Do Tanning Pills Work?  

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We all feel and look great when we’re sporting a golden sun-kissed tan, straight off a day at the beach. But sometimes that doesn’t work out the way we planned! This has made the sunless tan — think spray tans and sunless tanners— a huge trend.

Tanning pills have grown in popularity in recent years, especially among those with fairer skin.

Which then leads to the question, do tanning pills work? In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on tanning pills.


So Do Tanning Pills Work?

MyTan Tanning Pills

The simple answer to this is yes, tanning pills work. Sort of.

It doesn’t matter if your skin is fair or you are more melanated, the color additives that make up the ingredients of tanning pills will cause your skin to darken because of the high levels needed to make this happen.

However, this darkening isn’t because of melanin production, which gives us a tan when we’re exposed to UV light, whether it be from tanning bed bulbs or the light of the sun.

In addition, the most popular ingredient used in most tanning pills is called canthaxanthin, which in its natural state, is an antioxidant found in many foods.

However, the canthaxanthin used in tanning pills is in synthetic form. And taking high doses of this will not only cause your skin to darken but also has the potential to cause hives and itchy skin, aplastic anemia, which is a potentially fatal blood disease, gastrointestinal issues, nausea, and diarrhea.

The manmade version of canthaxanthin is also known to cause yellow crystal deposits to settle in the eyes, causing impaired vision and injury. Called canthaxanthin-induced retinopathy, luckily it is reversible, although it can take months to clear up.

Oh, what joyful side effects!

Canthaxanthin has also been reported to damage skin and creates liver problems. Therefore, if you want to try tanning pills, which can cost up to $40 a bottle for a month’s supply, you want to avoid formulas containing canthaxanthin.

Beta carotene, another ingredient found in nature, but produced synthetically for inclusion in tanning pills, will also cause problems with the body. A natural antioxidant, the synthetic formula of beta carotene taken in large doses, which is the case with tanning pills, is known to increase the risk of developing many cancers. 

Many people who have used tanning pills containing canthaxanthin and/or beta carotene have reported that the color produced by their skin looks fake and orange, instead of sun-kissed sexy bronze goddess.

Not tanning pills.

The color can also stain the soles of the feet and palms of hands, which is a dead giveaway for a fake tan. The good news is that any part of your body stained orange will eventually fade, as the coloration isn’t permanent.

If you choose to take the risk with these tanning pill formulations, then you should see results within 14 days. These products are supplements and are not reviewed by the FDA.

Trace Element

Tanamins Tanning Pills

Newer tanning pills on the market, like the Tanamins shown above  are more natural and include ingredients that help to actually increase melanin production so that your skin will darken with less emphasis on the orange hue.

The three main ingredients these tanning pills contain include:


Copper is an essential trace element that helps to produce melanin, the pigment that protects your skin from the sun. The darker you are, the more melanin your skin has.

This means copper promotes tanning and also protects the skin against further oxidative stress.


L-tyrosine is a naturally occurring essential amino acid that helps to form the brain chemicals that affect both moods and sleeping. Available in high-proteins sources of foods such as eggs, meat, dairy and fish, L-tyrosine is also necessary for healthy thyroid function.

As far as tanning goes, L-tyrosine plays a vital role in the production of melanin, our natural pigment that shows up not just in our skin, but also in our eyes and hair.


Also known alternatively as vitamin Bx, PABA is a compound found in many B-complex vitamins. In supplement form, it’s thought that the body synthesizes it with your gut bacteria.

In nature, it is found in mushrooms, spinach, whole grains and brewer’s yeast. PABA is used to help with the re-pigmentation of skin that has been affected by vitiligo.


All of the above ingredients found in tanning pills will give your skin a darker color, although it will probably look more orange than bronze.

And none of them actually offer protection from the sun. So having read the above, it’s up to you to decide if tanning pills will work for you.

Our recommendation: get a tanning mitt and learn to apply self-tanner. Once you’ve got it down, self-tanners are a way better choice than tanning pills.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).