How tanning in pregnancy can affect your unborn child?

Tanning in pregnancy might not be as good idea as we would like it to be.

You should be aware of the risks before you even consider getting your body brown by any method.

While no in depth studies have been carried out about effects of mother’s tanning on the fetus there is sufficient evidence to feel alarmed about some aspects of it. Let’s look at those.

Beach tanning in pregnancy:

Pregnancy tanning

While some limited sun exposure can be extremely beneficial for Vitamin D production, the big danger is overheating. There is evidence that radiation and excessive temperatures can lead to very serious neural tube defects in the baby such as spina bifida. Apparently, radiation breaks down folate and that puts woman in earlier stages of pregnancy at a higher risk for giving birth to a baby with spina bifida.

In case you are wandering - symptoms in mild form may mean bowel and bladder problems, learning problems, partial or full paralysis and /or neurological deterioration in later years. In extreme cases babies can be born with underdeveloped brains and incomplete skulls.

Pretty extreme punishment for vanity of looking great in pregnancy, don’t you think?

It is especially important to avoid excessive temperatures during the first trimester (I guess it eliminates saunas and hot baths as well). Later in pregnancy excessive heat can trigger premature labour (about that fact there is no doubt).

Additionally, pregnancy makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it can increase your chance of rashes and chloasma (dark patches on the face that often accompany pregnancy – but I guess those won’t worry you that much if you give birth to a handicapped child).

So, by all means get at least 30 minutes of sunlight on your skin per day (without any sunblock) early in the day or late in the afternoon, but do not bake on the beach for hours on end especially around midday.

Tanning in Pregnancy in Sun beds:

Apart from increased skin cancer danger to Mum, sun beds have the same effect as the sun – they increase body temperature and break down folate, except they can do it on much deeper level, so carry even higher risk. In solarium beds concentrated doses of UV radiation can be up to five times the strength of the midday summer sun. So theoretically you increase your chances of having a baby with damage to nerves and spinal cord by 5 times. Scary!

So, the bad news is - no solarium tanning in pregnancy. The complications, although don’t happen every time, are so severe that they could affect your and your baby’s whole life. (The good news is : you can eat more! )

Fake tanning industry is said to be the only real option open to an expectant mother. They tell you it is totally safe. Right?


I used to tell clients in my spray tanning salon that spray tanning in pregnancy was OK (it was drummed into me). The reason I became suspicious was that after years of spray tanning I suddenly developed a rash that appeared every time I had a spray tanning session. Could it be that it was not as great for my skin as I was told, and could the doses be cumulative? I decided to do some investigation. What I found out was not only surprising, but also disturbing to say the least!

Disturbing fact no.1.

If you go for a spray tan you will be told that DHA (which is the tanning component in the tanning solution) is FDA approved and therefore “safe”. The thing which they might fail to tell you (because they don’t know) is that FDA approved DHA for external application ONLY. The industry has not provided safety data to FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use on exposure routes (inhaling, or contact with mucous membranes such as in the nose, eyes, lips or genitals), including "misting" from tanning booths. I was in the industry for few years, and as far as I know the permit is still “pending”.

So, if you consider spray tanning in pregnancy, it would be advisable for you to wear panties (and not just a thong), goggles and nose plugs. You should also put a thick layer of gloss on your lips, so that spray does not reach your bare lips. (I presume keeping your mouth shut is pretty obvious?)

Disturbing fact no.2.

While DHA might not be harmful, it forms only a small portion of what is actually in the spray tan solution. What about other chemical compounds that are added (I have counted up to 40 ingredients in some solutions and self tanning products)?

Here is an extract from the site of Environmental Working Group.
Look at how products you are applying to your skin are deemed “safe”.

“The $35 Billion cosmetic industry pervades our bathrooms, purses, gym and makeup bags with products and chemical mixtures that most people assume are safety tested. Unfortunately, this is not the cases. The government cannot require premarket safety testing of cosmetic ingredients, and our research showed that the industry itself has safety assessed just 11 percent of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products. While some companies make products that would be safe to eat, other companies use chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.

According to the government agency that regulates cosmetics, the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, “…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA”.

The toxicity of product ingredients is scrutinized almost exclusively by a self-policing industry safety committee, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel. Because testing is voluntary and controlled by the manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not safety tested at all.”

What do you think of THAT?

Sadly, if by any chance you think that big, reputable companies are the ones that are testing their product more thoroughly you would be mistaken. Some of the biggest names in Cosmetic Industry are putting out products that are most hazardous.

Incidentally, do you know how absorbent your skin is? - If you have a ten minute shower in chlorinated water your skin absorbs as much chlorine as if you would drink 10 liters of the same water !

The Conclusion

If you are pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant, forget deep brown skin via tanning. Go for the light color straight from the sun, which will provide a vital dose of Vitamin D for your baby. Any other method, including spray tanning is just not on.

Don't let any salon owner tell you that spray tanning in pregnancy is safe, they have a vested interest in making you believe that it is. I own a spray tanning website and yet I am telling you that it is not. You can choose to believe whomever you like.

As the saying goes: "You can choose the action, but you cannot choose the consequences". Choose wisely.

Do you need more proof that spray tanning in pregnancy might not be a good idea? - click here.

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