Is tanning safe during pregnancy? The short answer is no. And the long answer is, you guessed it, still no. Tanning is not advisable while pregnant. Truth be told, tanning at any time can be considered a risky and unhealthy choice. Yet, there are still expecting mothers asking if they can tan while pregnant.
You might crave that sun-kissed goddess glow, but during pregnancy, you should avoid exposing your skin to UVA and UVB rays. At the very least, use some adequate sun protection.
Why Do Women Want To Tan While Pregnant?
Pregnancy brings a lot of changes. You get bigger, which is a natural symptom of pregnancy, and you might lose some of your sexiness and attraction. So, some women try to take extra steps to look their very best.
In that situation, getting a fake tan might feel like the right choice to look and feel like million bucks. Also, the hint of color on the skin might help you disguise skin changes like dark patches, acne, and stretch marks.
But that doesn’t mean tanning is safe and recommended during pregnancy. Any sun exposure can pose risks.
Is Tanning Safe During Pregnancy?
So far, there is no evidence that tanning outside or in a tanning bed will directly harm your baby. No matter if you are tanning outside or in a tanning bed, the UV radiation is the same. Yet, in a tanning bed, it is more concentrated.
UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. It can also cause complications like premature aging and wrinkles.
A study has shown that people who use a tanning bed before they are 35, increase their risk for melanoma by 75%. It is not something you should take lightly. Tanning damages your DNA and prompts the body to put out a defense against the radiation. This is why your skin gets darker, it is a defensive mechanism and response of your body.
What Are The Risks Of Tanning During Pregnancy?
The main risk and concern is that UV radiation exposure can break down folic acid. UV rays during pregnancy can break folic acid. And we know that folic acid is a crucial building block that your baby needs. Without it, it cannot develop a healthy nervous system.
Your baby is very much susceptible to negative effects from ultraviolet radiation. But it is most susceptible during the first trimester and at the beginning of the second trimester. This is the period when the foundation for brain development is being laid.
The absolute peak for risk is during organogenesis, which is 2 to 7 weeks after conception. This early period is considered a high-risk time in any case, but even more with sun exposure.
What About Tanning Beds?
Using tanning beds at any time can cause serious health risks. It is all about UV rays, no matter if they come from outside tanning or in a tanning bed. Artificial tanning lights emit harmful UV radiation that is even more concentrated. It can lead to premature aging and increase the risk of skin cancer.
In terms of your baby, a tanning bed during pregnancy might not harm your baby or lead to pregnancy complications. But the risk of overheating is very much real.
If you absolutely decide to use a tanning bed, limit the amount of time you are in. The shorter the tanning session is, the more you will prevent burns. Shorter sessions will also prevent overheating.
After the tanning bed session, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to replenish the lost water.
What About Self-tanning Lotions?
When it comes to whether you can tan while pregnant, a lot of women want to know about self-tanning lotions as well. Let’s be honest, women crave that sun-kissed look and that darker skin.
With that in mind, self-tanning lotions are generally safe during pregnancy. The main chemicals in these lotions do not absorb past the first layer of skin.
And there are many lotions that you apply directly to the skin and get a tanned look. Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is the chemical used in self-tanning lotions. That is what gives you a brown pigment on the skin. So far, research hasn’t shown that it absorbs deeper than the first layer of skin. So, it doesn’t absorb in a way that can reach your baby.
Are Spray Tanning Products Safe?
Using a self-tanning lotion during pregnancy might be a good alternative to tanning. But we cannot say the same about spray tanning. Why? Because these tans usually contain a lot of chemicals that could reach your baby if you breathe them in.
Spray tans also contain DHA that will pigment the skin. It is the same active ingredient found in lotions. But there are also a lot more chemicals. This is why experts recommend avoiding spray tans during pregnancy. If you absolutely have to try it, do it in a well-ventilated space. And make sure to wear a mask to limit the amount you might inhale.
Nowadays, there are tanning pills. It is a product that claims to provide a tan. How do they work? Are they effective? And most importantly, are they safe during pregnancy?
A tanning pill contains an enormous quantity of canthaxanthin. It is a food additive that when you consume it, forms deposits in your skin. That causes your skin to look darker.
Now, canthaxanthin is safe when used in small quantities. But the dose you will find in a tanning pill is above the approved quantity.
Then, you also have to consider that tanning pills have been linked to side effects like canthaxanthin-induced retinopathy. The simple explanation is that the food additive causes crystal deposits in your eyes.
Most importantly, tanning pills are not approved by the FDA. So, it is illegal to import them to the US.
Why Is Sun Exposure Dangerous?
When you think about it, getting outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine is great during pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean you should get out during the high sun.
Being outdoors in the sun has benefits for you. But excessive UV exposure can cause problems. And that applies to any time and period of your life, not just pregnancy. Too much sun exposure is linked to a higher risk of skin cancer.
UV rays can also worsen signs of aging, including wrinkles, sun spots, sagging skin, and more. Being out in the sun for too long can increase the risk of overheating. And overheating, in severe cases, can cause symptoms like:
- Muscle cramps
- Warm skin
How To Protect Yourself?
To enjoy sun exposure safely, you need to protect yourself. First and foremost, that means SPF. Use a mineral-based product. Look at the label, and try to find one that has an active ingredient like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
During pregnancy, you should use at least 50 SPF. Most of us are good with 30 SPF during the summer. But if you are a pregnant woman and an expecting mother, ramp it up to 50 SPF.
Try to stay out of the sun during the strongest hours, which are between 11 am and 3 pm. Cover as much exposed skin as possible with breathable fabrics. Get yourself a wide-brimmed hat and some sunglasses, and get out in the sun.
Now, you may love the sun, but the shade is your friend.