The dog days of summer may be upon us, but that doesn’t mean your skin has to be dry as a bone. Learn how to protect your “body suit” from the sun’s rays and how to make simple herbal formulas including your own sunless tanner-- to keep you looking and feeling good in your skin.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than a million cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. are linked to excessive sun exposure. Of these cases, nearly 60,000 resulted in the most serious type of skin cancer, or melanoma, in 2007 alone.  Out of the estimated 10,000 skin cancer-related deaths that occurred in that year, about 75% were due to melanoma. Further, melanoma is the most frequently occurring cancer in women aged 25 to 29. For women aged 30 to 34, the incidence of melanoma is second only to breast cancer. Clearly, the desire to attain the perfect tan comes at a great cost. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Goodbye Sun Worshipping, Hello Herbal Color Boosters

Many of the self-tanning lotions and creams available today are touted as being safer than exposing your skin to the sun for long-periods. But, are they really? Take a closer look at their ingredients and you’ll find that you may be trading off one type of health hazard for another.

For instance, any ingredient starting with methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, or butyl- and ending in “parabens” is a red flag. Although the use of these synthetic preservatives in cosmetics are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are suspected of being endocrine disruptors because they contain compounds that exert estrogen-like effects.

Another ingredient to avoid is one that often isn’t listed since it’s used as a catalyst to promote chemical conversions in other ingredients: 1,4 dioxane. However, you can determine if this chemical was used in the manufacturing of the product if any of the ingredients contain “xynol,” “oleth,” “ceteareth” or “PEG” in their name. The FDA approves the use of low levels of this agent in cosmetics too, even though some studies have shown that it causes cancer in animals.

The good news is that certain herbs, oils and extracts can help you get a golden glow without risking your health from UV rays, chemical preservatives or synthetic dyes. Green tea, linden, ginkgo biloba, chamomile, bergamot, clove, geranium, mandarin, walnut shell extract, carrot essential oil and borage seed oil are just some of the potential ingredients found in all-natural self-tanning products.

Do these natural ingredients really darken skin? Well…yes and no. Certain ingredients,like walnut shell extract and clove extract, do contribute to making skin appear sun-kissed. However, the common “magical” ingredient to all sunless tanning products—natural or not—is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a naturally occurring substance obtained from sugar cane and sugar beets. Unless you plan to buy this material in bulk from a wholesale chemical supply company, you’re better off without it.

Of course, you can make your own self-tanning lotion from a few simple, green ingredients without the need for a chemistry degree and laboratory, or a wholesale membership.

Herbal Self-Tanning Lotion


  1. Make a strong tea with the green tea, linden and water. Let cool, then strain.
  2. Place remaining ingredients into a blender and add 1/2 cup of the tea. Blend at a low speed for 1-2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the rest of the tea while blending.
  3. Pour into a clean, sterile container and store away from heat and light.
  4. To use, thoroughly massage a small amount onto skin after showering. Let skin air dry a few moments before dressing.

Before & After Fun in the Sun Skin Care

Being careful about the sun doesn’t mean you have to hibernate indoors all year long. In fact, we all need a small amount of sunlight each day in order to manufacture sufficient amounts of vitamin D, as well as maintain a sense of well being. Still, the use of a sunscreen while outdoors is important to avoid problems later on. Certain botanicals act as natural sunscreen agents, as well as reduce the risk of developing skin cancer should a burn occur. For example, many commercial sunscreens contain octyl silicylate and octyl methoxycinnamate, both of which reduce UV absorption. The former is derived from wintergreen, willow or sweet birch, while the latter is obtained from cinnamon or cassia. Sesame oil is another natural sunscreen.

Other herbs have demonstrated the ability to speed healing and inhibit tumor formation,namely aloe vera, lavender, green tea, milk thistle and eucalyptus. One study showed that milk thistle, which contains a group of compounds collectively known as silymarin, reduced the number and size of UV-induced skin tumors in mouse skin culture samples. Another study showed that green tea compounds inhibited UV-related tumors by 94%. Here’s an easy-to-make formula that will perform double duty as a natural sunscreen and a soothing moisturizer for after-sun care.

Natural Sunscreen & Sunburn Rescue

  • 6 ounces pure aloe vera gel
  • 3 capsules vitamin E oil, broken
  • 1 tablespoon zinc oxide ointment (available from most pharmacies)
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil5 drops wintergreen essential oil
  • 5 drops carrot essential oil
  • Blend all ingredients together in a large measuring cup or bowl. Scoop into a clean, sterile contain and apply to the skin as often as needed.