What Are Tanning Pills And Do They Really Work?

We love a good glow in the summertime. But in an effort to shun our skin away from the sun, many of us are looking for alternative methods to attain a more summery bronze hue. You may have already ruled out tanning lotions because of their smell, and maybe you're leaning more towards tanning pills as a new method worth trying to achieve that summer glow. But before you do, you'll want to get the full story.

Sure, you're not exposing your skin to harmful UV rays, but according to Healthline, you're opening yourself up to a host of many other side effects. Documented side effects for this non-FDA approved tanning method include: hives and welts, retinopathy (eye damage), liver damage, and gastrointestinal issues. What's even scarier, is that these issues can appear seemingly out of the blue as much as two to seven years after taking the pill.

These side effects make us want to run in the other direction, but we're still curious. How do tanning pills work?

The chemicals used to color your food can also color your skin

According to Byrdie, tanning pills can basically be seen as food coloring for your skin. Tanning pills contain canthaxanthin, a food additive responsible for giving certain foods their red-orange color. While naturally occurring, the chemical can also be made in a laboratory. It works by breaking down and adhering to the tissue directly below the outermost layer of the skin, giving it a more orange (rather than brown) tint.

Canthaxanthin is an FDA-approved chemical, but only when used for food coloring — not skin coloring. The amounts of this chemical used in tanning pills far exceeds the normal amounts found in tinted foods. In addition to canthaxanthin, tanning pills also contain lycopene and lutein. Neither of these chemicals have had enough data collected on them to confirm their long-term safety, says Science Daily.

We applaud anyone's efforts to avoid a nasty sunburn. But considering the long list of side effects associated with tanning pills, we're thinking we're better off spending our time finding another sunless alternative.