Three products for a radiant, customizable tan — without UV rays

Three products for a radiant, customizable tan — without UV rays

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Utilisation d'un autobronzant par une femme enceinte ?

Can a pregnant woman use self-tanning products?

Achieving a lovely natural tan without resorting to sun exposure and its associated risks... This is the promise of self-tanning products. The mechanism behind these treatments is different from that of a traditional tan, so they are generally considered risk-free. However, is this the case during pregnancy? Can self-tanning products be used safely by pregnant women?

Published February 20, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Pregnancy and sun: a combination to avoid.

It is strongly advised against for pregnant women to expose themselves to the sun without sun protection, at the risk of developing a pregnancy mask, a form of pigmentation spots. Indeed, during pregnancy, the body undergoes several hormonal variations, including an increase in the production of oestrogen and progesterone.

According to several studies, these steroidal hormones are capable of stimulating the expression of type I melanocortin receptors (MC1R), playing a role in the melanin synthesis pathway. This overproduction of pigments is the cause of the appearance of brown spots on the face or body of pregnant women.

It's also worth noting that this type of hyperpigmentation predominantly affects individuals with darker skin, specifically those within phototypes III to VI in the Fitzpatrick classification. Indeed, darker skin contains more melanin than lighter skin, and more specifically eumelanin, a darker form, which provides better protection against UV rays.

Using a self-tanner for a coloured skin in pregnant women?

It can be challenging for pregnant women to achieve a sun-kissed complexion without risking the development of melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy. The use of a self-tanner may therefore be tempting. However, just like with diet, it is known that certain active ingredients are not recommended for topical application in pregnant women. This is particularly the case with essential oils and retinoids. As a precaution, it is also advisable to avoid any ingredient considered a potential endocrine disruptor.

Regarding self-tanners, there is in principle no contraindication to their use by pregnant women. They are indeed not harmful to the mother or the foetus, and will not cause melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy. This is due to their mechanism of action being different from that of the sun's UV rays.

Self-tanning products typically contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), sometimes combined with erythrulose. The DHA is a plant-derived molecule that induces a brownish hue in 4 to 6 hours. From a biological perspective, it remains on the skin's surface and reacts with the amino acids of the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis, according to the so-called Maillard reaction to form brown pigments, the melanoidins, not to be confused with melanin.

Theerythrulose is a sugar found in red fruits. This compound acts in a similar way to DHA, but more slowly. The combination of DHA and erythrulose results in a more natural and even tan. Furthermore, erythrulose has moisturising properties that counterbalance the drying power of DHA.

However, caution is required not to inhale or ingest self-tanning products. Indeed, the ingestion or inhalation of DHA could potentially lead to asthma, lung diseases or cancer.

Note : If you are pregnant and have concerns about the safety of a product, we recommend that you contact your midwife or gynaecologist. They will be able to answer your questions and guide you in your choices.


  • MIOT H. & al. Melasma: a clinical and epidemiological review. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia (2014).

  • ZUCCA A. & al. A narrative review of the potential for self-tanning products to substitute for solaria use among people seeking a tanned appearance. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine (2014).

  • TYLER K. H. Physiological skin changes during pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Gynecology and Obstetrics (2015).


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