Pregnancy and tanning questions are sure to follow as the weather warms. As soon as Derby season is here sundresses, and sleeveless tops and shorts make their grand entrance into the wardrobe, but who likes to wear them without a little sun-kissed glow! So how can you bronze your skin during pregnancy?
Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, exposure to the sun puts you at risk for premature aging and malignant melanoma (skin cancer). The following information will help you think through tanning in a bed, on the beach, or with help from a bottle.
Your baby is the most susceptible to negative effects from ultraviolet (UV) radiation during your first trimester and at the beginning of the second trimester. The foundation for brain development is being laid during this time.
Some studies also link UV rays and folic acid deficiency. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and is especially important in the first trimester. During pregnancy, your skin is more susceptible to burning and chloasma, the dark splotches that appear on the face during pregnancy.
Self-tanning lotions are generally considered safe during pregnancy. The main chemicals in self-tanners don’t absorb past the first layer of skin. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the chemical used in self-tanning lotions to make a brown pigment on the skin. Doctors don’t know for sure, but DHA is thought to stay only on the first layer of skin, so it doesn’t actually absorb in a way that could reach your baby. It’s always best to check with your doctor before using a self-tanning product.
While self-tanning lotions may be safe during pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid spray tans. The chemicals used in the spray could reach your baby if you breathe them in.
Pregnant women can’t avoid all types of radiation exposure. But the key is to understand the risk, and to limit any unnecessary UV radiation exposure.
The Bottom Line
If you must get a tan over the next nine months, your best bet is to reach for a pregnancy-safe self-tanning lotion. Tanning beds are never a good idea, whether you’re pregnant or not. Instead, the safest option is to skip the base tan and show off your natural pregnancy glow.
Written by Tanika Taylor, MD