How do self tans work?

How do self tans work?

They're the radiant essential in our beauty routines, but how exactly do self-tanners gel operate? What ingredients contribute to achieving the ideal (faux) sun-kissed tone – and in what way? Furthermore, why do certain faux tans emit unpleasant odors or result in an unnatural orange hue?

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If you've ever pondered any of these inquiries, now's your chance to uncover the truth about fake tans. This article delves into the science behind self-tanning products, providing all the necessary information for you to master the art of tanning. Your tanning journey will be smoother with it!


What’s the tanning ingredient in self-tanning products?

The primary component in self-tanners gel and spray tans is dihydroxyacetone, also known as DHA. DHA, a basic sugar, is initially colorless. Yet, upon topical application, it reacts with amino acids on the skin's surface, triggering a chemical process. This reaction yields brown pigments known as melanoidins, leading to a temporary* darkening of the outer skin layer (stratum corneum).

Referred to as the Maillard reaction, the gradual bronzing typically starts approximately 2 hours post-application of self-tanner gel and persists for 24-72 hours. (Indeed, that's as long as 3 days, for those skilled in mathematics!)

This browning process also occurs in culinary settings, imparting distinctive color and delightful flavor to foods like charred steak and freshly baked bread. However, refrain from entertaining the thought of nibbling on your faux-tanned arm ;)

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Is DHA in tanning products natural?

Usually, the DHA found in self-tanners gel is synthetic. However, due to growing consumer worries regarding chemicals in skincare, some companies are opting for natural alternatives. Sugar beets and cane sugar are common sources of naturally-derived DHA.

In our tanning gel SPF15, we've harnessed natural tanning gel to develop the world's premier 100% natural DHA self-tan body treatment with comprehensive skincare advantages! You're welcome.

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Why do self-tanners gel smell so funky?

Now you know what’s behind the tanning effect, you’re probably wondering what causes the strong biscuit smell of so many self-tanners. Unfortunately, it’s a not-so-pleasant by-product of the chemical reaction that progressively ‘tans’ your skin. Darker tans which contain more DHA will often pong more, and the degree to which you smell like baked goods will also depend on your own body chemistry.

The good news? Clever use of fragrance can help counteract the telltale smell as your tan develops. In peach fragrance intensive boost tanning, we use tropical watermelon and peach notes to completely neutralize any unwanted odors - transporting you to paradise!


Why do fake tans only last a week?

Remember when we mentioned that DHA results in a permanent darkening of the skin? It wasn't a mistake. So, why then do self-tans typically only last for about a week?

The explanation lies in the skin's natural turnover process. DHA affects the color of the outermost layer of the skin – the stratum corneum – which consists of numerous layers of dead skin cells. As these cells are shed naturally or through exfoliation and hair removal, your tan essentially fades away. Bye-bye, tan, bye-bye.


What causes an orange self-tan? 

Orange tans can affect even the most skilled tanners, resulting from both incorrect application techniques and subpar tanning products.

Since sporting an Oompa Loompa hue is never desirable, there are certain practices best avoided to achieve a naturally bronzed complexion. Firstly, steer clear of applying excessive product or multiple layers of self-tanner gel at once, as this can lead to an orange tint. Opting for a shade significantly darker than your natural skin tone is also a recipe for an orange-toned catastrophe.

To prevent your tan from over-developing and turning orange, it's crucial to follow the instructions and rinse off at the recommended time. Longer exposure isn't always better, nor is opting for a darker shade if it doesn't complement your natural color! Check out our list of 7 Common Self-Tanning Blunders And How to Sidestep Them!

When selecting your tanning product, steer clear of those with inferior ingredients to evade an unnatural appearance. Embracing a green base is a wise choice. A green-grey base, such as that found in our tanning gel SPF15, is your best defense against even the faintest hint of orange tones!

Do self-tans provide sun protection?

The answer is a resounding, ‘No!’ While fake tans are undoubtedly safer than spending time outdoors sunbaking, never be fooled into thinking your faux glow provides protection. It doesn’t and you should be as vigilant with sun protection as ever!  

Check out more tan tips & tricks here!

knowledge expansion

knowledge expansion

Safe Fake Tan: Choosing the Right Self-Tanner for Your Skin

Getting a safe and natural-looking fake tan is all about choosing the right self-tanner. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect one that gives you the glow you desire without any orange undertones.

First and foremost, opt for a high-quality self-tanner that is formulated with natural ingredients and moisturizing agents to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Look for products like Love at First Tan B Tan or Sun Tan City Products that are known for their safe and effective formulations.

When selecting a self-tanner, consider your skin type and tone. If you have black skin, look for a formula specifically designed for darker skin tones to ensure a natural-looking tan. Additionally, choose a self-tanner with SPF to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays while you tan.

Avoid cheap tanning bed lotions and opt for airbrush self-tanners or spray tan appointments for a more even and natural-looking tan. For your face, use a face tanning gel that is specially formulated for delicate facial skin.

By choosing the right self-tanner and following these tips, you can achieve a safe and beautiful fake tan that glows your own way without any orange surprises.

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