What Is DHA Self Tan?

Self tanning has been increasing in popularity as more and more research exposes the dangers of UV-rays. Tanning has been a popular beauty trend for decades, and many are now turning to self tanners as a safer alternative to the sun and sun beds. One of the most common self tanning ingredients is dihydroxyacetone, also known as DHA.

What Is DHA in Self Tanners and How Does DHA Interact With Your Skin to Create a Natural-Looking Tan?

DHA is primarily derived from sugar beets and – canes. DHA is a simple carbohydrate. It is furthermore, currently the only substance that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved to tan the skin. Which is why it is the most commonly used ingredient in self tanners. When used correctly, DHA is a non-toxic way to create a temporary browning effect on your skin. The substance achieves this by reacting with amino acids in the protein keratin of your skin, which produces a sun-kissed look.

How Did DHA Become a Sunless Tanning Agent?

It was by accident that scientists discovered that dihydroxyacetone could tan the skin. It was first discovered in the 1920s when German scientists used DHA as part of the X-ray process. DHA was accidentally spilled onto some skin, and the scientists noticed that the affected area would temporarily turn brown a few hours post exposure.

An article published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health adds that in the 1950s, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati made a similar discovery. The researcher Eva Wittgenstein conducted studies where DHA was used as an oral treatment for glycogen storage disease. When ingesting large doses, the children sometimes spilled the substance onto their skin. Like in the 1920s, the skin also turned temporarily brown.

In the 1940s, California reportedly introduced the first commercialized sunless tanning lotion. In the 1960s, tanning lotions became more popular, and in the 1970s, the FDA awarded DHA a permanent spot on its list of approved ingredients for cosmetic use. Since then, no other alternative has proven capable of producing a safe, natural-looking tan. Thus was DHA tanning created.

When sunless tanners first came out, most formulas with DHA tended to make people look more orange than brown. However, due to high demand, the cosmetic industry has made significant improvements. Boë Beauté self tanners focus on cultivating that ‘fresh-from-vacation’-look. We aim to give you the joy of your favourite glow in an easy and natural way – all year round.

No.2 Tan Water – bestselling, easy to apply, watery like consistent and it dries in seconds and gives you a gorgeous golden glow within a couple of hours.

How Does DHA Tan Your Skin?

What is DHA in tanning products such as lotions, drops, mists, mousses, etc? DHA is the active ingredient in self tanning products. DHA comes from glycerol, which is a sweet-tasting and non-toxic viscous liquid. However, DHA and sunless tanners is not for ingestion. Scientists use microbial fermentation to create this glycerol from simple sugars. It then darkens the skin via the Maillard reaction. This term describes the process where amino acids react with sugars.

The concentration of DHA used in tanning lotions typically varies among products. Gradual tanners tend to contain less DHA, while tanners that promise instant results have a higher percentage of DHA. Boë Beauté only has gradual tanning, where your natural glow is created by your skin.  Once darkened, the skin remains this way for a few days and begins to fade within three to 10 days, due to your natural skin renewance.

Regardless of why people use DHA creams and lotions, one thing some people dislike about the product, is the smell it leaves on their skin. Billie from Boë Beauté, says,

As tanning products work to darken the skin, some people may develop and detect an unfamiliar ‘smell’. This ‘smell’ is a part of the skin-darkening process. Some people have told us that it smells like they have spent a day at the beach, and their skin smells warm and toasty. The smell is different from person to person. However, Boë Beauté has chosen to keep all products fragrance free to keep allergens away from your skin and the allergy risk as low as possible. This is why you get the best possible suited product for daily usage. And for you to have your favourite glow all year round – allergy risk free and easy. Additionally, the ‘smell’ some can detect is only nose to skin and themselves who can smell it. The odor disappears after a couple of minutes and is only a proof of the product working with your skin.

Is It Safe To Use DHA for Tanning?

For achieving a natural-looking glow, applying dihydroxyacetone via sunless tanner is your safest option. Various studies have confirmed that this is a much safer alternative to indoor and outdoor tanning, which puts people at risk for developing the deadliest type of skin cancer: melanoma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people increase their risk of developing melanoma by at least 59% when they begin to use tanning beds before 35 years old. However, It has now been decades since agencies all around the world approved DHA for self-tanning use. It is, however, important not to inhale DHA or apply it to any areas with mucous membranes. This is i.e., around the eyes, near the lips, or under the nose.

When using sunless tanning products, skincare experts advise consumers to avoid excess sun exposure and regularly apply sunscreen. Self-tanners does not provide sufficient protection from the sun’s harmful rays. So just because you look tanned, does not mean you should not take care. When you spend time outdoors, make sure to wear sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun.

What Are Some of the Best Self Tanning Tips?

Aside from following specific product instructions, here are some application tips to help you achieve the best results from sunless tanners.

  1. Exfoliate your Skin: Exfoliating your skin helps get rid of excess dead skin cells. Gently scrub your skin with a loofa, washcloth, or exfoliating scrub to create a clean canvas from sunless tanner. We recommend paying extra attention to the ankles, knees and elbows as these areas tend to be drier than the rest of your body.
  2. Apply Sunless Tanner in Parts: There is no need to tackle application all at once. While you do want an even color, separating the application into parts can make this easier. Some people do their top half first and then their bottom half. Others start with their torso, legs, and arms and then fill in the gaps.
  3. Clean Up Joints: Joint areas such as the ankles, knees and elbows tend to be drier than other parts of your body. This extra dryness can cause these areas to absorb more of the product, which may cause your joints to look darker. Consider dampening a towel and wiping some of the product away in these areas.
  4. Dry or Rinse: Some self-tanning lotions are rinsed off in the shower, while others you let dry and then get dressed. Be sure to check the instructions to see what kind of lotion you have and what the requirements are.

Want more tips for creating that natural summer glow? Read our guide to applying self tanner for everything you need to achieve the perfect sunless tan.

Read more about our tips, products and Boë in general on our tan talk-page.