Acne is caused by the pores in the face overproducing sebum, which is an oily substance meant to lubricate the skin.
This leads to clogged pores and then an outbreak of acne. Acne is a very common skin condition, and while it may go away on its own, some people do need medical treatment to help their skin clear.
Self-tanners are often used to hide acne and acne scars, but they might be a source of acne or breakouts. Self-tanners don’t cause the long term condition of acne, but they can aggravate the condition.
If you are looking to use self-tanners to hide acne or acne scars and feel that it will help boost your confidence, it might be worth your time to do a test to see how your skin reacts to self-tanning products, in order to predict if it will aggravate your condition or not.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about self-tanners and acne prone skin, and whether or not they can really cause breakouts and make acne worse.
How Self-Tanners Could Cause Acne
Above the overproduction of sebum that causes acne, self-tanning products can further clog pores which in turn makes the skin oilier, as well as introducing bacteria to your skin.
There are some self-tanners that contain harsh chemicals. These harsh chemicals can irritate the skin, and the skin will then react by becoming oilier, which then results in blocked pores.
These harsh chemicals, along with dihydroxyacetone acid (DHA) which all self-tanners contain, can also dry out your skin. Your skin might react to this by producing more sebum, which then activates a breakout in your skin.
How to Avoid Breakouts When Using Self-Tanner
Having acne doesn’t mean you have to write off self-tanners forever. There are some self-tanning products which are alcohol-free, oil-free, non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic. These self-tanning products do not clog pores and help to avoid making the skin oilier.
Also, be sure to check that the self-tanner was made to be used on the face. These are usually lighter and more gentle on the skin, compared to self-tanning products which can be used for the whole body.
Another important thing to remember is that self-tanning products do not give your skin protection from the sun.
The ultraviolet (UV) rays can do irreversible damage to your skin, so it is important to give your skin the proper protection against UV rays.
Overexposure to the sun can make your acne worse, and dry out your skin even further. Be sure to use a strong SPF suntan lotion when going out into the sun, no matter the time of year.
Which Self-Tanners Don’t Cause Acne?
With acne prone skin, the last thing you need is a self-tanner which adds excess oil to your skin.
You need to look for a self-tanner that states that it will not aggravate acne. If you can’t find one like this, make sure to stay away from any self-tanners that contain animal fats and vegetable oil.
These can cause blemishes, pimples and acne breakouts. It is best to also stay away from self-tanners which contain alcohol, which can also aggravate your skin.
Which Self-Tanners Do Cause Acne?
Do not buy self-tanners that contain extra oils, or contain harsh ingredients. It is always better to choose self-tanners for sensitive skin or even organic or natural self-tanners. These tend to be more gentle on your skin and have a lighter consistency.
Self-tanners with a thicker consistency will just clog up your pores even further, causing a breakout. Acne prone skin needs to be kept clean and oil-free, so any self-tanner that promises to do this is a good bet.
How To Prepare Your Skin To Avoid Breakouts
There are some ways to reduce the damage done by self-tanners, which should hopefully reduce breakouts and aggravation of acne on your skin.
If you are set on using self-tanner on acne prone skin, here is how to ensure it is less damaging:
• Try to avoid spending time in the sun, especially if you already have self-tanner applied to your skin as your skin might be dried. Always wear sunscreen, even if it is in winter.
• Take extra vitamins containing vitamin E, this does wonders for your skin.
• Wear an antioxidant serum which helps keep the skin healthy and moisturized.
• Avoid self-tanning every day, and only use self-tanner for special occasions.
• Do not stop your daily face-wash routine in fear of washing your self-tanner off.
Maintaining a Healthy Fake Tan
Self-tanners might make acne look more pronounced. Self-tanners work by reacting with dead skin cells on the skin, and there is usually a larger amount of dead skin cells around pimples.
The chemical in self-tanners responsible for this is dihydroxyacetone acid (DHA). This can cause the area around the pimples to turn a darker shade, which makes the acne look worse. The more dead skin around the pimples on your face, the darker these areas of skin will be
Prepping your skin before applying a self-tanning product can help avoid this, and do a good job in making sure the self-tanning product helps to cover the acne, not make it more noticeable.
Exfoliating before applying self-tanner is a good way to prevent his from happening. This will scrub away most of the dead skin cells around pimples, giving the self-tanner a more even platform to work on, and not highlighting the pimples more.
At the same time, if you use treatment on your acne which contains petrolatum, mineral oil, or too much moisturizer, this could cause the self-tanner not to stick to the pimples, which will cause them to stay lighter and pinker while the rest of the skin tans, causing them to be more noticeable.
