Q. If my teenage daughter wants to use a self-tanning product, is that safe?
A. Airbrush kits, rub-on self-tanning creams and tanning wipes are all safe, says Dr. Joshua Fox, founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, with four offices on Long Island. They are definitely preferable to tanning beds or a tan caused by the sun, he says.
"The damage from the UV radiation of tanning beds and the sun is cumulative and often irreversible," Fox says. "The younger people are when they start to tan, the higher their risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetimes."
Explain to kids that sunbathing also causes premature wrinkles and sunspots, he says.
But are the tanning products themselves advisable? Self-tanning products have come a long way from their shades of what Fox calls "Oompa-Loompa orange." The active ingredient is dihydroxyacetone, which attaches to the top layer of skin. It sloughs off naturally with skin cells, requiring a reapplication after five to seven days, he says.
Dihydroxyacetone is approved by the American Academy of Dermatology, and the academy recommends opting for self-tanning products as one way to avoid skin cancer. The academy recently created a video explaining how to use self-tanning products, which can be viewed at tinyurl.com/d59db7k.
Your daughter must continue to use sunscreen, even when she has her "fake" tan, Fox says. Fox recommends SPF 15 or 30 -- or higher.