Nickel free self-tanning products

We’ve covered nickel tested hair dye and nickel free make-up, so with summer approaching let’s look at self tan for those with nickel sensitivities — that is, tan creams, tanning waters, bronzers, and similar products such as bronzing oils.

As always, when it comes to natural skincare products in relation to nickel allergy safety, the main concerns are products which impart colour.

This is because coloured cosmetics often contain minerals / mineral salts, which may introduce nickel contamination into the product. Sometimes such toiletries contain artificial colours, which are usually safer from a nickel allergy perspective. Often they contain both. 


First things first …

Given that self-tanning products are not designed to deliver an immediate effect or impactful change — as is the case with hair dye and with make-up — the level of colouring agents in bronzing products is lower. That said, the continued use required to achieve a final affect means that there can be a cumulative exposure to ingredients. 


Avoiding nickel

The best way to avoid or reduce exposure to nickel is to:

a/ choose products whose manufacturers have confirmed have been ‘nickel tested’ and therefore deemed unlikely to cause reactions in those with nickel sensitivity.

b/ reject products which contain iron oxides — unless ‘nickel tested’ — because iron oxides can contain traces of nickel and other metals as impurities


DHA-containing products

Most products on the market don’t confirm whether or not they are nickel tested, and iron oxide-containing natural self-tan products are very common. For example, the Self Tan by Organic Pharmacy, The Impossible Glow by Pai Skincare, and NutriBronze from Oskia — to take just three examples from highly regarded natural brands — all contain iron oxides, and are probably best avoided if you have nickel allergy.

However, many products on the market use the ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a natural compound derived from sugar. Products containing this ingredient instead of iron oxides, along with any nickel-tested options you’ve managed to find besides those above, are likely to be the safest options for anyone with a nickel allergy, or indeed allergy to any other metal. 

This is just a small selection as there are many variations and formats. Look for dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in the ingredients (it will usually be among the first few) and avoid any products containing iron oxides (look for CI 77489 / 77491 / 77492 / 77499 — usually towards the end of the list of ingredients). 

Here are some suggestions for you to look at:

Lucy Bee
This UK brand’s Naturally Glowing Fake Tan Drops have the added advantage of being fragrance free, 95% natural and the formulation’s ingredients look generally high-tolerance, so should be a good option for sensitive skins. 

Eco By Sonya
This very natural Australian brand offer several tanning products, all of which use DHA and are iron oxide-free — including Face Tan Water, Cacao Tanning Mousse, and Hempitan Body Tan Water. In the US, try Amazon. In the UK, they are available from Naturismo

Bondi Sands
Also an extensive range, highly regarded and available worldwide, although not as natural as some of the others. Most (if not all) products use DHA plus artificial colours. Shop on Amazon here for USA. There’s also a dedicated website. In the UK, try their website here

An extensive range of products in the US, using DHA. Preserved with parabens, though, which some prefer to avoid. Browse here

Green People
The well-known British natural and organic brand have a trio of products — Gradual Tan Moisturiser, Liquid Gold Tanning Drops, and a Self Tan Lotion. In the UK, you can source direct from Green People

And so many more …. 


Nickel Tested Products

‘Nickel free‘ claims for products are often made seemingly on the basis that they are iron oxide-free, but this may not be fully reliable due to other sources of trace contamination. There is no truly ‘free’ standard.

Brands who make ‘nickel tested‘ claims for their products, which are safe for the vast majority, are very difficult to find. Here are a few products you may like to explore. 

That’s So Skincare
This UK brand has a number of Self Tan products, including a Gradual Tanning Moisturiser and a Self-Tanning Face Mist. Full ingredients are not always provided on their website, but all appear to carry a “nickel tested” claim (or ‘nickle tested’, as they have it). The products appear to use a mix of artificial colouring ingredients plus an ingredient called DHA (more on DHA in the section below). You can find the range here

Optima Naturals
This brand offer a Colour of Life Tanning Activator Serum which uses a “tanning activator which is a complex with an oligosaccharide obtained from brown algae and manganese as well as magnesium”. It does contain fragrance, but it looks to be a low-allergen blend. Nickel tested as well as vegan and gluten free. You can buy it from Ecco Verde. 

Bema Cosmetici
Not surprisingly, Italian cosmetic brands are very allergy aware when it comes to nickel (or ‘nichel’ in Italian) and so there are some options from Italy. Bema’s SolarTea Tan Accelerating Spray Oil uses only botanicals like carrot oil to impart its colour, and is also available from Ecco Verde. 

Mater Natura
A third via Ecco Verde: Glitter Monoi Sun Oil. This one contains titanium dioxide (presumably for the ‘glimmer’ of glitter) and also iron oxide, which is presumably purified in order for the nickel tested claim. Other ingredients look very natural, and also include carrot oil. 


Final tips

Bear in mind that most tanning products also contain fragrances or ‘parfum’, and these are also potential sensitisers. If you react to a product, it may not necessarily be due to nickel. 

Look out for products in plastic and glass, as these are probably less likely to contain trace metals / minerals than those in metal or metallic packaging or tubes. 

Nickel salts are not permitted in cosmetics, so you will never see it in ingredients. Look for the absence of iron oxides in ingredients, or confirmed nickel safety elsewhere on the labelling. 

Patch test new products first! That one’s always a good idea … 

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