There are also some self-tanning products which contain a combination of DHA and erythrulose, which causes the tan to develop over a period of days. This means that you could actually use too much to start with, and won’t realize it until a few days later.
Once you have exfoliated properly and applied you self-tanner to your face, you need to still cleanse your face regularly to avoid a further build-up of oils and breakouts.
You might feel that you need to wash your face a few hours after applying a self-tanner.
Avoid using harsh face washes, and instead, use a warm water rinse to cleanse your skin.
There is no point putting off washing your face to try and maintain a tan, this is a big contributor to breakouts with self-tanners.
Is Self-Tanner Better for Your Skin Than Sun Tanning?
There is no doubt that sun tanning is harmful to your skin, even if you are one of the lucky ones who get a wonderfully bronzed tan from a few hours in the sun. Self-tanning is definitely the way to go, especially if you can find a product that doesn’t aggravate your acne.
UV-A rays from the sun can cause damage to the skin, which results in the release of free radicals of oxygen.
Melanin pigment in the skin absorbs these free radicals, and turns browner, helping to protect the skin from DNA damage.
You will receive more of a tan from UV-A radiation if you have a higher level of brown pigment in your skin.
UV-A rays can cause an instant change of color in your skin, but also might leave you with long-term damage that is almost impossible to reverse.
The sun also emits UV-B rays, which are responsible for immediate damage to the skin. These rays might not have an immediate effect on the actual color of the skin, but they do cause the skin to produce new melanin.
For fair skinned people, they will find that this causes the skin to have the appearance of additional freckles or sun spots.
This means that tanning with acne, especially with fair skin, will probably just leave your skin more damaged and with more freckles added to acne prone skin.
For those with darker skin, you might be able to hide whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples with a natural tan, but this will be done so at the cost of permanent damage to your skin.
Is Self-Tanner Safe To Use With Acne?
Using self-tanner with acne can make the breakouts worse, and possibly highlight the acne further.
While self-tanner could make your acne worse, there are self-tanning lotions that are more gentle on the skin, and which contain less oil.
Using these safer alternatives could mean that you get to enjoy a glowing sunless tan with minimal damage to your skin.
Be sure to check that you can use self-tanning products if you are on acne medication. Some acne medication works to dry the skin, reducing the oil content. Using self-tanner on dry skin might cause your skin to dry out too much, and might leave you with a very unnatural looking tan.
How To Use Self-Tanner To Hide Acne Scars
Acne scars can cast a shadow across the skin, which makes these scars more noticeable. To try and hide this, you can use a self-tanner designed for the face.
You will first need to exfoliate the dead skin off of your face, and then use a self-tanner lotion applied in an even layer across your skin.
Tanned skin helps to disguise the indented scars and shadows better than fair skin, so a darker tan on your face will make the appearance of acne less noticeable.
Using Self-Tanner With Sensitive Skin
Hypersensitivity to self-tanners can really cause a problem if you have already acne prone skin. Even with acne, you should still be allowed to have radiant, glowing skin.
Here is how to self-tan with sensitive skin:
• Use a self-tanner with natural ingredients. Something which contains Aloe Vera can help soothe and care for sensitive or inflamed skin. Choose a self-tanner which is fragrance-free, which does not contain alcohol or parabens.
• Make sure to do a patch test. Apply a tiny amount of fake tan to an unseen area, like behind your ear. Leave the color to develop and make sure to be aware of any discomfort or burning if there is any present.
If you do not experience any discomfort and can see your skin has a beautiful glow, you can go ahead and apply the self-tanner to the rest of your face. Be sure to use a non-abrasive exfoliator the day before to avoid a build-up of excess dead skin cells, which could leave you with a patchy tan.
• Be sure to moisturize your skin regularly after applying the self-tanning product. This will help keep your skin hydrated and boost the life-span of your tan. Better moisturized skin holds a self-tan much longer than dry skin does.
• Try out an ice facial. A quick ice facial will help close your pores and tighten your skin. This stops the self-tanner from penetrating too deep into the skin and possibly clogging up your pores which could cause a breakout.
• If you feel the self-tanning product is too dry for your skin, add a tiny bit of moisturizer to the mixture. This will help you build up a daily tan, but still let your hydrate and care for your skin.
Things To Avoid When Using Self-Tanner on Your Face
There are so many things to remember to do when self-tanning your face, especially when you are worried about your acne or breakouts. There are also things you should not do when applying self-tanner to your face!
• Do not forget to self-tan your ears. Use the leftover product on your tanning mitt to spread some product evenly on your ears. It would look odd for your ears to be a different color to the rest of your skin!
• Avoid a thick orange line framing your face by using a cotton bud to extend the self-tanner past your hairline.
