by Emma Peters October 30, 2017

No matter what your winter look is, there’s something alluring about sporting a healthy, glowing tan during summer.

It makes sense - when we’ve got more skin on show and we’re spending our time outside instead of snuggled up indoors, we want to look the part. Tanning for summer is a trend that many people embrace the world over, but is it doing more harm than good?

Even if you end up looking golden and glowing the day after, there are a few unhealthy tanning practices that just aren’t worth the risk. Skin damage, increased levels of toxicity and even potential cancers aren’t a reasonable price to pay for summer skin - especially with so many great natural self tanning brands out there.

Here are three ways conventional tanning practices just aren’t cutting it - and one thing you can do to get a healthy glow on anyway.

Too much sun

conventional tanning dangers Eco Tan NZ

Spending time in the great outdoors and soaking up the sun’s rays can be the best feeling or the absolute worst - it’s all about striking a balance.

On the one hand, direct sunlight provides your body with Vitamin D - an essential vitamin for bone strength, magnesium absorption and reducing inflammation. It’s important to get outside and absorb Vitamin D throughout the day, but - especially in New Zealand - it’s possible to get a little too much of a good thing.

As well as beneficial Vitamin D, New Zealand sunlight can have excessively high levels of UV-rays. These rays can cause skin and eye damage and are a contributing factor to New Zealand being the melanoma (skin cancer) capital of the entire world. It doesn’t matter if your sunburn fades to a nice looking tan or not - if you have a burn your skin hasbeen damaged. has a handy guide to tell you when to grab the sunscreen if you’re heading outside. As a rule of thumb, to make sure you’re making the most of summer Vitamin D hours but still staying safe in the sun, head outside without sunblock for no more than 20 minutesbetween 11am and 3pm. That way, you’ll soak up important Vitamin D without lasting sun damage.

Dangerous tanning beds

conventional tanning dangers Eco Tan NZ

If harmful UV rays make natural sunlight dangerous, tanning beds take the whole process up an extra notch!

When you lie in a tanning bed, essentially what’s happening is intense UV radiation concentrated onto your entire body. In fact, anybody who uses a tanning bed before they’re 35 increases their risk profile for melanoma by up to 75%. There’s a reason you’re required to wear goggles in a tanning salon - if those rays are harmful for your eyes you can bet they’re wreaking havoc on your body too.

Most New Zealanders are aware of the dangers of tanning beds, with the NZ Ministry of Health explaining in no uncertain terms that “Sunbeds expose users to higher levels of dangerous UV radiation than the sun. They increase your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. You’re more at risk of skin cancer the more often you use sunbeds, and the younger you start using them. Your skin will also age more quickly.”

From January 4 2017 tanning bed operators have been banned from offering sessions to anyone under 18, and it’s only a matter of time before restrictions increase even more.

Toxin-laden tanning products

conventional tanning dangers Eco Tan NZ

Conventional tanning products may be a good way to avoid harmful UV rays, but because so many are made from toxic ingredients they present a host of problems all their own instead.

Chemical-based tanning products contain ingredients designed to weaken the skin's surface so colour can be properly absorbed. However, this means the chemicals are far more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause damage.

Here are just a few of the ingredients in many conventional tanning products that should be avoided.


  • Mineral oil - This is used primarily because it’s a cheap way to create spreadability for tanning sprays and lotions. It’s also a petroleum derivative and can be carcinogenic and comedogenic (pore-blocking).
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate - This one is often called a ‘natural’ preservative but contains harmful formaldehyde added during processing and may break down into formaldehyde when absorbed into the skin. It’s a known skin and eye irritant, and is best avoided.
  • Parabens - These are known endocrine disruptors, allergens and environmental toxins - no thanks!
  • Synthetic fragrances - Because brands aren’t required to list ingredients that make up ‘synthetic fragrances’ these are generally  best avoided. Synthetic fragrances often contain dangerous toxins that disrupt bodily systems and are highly allergenic.

  • So, what can we do about it?

    conventional tanning dangers Eco Tan NZ

    If you’re after a glowing, gorgeous tan this summer the safest way to go about it is to make the switch to natural products.

    Brands like Eco Tan are designed to give you the highest quality tan possible with none of the UV rays or chemical nasties. Thankfully, more and more natural tanning solutions are popping up every year - there’s really no need to search for that golden glow anywhere else.

    What’s more, because natural tanning products like Eco Tan don’t use chemical nasties to colour your skin and they’re often totally ‘invisible’. This means you can slather them on before you go to sleep and hop straight into bed without staining your sheets or inhaling toxins!

    Because Eco Tan uses natural ingredients to colour the skin, it works by reacting with amino acids on the top layer of the skin only - making it safer for your body as a whole.

    It might sound too good to be true, but it’s the future of tanning and it’s finally here.

    it’s the perfect way to kick off your natural tan journey - the Eco Tan range is all natural, cruelty free, vegan and won’t cause lasting damage to your skin or body. You can still sport a great, golden glow all summer as long as you shop savvy and stay sun smart.

    Happy tanning!

    Emma Peters
    Emma Peters

    Emma Peters, organic makeup artist, creative director and founder of Belle & Sage, is committed to leading the conversation around beauty and wellness. With over twenty years of experience as a make-up artist, she knows you don’t have to sacrifice quality for clean.

    She’ll help you find the what, learn the why, nail the how, and everything in between.

    Letting you know more, wear better, and start making beautiful choices: from the inside, out.

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