Self Tanning Questions

How Does a Self-Tanner Work? (UV Protection, Safety, etc.)

Written by: Anastasija

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Self-tanner is very popular among many people within the beauty industry. From celebrities to everyday consumers, there is a huge market. Despite the fact that it’s an essential product for so many people, how many actually know how it works? If you want to find out more about what you’re putting onto your skin, and how self-tanner works, read on.

What is a self-tanner?

If you’re not too familiar with the product itself, self-tanner is used to enhance and darken the natural colour of your skin with the use of product rather than UV rays from the sun. It comes in many different forms, such as mousses, lotions, creams, mists, and more, which all work differently for different uses and results.

Bondi_Sands_Ultra_Dark_ Mousse

The most popular form of self-tanner is a mousse, which is usually applied with a mitt but, as mentioned, there are other options too. Most self-tanners have a small shade range of light, medium, and dark to help you achieve the perfect colour.

One of the best things about self-tanner is the convenience of being able to apply it yourself, whenever you like and specifically for your desired results. Although there are different steps you should take to ensure the best self-tan possible, it’s not too difficult once you know what you’re doing it.

How does a self-tanner work?

Self-tanners, no matter what formula they come in, all work in a similar way: using the chemicals inside them. These various chemicals work in the upper layers of the skin to give you a bronzed glow.

One of the most important things to know about when it comes to how self-tanners work is one of the key ingredients: dihydroxyacetone, also known as DHA. DHA is an active ingredient that reacts with your skin to give it the pigment and natural-looking tan.

DHA only reacts with the upper layers of your skin, so there is no danger of it absorbing into your bloodstream or interfering with hormones, etc, as some other cosmetic chemicals do.

Because the DHA only absorbs into the upper few layers of the skin, your tan will fade after about a week, and this time can vary between product to products, as well as how you prepare and maintain your skin (more on that in a bit!).

If you have ever noticed a funky smell when using a self-tanner, this comes from the reactions between the DHA and your skin. Unfortunately, you can’t predict what a self-tanner will smell like just from the bottle, only when it actually comes into contact with your skin. The good news is that the smell only lasts while the tan is first developing and should wash away when rinsed off.

Not all self-tanners smell bad, as they contain fragrance or odor-neutralizing ingredients to combat this. If the smell is something that bothers you, these alternative products with scented components are always an option.

As well as the funky smell, DHA can actually have potentially damaging effects on the body when the fumes are inhaled. Scientists are still unaware of these potential effects, so it is advised that you avoid inhaling the fumes for precautions. The fumes are usually less present in self-tanners than they are in spray tans, but you should still be careful.

As mentioned, preparing your skin for self-tanner correctly is key for a long-lasting tan. There are plenty of instructions and articles out there on how to prepare your skin prior to self-tanning, so make use of them. Remembering to prepare your skin properly has a number of benefits and makes your tan look more natural too.

Maintaining is also equally as important as preparing when it comes to prolonging your tan. For some reason, this isn’t talked about as much, but just ensuring your skin is moisturised all the time can make your tan last longer. This is because it keeps the skin hydrated, preventing it from cracking or peeling which makes your tan fade.

Lastly, expiration dates are another thing which effect a product’s performance. Just like food or other products, self-tanners have expiration dates and usually won’t perform as well once they have passed. Specific ingredients, known as preservatives, are found in self-tanners and their purpose is to keep the other active ingredients going.

Once the product has expired, it won’t work at its best. Sometimes, the expired product can even cause allergic reactions with your skin, which is also a bad situation.

Also read:
What Self-Tanner Do Celebrities Use? (Kardashians, J.Lo, …)
Why Does Self-Tanner Make Me Itch? (Solution Included)

Do self tanners include UV protection?

One large misconception when it comes to self-tanners is its UV protection properties. If you are interested in keeping your skin well-cared for and preventing any future problems or complications, it is extremely important to know about UV protection.

Firstly, UV protection is another way of saying sun protection. The sun emits two types of rays which make it to the Earth’s surface: UVA and UVB. Both of these are responsible for different areas of skin damage, so it’s important to protect against them both.

By: banana boat

UVA rays are known to penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays and are the leading cause of skin aging. On the other hand, UVB rays are the ones responsible for sunburn and don’t penetrate as deeply into the skin.

When you experience a sunburn, it is a visible warning from your body of short-term cell DNA damage, and increased sunburn can put you at risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. Just by protecting your skin from the sun, you can reduce your risk of fatal skin cancer.

Now that you know what happens if you don’t protect your skin from the sun, you can see why UV protection is so important. The SPF rating of a product is only of the protection against UVB rays, so you want to find one which protects against UVA ones as well.

Self-tanners don’t have any UV protection properties and can be a tricky illusion. Just because you have a tan, it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience sunburn. Your skin is just as prone to sunburn as it was before, but it’s less obvious, and you probably won’t see sunburn in its early stages.

Some self-tanners claim to have UV protection, but this won’t last as long as the tan itself does. Once you have washed off your self-tanner after it has developed, you will most likely have washed off any chemicals with UV protection properties too. This is why it is important to protect your skin from UV rays when using self-tanner.

