Watch Out For Allergens in Sunless Tanners

How do you get your tan on? Whether it’s natural sunlight or a tanning bed, there’s one that’s every dermatologist’s favorite: the sunless tanner. The reasons for this are obvious - it means no harsh sun on your skin, and no addictive UV exposure to tanning beds. That’s why when I came across a recent case study about sunless tanners, I was slightly dejected, but encouraged to raise awareness about some interesting findings.

Recently, a 49 year old woman developed acute dermatitis all over her body after using a sunless tanner. Her spray tan product contained dihydroxyacetone, which provides the tan skin color, and the preservatives methylisothiazolinone (MI) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI). The issue here is not the coloring agent - it’s the preservatives. MI and MCI are often used in many personal care products due to its ability to kill bacteria, but since MI was named allergen of the year in 2013, it’s clear that several people have developed allergic reactions to it.

Since more people are getting sunless tans, it’s very important to be aware that if any itchiness or rash develops, it could be indicative of an allergic reaction to this specific agent. As a dermatologist, I think it’s important to raise this kind of awareness because I can see many people having a hard time making this connection.

So, the next time you use a sunless tanner, be on the lookout for any reactions and be sure to talk to your doctor or dermatologist. With more and more MI being used in products, this contact allergen is definitely on the rise, so make sure you know your stuff when it comes to protecting your skin!

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