Does Self Tanner Work on Vitiligo? (Side Effects, Cause, Remedies)

Everyone has unique skin color due to the production of melanin. There are specific cells that produce this compound in the skin that gives the pigment. But sometimes these pigment-producing cells may unexpectedly die and causes white patches on the skin. This condition is known as vitiligo.

This condition can affect any part of the body including hair and it is predominantly witnessed in the hands, legs, and face. Around 70 million people in the world are affected by this condition with nearly 20-35% among them being children.

Although there is no known cure, there are many treatments to manage the condition and mask the patches. Among those, the use of self-tanner creams is one of the popular remedies. But does it work? Let us find out the answers and more facts about the disease and self-tanners.

Does Self Tanner Work on Vitiligo

Does Self Tanner Work on Vitiligo?

Self-tanners do work on vitiligo. It has been proven to be an effective remedy to make the affected skin more seamless and natural. 

Self-tanners are available in the form of lotions which basically increase the skin tan artificially without needing to expose yourself to the sun. This is possible due to the presence of a chemical compound called DHA (Dihydroxyacetone).

Let us first understand how self-tanners work on the skin to produce the artificial tan and find out whether it works for vitiligo.

Working of Self Tanner Lotions

The primary ingredient in the self-tanning lotion that is responsible for tanning is DHA. This compound is just sugar (Carbohydrate) which can be obtained by fermenting glycerol by the acetic acid bacteria. 

When you apply the lotion onto the skin, it will react with the dead cells on the outermost skin layer and produces the pigment known as melanoidins. This pigment gives you a tan color to the skin. 

This reaction starts two to four hours after applying the lotion. The tan from this reaction can last till the dead cells are naturally removed from the skin surface. 

This DHA compound is widely accepted all over the world by all health federations to use for self-tanning lotions and sprays.

Does DHA have any Side Effects?

The accepted percentage of DHA usage is 10%. The lotions manufactured for self-tanning must only have a maximum of 10% DHA in their products to avoid health safety. When used more than the regulated levels, there are potential risks associated with it. 

In general, the DHA is prescribed to be applied on the outermost layer of the skin which contains only dead skin cells. Also, when this compound is applied on top of the skin, it doesn’t get absorbed in the inner layers.

But if the DHA gets into the skin through some bruises or cuts, it can be a potentially harmful substance. Because, DHA is highly reactive with amino acids it can produce a lot of reactive free radicals which might degenerate the cell structure and damage collagen, and elastin fibers.

This results in faster aging of the skin and wrinkles might be forming at a younger age. This is one of the dangerous effects of using DHA on the skin. Even though it is considered safe for topical application, users must take heed of this effect and be careful while using it.

Another scenario in which the damage can be more devastating is exposing DHA to the sun’s radiation. Applying self-tanners without sunscreen can increase the harm 180% more and can be very dangerous.

Also, the Vitamin D formation is blocked by the DHA on the surface which is also a potential health risk in using these lotions.

But all these can be avoided with regulatory usage and proper methods in handling the self-tanners. That is why it is a must to know all about self-tanners before you are ready to use them for vitiligo masking.

How Self-Tanners are Effective in Masking Vitiligo?

First of all, self-tanners do not cure or treat the condition. Rather it is a safe and better cosmetic remedy available right now.

Several studies have proved the effectiveness of DHA in masking the vitiligo condition and it has the potential to revert the confidence people lost considering their beauty.

There are several creams and lotions available in the market today which can be used for covering the patches with tan color. 

People with light skin can use a product with a lower DHA concentration and those who have dark skin may go for a higher one. But remember that whichever product you may choose, the concentration of the DHA must not cross the 10% mark.

Once applied, this tan can last for at least a week and can even go up to 10 days. So, there is no necessity to use it daily which might be harmful to the skin.

While using self-tanners, do not forget to apply sunscreen. Because, as we mentioned, the DHA can react rapidly to UV radiation. Therefore, use a higher SPF Sunscreen lotion to cover your skin thoroughly.

Can You Use Self-Tanner in the Sun without Sunscreen?

Never use self-tanners without using sunscreen. Because the active ingredient DHA can aggressively react with UV radiation and generates too much of free radicals. These radicals will degenerate the cell structure.

It is very important to apply proper sunscreen lotion after the application of tanner cream. Buy a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF which can help you to protect yourself from the radiation properly.

It is also better to consider the external environment in your area before choosing a sunscreen. If you are living in a tropical climate or the desert, then you need to use sunscreen with higher SPF.

Consult your dermatologist regarding the usage of sunscreen and self-tanner before applying it to your skin.

What is the Best Method to use Self-Tanners for Vitiligo?

Since you are going to tan the skin with artificial compounds and a potentially risky DHA, you need to know the proper usage of this remedy.

Get advice by consulting your dermatologist regarding the best self-tanner for your skin condition. Because different manufacturers may have some variations in the product and it must not trigger any allergic reaction.

Once you have chosen the product, you can now apply the lotion without any worry. Since the tanner is going to act on your dead cells, it is not recommended to scrub while taking a bath.

Therefore, before applying do not scrub off the area or wash it too hard. Simply apply the lotion gently to the top layer of the skin.

