Why tanning is a bad idea when you’re pregnant

Is tanning safe when you’re pregnant? The short answer is no. The long answer is — well, still no.

Tanning while pregnant is not advisable, but, in truth, actively tanning at any time can and should be considered an unhealthy choice. You might like that sun-kissed goddess glow, but exposing your skin to UVA and UVB rays without adequate protection puts you at risk for painful burns, long-term sun damage (aka sun spots and wrinkles), and even skin cancer. Furthermore, some hormones present in a woman’s system during pregnancy make you even more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful radiation.

Of course, soon-to-be mamas can’t completely avoid the sun during the summer months — so, rest assured that you can still enjoy some natural Vitamin D by taking a few simple precautions. Want to familiarize yourself with the risks and get some sun-safety tips? We tapped OB-GYN Dr. Tara Scott, founder of the wellness-focused Revitalize medical practice and creator of the online Revitalize Academy, for her top advice.

pregnant woman walking on beach
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What are the risks of tanning while pregnant?

“When you are pregnant, you have elevated levels of the hormone estrogen; this can frequently result in a case of melasma, or ‘the mask of pregnancy,'” explained Dr. Scott. “This is a darkening of the skin on the face, usually around the mouth, but can also be patches on the cheek. These dark spots may fade after delivery, but the damage to your skin/effect on age spots in the future will already be done.”

In other words, your skin is extra sensitive to the sun when you are expecting, and you are at an increased risk of getting a sunburn — so it’s more important than ever to take precautions and protect your skin

Basking in the sun at the beach, bikini-clad (oh hello there, cute baby belly!), or lounging poolside in a skimpy suit is certainly not recommended; worse yet is hitting up the tanning salon to bake in a UV bed. Fetal temperature is higher than a mother’s body temp, and Dr. Scott said that both Mom and Baby “could be in danger of overheating.” That scary fact aside, the truth is: Everyone — pregnant or not — should skip the tanning bed; it increases your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

woman applying susncreen to baby bump
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How can you protect yourself from the sun during pregnancy?

First and foremost, get out the SPF. Dr. Scott recommended using a mineral-based product with the active ingredient of either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide rather than a chemical-based option.

“In addition, [you] should use at least 50 SPF. Most of us don’t use enough 30 to have it actually be a 30 SPF,” she said. So slather it on, reapply, and do not be stingy on the bump!

Moreover, try to stay out of the sun during its strongest hours — that is typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Try to cover up as much exposed skin as possible with breathable cotton materials (think a drapey maternity dress), and get yourself a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. You may worship the sun, but the shade is your friend; choose your alfresco spot wisely, Mama.

Can you use self-tanner while you are pregnant?

Okay, so excessive sun is out, and the tanning bed is a hard no. What’s a mama to do?

If you still want a bronzed bump without the risks associated with sunbathing, you can opt for a self-tanner lotion. As explained by Dr. Scott, these products are “superficial on the skin,” so they are relatively safe, and you don’t have to worry that it will hurt you or your baby. Still, she cautions expecting mamas to do their due diligence and double-check the ingredient list: “I would caution against harmful ingredients like sulfates or phthalates that are endocrine-disrupters. The more natural, the better!” 

The risks of sunbathing while pregnant are significant. You could hurt yourself, damage your skin, and potentially increase your risk of skin cancer. So, before you bare that bump to soak up the rays, think twice, protect your body, and remember: You do not need a tan; you already have the natural glow of pregnancy. Looking gorgeous!

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