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The Best Pregnancy-Safe Self-Tanner of 2021


Did you know that damaging UV-rays can accelerate the aging process and cause dark spots (especially during pregnancy)? Too much sun also raises the risk of dehydration, especially when you are experiencing symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Too many UV rays can also lead to folic acid deficiency, which can have negative effects during pregnancy. 

The alternative to sun exposure and tanning beds for that all-over glow is self-tanner. Below, you’ll find our choices for the best  self-tanners. They are free of most harmful ingredients and will keep your skin looking bronzed and ready to show off that glow without damaging your skin. Just remember that DHA is the active ingredient in most self-tanner products and there is no data on whether DHA is absorbed by the fetus.  

Always consult with your obstetrician before starting any products.

Best Self-Tanner Overall: Beauty By Earth Self Tanner
Best Hydrating Tanning Lotion: Botanic Tree Self Tanner
Best Bronzing Mousse: St. Tropez Self-Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

Best Self-Tanner Overall

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner

Self Tanner - With Organic Aloe Vera & Shea Butter, Sunless Tanning Lotion and Bronzer Buildable Light, Medium or Dark Tan for Natural Looking Fake Tan, Self Tanners Best Sellers (7.5oz)
Price$$$
Quality
Popularity

The Beauty by Earth Self Tanner is a good choice if you’re looking for a natural glow. In addition to pregnancy-safe DHA, this tanner is water-based and has other good-for-you ingredients like organic shea butter, aloe vera, and various oil extracts.

This is a certified cruelty-free brand and their suntan lotion formula is vegan. It is highly-rated by the Environmental Working Group as being safe. By working gradually, you avoid that orange color that can happen with too much tanning lotion. It also goes on without any dark spots, blotches, or streaks and gives you that glow without signs of early aging or the risk of sunburn. 

Since this is all-natural and effective, it’s a good choice for women, men, and even teens. You will want to apply every 4-7 days to maintain your glow. Additionally, if you don’t get as much glow as you want after the first application, you can put more on. You’ll want to wait six hours to get the full effect and decide if you want another application. 

Even though this is designed for pale skin, it’s easy to apply too much to fair skin with this product, especially if you aren’t looking for a deep tan. Fortunately, it fades within a few days- especially if you are showering frequently. You also may find that it fades faster from your hands and face if your hands are wet a lot or you have a regular skincare routine. In addition to exfoliating beforehand, you should let this dry fully (like 20-30 minutes) before going to bed or putting clothes on to avoid a streaky application. 

It’s important to build this gradually to prevent becoming orange or developing a faker looking tan. You’ll want to clean your hands immediately after applying to avoid staining your palm. Beauty by Earth also makes an application glove that you can buy with the self-tanner to prevent staining on your hands. While breastfeeding, moms will also want to avoid the breast area. 

Pros

  • Highly-rated by the EWG (Environmental Work Group)
  • Vegan, cruelty-free formula
  • Lots of healthy ingredients for your skin
  • Looks bronze instead of orange
  • Easy to build on the color
  • May be used by women, men, and even teens
  • Doesn’t take too long to dry
  • No streaks when you take the right precaution
  • Easy to wash off within a couple of days if you don’t like the application

Cons

  • Can be hard to see how thick it is applied because the tanning lotion is white
  • Doesn’t last as long as some self-tanners
  • Contains potential irritants/allergens and ingredients linked to potential organ toxicities
  • Contains DHA
  • Rated 1 by EWG

Best Hydrating Tanning Lotion

Botanic Tree Self Tanner

Botanic Tree Self Tanner-Organic Sunless Tanner for Natural-Looking Fake Tan-Herbal Self Tanning Lotion for Flawless Bronzer Skin-Instant Face and Body Tanner for Fair and Dark Skin.
Price$$
Quality
Popularity

The Botanic Tree Self Tanner is full of organic ingredients and free of harsh chemicals. It is plant-based and leaves you with the same healthy glow you’d get after spending a few hours in the sun. 

This self-tanner has a list of ingredients you can feel confident about. It contains DHA derived from sugar cane, as well as nourishing ingredients like aloe vera leaf juice, shea butter, and various organic oils. The formula is also sulfate-, paraben-, and cruelty-free. 

This tanner has a non-greasy formula that won’t feel sticky or heavy on your skin and dries quickly, letting you wear clothes not long after you apply the tanning lotion. You also won’t have to worry about damaging towels or sheets.

Unfortunately, the consistency of the lotion is a little thick. It takes a little work to rub into the skin. While it does apply without streaks, however, you’ll want to build color over time because it can cause an orange color if you apply too much to your skin. You’ll also want to use a mitt or latex gloves to apply this. The self-tanner is hard to wash off and may turn your palms orange even if you wash them immediately after application. 

With its formulation, Botanic Tree Self-Tanner leaves your skin hydrated and rejuvenated in addition to adding a bronze glow. You should apply once per day until you reach your desired level of darkness and then apply every 4-5 days to maintain the tan. 

Pros

  • Plant-based
  • 100% organic formula
  • Contains oil from 10 fruits
  • Leaves skin nourished and rejuvenated
  • Easy to build color over time
  • Doesn’t streak
  • Dries quickly
  • Won’t stain clothes, towels, or bedding
  • Pleasant scent

Cons

  • Thick lotion takes work to rub into the skin
  • Stains palms easily
  • Contains DHA
  • Contains rosemary, which is controversial in pregnancy

Best Bronzing Mousse

St. Tropez Self-Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

St. Tropez Sttropez self tan express advanced bronzing mousse, 6.7 fl oz
Price$$$$
Quality

St. Tropez Self-Tan Express Bronzing Mousse uses DHA from naturally-derived ingredients. It is a favorite among pregnant and non-pregnant women because of its even coverage and ability to help women of any skin tone reach their desired shade of darkness. 

The way this works is you apply an even layer of the tanner with a mitt. The color makes it easy for you to tell where you have already applied and it absorbs into the skin easily. However, the foam does have a weird greenish-brown color. This is completely normal and doesn’t affect the final result at all. 

Even though the tanner does absorb well, it remains a little sticky until you wash it off. You’ll need to let it sit for 1-3 hours depending on how deep you want the tan to be before you wash it off. The color continues to develop for about 8 hours after it’s applied. You can repeat as needed until you reach your desired shade and then reapply every 3-4 days to maintain it. The final color will be a bronzed glow. It is not orange and does not streak. 

Some users have mentioned that this leaves a splotchy pattern as it fades. You can prevent this by moisturizing properly after exfoliating and before applying St. Tropez self-tanner. 

This tanner has a pleasant smell, which is important for pregnant women. You can also feel confident that it is safe for you and your developing baby. It contains naturally-derived DHA and is 100% vegan. One thing to note, however, is that it does have color and scent additives. Women with sensitive skin should do a test patch, especially during pregnancy when your skin is at its most sensitive. 

Pros

  • Naturally-sourced DHA
  • 100% Vegan
  • Works on any skin tone
  • Easy to adjust depth of color
  • Does not streak
  • No orange spots
  • Foam absorbs into the skin easily
  • Great for all-over coverage
  • Can even be used on your face with good results

 Cons

  • Sticky until you wash it off
  • Could irritate sensitive skin or cause allergic reactions because of fragrance, color additives and other ingredients
  • Contains ingredients linked to potential organ toxicities
  • Contains DHA
  • Contains salicylates, which are controversial in pregnancy

Pregnancy Self Tanner Comparison Table

The table below compares only the recommended products on this page. A low or high Price means it is low or high compared to the other products listed. The Popularity Score reflects how often readers click on and buy the product. The Quality Score is our assessment of the overall performance and satisfaction with the product compared to others in the table.

St. Tropez Self-Tan Express Bronzing Mousse$$$$9.2
Beauty by Earth Self Tanner$$$9.9 8.6
Botanic Tree Self Tanner$$3.9 8.8

How We Selected Pregnancy Safe Self Tanner

Toxicity

Our primary concern when choosing a self-tanner for pregnancy was the list of ingredients. Many cosmetics companies use potentially dangerous ingredients in their products.

Since human studies are limited, it’s hard to determine exactly how safe/dangerous each ingredient is. Most scientific research comes from animal studies and case studies of people exposed to certain chemicals, usually in their home or work environment. By evaluating the available research, we determined which self-tanners were safest for pregnant women. 

Application

Self-tanner is usually designed to be rubbed into the skin or sprayed on. In most cases, pregnant women should look for a self-tanner applied by rubbing. They are not healthy to breathe in. 

Coverage and Breathability

When you’re trying to showcase your pregnancy glow, you’ll want to avoid self-tanners that leave your skin streaky or uneven. We also considered how breathable the tanner was after being applied- you don’t want a sticky, oily, or thick residue left behind on your skin. 

