Before Trying a Self-Tanner, Test Your Skin

Overall, the likelihood of skin reacting to self-tanners is low, but if you have sensitive skin or have had adverse reactions to products in the past, be more careful applying something new, including self-tanner, suggests Silverberg. He recommends doing a “repeat open-use test.” Here’s how to do it:

  • Apply the product (in this case, your self-tanner of choice) on a one- to two-centimeter area of the skin at the crease of the elbow.
  • Repeat once or twice per day for a couple of weeks.
  • Watch for a reaction, such as redness or irritation.

“If you react on your arm, you may have avoided a full-body flare-up. If it was well tolerated, it’s reasonable to step up application and use it on the other parts of your body,” says Silverberg. There is still no guarantee you won’t react, but it’s less likely. He also suggests purchasing a smaller, travel-size of the product (if available) so that it’s less of an initial investment.

One Last Thing on Using a Self-Tanner When You Have Eczema
In general, self-tanning products are not a replacement for sunscreen with SPF. In other words, that faux tan won’t guard your skin from the harmful UV and UVB rays from the sun. To do that, reach for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and every two hours after that, or after you swim or sweat. Doing so can help reduce your risk of skin cancer, as well as slow signs of skin aging, such as the development of wrinkles, discolorations and sagging, and increases skin cancer risk, notes the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

SPF is important for everyone, but people with eczema may have an additional reason to use SPF: Eczema may make your skin more vulnerable to the effects of the sun, notes the NEA.

Overall, plan to continue to use sunscreen regularly when you’re outside in the summer and year-round. “SPF can and should be applied right on top of a fake tan,” says Hollmig.

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