It's generally considered safe to use fake tan creams and lotions during pregnancy, but it's probably best to avoid spray tans, because the effects of inhaling the spray are not known.
The active ingredient in fake tan is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is a non-toxic substance that reacts with cells in the outermost layer of the skin and produces a brown pigment (colour) called melanoidin. As the DHA isn't thought to go beyond the outer layer of skin, it isn't absorbed into the body and can't harm your baby.
Even though there are no known risks to your baby from using fake tans during pregnancy, there is a risk you could have an allergic reaction to them. This can happen because the changes in your hormone levels can make your skin more sensitive than normal. If you do use fake tan, always test the product on a small area of skin first, to see if you have a reaction.
Tanning pills are banned in the UK and should not be used by anyone, including pregnant women. They contain large quantities of beta-carotene or canthaxanthin, which are commonly used as food colourings and can be toxic to an unborn baby. Other side effects may include hepatitis and damage to the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).
Page last reviewed: 14 May 2018
Next review due: 14 May 2021