TikTok: Baby Oil & Iodine Tanning

>It’s Technical

By Carlos Franco — August 04, 2022.

Screenshots from @addiewilsonbby’s “Stitch” TikTok video featuring @mmaurakimm original content.

Article Information


  • Baby Oil (mineral oil)
  • Iodine (topical iodine)
  • Ultra-Violet UV (UVA, UVB)
  • TikTok Trend
  • Skin Cancer (non-melanoma, melanoma)
  • @mmaurakimm’s video captioned “Highly Recommended!!” was posted on July 27 and has received 20.6K ❤️ and 656 comments.

Historical Context

Recreational sun tanning, also known as “sunbathing,” began gaining popularity in the late 1800s. Medical professionals viewed the concept of getting a suntan as healthy due to their limited understanding of the dangers of ultraviolet light (UV) exposure. Tanning was promoted as a medical cure, which helped propel the activity to become mainstream by the 1920s (1).

What do we know about baby oil and iodine?

Both baby oil and iodine are classified as over-the-counter (OTC) consumer products, meaning the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed them safe to sell without a prescription from a doctor (5). This designation, however, is not a blanket endorsement of the product’s safety in every conceivable use-case scenario. Instead, it refers to something specific.


Iodine is a substance found in nature that acts as a micronutrient when consumed in the recommended daily allowance (RDA) amount. If consumed over the RDA, iodine can be toxic, causing various health effects ranging from mild symptoms to long-term health problems such as thyroid issues and cancer (10). It is also a topical antiseptic for minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and burns (8,9).

Baby Oil (mineral oil)

Johnson & Johnson lists the ingredients of their Johnson’s baby oil product as “Mineral oil, Fragrance” (12). Looking up the Sesame Street baby oil product on NIH’s DailyMed website, the same two ingredients are listed, “Active Ingredient: Mineral Oil (99.5); Inactive Ingredient: Fragrance” (13). But what exactly is mineral oil?

So what exactly is the risk?

First and foremost, no method or amount of sun tanning is safe.

What can I do instead?

Alternatives to sun tanning or indoor tanning (lamps, booths, and beds) exist. However, they, too, carry risks.

Sunless Tanners

Sunless tanning works by applying a chemical, dihydroxyacetone or DHA, to the skin, which reacts with amino acids in the cells and darkens them simulating a tan (23,24). Some people have reported rashes as a side effect of sunless tanning products. Coughing, dizziness, and passing out have also been related to spray tanning booths (23).


Bronzers achieve the appearance of a tan by covering the skin with a layer of pigment, sometimes in addition to chemically altering the skin’s surface (25).

Tanning Pills

When you take tanning pills, you consume a high concentration of food-grade color additives, which then tints your skin tone (26). The most common of these additives is canthaxanthin, a carotenoid (pigment) found naturally in yellow, orange, and red plants.

Is there more tanning information I should know?

Yes! Please visit the following recommended sites to learn more about the topics covered in this article and what you can do to protect yourself from UV skin damage and skin cancer:

References +26

See a list of the key highlights from the sources consulted and cited in this article on Glasp using the following link; or by searching the tag: #H1 Baby oil & iodine from the search bar on Glasp’s landing page.

  1. Accessed on August 1, 2022. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1090&context=plr
  2. Accessed on August 1, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775759/
  3. Accessed on August 1, 2022. https://books.google.ie/books?id=aRsjKWpT93IC&pg=PA20&dq=1970s+malibu+barbie+tan&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=1970s malibu barbie tan&f=false
  4. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/overthecountermedicines.html
  5. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/enforcement-activities-fda/over-counter-otc-drugs-branch-otc-drug-review
  6. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/center-drug-evaluation-and-research-cder/regulatory-mechanisms-marketing-otc-drug-products
  7. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002421.htm
  8. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK80212/
  9. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560770/
  10. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33547463/
  11. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.johnsonsbaby.com/baby-products/johnsons-baby-oil#ingredients
  12. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=a236ddd3-f73c-4584-afed-6d056f2ea66d
  13. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://precision.fda.gov/uniisearch/srs/unii/T5L8T28FGP
  14. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.hipaaspace.com/medical_billing/coding/unique.ingredient.identifier/t5l8t28fgp
  15. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304428/
  16. Accessed on August 2, 2022. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0278691595001069
  17. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/mineral-oils
  18. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/sunlight
  19. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/tanning/risks-tanning
  20. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-magnifying-effect-of-a-water-drop/#:~:text=The result is a larger magnification. Changing the shows a surface that is slightly bent inward
  21. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.chem.purdue.edu/jmol/cchem/color.html#:~:text=When atoms or compounds absorb light of the,in the proportions in sunlight%2C as white light
  22. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/sunless-tanners-bronzers
  23. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28823805/
  24. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/tanning/tanning-products
  25. Accessed on August 3, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/tanning-pills



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Carlos Franco

Freelance technical writer with an advanced degree and 10+ years of experience in patient education.