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Spray Tans: How Does This Stuff Work?

Talk to any who gets a spray tan and they will tell you that color is the most important factor.  They want a rich golden tan that keeps them going back for more again and again.  However, with all the different spray tan companies out there the quest to find the perfect tan can be difficult.

What Makes The Tan Brown?

The primary ingredient in all sunless solutions is DHA (Dihydroxyacetone).  DHA is a clear liquid that stains the skin by reacting with the amino acids on the skin and the air causing a bronzed color to appear.  The best analogy to describe this is an apple. If you bite into an apple then let it sit, the air oxidizes the enzymes in the apple causing it to turn brown. DHA causes a similar effect on the skin. All sunless solutions contain a certain percentage of DHA. Professional grade solutions can range anywhere from 5% to 14%. A higher percent of DHA will produce a deeper result. DHA takes between eight to twelve hours to fully develop on the skin.

Bronzers: Green, Red & Violet – OH MY!
Bronzers are a temporary color added to the spray tan solution to assist the technician with the application
process.  It also gives an immediate pop of color on the skin while the DHA develops. There are several ways to mix the bronzers resulting in different variations of brown.  Some can have hues of red, green or violet. This is a short-term coloring, similar to certain types of makeup that
wash off immediately. It is not representative of the final color.

The color of the bronzer can have a different affect on the skin depending on the color of the natural skin tone.  Redder skin tone look better with
green base bronzers.  Where as skin tones that are more on the neutral side look good with the violet or red base bronzers. The key thing to remember is that bronzers have absolutely no bearing on the development of the DHA, but they will affect how it looks while developing.

DHA Is What It IS…
There is no such thing as green, violet or red based DHA. DHA has no base. It is a clear liquid that stains the skin.  The depth of stain depends on the percentage of DHA used in the solution. How it develops on the skin depends on the level of DHA used and other ingredients found in the over-all formula.

When talking with your spray tan technician be clear with how you want your tan to look after development.  They will be able to choose the right DHA percentage to give you the perfect golden glow.

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Safely Removing Sunless Tans

It’s a scenario we see all too often; you got a little overzealous with a self-tanner or get spray tanned so often that you have buildup from previous sessions.  As a result, we often hear the question we dread answering: “How do I remove a sunless tan?”

Our research has uncovered the most insane suggestions for sunless tan removal.  We have seen every home remedy from lemon juice, baking soda, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide to window cleaner. While these may work, we do not recommend because it is harsh on the skin.

In addition to home remedies, there are several products on the market that claim to remove tans.  They usually require the user to scrub their skin with an abrasive exfoliant.  While these may work to a degree, the damage it causes to the healthy skin is not a desired outcome.

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no miracle ingredient that will remove a sunless tan.  DHA adheres to the outer layers of the epidermis.  As the skin cells shed so does the DHA attached to it.  At the end of the day, time is the only thing that will remove a sunless tan.  However, there are some things that we can recommend to safely remove dead skin cells and the sunless tan attached to it.

  1. In a circular motion gently rub the skin using a loofa mitt or washcloth. Harsh exfoliation can cause more of a patchy fade.
  2. Tans can be removed by taking a soak in a hot tub/Jacuzzi.  Hot tubs seem to have the right temperature, chemicals and amount of friction from the jets to remove the dead skins cells gently and effectively.
  3. If there isn’t a hot tub near by, slather on baby oil.  Allow the baby oil to sit on the skin for several minutes. Then soak in a very hot bath (as hot as you can handle) that also contains additional baby oil.  Use a washcloth to gently wipe off the tan (be careful not to slip getting out the tub).  Because baby oil contains mineral oil, you should wait 48 to 72 hours before receiving your next sunless tan.

TIP: You may have some areas that stubbornly hold onto the tan.  These are usually around the armpits, ankles and elbows.  If this happens, use a baby wipe to gently remove the remaining tan.

If you keep your skin healthy, your sunless tan will look better, last longer and fade more evenly.