Tanning pills can pose serious dangers, dermatologists warn: ‘Consumers should be aware’

Jul 10, 2024 | Health | 0 comments

Some people are trading UV rays for tanning pills, as numerous social media influencers have raved about how these supplements have given their skin a tan glow. But are they safe?

These pills contain a variety of ingredients – including L-tyrosine, beta-carotene and astaxanthin – that could potentially have a color-changing effect on the skin.

Doctors are warning that this alternative means of bronzing the skin can come with risks.

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As of a March 2022 notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are not currently any FDA-approved pills for tanning the skin.

The FDA confirmed with Fox News Digital that this has not changed as of today.

“Nevertheless, pills bearing tanning claims continue to appear on the market,” the FDA wrote. “Consumers should be aware of risks associated with such products, as well as doubts about their efficacy.”

One of the biggest risks is that some people might assume they’re more protected from the sun based on their darkened skin tone, according to Dr. Alexis Young, a dermatologist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

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“I can assure you [that] is not the case,” she said to Fox News Digital. “The effect of these pills provides no SPF protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays, which can increase our risk of skin cancer – including melanoma, the deadliest form.”

These pills often contain a pigment called canthaxanthin, which accumulates in the skin and eyes, the dermatologist added.

With prolonged use at high doses, this pigment can potentially lead to liver damage, Young warned.

“Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice,” she said.

“Canthaxanthin deposits in the retina can potentially cause blurred vision, night blindness and even permanent vision loss.”

Tanning pills may also cause other side effects, Young reported, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and allergic reactions.

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In addition to canthaxanthin, tanning pills can also contain other elements, such as beta-carotene and L-tyrosine.

“While generally considered safe, excessive beta-carotene intake can be harmful, especially for smokers, as it may increase their risk of lung cancer,” Young said.

“L-tyrosine … may interact with certain medications and can worsen pre-existing conditions like hyperthyroidism.”

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mina Amin, of California Dermatology Specialists, also reacted to this trend in an interview with Fox News Digital, noting that carotenoids – which are often found in these supplements – are what gives fruit their color.

“As dermatologists, we actually see this when someone eats too many carrots,” she said. “They can also get a similar ‘tan’ effect that presents more as an orange color, which often starts to appear on their hands and feet first.”

Amin echoed that an excess of carotenoids can cause liver damage, as they’ve been associated with an increase in alcohol-induced swelling and inflammation when ingested in high doses.

Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp also does not recommend the use of tanning pills, he told Fox News Digital, as they typically have to be taken at higher doses to induce visible changes in the skin’s pigment.

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“And their results are temporary, which means you would need to continue taking them to maintain the ‘tan’ they provide,” he said via email.

The expert pointed out that astaxanthin has been associated with gastrointestinal side effects like abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Tanning pills are “not considered safe” even if dosage instructions are followed, according to Young.

“The potential risks, particularly for skin cancer and liver damage, outweigh any perceived benefits,” she said. “It’s important to remember that the FDA has not approved any tanning pills as safe or effective.”

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Amin agreed that there is “simply not enough evidence to support the use of these supplements to tan the skin.”

“Given the unknown safety profile, I recommend avoiding using these pills at levels that can lead to a tan,” she added.

For alternative tanning options, Amin suggested using an at-home self-tanner.

Young also prefers self-tanning products and sunless tanners, including lotions, mousses and sprays, which provide a temporary tan “without exposing your skin to harmful UV rays.”

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She also recommended professional spray tans that offer a “more natural-looking” custom tan.

“Remember, the safest approach is to avoid tanning altogether and embrace your natural skin tone,” she said. “Protecting your skin from sun damage is crucial for maintaining long-term health and preventing skin cancer.”

Fox News Digital reached out to several tanning pill manufacturers requesting comment on potential safety risks.

A new trend has people tanning their skin by taking pills containing a variety of ingredients. Three dermatologists weigh in on the potential dangers of this method.[#item_full_content]

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