Using Self-Tanner When You Have Eczema
As someone with eczema, you might be a pro at reading labels on your skin-care products. You’re not only looking for words like “gentle,” “fragrance-free,” or “designed for sensitive skin” — you’re also reading the ingredients list. “The challenges faced with self-tanners may really apply to a variety of personal-care products, in that there are certain ingredients that are notoriously irritating in patients with sensitive skin or atopic dermatitis,” says Silverberg. Self-tanners are leave-on products, and so there may be an increased risk that the ingredients in the formula, like preservatives, will cause irritation.
The main active ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an FDA-approved additive that reacts with amino acids in the outer layer of skin to produce that sun-kissed glow, according to a review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology from September 2018. There is not much data on DHA and eczema. But in Hollmig’s experience, DHA can irritate your skin, as well as cause allergic contact dermatitis, especially in those prone to eczema.
When choosing a self-tanner, know that your product will contain DHA, as that’s the active ingredient that changes your skin tone. Still, you can take a few precautions. One, look for a product that is labeled safe for sensitive skin. Products that have fewer additives (such as fragrances and preservatives) or a shorter list of ingredients, as well as those that contain additional moisturizers (such as shea butter, aloe, glycerin, and vitamins E and B5) can decrease the risk of irritation and promote a healthy skin barrier. If you are getting a spray tan, you can ask the salon what type of product they use — in general, the advice and cautions on at-home bottled self-tanners applies to a spray tan.
Some products that meet the aforementioned criteria are Coola Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist ($46, Dermstore.com), Supergoop! Healthy Glow Sunless Tan Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 40 ($38, Sephora.com), and Josie Maran Juicy Mango Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Body Oil ($39, Sephora.com).
As Hollmig explained, it’s important that skin is in its best shape prior to application. Dry skin or rough scaly patches will take up self-tanner unevenly, resulting in blotchy areas. Make sure that prior to application, you have been sticking to a consistent moisturizing routine.