Tanning Pills – Are They Safe?

are tanning pills safe?

This article reveals whether the use of tanning pills can cause side effects. Learn more about it here.

Many people living in the western hemisphere that consider themselves “pale skinned” love to sport a tan all year round. This is the reason why in Europe and even in the US many are still using sunbeds even with the many warnings issued against its use. Sunbeds are found to be harmful to one’s health because of the concentrated doses of radiation it subjects the body. In fact using sunbeds can be more dangerous than standing out in the sun. The health concerns of sunbeds are the reason why an alternative for getting that tan are sought.

Many are also attracted to tanning pills. These pills are said to produce a tan in just a few days with continuous intake. But are there things you need to know about tanning pills before you try them?

ways to get a tan

What are tanning pills?

Tanning pills are said to give the skin a natural looking tan minus the radiation from sunbeds or the sun. It does this by providing people massive doses of colour additives, in most pills this is the substance called canthaxanthin. Large doses of this element forces the body to store it just about anywhere including the skin thus providing for a tan.

The colour of this tan ranges from orange to brown. The pills do not encourage the supply of melanin like some people thought (there are pills however that use thaismechanism to have a tan). The colour is simply from an excess of a colouring that do not have anywhere to go in the body thus the colouration of the skin. The orange tinge is caused by the presence of beta carotene which is also a common ingredient in tanning pills and a direct derivative of canthaxanthin.

It is important to note however that these pills are not approved by the FDA for such use. Canthaxanthin is a generally safe substance that is cleared by the FDA as a colour additive in food products such as ketchup. But massive doses of it in a daily basis are considered unsafe by the same agency.

Tanning pills and canthaxanthin

The major component of tanning pills is canthaxanthin. What is it exactly? Canthaxanthin is a lipid soluble element found in many sources such as plants, mushrooms, bacteria, algae, crayfish, and even bird feathers. It is commonly known as the Food Orange 8. The said food colouring is used to make barbecue, pizza, and spaghetti look better. It is used as colouring in salad dressings, fruit drinks, pudding, cheeses, and many more.

The safety concerns of tanning pills

side effects from tanning pills

Tanning pills may not be new in the market but the controversy around it is old news since the FDA banned similar pills in the past (early 90’s). These pills are known to cause some minor and serious side effects plus other things that can surface with prolong use. The average daily intake of canthaxanthin is pegged at 5 mg but with the typical dosing of tanning pills, this figure will blow up to 120 mg per day. This is a number that may cause problems for the body.

Tanning pills can cause the following side effects:

  • Discolouration of the stool
  • Discolouration of palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Canthaxanthin-induced retinopathy and impaired vision
  • Aplastic anemia (very rare)
  • Can cause hives
  • Can cause liver damage


Some people believe that these pills offer protection from sunburn or radiation from the sun. But this is not true. It is important that you steer clear from exposure from the sun or have a strict standard of sunbed use to make sure that UVA and UVB induced skin damage is minimized.

Sunbeds vs. tanning pills

tanning pills or sunbeds?

Many people are asking, which is safer. Some are even asking in the light of the health risks of tanning pills, should I use a sunbed instead? The answer will all depend on you. However you need to understand that both options have health risks and that these risks are serious enough that it would merit a decision that says no to both.

However it is obvious that tanning pills has lesser health risks. The most worrisome of them all is the forming of crystals in the retina which may impair your vision. There is still no study about the long term effects of these crystal formations as there are cases when these are asymptomatic.

Sunbeds on the other hand can cause a myriad of health woes including sunburn which can of course lead to skin cancer. Health concerns of sunbeds can also be in the form of premature ageing of the skin making it dry and leathery. Sunbeds can also cause eye damage especially when eye protection during sessions is not used. Because of these things taking a pill every day might prove to be the lesser evil. It can also be seen that side effects from sunbeds are way more severe. From that perspective alone a short term use of tanning pill can be an acceptable compromise for a much sought tan.






Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *