Now we all know (well hopefully we do) that UV exposure is not healthy for our skin, BUT most of us do like to bronze up a little. Since we now know that sun baked skin is an unhealthy damaged skin what other options are there?

One can slap on some fake tan and get the desired effect from a bottle or one can go about remaining untanned. Not too many prefer the latter, I am one of those strange people that prefer to be untanned, purely because I am not a fan of tanning in the sun nor applying fake tan.  

After a recent skin reaction I had to a fake tan I was even more interested into what is in a fake tan. How does it work? What is it actually going in our skin to give us that bronzed (hopefully not orange) look?

fake tan

What are the chemical ingredients typically found in fake tans?

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the most commonly used chemical and Erythrulose is sometimes used in conjunction with DHA. Erythrulose is commonly used in gradual tanning products. DHA can be used up to 15% in products, retail products are usually around 3-5%. The higher the percentage the greater the tan, but the greater the chance of streaking. 

So how does fake tan give us a tan?

DHA reacts with the amino acids found in the top layers (dead layers) of our skin.  

Amino acids are the building block of protein. Our bodies are made up of protein, so amino acids play a very important role within the body.  

The reaction of DHA and the amino acids leads to the production of melanoidins. Melanoidins are the chemicals with cause the fake tan.  

This process occurs via the Maillard reaction – the same reaction that happens with the browning of meat as it is cooking.  

The melanoidins then absorb a particular wavelength of the light which results in a visually browning effect on the skin.  

Did you know?

The skin is more sensitive to UV light once applied with fake tan? Also, the UV free radicals produced was 180% higher than on untreated skin. So this means that  fake tanned skin should ideally wear a sunscreen everyday as it is more susceptible to burning and skin damage on a cellular level.  

It is too early to say, but one should be wary with inhalation in tanning booths as the jury is out on the effect on DHA on live tissue.  

We recommend the EcoTan tanning range (organic) and Jane Iredale's Tantasia which uses your skins natural tanning ability to build radient long-lasting colour. Its smart sunless technology first senses, then enhances your skin's most flattering shade. Moisturising, non-streaking, transfer-free and definitely no after-smell.


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