Is it okay to use self tanners if you have eczema? Can you be tanning with eczema?

The short answer is yes! But there are a few ground rules that dermatologists recommend. This is to help you avoid a flare-up when you use self tan while having eczema.

When you have atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, a lot of work goes into caring for your skin. Eczema affects the skin in many ways. You may itch, skin may be dry and red, or there may be scaly patches on your body.

If you have well-controlled eczema thanks to topical moisturizers, prescription medications, and good identification and management of triggers. You may also be thinking about how summer will affect your skin and how you can give your skin that natural-looking sun-kissed glow — in a safe way. Self-tanners may indeed be one option, even when you have eczema.

Self-tanner can be a great way to get color, but there are several potential drawbacks that all should be aware of, some of which are specific to people with eczema challenges. Basically people with eczema skin challenges need to have their skin in prime, treated condition in order for best appearance. So; how to choose the best self tanner for eczema in general?

Using Self Tanners When You Have Eczema

As someone with eczema, you might be a pro at reading labels on your skincare 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. 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 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 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 like the Boë Tan Drops No.1, Tan Water No.2 and Tan Mousse No.5) 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 – like the Boë Tan Maximizer No.4, Tan Lotion No.3. They can decrease the risk of irritation and promote a healthy skin barrier. The Boë self tan products are among the best self tan for eczema.

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.

The Starter Set is the perfect combo. A mix between the easy and translucent mist, No.2, and the hydration tanning lotion, No.3.

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 when applying something new. Including self tanners – and do a “repeat open-use test.” Here’s how to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Repeat once or twice per day for a week or more.
  3. 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 other parts of your body. There is still no guarantee you won’t react, but it’s less likely.

When Starting to Use Self Tanners

Once you have established that there is no sensitivity, then condition your skin regularly with moisturiser in the weeks leading up to the tan application. This is especially important for eczema sufferers. Just prior to tan application, we recommend applying a good barrier cream to dry areas, especially those affected by eczema. 

When applying the tanning product, it is best to avoid direct application to eczema-affected areas. When unaffected areas have been tanned, use a blender brush or back of a velvet tanning mitt to glaze over the problem area. This will help blend in the tan and prevent dry areas from absorbing too much product, which can produce darker patches. Post treatment, you should continue to moisturise regularly to hydrate and prolong your new glow. 

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 be guarded from the harmful rays, the Skin Cancer Foundation and Societies recommends to use SPF 30. 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. This is i.e., the development of wrinkles, discolorations and sagging, and increases skin cancer risk.

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.

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

Read more about our tips, products and Boë in general on our tan talk-page.

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