By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - A healthy-looking tan can come right out of a bottle or tube these days.
In this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, a viewer wants to know, if she uses a sunless tanning product, does she still need sunscreen?
"A couple things that I like to tell people about sunless tanning products," says Dr. Lynn Cornelius, a dermatologist with the Siteman Cancer Center, "they are safe, they have been around for 50 years."
The chemical that changes your skin color is called dihydroxyacetone.
It works by combining with some of the amino acids on the very top layer of the skin to create a pigment, but it's not the same pigment your body makes to protect you from the sun.
"Don't put them on and go directly into the sun," says Dr. Cornelius. "We like to give them 12-24 hours to work. Because you are talking about ultraviolet light in conjunction with your skin and those studies haven't been real conclusive. So put it on, let it work, don't rely on it for any type of sun protection, and use a good sunscreen."
So can you apply sunscreen right over your sunless tan?
"Absolutely," says Dr. Cornelius. "Some companies are trying to combine the products, sunless tanning with a dihydroxyacetone with some sunscreen. As you can imagine two different formulations for chemicals so I think it's a little bit tricky."
Does the same go for spray-on tans?
"Just protect your eyes and don't inhale it," says Dr. Cornelius. "Those studies have not really been done and you really don't want to inhale a compound we don't really know that much about from the stand point of inhalation. But on the skin it is totally fine."