SolveYourProblem Article Series: Sunless Tanning
Enjoy a Healthy Looking Tan All Year Long
With A Sunless Tan


How Does A Sunless Tanner Work?

What happens when you apply a sunless tanner or tanning solution, be it a lotion, crème, spray, towlette or other form, by gently rubbing the product into your outer skin layer?

Those that are most effective, the ones that list dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an isomer of glyceraldehydes, as an active ingredient, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, begin to work within around 40 minutes to an hour. DHA is a dull (in coloring) sugar important in the metabolism of carbohydrates. It interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum or outermost layer of the epidermis. In other words, DHA reacts with amino acids in the epidermis, producing a natural pigment called melanoidin that bonds with proteins in skin cells. And results are a change of color that can last up to about seven days.

A couple things to note here. First is that although melanoidin is produced, and melanoidin and melanin (the dark pigment that enables a “sun” tan to develop via UV exposure) work together in the absorption of harmful rays, a self-tan only provides about an SPF 2, more or less, not high enough to offer enough protection. So take care to wear protective outer garments, eyewear, etc. and/or a sunscreen. And second, note that in general, sunless tanning products that are out on the market today are reported to provide users with pretty much “real” looking tanning results.

From just one application, you can have a sunless tan that can last all week. The chemical makeup of the products versus where and how they interact with the different parts of your body can affect tanning results; i.e. some areas may demonstrate different color variations and the tanning may last longer.

Then what? Where does the tan go? Dead skin cells rub and wear off the epidermis, resulting in the fading or losing of the tan. In fact, roughly once a month or a period between 35 to 45 days, the epidermis is rejuvenated. In order to keep a tan long-term, many companies recommend that you reapply their sunless and self-tanning products approximately every three days. Some products last longer and wear better than others, too. So experimenting, even with products that do not list DHA in the ingredients, might prove to be rewarding.

Sunless Bronzers

Sunless tanning products come in the form of moisturizers & powders are referred to as bronzers. Basically you apply these to your skin as you would make-up products for a temporary “tan” appearance, similar to the effects of applied make-up leaving a “tint.” Then you simply wash the bronzers off with soap and water and the “tan is removed with washing. Caution is needed so that the products do not stain clothing or other fabric. And care needs to be taken so that the applications do not streak or run when wet, similar to the results of mascara running. And finally, make sure that if you wear these products outdoors, they contain sunscreen in the ingredients; otherwise wear protective clothing, eyewear, etc.

Sunless Tanning Booths

Sunless tanning booths are becoming more popular nowadays. With an air compressor and an airbrush delivery system in one of these booths, your skin receives a “tan.” What happens is that the pistons in the compressor quickly press or force air out via a nozzle in an airbrush or spray head. This air mixes with a tanning solution containing DHA that’s inside compartments within the airbrush, and sprays this in a fine mist over your outer skin layer. Some tanning booths have up to 36 of these airbrushes connected to the compressor and they are all either in fixed positions or moving. Thus tanning clients either move under fixed sprayers so that skin is covered all over. Or else the tanner parts move to spray the different body parts and you remain still (these types pose more mechanical maintenance issues though.)

Many people report a more professional-looking, smooth and even tan that covers hard-to-reach areas like your back and shoulders. Note that the tanning solution used in the machine probably has no sun protection component; so if you are heading outdoors, protect your skin appropriately.

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