It’s summer 2022—sunbathing is out, self-tanner is in. There are heaps of clinical studies demonstrating the damaging, long-term effects of UV rays on the skin, including accelerated skin aging and skin cancer. That being said, not all methods of alternative tanning are A-OK, either. 

Board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., voiced her opinion on this exact topic in a recent TikTok, clearly stating which alternative tanning method is better than the rest. Below, she weighs in on the one faux glow you should probably avoid. 

Why you should opt for topical self-tanner.

While tanning isn’t the safest for your skin (especially without proper sun care), nasal tanning sprays shouldn’t serve as a worthy alternative. What are nasal tanning sprays, you ask? These products stimulate specific hormones in the body to produce melanin, which then alters the pigment in your skin cells. If this sounds dangerous, that’s because it is. 

Topical self-tanner however, is Bowe-approved. “[They’re] definitely safer than those nasal tanning sprays people are using,” she notes in the video. The active ingredient in these topical tanners is referred to as DHA, an abbreviation for the compound dihydroxyacetone. “[DHA] just stains the top layer of your skin temporarily,” Bowe explains. 

Most tanners are generally water- and sweat-resistant, but the tan will fade after a few days to one week, thanks to normal (and healthy) skin exfoliation. These tanners come in a range of shades, some with different undertones to replicate an even more natural-looking tan. 

So if you’re looking for a bronzy glow, sans UV rays or unnecessary hormones, self-tanner is your next derm-approved method. We searched high and low for the cleanest self-tanners—here’s a list of the 11 best ones we found.

Sunbathing isn’t the safest method of tanning, and nasal sprays are another no-go. Instead, opt for topical self-tanners, whether it be in the form of a mousse, lotion, spray, etc. And if you want to make your bronze glow last even longer, follow this step-by-step application guide