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Tan in a Bottle: How Self-Tanners Work

So you’ve finally tried self-tanners and conclude that they are fabulous. Now you can’t imagine your week-to-week without a session. Hold up – is it even safe to schedule a self-tanning session every week? With such an efficient and beautifully sunkissed glow coming out of a bottle, surely there must be ingredients that are sus. How come some people end up with an unnatural citrus shade?

These are some of the questions that may have run through your mind. Fortunately for you, we are here to answer them to quiet your tanning thoughts and to turn you into a self-tan master.

What are the ingredients that go into self-tanning products?

You probably have heard of this ingredient before: DHA, or dihydroxyacetone. As complicated as the name is, DHA is simple sugar that is, ironically, colourless. When this ingedient is applied topically, it interacts with the natural amino acids found in the skin, which triggers a chemical reaction that produces melanoidins. Mela who? These are brown compounds that result in a darkening of the outermost skin layer.

Commonly referred to as the maillard reaction, a gradual skin bronzing takes place around 2 hours after the self-tanner is applied, and typically goes on for another 24-72 hours.

Are all DHAs natural?

The DHA that is widely used in self-tanners are typically synthetic. However, as more attention is paid to skincare and more information becomes available to the beauty public, there has been a growing concern regarding chemicals in skincare. Because of this, an increasing number of manufacturers have sought ways to replace synthetic ingredients with natural ones.

Common sources of naturally-derived DHA include sugar beets and cane sugar. Our tanning range uses all-natural DHA, and is chock full of good ingredients to supercharge your skincare while getting a gold glow at the same time.

 Why do self-tanners smell bad?

Typically, this is an unfortunate by-product of the chemical reaction that takes place while your skin is tanning. Darker tans usually contain more DHA, which means more zing on the nose, coupled with one’s own body chemistry. Fortunately, natural fragrances can shoo those odors away to make your self-tanning session a pleasurable one.

Why do self-tans fade away after a week?

While DHA does cause a permanent darkening of the skin, your skin does not remain on you permanently. Since DHA works without penetrating into your skin, it only colourises the outer layer – also known as the stratum corneum – which is where layers of dead skin are. As your dead skin cells are exfoliated or naturally fall off, your bronzed glow goes along with it.

Even though this is the case, exfoliating will help your tan fade beautifully and avoid splotches. So don’t be afraid to get that loofah out. You can always do another sesh, anyway.

Why do some self-tans turn out orange?

Oftentimes this has more to do with your choosing and application process. Firstly, pick out a shade that is close to your skin tone. Don’t go jumping five tones deeper, especially if you are unfamiliar with the tan shade that looks perfect on you. Darker is not always better. Second, as excited as you might be, don’t go dumping the entire bottle on your skin at once. Limit the layers of tanning product that you apply to avoid that dreaded orange hue. Third, not all tans are equal – make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. Leaving it on longer does not necessarily mean better.

Does my self-tan provide me with sun protection?

Unfortunately, no. Though self-tanners drastically decrease your exposure to harmful sun rays by not bathing in it, we would advise you to wear sunscreen as per usual. Nobody got hurt from slathering on too much sunscreen anyway, so we would always err on the side of caution.

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