Many people simply assume that fake tans work by simply spraying a tanning agent over their bodies. Something similar to spray painting a fence. In actuality, fake tans are more complex and complicated than most people realize and there are several different types of sunless tanning products besides the simple spray tan. Today’s fake tans are natural and fresh, instead of the strange orange color from previous years. Before deciding to get a sunless tan, it is important to know how fake tans work.
The Different Tanning Products
The skin is composed of two main layers, the dermis and the epidermis The dermis is the main layer of skin on the inside, while the epidermis is the outer layer of skin. Tanning occurs on the epidermal layer of the skin, which is also made up of two more additional layers, the basal layer, and the horny layer. The inner layer is the basal ( stratum layer) and is most affected when tanning in a bed or outdoors. When a fake tan is applied, it is the horny ( stratum corneum) that receives the color. There are several different types of tanning products available, and they all take different times to work. People have been applying fake tans since the 1960s, with the introduction of Copperfield’s fake tanning lotion. What once used to be a ridiculously fake and orange-looking color, has turned into a fabulous bronze glow. On the market today, women can find not only spray tans, but also tanning creams, lotions, and even pills. Depending on the type of product that is used, it can take up to three hours to achieve that beautiful bronze glow that everyone strives for.
By: Mark Morgan
The Active, Working Ingredients
The American Academy of Dermatology often recommends tanning lotions with the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone ( DHA). This odorless and colorless sugar reacts with the naturally occurring dead skin cells that are located on the outer layer of the epidermis. The DHA causes these dead skin cells to darken, which is what causes the skin to appear tanned. The effect normally lasts for up to a week before it will need to be reapplied. Another active ingredient found in tanning pills and some accelerating lotions is the common amino acid, tyrosine. These types of self-tanning products only work on an existing tan and help it to gradually darken. The amino acid is said to increase the body’s production of melanin, which helps the skin to tan. This increased production of melanin is thought to speed up the natural process of darkening the tan. It is still unclear if these tan accelerating products actually do work. There are also tanning pills that contain the active ingredient, canthaxanthin. While this food coloring has been proven safe to ingest, it is consumed in much larger quantities when being used as a tanning agent. Since the chemical is absorbed over the entire body, certain health problems have developed with the continual use of tanning pills. Evidence has shown that over time, the canthaxanthin can build up in the body causing hepatitis and even build up in the retinas of the eyes.
One of the most reliable and popular fake tanning products is spray tans. In our quest for beautiful, healthy tanned skin, many women have forgone harmful tanning beds and sunbathing for the normally less harmful fake tan. With all of the options out there, it can be difficult to choose the sunless tanning option that is right for you. While all of the sunless tanning products work only with the outer layer of the skin, some of the active ingredients can cause severe side effects. Spray tans are not only safer to use, they also allow women a wider choice of shades and work instantly.
How Spray Tans Work
Spray tans also contain the naturally oxidizing chemical DHA. This safe and natural chemical is what causes sliced apples to turn brown, and for our skin to magically darken. This chemical was first used by Copperfield, with their first line of self-tanning products, and has advanced dramatically since then. No longer do women have to worry about turning that embarrassing and obvious shade of orange, today’s spray tans give that beautiful bronze look that can complement any skin color. DHA is a byproduct of sugar beets and has been used by the medical association for decades in treating certain types of pigment discoloration. Now with its introduction into spray tans, women can safely get a natural golden glow without having to wait for hours. The way in which fake spray tans works is that the DHA has a reaction with the amino acids that are located in the epidermis. This reaction is what causes the dead cells to darken temporarily. The tan is temporary though and will need to be reapplied every few days. As your body naturally begins to shed the dead skin cells, the tan can become patchy. While the DHA can take a little while to begin to work, many women are also turning to bronzing creams to help their tan look fresh and moisturized.
Working with Bronzers and Tanning Lotions
Sunless tanning lotions and skin bronzers are also popular and safe ways to get a healthy, golden glow. Like spray tans, these creams and lotions can give you beautiful skin without the damaging effects of both UVB and UVA light. Both of these harmful light rays can be found in tanning beds and from sunbathing. One of the benefits of using these sunless tanning products is that women do not suffer from harmful side effects such as skin-damaging and premature aging. With the creams and lotions, you also get the added benefit of skin-smoothing ingredients and moisturizers. Unlike many tanning pills, these fake tanning products also do not contain canthaxanthin which can cause liver damage, loss of vision, and severe skin discoloration.
How to Apply
There are two main ingredients in both spray tans and lotions, DHA and dihydroxyacetone. While DHA has been approved for all areas of the skin, the latter has not. The areas around the eyes, nose, and mouth should all be avoided when applying a sunless tan. While this may be difficult for the spray tans, protective facial wear can help. Skin bronzers and lotions are easier to apply, and they are also easier to contain. Making them a better choice, especially around the upper body. These lotions are easy to apply and can be done in just a few steps.
- Make sure to exfoliate all of the dead skin cells off of your body. It is a good idea to pay attention to areas that typically have dry, rougher patches.
- Apply the cream to sections of your body. Beginning with the midsection slowly spread the lotion in circles. This will help to ensure that the lotion is evenly applied. Washing your hands frequently can also help to cut down on any discoloration on the palms. It is also a good idea to end with the legs, to keep the cream evenly applied.
- The areas around the elbows, ankles, and knees are normally lighter in color, and to avoid any fake-looking color wiping the areas with a damp towel can lessen the darkening effect. This will help to give the tan a more natural glow.
- Drying time is generally ten minutes, and it is recommended that wearing loose-fitting clothing will help prevent any of the colorings from initially rubbing off.
This applies to both the spray and the lotions, while the spray tan may require a slightly longer drying time.
How Does Fake Tans Work
While there are several different types of sunless tanning products, they all work in the same manner. The skin is comprised of two main layers, with the epidermis being the top layer. It is this upper layer that is affected by the fake tanning products and gives you that beautiful, healthy glow. Since the 1980s, companies have been producing self-tanning lotions and sprays that can safely give you a warm sun-kissed look without turning orange. These advancements in DHA have led to a renewed interest in self-tanning. These safe and naturally occurring amino acids work with the dead skin cells on your skin to slowly turn it a golden brown. The same way it occurs in nature with a peeled apple. This bronzing of the skin can occur almost instantly, but it is not intended to last much longer than a week. As the dead skin cells naturally fall off, the tan will begin to fade. It is recommended that spray tans be reapplied at least once a week, but many women are finding that it is easier to keep their fake tan looking fresh and natural by using a bronzing lotion also. Not only will this help to keep the tan glowing, but your skin will also benefit from the hydrating moisture. Another new ingredient to mention is the amino acid, erythrulose. This amino acid works the same as DHA, as long as they are combined together. This added ingredient can help to achieve a darker, more tropical sunless tan.
Whichever method you prefer for your golden, sunless glow remember to always try to match your own natural coloring. Even the best sunless tan will look horribly fake if it is mismatched to a person’s coloring. A tanning chart can easily be found, next to most sunless products and will help you find your perfect bronze glow. Fake tans are a safe and easy way to stay golden all year round, without the harmful effects of UV light. Whichever product you choose, always remember to read the instructions and try a test patch first. This will help to prevent any allergic reactions or discolorations in the skin.