If you’re not a natural morena, you’d need the help of a tanning lotion to get that bronze glow on your skin. But how do these products work and how do they prevent your skin from getting fried? Here’s a quick look at the science behind tanning.
First, it depends on the ingredients your tanning lotion has. The most common ingredient used is dihydroxyacetone or DHA, which reacts with the amino acid in the dead cells on the skin’s surface to create a darker color. This reaction lasts from 2 to 4 hours, but can continue to up to 3 days. The fact that it reacts with dead skin cells is also the reason why these tans are just temporary; as once the dead skin cells fall off, the tan disappears, too. (That’s also one reason why you shouldn’t exfoliate after applying tanning lotion.)
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that tanning lotions should only contain 1 to 15% DHA; most store-bought lotions contain 3 to 5%. So why are there few tanning lotions that go up to the maximum allowed amount by the FDA? The answer is pretty simple: even though more DHA means a more pronounced tan, it also means more streakiness. Hence, some tanning lotions now pair DHA with erythrulose, which works the same way but more evenly and gradually.
While DHA is pretty safe, studies have shown that the other ingredients in tanning lotions—such as essential oils—can cause your skin to be more sensitive to UV light. That’s why it’s advised to apply sunblock on top of your tanned skin, as this ensures that the living skin under your tan won’t get burned. And if you don’t have a preferred brand yet, we advise you to get those tanning lotion and sunblock combos here on BeautyMNL. This makes sure that your sunblock works perfectly with your tanning product.