Odor

Finally, we considered how each product smelled. Even though self-tanner usually has a pleasant smell, even pleasant smells can be overwhelming to a pregnant woman. You can help reduce your sensitivity by applying while you are outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. 

Longevity of the Tan

It can be a hassle to apply an all-over tan with your lotion, especially because you need to apply the suntan lotion evenly for the best results. We also considered how long each application lasted, as well as any special instructions.

With many brands, you’ll want to avoid water for several hours afterward (especially if they are water-based). Some people also recommend exfoliating beforehand to lengthen the life of your tan. You’ll want to apply less in folded and loose areas of skin, like around your knees and elbows.

FAQs About Pregnancy Safe Self Tanners

Is self-tanner safe while pregnant and breastfeeding?

According to the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), most self-tanners including spray tan and other tanners are safe for pregnant women to use. However, you’ll likely want to avoid the breast/nipple area to avoid staining your baby’s face. 

The active ingredient most self-tanners use is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Dihydroxyacetone is a sugar that interacts with the topmost layer of skin, causing a reaction that results in a bronzed glow. Since it interacts with the top layer of skin, there shouldn’t be very much DHA absorbed but it depends on how much and how often you use it. There is no data on whether DHA is absorbed by the fetus so there isn way to know if it is 100% safe.

Also, you’ll also want to look at the rest of the list. There are several safe, all-natural tanners you can use during pregnancy that will be safest for you and your baby. 

Many of the ingredients included in these products are controversial, should not be used in first trimester of pregnancy, or have limited or no data/research on use during pregnancy.  Some ingredients have been linked to other non-pregnancy related healthy problems.  Many products have not been evaluated by the FDA.  Since no studies have been conducted with these products on pregnant women, there is no absolute certainty that these are 100% safe.  Always consult with your obstetrician before starting any products while you are pregnant, nursing, or planning on becoming pregnant.

Since the FDA does not regulate cosmetic products, the Environmental Work Group (EWG) has created a database of products.  It offers information on the most popular products and ingredients, such as whether the product is an irritant/allergen or linked to organ/reproductive toxicities.  It rates products from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least toxic.  It is best to stick to products that rate EWG verified, 1 or 2.

Is St. Tropez self-tanner safe for pregnancy?

St. Tropez self-tanner is  a Vegan formula and contains naturally-sourced DHA. Additionally, it is one of the top self-tanner brands.

As with most self-tanners, the biggest risk is an allergic reaction. You should always do a test area on a small area of skin before doing a full application. This is especially true during pregnancy because the high levels of hormones can make your skin more sensitive. 

Can I sunbathe or use a tanning bed while pregnant? 

Getting some sunshine while you’re pregnant isn’t terrible for you. Sun exposure produces Vitamin D, which is important for your baby’s bone development. It also helps combat depression and gives your immune system a boost.

However, when it comes to sun exposure while pregnant, it is possible to do too much. You shouldn’t lay out in the sun without skin protection. The more sun exposure you get, the more likely you are to get skin cancer.  You should never use a tanning bed, since they are more deadly than the sun.  Not only do most mothers get enough Vitamin D in their prenatal supplements and diet, but there are more risks associated with tanning than there are benefits. 

Too many UV rays can cause folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is critical to your baby’s development. It also prevents miscarriage and neural defects, including spinal bifida.

Additionally, hormones make pregnant women’s skin extremely sensitive. You are more likely to be sunburned and develop dark brown spots called chloasma. Chloasma is also referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” because it’s most common in pregnant women. 

Finally, being in the sun or a tanning bed exposes you to a lot of heat in addition to UV radiation. Pregnant women are already at risk for dehydration, so being in the hot sun increases the risk. This is especially true if you’re losing fluids through sweating or throwing up. 

Final Word

Our top choice for best self-tanner was Beauty by Earth Self Tanner. This is one of just a few self-tanners rated highly by the Environmental Working Group for the safety of their ingredients. Additionally, it absorbs well into the skin and leaves it nourishes and rejuvenated.

As you look for a self-tanner, be sure that it uses naturally-sourced DHA and other good-for-your-skin ingredients. Additionally, consider the overall smell and how easily it can be applied without streaking or orange spots. 


Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Jennifer T. Trent, MD FAAD is an acclaimed dermatologist with over 50 articles published in peer-reviewed journals. She is also an author of numerous medical texts addressing surgery and wound care as well as dermatologic diseases and therapy.



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