Why Using Coke as Tanning Oil Is One of the Worst (and Weirdest) Things You Can Do to Your Skin

Don't try this at home. Or anywhere.

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It's one thing when football players douse their coaches in Gatorade to celebrate winning a big game; it's entirely another when young women in bikinis cover themselves in soda in a horrifyingly misguided attempt to be beautiful.

We all know how dangerous a summer glow can be. Sure, use all the self-tanner you want. But when it comes to lying out in the sun without protection to get tan, you're almost asking to come face-to-face with skin cancer in the future.

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While some people slather themselves with sunscreen from head to toe (#winning), others are, well, making different life choices: U.K. reality TV stars Chloe Ferry and Charlotte Crosby decided to pour Coca-Cola — yes, the beverage — all over their bodies.


A photo posted by Charlotte Letitia Crosby (@charlottegshore) on

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Using Coke to get a deeper tan isn't a new method, apparently, but that doesn't mean it's a good one. It's said that the combination of the soda and oil accelerates your tan, giving you a deeper, darker glow. But is that even the case, or is it just a sham that turns you into a sticky mess with an increased risk of skin cancer?

"While there are reports that Coca-Cola can help give you a tan, there's no good science behind it — and if anything, it can be dangerous," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor in the dermatology department at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

"Coke is a brown color because of a caramel dye, and applying it to the skin may temporarily help stain the skin," Dr. Zeichner says. "Sodas are also acidic and may enhance the effects of UV light, allowing it to better penetrate into the skin. This may mean you can tan easier, but it also means a higher risk of a burn."

Zeichner also stresses that there's no derm-approved way to tan if the sun is involved.

"No matter what, if you're going to be in the sun, you should apply — and reapply! — broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 and be sun smart, wearing sun-protective clothing, glasses, and hats," he says. "There's no safe way to tan."

Still need a reason not to use soda to tan? Coke's official U.K. website even warns fans against it, saying, "As much as we love Coca-Cola, we really wouldn't recommend using it [as suntan lotion]. There is no sun protection factor in it at all — it's a drink!"

They're right. It's a drink. So before you decide to buy a liter for your next beach trip, think again. Is that caramel hue really worth it? (We're going to go with a hard no.)

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