Tanning products

Canadians use many different types of tanning products. Some are used to prevent tans and sunburns. Others are used to help create or fake a tan.

Did you know?

You may think a tan looks healthy, but a tan is actually a sign that UV rays have already damaged your skin.

Types of tanning products

Both self-tanners and oral tanning products do not provide a true "sun tan" and little or no protection from the sun's rays. The "tan" will fade if you stop using the product, as the colouring agents leave your skin and body.

  • Tanning lotions, oils and creams are considered cosmetics. They help moisturize your skin when exposed to the sun. Some people use them to help them get a tan. But remember, there is no safe way to tan.
  • Sunscreens or sunburn protectants are considered drugs because they claim to prevent sunburn by shielding your skin from the sun's UV rays. You can tell the difference between sunscreens and suntan lotions by looking for SPF or "UVA/UVB" on the label of sunscreens.
  • Self-tanners colour your skin and make it look like you have a tan. They are considered cosmetics because they contain substances that are absorbed by the topmost layer of your skin only.
  • Oral tanning products, also known as tanning pills, contain colouring agents that are deposited in the fatty tissue under your skin to give the appearance of a tan. These products are considered to be drugs, not cosmetics. Currently, no oral tanning drugs have been authorized for sale in Canada. Until the safety and effectiveness of oral tanning products have been established, avoid using them.

There is no such thing as a "healthy tan." Too much exposure to the sun or to tanning equipment can cause skin damage, eye damage, and even skin cancer. Follow basic sun safety tips to protect your health.

Report a problem or side effect

Report side effects to sunscreens or oral tanning products (which are drugs) to Health Canada toll-free at 1-866-234-2345 or report online.

To report side effects to tanning lotions, oils and creams or self-tanners (which are cosmetics), call your nearest product safety office or report online.

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