Tanning Oil Dangers


More than 1 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year, yet many people continue to tan for beauty reasons. Unfortunately, tanning oils have become a popular substitute for sunscreens for people interested in achieving this appearance.

Tanning Oil Identification

  • Tanning oils are a dark brown liquid that contain coconut or sunflower oil. Other additives such as: aloe vera, coco butter, lanolin, zinc oxide and certain vitamins might also be included. It's applied to the skin before tanning outside or in a tanning bed.

Tanning Oil Benefits

  • The oil creates a magnification for UV rays, which intensifies the rays and aids in tanning faster. People use it as a moisturizer and skin conditioner before and after tanning. Lastly, many claim it adds a tingling effect that forces the melanin, also known as the skin pigment, to push up against the skin's surface quicker.

Skin Warning

  • The harmful effect of using tanning oil is the increased risk of malignant melanoma and skin cancer. Melanoma can appear as a mole or increase the size of an existing mole. It's generally the first sign of skin cancer.

    According the American Academy of Dermatology, there are five distinct features one should look for in a mole: asymmetry, border, color, diameter and the evolution. Other symptoms include oozing or bleeding and any itchiness or general tenderness. The earlier the detection, the easier it is to treat. It's important to continue to pay close attention to the skin and to visit a dermatologist for a thorough check-up once a year.


  • Treatments first occur after a skin biopsy that determines whether the mole is cancerous. Surgery, from excision to scraping and burning to cryosurgery, can be used to remove cancerous cells. Other options include radiation therapy and topical chemotherapy. If it's not treated in the early stages, the cancer spreads quickly.

Wrinkle Warning

  • In addition to the risk of skin cancer, tanning excessively contributes to aging quickly. Tans may cover cellulite and give the appearance of clear skin; however, the skin actually looks worse once the tan fades. Premature wrinkling is an enormous side of effect of tanning.

SPF Considerations

  • Few tanning oil products advertise an SPF as part of its ingredient. However, the SPF number is very low--usually an SPF 4 to SPF 8 at the highest. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an SPF of 15 or higher is recommended. Anything lower does not protect the exposed skin properly.


  • Instead of tanning on the beach or worse, in a tanning bed, there are many healthy alternatives to get a golden, brown color. Fake tanning sprays that can be done professionally at a spa or at home. There are also lotions that contain bronzers--which, after a few days of application, can achieve the same tanned look without the harmful effects. Finally, there are make-up and body bronzers that can be applied easily and inexpensively.


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