This Soft Drink Is Not Your Typical Self Tanner

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For some reason, the internet’s always looking for a new way to use Coca-Cola.

It’s not enough that it’s a delicious drink; apparently, it’s also a great hair straightener, an effective beef tenderizer, and a wonderful toilet bowl cleaner.

We’re not saying that the sugary soda doesn’t work well for those purposes, but at some point, these “creative” uses go too far. Case in point: People have been using Coca-Cola as a self-tanner.

Yes, you read that correctly. The trend seems to have started in the United Kingdom, and like any “beauty hack,” word spread quickly.

But the most surprising part? Apparently, it works. That said, please read the entire article before trying it, as there are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t do this. Coca-Cola, like most brown sodas, contains caramel dye. It can effectively color skin, providing a slightly more tan complexion.

There is, of course, a caveat, and it’s a big one.

While Coca-Cola may be a functional self-tanner, it isn’t safe.

Joshua Zeichner is the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He’s not a fan of this beauty hack, and in an interview with Allure, he warned against using any product on your skin that isn’t specifically designed for the purpose.


“While some feel that Coca-Cola can speed up your tan, it actually can be dangerous, and I recommend staying away from it,” he said. “Applying it to the skin may lead to a temporary darkening or staining of the skin, but because sodas are acidic, it may exfoliate dead cells, enhancing the ability of UV light penetrate into the skin. Ultimately, this may increase your risk of a sunburn.”

The soda can cause irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Plus, the idea of covering our bodies in Coca-Cola sounds less than appealing, and we’re soda fans.

So, what’s the safest way to tan? Well, there’s not a good answer to that question. Tanning is, after all, fundamentally unsafe.


“Tanning is your body’s way of trying to protect itself by increasing pigment,” George W. Monks, M.D., a dermatologist at the Tulsa Dermatology Clinic, told

“[Tanning is] a self-defense mechanism…The issue is any sun exposure—whether it’s just a couple times or you get a little exposure over many times—increases your risk for skin cancer.”

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go outside, of course; your body needs sunlight to produce Vitamin D, and the CDC recommends getting at least 10–15 minutes of sunlight per day. Of course, “UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.” When you head outdoors, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen.


The CDC recommends wearing sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF15, noting that sunscreens have various ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one sunscreen, try another. You can also safely use self-tanning sprays and lotions, provided that you’re not sensitive to the active ingredients.

While you’re enjoying the summer weather, feel free to have a Coca-Cola—just don’t wear it.

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