Does Self Tanner Go Bad? Can You Still Use It?

Does Tanner Go Bad Feature

By Ashlyn Noah
January 20, 2022

In a world full of expiration dates, you may be wondering if your self-tanner product has one. Using expired products can severely alter the color of your tan if you use it past its life span because DHA, its active ingredient, loses its strength. 

Regardless of expiration dates, self-tanners can be great to use instead of visiting the tanning bed or being under harmful UV rays and risk developing skin cancer. However, many of the leading brands contain harmful toxins and chemicals that nearly outweigh the benefits you get from avoiding the sun. 

We, of course, recommend Naru Organics self-tanner instead. Made with organic and naturally-derived ingredients (and no nasties) you can nourish your skin, and have a natural looking glow without going into the sun. 

We are here to answer all of your questions when it comes to wondering if your self-tanner expires and what happens when your product is past its date of use. 

How Self-Tanning Products Work

Knowing the general makeup of self-tanners helps to understand what happens when it loses its power at its expiration date. 

​There are various types of self-tanning products on the market that all contain the same expiration date of a year after opening:

  • Body Lotion
  • Tanning Mousse
  • Gel
  • Towelettes
  • Mist

Every sunless tanner contains DHA, the completely safe chemical that is responsible for producing the tan-colored pigment when it meets your skin.

Self-tanners are dermatologist-approved because their main ingredients are primarily safe and unlike spray tans, those without dyes do not leave behind fake-looking tans. If you have ever been nervous about starting a self-tanning product, you should find solace in the fact that the active ingredient is not harmful for your skin, especially if its accompanied with natural and organic ingredients like Naru offers. 

When the DHA in self-tanners has sat over time, it becomes less powerful and does not produce the high-quality tan you’re after.

Do Self-Tanner Products Expire?

Believe it or not, self-tanner products do have an expiration date. In most cases, every tanning lotion, bronzer, towelette has a shelf life of one year after opening the product. 

The one year of expiration starts from the day you open the product since this is when the air starts to meet the product. Since most self-tanning products on the market contain similar active ingredients, these all expire after a certain amount of time being open. 

How To Tell If Your Self-Tanner Has Gone Bad

The tan solution over time will lose its power if it’s sat on the shelf for a very long time. There are things you can do to test expired self-tanner to see if the dihydroxyacetone in the product can still create the strong pigment of a natural tan. 

Here are some things you can do to check on the status of your self-tanner. 

Do A Patch Test

The best way to check and see if your self-tanning lotion can still give you a natural glow is to try a patch test!

The patch test is where you apply a small sample of your self-tanning beauty product with your tanning mitt (if it’s a traditional self-tanner. Naru Organics, unlike other brands, is better to apply without a mitt as there is no risk of streaking or stained hands) to see if the product is still working. This test will also help you get a good sense of whether the color and smell is still normal. 

You will be able to tell if a self-tanning product still has its high-quality active DHA. If the patch test fails and does not give you the color you once got, the product is expired and no longer working. 

Check The Color And Consistency

Even the best self-tanners will change colors and consistency at some point. If you are still trying to check on the expiration date, you can look at the color and consistency of your tanning foam. 

If the color of your self-tanner is green, off-colored, or has decreased in saturation, it’s likely bad and will not blend well to look natural-looking. If you live in a particularly humid area, keep an eye out for discoloration that could be mold. 

If the consistency is different than what you remembered, and is not simply a product of natural separation, it may be time for a new bottle. 

What Happens If You Use An Expired Sunless Tanning Product

Think you’ve used a self-tanning product that’s expired? Don’t worry too much. 

The active ingredient of DHA is harmless even after its expiration date, but will just be less effective. The numerous chemicals and dyes used in traditional self-tanners are harmful for you even before their expiration date, but shouldn’t have a particularly adverse reaction after it. 

The only real damage an expired self-tanning product can produce is a horrible-looking, or unexpectedly lackluster tan.

The Bottom Line

Knowing that your self-tanner has a limit on its shelf life is important to remember. You should do your best to remember when you opened your your sunless tanner so that you are aware of its expiration date when it approaches.

If you complete the patch test or notice the color and consistency are off, then it’s time to throw your sunless tanner away and look for a new one. 

Ashlyn Noah

Ashlyn Noah is an author in the skin care industry.