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Fake the Perfect Tan With Sunless Tanning Lotion

Get the look of tan, sun-kissed skin without the risk of baking in the sun.

WebMD Feature

Summer's here, and you long for tanned skin. Think you need to spend the summer lazing on the Italian Riviera to achieve that bronze goddess look? Think again!

Not only is that old-school type of sun worship harmful to your health, it's unnecessary thanks to the many sunless tanning lotions now available.

Do-it-yourself sunless tanning lotions come as mousses, lotions, gels, foams, creams, sprays, mists, and towelettes. Salons also offer their own varieties, including the popular airbrush tan. Tans aren't the only thing people are spraying on this summer. Nylon stockings may be a thing of the past as spray-on stockings are now available.

"A good way of achieving a tan without increasing risk of skin cancer is sunless tanning, " says Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. "It's a very safe and quick way of getting tan without any harm."

The same cannot be said of a real suntan. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps can all cause skin cancer. Five or more sunburns double your risk of developing skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Even though awareness about the sun's damaging rays and the risk of skin cancer is higher than in recent years, people still crave a tan, new data from the American Academy of Dermatology shows. When asked whether people look better with a tan, 61% of women and 69% of men aged 18 and older said they do. And the majority of women (54%) and men (60%) say that people look healthier when they have a tan.

"Despite the fact that we know that there is no such thing as a safe tan, people still associate bronzed skin with beauty and health," dermatologist Darrell S. Rigel, MD, clinical professor at New York University Medical Center in New York City, said at the AAD's Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month event in May 2005.

Which Sunless Tanner Is Best for You?

Fortunately, sunless tanners deliver a perfectly safe tan. The part of the sun is played by dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with amino acids on the outermost top layer of the skin to produce a tan color.

Brush up on Beauty

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