Natural Vitamins to Help You Tan

Sun exposure is a favorite past-time around the world
Sun exposure is a favorite past-time around the world (Image: Image by, courtesy of Mike Babcock)

With all of the debate these days about whether or not tanning is safe, especially in regard to skin cancer, the nutrition community has begun to seek out safe alternatives to lying on the beach or visiting the tanning bed. An article published in Dermatology Times has indicated that there may be a link between regular use of sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for skin cancer. If tanning beds, lying out at the beach and sunscreens are all somehow linked to outbreaks of skin cancer, one way to possibly overcome these risks is to take a dietary supplement that increases your propensity to tan without all the extra exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Do Tanning Pills Work?

There is some debate about whether or not tanning pills actually work. Proponents of tanning beds argue that there are only two factors that actually influence your ability to tan: genetics and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Those who believe in the use of tanning pills or vitamins to increase tanning ability recognize the link between melanin production and certain nutrients in the diet. At this point in time, the debate is still open.

Caretenoid Pills

Caretenoid pills contain pigment that is transported to the skin cells to give the body the look associated with tanning. One problem with these types of pills is that the pigment often does not match the natural skin pigment of the person taking them, thus creating a very unnatural, almost orange, tanned look. These pills are also known to create orange waste products in the body and have been approved by the FDA.

L-tyrosine and L-cysteine

Naturally occurring amino acids that may aid in the tanning process are L-tyrosine and L-cysteine. If you are looking to get a deep, dark tan, L-tyrosine and L-cysteineis are thought to help in the increase of melanin production, according to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for proper skin health. In fact, Vitamin D is absolutely essential for cellular function among all the body's cells and for proper immune support. Vitamin D is the body's natural defense against the effects of ultraviolet exposure.

The Necessity of Vitamin E

If you are going to tan, one thing that you have to try to avoid is the drying effect that the sun has on the skin, which can lead to that prematurely aged look. In order for the skin to remain healthy it needs to be properly hydrated and able to repair itself from the effects of the sun. Vitamin E, especially in topical form, will help accomplish both of these tasks. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can protect the skin from the destructive force of free radicals and help restore the skin to a more natural and younger look.

Putting It All Together

While there is no consensus on whether or not vitamins are actually effective in the promotion of tanning, if you are going to continue your exposure to the sun and the tanning bed, a diet rich in vitamins D and E along with an amino acid supplement containing L-tyrosine and L-cysteine may be beneficial in helping your skin stave off the damaging effects of UV rays. Beware of products claiming to replace the need to tan, such as caretenoid pills, because these are unproven and likely dangerous in the long term.

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  • "Dermatology Times"; Vitamin D Deficiency-Cancer Link Theory Undermines Sun Safety; Joan Raymond; August 1999
  • "The Journal of Investigative Dermatology"; Melanogenesis in cultured melanocytes can be substantially influenced by l-tyrosine and l-cysteine; N.P.M. Smit; Vol. 9, 1997
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