Today there are many options for sunless tanning. No UV damage, no blistering and peeling.
The primary chemical used is Dihydroxyactone (DHA), which the American Academy of Dermatology has deemed the most effective sunless tanning product available. Look for products that contain DHA or go to tanning salons that use DHA-containing spray.
DHA interacts with the amino acids in the dead surface cells of the stratum corneum and changes the cells a healthy-looking tan color. The color starts to appear in two to three hours and continues to develop for approximately six hours. The tan lightens as the dead cells gradually slough off, starting in about four days after application.
Some sunless tanning products also contain “bronzers” or dyes to give an instant bronzed look. These wash off in a day or two but have an advantage in addition to instant results. They allow the user to see exactly where the DHA product has already been applied. No streaks, no missed spots.
DHA is not absorbed into the body. It has been on the FDA list of approved cosmetic ingredients for over thirty years. Its cosmetic use is restricted to external application, meaning it should not be applied to lips, eyes or mucous membranes.
Be aware that, just because your skin appears dark, a DHA tan does not act as a sunscreen. The estimated SPF is between 2 and 4, hardly worth mentioning. There are many excellent DHA-containing sunless tanners.
Sunless tanning lotions come in light, medium, and dark tones. People with dry skin can buy brands with emollients or humectants added for softness and moisture, while people with oily skin may find that gel or alcohol-based products work better.
And recently, ingredients such as vitamins, herbal extracts, antioxidants, and alpha-hydroxy acids are being added to some products in an effort to expand their benefits.
DHA-Spray Tanning Salons
Another option is to go to a DHA-spray tanning salon. In most salons the process is fully automated so that the client gets a quick, even tan in complete privacy. You are given protection for hair, feet and other areas which should not be tanned or would tan too deeply. Then you disrobe and step into the spray booth. The spray is activated.
After application a drier comes on to speed the skin’s absorption of the spray. After a couple of minutes, the process is complete. You step out of the booth, lightly towel off to remove any remaining wet spray, dress and go.
Expect to spend about $80 a month to maintain your tan using a salon.
Tanning Pills and Accelerators: a Big No-No
Tanning pills containing the carotenoid, canthaxanthin, are banned in the United States. Canthaxanthin has been associated with hepatitis and urticaria (commonly known as hives). Further, canthaxanthin can deposit in the eyes as crystals, which may cause injury and impaired vision. Finally, there has been one reported case of a woman who died from aplastic anemia, which her doctor attributed to her use of tanning pills.
As for tanning accelerators, the chemicals work by interacting with the sun to speed the natural tanning process, if they work at all. Some are ineffective. Others are downright dangerous since, by accelerating UV damage, they increase your risk of skin cancer and accelerate the visible signs of aging.
By: Jean Bowler, editor of Ageless Beauty , a website devoted to helping the baby boom generation hold on to the glow of youth. Visit the Ageless Beauty's Skin Care Section for the latest developments or Subscribe to What's New In Ageless Beauty and receive a free report, “15 Expert Reports on Fitness and Health Success. "