UV-fee tanning isn’t what it use to be. With technological advances to the spray tan machines and a wide array of solutions, one can now get a beautiful and natural looking tan if done properly.
DHA was first recognized as a skin-coloring agent by German scientists in the 1920s. It was noted as causing the skin surface to turn brown when spilled.
The first consumer sunless tanning lotion was introduced into the marketplace in the 1960s. This product was called “Quick Tan” or “QT”. It was sold as an overnight tanning agent, and other companies followed with similar products. Consumers soon tired of this product due to unattractive results such as orange palms, streaking and poor coloration. Unfortunately, because of the QT experience, many people today still associate sunless tanning with fake-looking orange tans.
In the 1970s the United States Food and Drug Administration added DHA permanently to their list of approved cosmetic ingredients. Today, DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is the main active ingredient in all sunless tanning skincare preparations. It may be used alone or combined with other tanning components such as erythrulose. DHA is considered the most effective sun-free tanning additive.
Sunless tanning products contain DHA in concentrations ranging from 1% to 15%. Most drugstore products range from 3% to 5%, with professional products ranging from 5% to 15%. The percentages correspond with the product coloration levels from light to dark. Lighter products are more beginner-friendly, but may require multiple coats to produce the desired color depth. Darker products produce a dark tan in one coat, but are also more prone to streaking, unevenness, or off-color tones if not applied correctly. The sunless tan takes 2 to 4 hours to begin appearing on the skin surface, and will continue to darken for 24 to 72 hours, depending on formulation type.
Once the darkening effect has occurred, the tan will not sweat off or wash away with soap or water. It will fade gradually over 3 to 10 days, in conjunction with the skin’s normal exfoliation process. Exfoliation, prolonged water submersion, or heavy sweating can lighten the tan, as these all contribute to rapid dead skin cell exfoliation (the dead skin cells are the tinted portion of the sunless tan).
DHA does not damage the skin, and is considered a safe skin-coloring agent and nutritional supplement. Most cases of sensitivity are due to other ingredients in the skin product preparation, such as preservatives, plant extracts, dyes or fragrances. DHA has been approved for cosmetic use by the FDA, the Canadian Health Ministry and most of the EU member nations.