Toxins make me sick. A scented moisturiser leaves me nauseous. I have to leave a restaurant if someone next to me is wearing perfume. It’s an auto-immune thing for me. And it’s getting worse…or maybe more things are stinking!  Increasingly, though, a lot more people are finding they’re affected by the toxic crap added to things. It’s toxic build-up. We hit saturation point… and topple over. And find ourselves very keen to detox our lives.

Image via Borntobeblonde

Over the past 3-4 years I’ve been gradually removing unnecessary chemicals from my orbit.

detoxed my apartment.

I investigated the best toxin-free cosmetics and shared my favourite chemical-free makeup.

I looked at how to choose a toxin-free sunscreen.

But I’ve always stalled at fake tan. I couldn’t determine if there was a safe one out there. A number of brands slap the usual “natural” label on the front of their bottle… which, as I’ve shared before, can mean absolutely nothing. The industry is not regulated in the same way food is (which is also not regulated enough). But I tried most of them…and they made me sick.

Now, fake tan isn’t a mandatory item in anyone’s life. But a lot of you have asked my opinion on it. And I use the stuff myself from time to time (on photo shoots, for events when I’ve got to cover up swimsuit lines on my shoulders) and wouldn’t mind more peace of mind when I do.

The good news is this:  new toxin-free products have in fact arrived on the market recently.

And I’m able to share with you the safest fake tans to use…

A blog reader pointed me to Irene Falcone, creator of Nourished Life, a fantastic blog all about living a chemical-free existance. Irene also volunteers with the National Toxics Network. Passionate! Good!

I figured I’d get her to update us all on things bronzed and glowy:

Let’s cut to the chase. Are there any safe fake tan products out there?

Thankfully, yes.

What is it in fake tan that changes the colour of our skin?

DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is the main ingredient responsible for the tan effect. Many fake tans use a man-made synthetic DHA, which should be avoided. The natural fake tans use a DHA derived from natural ingredients, such as sugar beets. The main difference is that the natural versions are made to react to the amino acids only in the dead top layers of the skin. While in chemical-based tanning products, chemicals can be added to weaken the skin’s surface, which will result in the product being absorbed into the blood stream, and will result in a faster developing tan (and the nasties penetrating much deeper).

So how do I know if my fake tan is safe?

Look for a range that is certified organic. This is our safe-guard against green washing and companies marketing themselves as natural when all they have done is add one or two natural ingredients to a cocktail of nasty chemicals.

Look for brands certified by the Organic Food Chain, which is one of the country’s strictest, and does not allow the use of synthetics or other toxic chemicals in the products they certify.

Look for brands certified by the BDIH: Association of Industries and Trading Firms for pharmaceuticals, health care products, food supplements and personal hygiene products.

The BDIH guidelines are as follows:

  • Ingredients have to be from a plant or mineral source
  • Plant ingredients should be obtained from organic growth or wild harvest wherever possible
  • Most petroleum based or synthetic ingredients are not allowed
  • Genetically modified ingredients are not allowed
  • Packaging has to be ecologically conscious, so recyclable and minimalistic
  • No animal testing is allowed

Can you recommend some brands?

One of my favourites is Eco Tan. It’s made here in Australia and it’s the only self-tan that’s also Certified Organic. The actual DHA in Eco Tan is also certified organic independently (by Eco Cert) so it must come from a natural source. [I use this brand, personally – Sarah.]

The Lavera range is Certified Natural by the BDIH, which also means it must not contain toxins. So again, the DHA must come from a natural source. The Lavera Self tan has won many awards internationally.

What about a spray tan?

There is a debate around this at the moment. We have been recommended to avoid spray tans, due to possible dangers associated with inhalation of the fumes.

Irene’s top tips on finding a great toxin-free self tan: 

  • Read the back of the label, not just the front!
  • Avoid these ingredients: propylene glycol (a petrochemical), phenoxyethanol, Parabens, FD&C colouring (artificial dye), fragrance (unless it states these are natural or organic), and anything with “PEG” in the name.
  • Look for a “Certified Organic” logo which guarantees us against any synthetics, GMO’s, toxic preservatives and other nasties.

And for fun…

a self tan recipe: using tea!

  • Take 10 black tea bags (the tea brand does not matter) and boil in hot water.
  • Let the tea bags sit in the water for about 10-15 minutes steeping.
  • Remove the tea bags and then let the tea cool to room temperature or less.  It may be refreshing to put it in the fridge for a bit, especially in the hot summer months.
  • Pour into a spray bottle and spray your skin.  Air dry and reapply if you want a deeper, darker colour.
  • Remember this is just a temporary color and will come off as soon as you shower or come in contact with water. It is not a self-tanner so it’s effects are just temporary!

If you have any further self-tan questions, pose them here and Irene will pop online to answer them.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Marnie

    I have a similar question. Using Santorini Sun and 2nd trimester.

  • sheryl

    is there any self tanning products out there that dont make you come out in a itchy rash something without DHA it seems to make me come out in an allover itchy rash

  • Anne

    In the past, I have not been able to use self tanners as the
    ingredient Dihydroxyacetone in them have always made me develop a terrible

    The Eco Tan company stated that their Dihydroxyacetone is
    “organic” so I tried it and…. I came out with another rash – so the
    ingredients can’t be that natural as they claim.

    The only other self tanner that seems to be available on the
    market is Sally Hansen and there is no Dihydroxyacetone ingredient in that and
    I do not come out with a rash.

  • fabulous unicorn

    You can also use instant coffe like me! It smooths skin leaving it silky and gives a natural summer look…not orange

  • Dianne D

    Hi re Eco Tan Ive been looking at the ingedients and the DHA may be natural but it does actually contain some not so natural ingredients such as Tocopheryl Acetate, known to encourage carcinogenic effects of the sun and skin irritation and Xanthum Gum which has been linked to respiratoy concerns among others. There are other ingredients too which sound anything but natural so just cause a product is organic and “natural” doesnt mean it excludes certain chemicals.

  • Roxana Pisika

    how deceiving is the way the fake tan industry write the ingredients, including the bio organic ones…… i dont
    speak about this blog, but about the industry of self tanners… dha is
    also sugar derived from plants and some dermatologists say it could
    cause cancer… sugar, even sugar ingested in sweets, its known to help
    cancer tumors grow, and the plant derived sugar from self tanners was
    demonstrated by some scientists to cause dna mutations in humans….. its
    on the internet, available info….some self tanners promote themselves as
    dha free, but some have erithrulose, which is similar to dha, i mean it is
    also plant derived sugar… much more dangerous than the food grade one…or other sugar based extracts, non food grade, like sugar cane extract and sugar maple extract
    etc (non food grade ones)… same…. i dont think it is safe… i think the bio
    self tanners are equally dangerous to the regular ones in terms of dha..
    its true they are free of other toxic and carcinogen ingredients, but
    isnt erithrulose enough, or other non-food sugar based ingredients
    (similar to dha)?