4 Glowing Tanning Alternatives for Beautiful Skin

Skin Care


As someone with sallow skin and a fear of tanning (too risky!), it’s quite tempting to just dunk myself in a vat of liquid gold and tanning lotions, and just hope for the best. What my skin really needs in order to get a healthy golden glow is a mixture of exfoliation, clean skin habits, a healthy, in-shape body and a diet rich in carotenoids — all of which have been scientifically proven many times over to brighten your complexion.

For  those of you who think that tanning isn’t as bad as it has been portrayed, think of it this way: the FDA notes that indoor tanning can induce skin cancer, premature aging, eye damage, skin damage, and a weakened immune system. And, bottom line, sun damage is the #1 cause of aging. But don’t worry! You can have a glowing — if not totally sun-kissed — complexion with a few simple tips and tricks.

A Brief Note on Tanning: Why You Really Shouldn’t  Go to a Tanning Salon

Occasionally, you’ll see someone who has tanned to such great lengths that they’re now a little leathery, and content yourself that your tanning habits aren’t as bad… but they really are. Any time that our skin darkens from sun exposure, that means that the skin has been damaged and creates more of the dark skin pigment melanin to protect itself from more UV harm. As we continue to tan, our skin begins to prematurely age because it increases Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that degrade collagen. And tanning can even led to skin cancers due to repeated assault. And the myth that tanning beds use harmless UV radiation is just that, a myth — they use UVA and UVB rays that, like the sun, hurt your  skin.

Even though you may wear sunglasses or tanning goggles, those won’t help if you repeatedly expose yourself to the sun/tanning lights — the strong lights will slowly burn your eyeballs and can cause short to long-term injury. As your skin is damaged, dries out and loses collagen, it begins to wrinkle more, losing the vitally youthful skin that we associate with  a bronze glow. Plus, repeatedly UVB exposure can weaken your body’s defense mechanisms and cause allergic reactions (FDA).

Method 1 :  Body Brushing as an Exfoliator

Body brushing can help slough off the dead skin that makes your skin look duller in winter.
Body brushing can help slough off the dead skin that makes your skin look duller in winter.

Recently, it’s been popular to start body brushing, where you caress your body with a rough-bristled comb just before entering the shower. Body brushing is an excellent method for exfoliating the skin, since exfoliation can render your skin (also your largest organ) brighter, smoother, and more radiant.  A major plus: it can remove dead and precancerous  cells while reducing acne. In his video series, Dr. Neil Schultz mentioned that some recent claims have said dry brushing will remove cellulite (though there is not evidence for this), improve circulation, and lympathic flow, which will remove more toxins from the blood. These haven’t been proved with studies, but it’s possible that one day research will show dry brushing has these effects.

Dr. Schultz also notes, however, that chemical treatments are generally more successful for cellulite, and massages have many of the same effects that body brushing does. Even if dry brushing might now remove your cellulite or fully jumpstart your lymphatic system, it will still reveal you beautiful skin by removing dead cells and dirt. Plus, it gives a delightful tickle right before entering your shower.

For those of us who live in cold climates, exfoliation is key to having a year-round glow. Not only will dry, frigid hair dry the skin and weaken it, but extremely hot showers break down the lipids (fats) in our skin, which dries them out even more. Wet, snow-drenched clothes that are worn close to body can irritate your skin, and in some cases cause sores. Aside from exfoliating with a hairbrush and moisturizing regularly, make sure to dress in easily removable layers to protect against irritation (American Osteopathic Association).

Method 2: Carotenoids and Caratenes for a Lovely Hue

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will give your skin a golden hue.

Doctors aren’t just recommending that you eat a colorful array of fruits and veggies just for their aesthetic appeal — many of these foods contain carotenoids and caratenes that are key to giving your skin a healthy color. Carotenoids and caratenes are responsible for giving many foods their natural color – such as carrots, papaya, spinach, kale, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, especially deep greens, reds, oranges, and yellows ( University of  Maryland Medical Center). These vitamins serve as  antioxidants  which concentrate themselves in several layers of skin, and protect against UV exposure and enhance our immune cells.

Carotenoids enter your skin by 1.) seeping into the skin from your blood capillaries and by 2.) accumulating on your outermost layer of skin (stratum corneum) through sweat and oil secreted by the sebaceous glands. Recent studies by Whitehead, Re, Xiao, Oznacki, and Perrett found that over a six-week period of time with increased intake of carotenoids and caratenes, participants had noticeably brighter skin that had a yellow/gold  hue.

Many may be concerned that eating too many carotenoids make turn your  skin orange or yellow, literally. However, Dr. Andrew Weil notes that your skin should take on a vibrant, golden-yellow tone and even if it becomes more yellow or orange than you anticipated, this should not point to any health concerns. Of course, if your skin seems unusually colored, consult a doctor – it could just be too many carotenoids, or maybe jaundice.

Method 3: Saffron and Milk Face Mask

This expensive spice can do wonders for your skin.

