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As your pregnancy progresses, it’s understandable that you might want to take the focus off your growing belly and your swollen ankles — although, believe us when we say pregnancy is beautiful on you — and call more attention to glowing, tan skin.

With a huge array of fake tanning products at your disposal, you don’t have to risk sun damage to achieve the effect that you’re going for. Here’s more about how you can get the glow you want without sacrificing safety.

A fake tan, or fake-and-bake, can definitely give your skin a lovely glowy appearance. You can go with a light glow, or a few shades darker and perhaps convince everyone that you’ve just returned from a nice beach vacation.

Wondering how these products work? Many fake tanning products contain the color additive known as dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

The FDA has approved the addition of DHA to topical cosmetic products for adding color to your skin. You apply it to your skin and wait, and gradually, the color takes effect.

The chemical in the stuff they’re spraying on your skin to make you look tan is very likely DHA.

And here’s some good news: A 2004 research review showed that there’s not much systemic absorption of DHA when it’s applied to skin. However, if you’re concerned, you may want to avoid a spray tan during your first trimester, just in case.

If you do choose to go with a spray tan at some point, make sure that you’re taking the proper steps to protect your mucous membranes. If you go to a salon for a spray tan, make sure they offer you protection for your eyes. Apply lip balm to your lips, too.

Don’t breathe in any of the tanning solution when sprayed, if you can avoid it. The FDA cautions against getting it in your mouth or nose because there is no solid body of research to know if there are any risks.

So, keep your mouth closed when the spraying starts. Many salons will also offer you a filter for your nose to help you avoid inhaling the tanning product.

Lotions, creams, foams… whatever your desired type of product is, you can probably find it at these places:

  • a cosmetic store
  • a big box store
  • online

All the products will change the color of your skin, but some also contain various other ingredients, including aromas and moisturizers. Since DHA is considered safe, you’re probably fine to use whatever formula you like.

One major advantage of using self-tanning products at home: There’s no mist being sprayed on to you. That means you don’t have to worry about inhaling any of the solution. You’ll still want to be careful when applying any product close to a mucous membrane, though.

Steer clear of tanning pills, however. Over-the-counter (OTC) tanning pills often contain beta-carotene and canthaxanthin, and while these additives have FDA approval as color additives in food, the FDA has not given its approval for their use in tanning pills.

And one more thing to remember: All these sunless tanners are designed to make your skin look tan. But they might not provide any protection from the sun. So, remember to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to all areas of exposed skin if you’re headed outdoors.

First, think about the risks of tanning in the traditional way. We know the risks of extended exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Premature aging and skin cancer can result from frolicking in the sun without adequate sun protection.

The same goes for the use of a tanning bed. A 2012 research review of in vitro studies found that ultraviolet radiation can break down folic acid in your bloodstream. When you’re pregnant, you really need that folic acid to ward off certain neural tube conditions.

So, from that standpoint, getting an occasional spray tan or using a sunless tanning cream at home may not seem quite as risky as these riskier options. But chat with your doctor if you have concerns.

If you don’t feel comfortable getting a spray tan or applying a sunless tanning product, you do still have a couple of other options.

One is to apply a cream or powdered bronzer to your face and décolletage. Most of these products are safe to use. Read labels to make sure you’re not inadvertently picking a product with ingredients that might not be considered safe or advisable for use during pregnancy.

For example, you should probably steer clear of makeup and skin care products that contain retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives. A 2011 research review suggested that low doses of retinol may not be a problem but could be risky in higher doses.

Many healthcare experts also suggest approaching chemical sunscreens with caution. They may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like oxybenzone. A couple 2018 animal studies linked oxybenzone to harming both mother and baby.

Or you could simply embrace that famous pregnancy glow, which often develops around the second trimester. Whether this glow is caused by hormone changes or increased blood flow, enjoy it if you have it!

You probably don’t need to expend too much time and energy worrying about your spray tan after the fact. A 2011 research review suggested that the risks of the topical use of dihydroxyacetone are pretty small.

It’s totally natural to want to look your best at all times — including during pregnancy. If you want a little extra color for your skin, you can choose a topical sunless tanning product, including spray tan. Just take extra care to make sure none of it ends up in your mouth or nose.