Courtney Claghorn always felt better with a tan. Upon noticing how pricey spray tans could be, it didn’t take long for her to come up with an innovative, more affordable, and safer option (hint: sugar, baby). Founded in her Santa Monica apartment in 2010, SUGARED + BRONZED now sits at the forefront of the spray tan industry. We had the opportunity to chat with the soon-to-be mother about the realities of spray tanning while pregnant, life as a female entrepreneur, and where SUGARED + BRONZED is headed.
Can you share a little about how SUGARED + BRONZED began?
SUGARED + BRONZED was born out of my Santa Monica apartment in late 2010, not long after I graduated college. I was working at a fintech company by day, complaining about how expensive spray tans were by night. My then-boyfriend, now husband, had heard enough complaining to suggest that there might be a hole in the market for us to fill. We each put in $500, and within a few weeks, we launched a website! Within a few months, I quit my job, and we opened our first retail location on Montana Ave. in Santa Monica. We reinvested every dollar and bootstrapped until taking our first investment in late 2019. We currently have 18 stores in 4 states (CA, NY, PA, TX), a product line, and much more in the works!
Tell us a little bit about your pregnancy journey.
I’m not going to lie, and pregnancy has been tough! In my first trimester, I felt like I had the flu all the time—just super weak, often nauseous, and sometimes even feverish. The second trimester has been a bit better, but only if I get 9-10 hours of sleep; otherwise, I feel exhausted all day!
As a soon-to-be-mother and business owner, how have you seen your routine day-to-day change?
I had no choice but to learn that I could no longer stretch myself too thin and work every waking hour of the day—it just hasn’t been an option for me these last few months. I’ve had to make myself a priority in terms of resting and responsibilities such as doctor appointments, acupuncture, hypnobirthing class, etc.
What did you think about pregnancy and self-tanning before your pregnancy?
I honestly hadn’t thought about anything pregnancy-related until I got pregnant. Still, over the years, we’ve had a lot of clients ask if they could spray tan while pregnant, so I was familiar with the question and the likely answer. We always tell clients to ask their doctor, and that being said, most of those clients do come in for tans while pregnant. And now many have healthy children—some as old as 12! So from an anecdotal standpoint and what I know about DHA (the sugar-based ingredient in self-tanning products) and how it only affects dead skin cells and not live cells, I always assumed it was generally safe.
Are all self-tanning products safe to use during pregnancy? Are there any ingredients that should be avoided?
I think it’s most important to acknowledge that there are many, many areas of pregnancy where we don’t have a lot of data, and this is one of them. For obvious ethical reasons, it’s not easy to conduct pregnancy studies. As any pregnant woman knows, it’s important to have a framework for making decisions during pregnancy when we don’t have a lot of data. One of my favorite books about pregnancy is called Expecting Better by Emily Oster. It helps articulate why the lack of data exists, well-conducted studies and good data, and how to assess making a decision when we might not have a lot of data.
That being said, DHA is considered safe for external use because we know that it is not absorbed into the bloodstream significantly. Yet, there is limited research on its safety during pregnancy. I choose to avoid any cosmetic products with parabans, pregnant or not, especially while pregnant. While parabans are widely used in personal care products, there is some concern about their potential health effects, including hormonal disruption and safety during pregnancy.
Are there any precautions to take when self-tanning during pregnancy, or any risks to the unborn child associated with using self-tanning products?
For sunless tanning and cosmetic products in general, I try to apply mists and sprays in a well-ventilated area so that I don’t inhale them, simply as a precaution. There currently isn’t any data that would support that there are risks to unborn children associated with the use of self-tanning products.
Is it safe to use self-tanning products during breastfeeding?
While I am unaware of self-tanning products that are specifically formulated for use during pregnancy, I do know there is limited data regarding self-tanning and breastfeeding. I do plan to self-tan while breastfeeding. However, I will not be tanning my breasts at that time because it seems like a logical and easily attainable precaution to exercise.
Sugaring is also generally accepted as safe during pregnancy—and it can give you that extra boost of confidence that you might be looking for!