It is better to apply the tanner at night because the exposure to UV will be less and you don’t have to mind the risk of DHA reaction.

Be very gentle and apply only to the top layer of your skin. If you have bruises or cuts in the area, avoid them. Once it heals you can apply it over those areas.

After application, the tanning will take effect in about 2 hours, and probably when you wake up, you will have tanned considerably.

Again, don’t take bath using scrubs. Just use a mild soap or simply plain water to clean yourself. Before going out in the sun, put on an appropriate sunscreen.

Once you have applied the tanner, it can last for more than a week and you don’t have to apply it daily. It is also not recommended to use it often.

You can also use anti-oxidant creams to prevent the radical formation from DHA reaction and be extra pre-cautious.

What is the Cause of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is caused due to the sudden, unexpected failure or death of pigment-producing cells on the skin. But the cause for this phenomenon is still unknown and it is under research.

Many researchers assume that it may be an inherited or autoimmune condition. Some of them also assume that it might be a reaction to a particular environment, chemical, or a stress reaction to trauma.

A study made in 2021 suggested an overview of how melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells die due to the autoimmune response. The scholars have devised a roadmap to cell death and have explained a possible theory on this subject.

There is still research going on in all these perspectives and some have reached certain methods to cure the disease. But they aren’t very successful in re-pigmenting the skin.

What Cures are Present for Treating Vitiligo?

Since the cause is unknown, the cure is also not conclusive. The patients are advised of the following treatment options according to their condition:

  • Psoralen + Ultraviolet A Light (PUVA)
  • Narrowband – Ultraviolet B Light (NB-UVB)
  • Topical Immunomodulators
  • Vitamin D3 Analogs
  • Excimer Laser
  • Oral Corticosteroids
  • Surgery

Many of these are not fully successful in curing the condition and most of them are just remedies to mask the condition.

There are many treatments still under clinical trials and none of them have been completely successful in treating vitiligo.

Other Beauty Care Remedies:

Can Vitiligo Spread all over the Body?

Yes, vitiligo has the risk of spreading all over the body. This means the pigment loss can be witnessed all over the body after a few months.

This is not the case with all people. There are different types of vitiligo that can affect people and not all of them are known to spread. Vitiligo can be:

  • Universal – the patches are found in all parts of the body and almost all skin surfaces are affected by them.
  • Generalized – Found in certain parts of the body but gradually spreads in a symmetrical fashion.
  • Segmental – This is also found in part of the body probably at a younger age but stops progress after one or two years.
  • Acrofacial – Only the skin around the face and hands are affected. This includes the skin around the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.

It is not possible to know how it will spread all over the body. Also, you cannot predict the nature or speed of the spread.

How to Avoid the Spread of Vitiligo?

By observing the available treatment options and by reducing exposure to the sun or UV radiation, you can avoid the spread of vitiligo.

Although there is no guarantee that the patches will not spread, you can try them consistently, and might have a positive effect.

Along with that, you can try to increase vitamin intake in your food along with fruits that are rich in antioxidants.

Try to reduce exposure to chemicals or any other potential allergen. Because they might trigger the spread and you may not be able to control it.

Avoid too much exposure to the sun. It is better to use proper protective creams which will block the radiation and prevents its spread.

This is what you can do topically to prevent the spread. But only with a proper lifestyle, you will be able to successfully manage the condition from spreading.

Can Vitiligo be Cured with Natural Remedies?

Vitiligo can be cured and prevented by observing a healthy lifestyle. When you keep your body healthy, there is no way the pigment cells can die. Your immune system will be healthy enough to fight any condition and maintain the integrity of your health.

A proper lifestyle includes:

Consumption of organic foods with a healthy diet plan 

This is very important because most of the health issues faced by people today arise from consuming inorganic produce. They contain traces of artificial fertilizers which although found in a very tiny amount, can become high in concentrations with excessive consumption. Therefore, try to grow your food in the backyard or try to buy organic produces. 

Avoiding junk foods and foods with artificial substances

Today most people in developed nations consume too much junk food which is a potential cause of many health conditions. Also, foods with artificial flavors, coloring, preservatives, and other inorganic substances have increased which is absolutely harmful to the body. Therefore, it is obligatory to avoid or at least limit their intake to lead a healthy life.

Observing Proper Sleep

This is another major problem around the world. Many people are not realizing the importance of sleep in a human’s life cycle. It is one of the major recovery processes done by the body to eliminate toxins and rejuvenate the body effectively. This rejuvenation happens only during night’s sleep. Therefore, it is obligatory to observe a proper night’s sleep without fail.

Avoiding Exposure to Radiation

If you want to stay healthy and avoid conditions like vitiligo, then you should avoid radiation exposure. Radiations don’t necessarily have to be from the sun or nuclear plants. Rather, the radiation from electronic gadgets and devices can also slowly degrade your health. Therefore, limit the usage of gadgets and tech devices so that you can prevent vitiligo.


Using a self-tanner can be a viable option to camouflage the patches created by vitiligo. It is one of the safer remedies you can use right now. Since there is no known permanent cure, you need to be mentally strong to face society with utmost self-confidence. Never lose hope and by observing a proper lifestyle, you can easily get near to curing the condition.  

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