wish you luck on your first try!