How do Sunless Tanners Work?

Winter’s chilly air and overcast skies can make you feel a little blue—and also a little pale. It’s hard to hold on to that healthy summer glow when you haven’t seen sun for a while.

What can you do to keep your skin looking great through the holidays and beyond? Tanning beds will brown your skin, but they’ll also damage it; and while there are great treatments (like Botox and Dysport) to address those little lines on your face when they begin to appear, there’s no reason to speed up the skin aging process unnecessarily. These days, doctors agree that the best, safest way to avoid looking pasty—at any time of the year—is to use a sunless tanner.

Read on to learn about how sunless tanners work and why they’re your best bet when it comes to getting that bronzed look you’re dying for!

What’s the difference between a sunless tanner and a bronzer?

Bronzers are a temporary sunless tanning or bronzing option that normally doesn’t contain DHA. Once applied, they create a tan that can easily be removed with soap and water. Like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off.

Sunless tanners are typically done by a professional. They can last three to seven days fading with every shower. At-home airbrush tanning kits and aerosol mists are also now available.

How do sunless tanners work?

Sunless tanners contain an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is actually a sugar that interacts with the amino acids in your skin’s outer layer (the epidermis). This essentially stains the cells on the surface to a darker color, making you look tan without ever having been exposed to even a ray of sunlight.

What’s the difference between a sunless tanner and a bronzer?

Bronzers are a temporary sunless tanning option that normally doesn’t contain DHA. Once applied, they create a tan that can easily be removed with soap and water. Like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off.

Sunless tanners are typically done by a professional and can last up to three to seven days, fading with every shower. At-home airbrush tanning kits mists are also available.

Do sunless tanners give you a “real” tan?

Nope. Since the reaction caused by DHA occurs only on your skin’s surface and not deep down like a suntan, the bronzing effects of sunless tanners generally wear off after about 3 to 7 days; that’s how long it takes for the “dyed” skin cells to slough off. Basically, the more you exfoliate your skin, the faster your tan will fade—but it’s not going to wash off on its own when you go swimming or take a shower.

Are sunless tanners safe?

One of the dangers of sunless tanners is the false sense of security you can fall prey to. If you use a sunless tanner, remember to be careful when you go back outside: fake tans won’t protect you against sunburns. The protection that your usual “base tan” gives you comes from melanin, which is produced as a result of sun exposure, not from DHA.

Also, the risks of inhaling DHA are unknown. It is recommended to cover your eyes and mouth while getting a spray tan.

Which sunless tanners give the most natural color?

Jergens Natural Glow is an excellent option for the price. You can use it every day and it slowly gives your skin color. Since it is also a moisturizer, there’s no need to double up on both a moisturizer + tanner.  See more sunless tanning reviews here.

Why Go Fake When I Can Go “Au Naturel”?

 

Many people prize their ability to sunbathe without burning; countless beachgoers spend entire summers pursuing that much-coveted, hard-won “perfect tan” all the fashion magazines rave about. But under all the hype lies an inconvenient truth: Even people who don’t sunburn can get skin cancer, and prolonged, repeated exposure to UV rays will cause your skin to deteriorate over time—regardless of your complexion.

Sunless tanners may not give you melanin—or last as long as a suntan—but they will give you all the color of a tan without any of the risk. And if you think about it, that’s really the point of getting a tan anyway—to make your skin look fantastic. So why not keep it fantastic for years to come?