How do sunless tanners work?
Sunless tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which reacts with the amino acids in the top (or “dead”) layer of your skin. DHA combines with the amino acids to form brown-colored melaninoids.
What is dihydroxyacetone (DHA)?
The DHA in your sunless tanner was derived from a vegetable source, most likely sugar beets. In the 1970s the Food and Drug Administration added DHA to their list of approved cosmetic ingredients. Then, sometime in the 1980s, the cosmetic companies found a way to produce good results with DHA.
Do tanning pills work?
Tanning pills don’t work.
Are sunless tanners safe to use during pregnancy?
The debate over whether sunless tanners are safe to use during pregnancy isn’t finished yet. The concern some doctors have is over whether or not the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone or DHA, is able to penetrate the skin. The indications are that it cannot. But some doctors ask their pregnant patients not to use sunless tanners in the first trimester to play it safe. Therefore, you should ask your doctor.
I have rosacea. It is safe for me to use sunless tanners?
Many people with rosacea are drawn to sunless tanners. The brownish hue of a sunless tan can disguise the redness of rosacea; tanning in the sun can cause rosacea flare ups and must be avoided. But before applying sunless tanners to your face, consult your dermatologist.
If I swim in a chlorinated pool, will my sunless tan go away?
Long exposure to water, with or without chlorine, will fade your sunless tan. Using sunless tanners regularly over a period of time will saturate the skin better and the sunless tan will hold up longer in water, but it will still be affected. Some people report that applying a waterproof sunscreen before they get in the water prevents their sunless tan from fading as quickly.
I’ve shaved my head. Can I put sunless tanners on my scalp?
Yes, as long as you remember that your scalp should be exfoliated first just like the rest of you. If you have been shaving your head for some time, you are all set. If you just shaved your head for the first time twenty minutes ago, don’t do it. Wait at least one day to avoid irritation of the hair follicles. If you have a glaring white scalp and hope to tone it down somewhat, the most effective method is to apply a sunless tanner to the pale area only, wait three or more hours, and then apply the same sunless tanner to your entire head: scalp, ears, face, neck and all. Sunless tanners can be safely applied to receding hairlines and bald spots too. Be sure to exfoliate the area gently beforehand. You may find that you do not have to apply sunless tanners to your scalp as often as you apply them to your face.
Will the tan from a sunless tanner protect me from sunburn?
No. A medical study showed that sunless tanners might provide up to an SPF 2 or SPF 4 degree of protection. And, unlike sunscreen, this protection will not be diminished by sweat or swimming. But it’s not enough to get by on. You must use sunscreen.
Will sunless tanners stain my clothes?
Avoid wearing light colored nylon fabrics after applying sunless tanners. Other light colored fabrics may stain slightly but the stains should wash out.
I have a sunless tanner left over from last summer. Is it okay to use?
In most cases, yes. Sunless tanners stored in air tight containers at room temperature will last two years or more. Exceptions to that are products without preservatives. DHA, the active ingredient in sunless tanners, degrades when exposed to air. When you store a product, make sure the cap is tightly closed.
I have to shave my legs before applying sunless tanners. Is this right?
You claim that you have to shave your legs first because otherwise you shave your sunless tan off. But the reason you are shaving your sunless tan off is because you didn’t properly exfoliate the dead skin off your legs first. So now you are shaving your dead skin off, taking your sunless tan with it.
Will a sunless tanner do anything strange to my nipples, lips, moles, armpits, belly button, scars, naturally tanned skin, fingernails, or toenails?
The skin on your lips and nipples is nearly unaffected by sunless tanners. Your freckles and moles may darken more than the rest of your skin. Your armpits will be okay, though admittedly most people don’t have tanned armpits. Some people artistically avoid this area; those of us who are less skilled are better off putting it everywhere. Your belly button could darken too much. Rub it with a Q-tip dipped in lotion after you apply the sunless tanning lotion. Scars are a bit unpredictable. Mostly, they darken very little or not at all. Naturally tanned skin will be darker than untanned skin. If you get any on your fingernails or toenails and don’t wash it off, your nails will be a yellow-orange color for a long, long time.
Is there any difference between sunless tanners, self tanners, and tanning extenders?
These are all FDA approved names which cosmetic companies can use to describe products which contain DHA or dihydroxyacetone. The FDA frowns upon all other means of producing a tan without the sun, including tanning pills, which contain carotenoid color additives, and tanning “accelerators” which contain tyrosine or tyrosine derivatives.