• Try and not move your face too much when applying the self-tanner. This will cause the self-tanning products to move towards the natural lines of your face, which will emphasize your expression marks and even your wrinkles. Avoid drinking or eating straight after applying the product.
• Do not apply too much product to your face. You will wash and clean your face twice a day, which means the self-tan will fade much faster than the rest of the tan on your neck and body. To stop this being so noticeable, avoid putting too much product on your neck.
• Do not forget to wash your hands after applying self-tanner to your face. Forget to do this and you will be left with orange hands!
Things To Know About Self-Tanner
Self-tanners come in all shapes and sizes, some will work well with your skin and others might cause breakouts.
You need to be wary of the self-tanning products you use, and how you treat your skin before and after applying a self-tanning product. However, there are some common things to remember and keep in mind when using a self-tanning product, whether for your face or your whole body.
Self-tans don’t last forever
It can be quite tiresome, and expensive, to maintain a self-tan. Self-tanners only last for a week or so, depending on your skin type and the maintenance. Try and give your skin a break every now and again before applying another round of self-tanner.
Shower and exfoliate prior to tanning
Exfoliate your body from head to toe the day before you apply self-tanner. This removes any dry flaky skin and the self-tanner will adhere to the skin more evenly and you won’t land up with dark patches or streaks.
You can’t just wash it off
The tan left behind from a self-tanner is meant to fade slowly and is actually a chemical reaction with your skin and the DHA. You cannot easily scrub the self-tanner off if it all goes wrong. You need to approach your self-tanning application with caution to make sure it is done right, as you will be stuck with it for a week.
If you are wanting to remove self-tanner though, you can check out my guide on that here.
Your skin will need to keep hydrated after you apply self-tanner, especially if you are worried about breakouts or acne. Try to apply a light moisturizer twice daily to keep your skin healthy and nourished. This will also keep the self-tan looking glowing for longer.
Your self-tan will darken after the application
The self-tan will darken on your skin after it is applied, and can sometimes take a day to fully develop. Don’t try and add more self-tanning product to your skin immediately after the application if you are worried it looks too light, you will land up with skin that is too dark and unnatural looking.
Pat your skin dry
When you get out of the shower, be wary not to rub yourself dry. Instead, using a towel, pat your body dry. This will preserve your tan for longer, as you won’t be scrubbing away at your skin, which could lighten the tan on your body.
Protect your nails
This is something that so many people forget about. Applying self-tanner to your face requires you to really get stuck in there, getting into every crevice and corner. This could land up with you have a lot of excess product on your nails. A way to avoid your nails becoming discolored is to apply nail polish, even a clear coat.
Use old clothes
Even if you are just applying self-tanner to your face, remember to wear old clothes. As you blend the self-tanner down onto your neck, you might mess some product onto your clothes. This will more than likely stain, so make sure it isn’t on something you want to wear out again.
Use barrier cream
If you have drier areas of skin, such as elbows, ankles, and knees, it is a good idea to use barrier cream over these areas to ensure they don’t turn out much darker than the rest of your body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will fake tan clog my pores?
If you use a fake tanning product that contains animal fats or vegetable oil, there is a good chance that it will clog your pores. This, in turn, will make your acne worse. Chemicals and fragrances in self-tanning products might also cause an inflamed flare up or breakout.
Is gradual tan better for acne skin?
Gradual tanners can be used over a period of days to build a tan. These are usually lighter and contain less harmful chemicals, at least not in a great amount. These are considerably better for acne prone skin as they won’t be a sudden shock to the skin, and you can control how dark you want your tan to be. So if you see the color isn’t right, or it is accentuating your acne too much, you can stop using the tanner daily.
Are tanning pills better for acne prone skin?
Tanning pills are used to accelerate tanning in the sun. They can also cause yellow crystals in your eyes which may impair vision. Tanning pills require you to spend time in the sun, which is never a good idea. UV rays can further damage your skin and make your acne much worse.
What are self-tanning moisturizers?
Similar to gradual tanners, self-tanning moisturizers can be used daily. They contain small amounts of self-tanning ingredients, mixed in with a nourishing moisturizer. You can use these as a daily moisturizer to hydrate and care for your skin, while still building a natural looking tan.
Self-Tanning Lotions and Acne Breakouts
There is a way to self-tan if you have acne, you just have to be aware of the products you use and the way you treat your skin. Be sure to use gentle products that won’t clog up your pores, or products that contain harmful chemicals. Remember to always use sunscreen to protect your skin from further damage from the sun.
The most important thing to remember is to keep on with your normal washing and cleansing routine. Sacrificing this for the sake of maintaining a tan will only see your skin becoming worse over time.