Saffron is a yellow spice, commonly used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine – but it also may be key to giving you that gorgeous glow.  In past generations, many Indian women would use a face mask made from saffron filaments and milks both the cleanse the skin and create an almost golden aura around their faces. Known to be a natural anti-allergenic, saffron will minimize/soothe rashes and pimples while smoothing the skin and lightly tinting it a natural, sun-dappled gold. For the best results, use a mask of gram flour, milk, and about a half of a teaspoon of saffron twice a week, making sure to rinse thoroughly (Neesha Bukst Choksy – Consultant Nutritionist).

Additionally, saffron has been shown to treat impetigo, bruising, arthritis/rheumatism, and even beneficial in skin cancer treatments when applied topically. However, this spice is not safe for pregnant women (Journal of Medicinal Plants Research- Moghaddasi).

But you’re probably wondering why you should put saffron on your face, when there are other masks (such as coconut and honey) which would do the same. What sets Saffron apart is that it contains carotenoids, which will then seep into your dermis and has been shown to help even out skin tone and help reverse the changes associated with aging that come from sun exposure (Life Enhancement Magazine). Plus, since it will remove or fade everything from acne, bruises, scarring, dead skin, bacteria, and discolored skin, this mask will be spotlight the naturally radiant skin that hides beneath the surface.

Finally, saffron is a good awakening agent, meaning that it will gently exfoliate and open the pores while simultaneously tightening the skin. The more that you see your skin repairing itself, the more radiance you will give off from both your demeanor and smile (and those trusty carotenoids in your skin).

Method 4:  Yoga and Exercise

Sweating it out regularly can make your skin clearer and brighter.

This one sounds like a bit of a no-brainer, but regularly exercising or practicing yoga will do wonders for your complexion First of all, by sweating your body will excrete excess toxins and dead cells that your kidney and liver wouldn’t be able to process — this sloughs off some of the dirt that tampers with skin color/texture (Everyday Health). Also, when you are exercising your body produces more of the natural oils that make the skin appear vibrant. As your muscles become more toned, your skin will have a more secure surface to anchor itself too (the skin and muscle are attached with connective tissue), minimizing the appearance of cellulite and increasing the appearance of supple, elastic skin.

Regular exercise increase the rate of blood flow, and the more blood that pumps through your body, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the skin cells.  Finally, exercise is a great stress reliever in that it temporarily gets things of your mind and can release pent-up anger/frustration. Stress can often triggers unhealthy cravings (which, depending on the food, might diminish skin color), acne, and even wrinkles from frowning (Everyday Health).

Bottom Line

It may be a tad messy to make your a face mask or time-consuming to body brush yourself; but when you weigh the options of laying in the sun and facing skin cancer, damaged eyes, a weak immune system, allergic reactions, premature aging,  and dry skin, the saffron mask may look more appealing. Make sure to eat lots of foods, like carrots and papaya, that contain the skin-tinting carotenoid vitamins. If making a  natural face mask, make sure that the ingredients contain carotenoids (such as saffron) which will help keep your skin looking healthy. Finally, never forget that benefits that a bit of exfoliation and increased blood circulation can do for you, and never go sunbathing without lots of suntan lotion!

Post by Taylor Barbieri

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  • Taylor

    Hey Meg!

    Thank you for commenting! I am having a bit of trouble finding out definitively how many carotenoid-rich foods you should eat, but this blog from Dr. Nalini (http://doctornalini.com/cancer-fighting-foods-what-colors-are-on-your-plate/) may help. She recommends that you get in at least 2-4 carotenoid-veggies per meal, which figures out to 6-12 per day (note: Dr. Nalini’s website is not FDA approved/reviewed).

    I know that sounds like a lot, but there are crafty ways to work them into your meal without going overboard; for example, you can have a small salad of spinach and carrots, which are super carotenoid carriers, or make a fruit salad with mangoes, peaches, and apricots. Whenever I make a salad, I usually have at least two cups of spinach, a handful of carrots, a red or yellow pepper, strawberries and nuts, which gives me four servings of carotenoids while filling me up.

    Basically, if you want to see a noticeable skin change, just pack in as many colorful vegetables as possible – the richer the color is, the more carotenoids it has (usually). If you are going to drastically change your diet, check with your doctor so that s/he can make sure it won’t pose any potential problems. Hope this helps, and thank you for reading my article!

  • Meg

    Hi there! I’ve read several articles on the link between skin tone and carotenoid rich vegetable consumption, but how many servings does one require per day to achieve this? How many carrots could one add to their diet to see a noticeable change? Thanks!

  • Janessa

    Taylor, thanks so much! I’m going to check out that article. Sorry for the late response and you were indeed helpful. 🙂
    I really appreciate that all my questions on FutureDerm are thoughtfully replied to; it really inspires me to comment more.

  • Taylor
  • Taylor

    Hi Janessa!
    Thank you for commenting. Disocvery Health recommends that you exfoliate at least twice a week, but alter that according to your skin’s dryness and sensitivity. Even if you don’t exfoliate, it’s always good to wash you face everyday to clean up all of the lose dead cells and bacteria that may have accumulated during the day. How this was helpful!

  • Janessa

    It’s crazy how society glorifies a tan for a “healthy glow” when it’s actually damaging healthy skin. I like this post very much because it tells me what to avoid and alternatives. :]
    How many times a week should one exfoliate for the face? For the body?
    Thanks :]

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