Self-tanners and psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, and other skin conditions

Just like any other cosmetic, self-tanners can cause reactions with certain skin types, especially for those with specific skin conditions. However, this isn’t to say that those with skin conditions can’t use self-tanners, just that they should be more careful and look out for certain things when buying products.

There are many products out there which are suitable for sensitive skin and other conditions, and you can often find out how good a product will be for your skin by taking a look at reviews and product claims. Remember, not all the claims a product makes will be true, so it’s important to do your research.

It’s also a good idea to check out the ingredients. Although it may sound like a lengthy process, researching all of the ingredients on the list of a certain product can help you determine if it will work for you. You could even create your own list of ingredients to avoid.

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Jergens Natural Glow +FIRMING Self Tanner, Sunless Tanning Lotion for Fair to Medium Skin Tone, Anti Cellulite Firming Body Lotion for Natural-Looking Tan, 7.5 Ounce
8,489 Reviews
Jergens Natural Glow +FIRMING Self Tanner, Sunless Tanning Lotion for Fair to Medium Skin Tone, Anti Cellulite Firming Body Lotion for Natural-Looking Tan, 7.5 Ounce
  • SELF TANNER BODY LOTION - Create a flawless light bronze tan with gradual, natural-looking color while nourishing and hydrating dry and extra dry skin.
  • GRADUAL SUNLESS TANNING - Our Jergens Natural Glow & FIRMING moisturizer will gradually enhance and deepen your natural skin tone to provide hassle-free, streak-free color. Cruelty free

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Bondi Sands Dark Self Tanning Foam | Lightweight, Self-Tanner Foam Enriched with Aloe Vera and Coconut Provides an Even, Streak-Free Tan | 6.76 oz/200 mL
12,957 Reviews
Bondi Sands Dark Self Tanning Foam | Lightweight, Self-Tanner Foam Enriched with Aloe Vera and Coconut Provides an Even, Streak-Free Tan | 6.76 oz/200 mL
  • Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam is a lightweight, tanner that’s simple to apply and gives a flawless finish, every time; Simply smooth on the weightless self tanning foam for an even, streak-free, bronzed tan
  • Our unique, salon quality formula is enriched with aloe vera and coconut, for the ultimate natural, bronzed glow

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These two are the best self-tanners for sensitive skin. I’m using Bondi Sands, but I’ve heard many great comments about Jergens.

Before using any self-tanner, perform a patch test on a small area of skin. Choose somewhere discreet and apply a little bit of the product there and leave it for 24 hours, to see if and how it reacts to your skin. If there is an allergic reaction, it’s best to steer clear of this product and choose something else. By doing a patch test, you aren’t risking an allergic reaction on all of your body.

If you are unsure about whether a product works for your skin, avoid buying it in bulk, to begin with, and even buy a travel size version to save your money if it doesn’t work. Over time, you will find something which works for you, and you should try to stick with that.

If you are worried about a new self-tanner, you can always consult your doctor or dermatologist before using it to get their professional advice.

Is self-tanner safer than other tanning methods?

Self-tanner isn’t the only method of tanning, and there are other ways which people use too. All of these have their own pros and cons, but which one is the safest?

Firstly, there’s just regular sunbathing, which is the most natural method of sun-tanning, but not necessarily the safest. It’s commonly believed that natural means better, but not always.

As mentioned before, the sun emits harmful UV rays which can cause damage to the skin. When you sunbathe, you are exposing yourself to all of those harmful rays and it can often be tempting to use a low-protection SPF, which is exposing your skin to even more damage. This makes sunbathing more harmful than self-tanning.

Another option is sunbeds, which use a higher concentration of UV rays which are produced by special machines for a shorter period of time to give you a tan. Just like with sunbathing, these rays are damaging to the skin and can also cause cell damage.

Because the concentration of these rays in higher from the machines, they are even more dangerous than regular sunbathing, so sunbeds are a big no-no.

The last option which is very popular for tanning is spray tans. Of the three alternative options, spray tans are the safest, but not quite as much as self-tanning.

Spray tans also use DHA to distribute pigment across the body, but it is done by using a spray mechanism. This causes lots of fumes and scientists don’t yet know about the potential danger of inhaling these DHA fumes, so that’s another thing to be aware of.

Final thoughts

Self-tanner is a clever product, and it has made a beautiful, beachy glow available to so many people, all-year-round. There are lots of benefits of using self-tanner and it’s the safest tanning option of all. It’s also interesting to know exactly how it works, and what all of the ingredients are doing for your skin.

Now that you know all about self-tanner, you can be better educated and even safer when using it regularly, and maybe teach others about it too!

About Anastasija

Welcome to my website! I'm Anastasija, and as a redhead with a sensitivity to the sun, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect sunless tanner six years ago.

After extensive research and four years of personal experience, I'm here to share my wealth of tips and tricks for achieving a beautiful, sun-kissed glow.

Whether you're interested in self-tanners, spray tans, or safe sun exposure, this website covers it all.

Join me as I provide valuable insights and guidance for various methods of getting that desired tan.

Anastasija thirsty for tan about me

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