In the past, sunless tanning products produced a yellow or orange tan, but today the results are much more realistic. There are many sunless tanning methods from lotions to sprays, mousses, wipes, gels and cosmetic bronzing powders. Some of these products contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a clear-colored sugar derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, which together with the amino acids of the dead skin cells, produces a chemical affect and browning process. This skin coloring agent was invented in the 1920s by a German scientist, and is now still used in many sunless tanning products. These products do, however, have initial and long-term results.
Initial Results of Sunless Tanning
If the sunless tanning lotion is applied on dry, clean skin, it normally takes about 1 to 6 hours for the lotion to be completely absorbed into the body, but a tanned glowing effect can begin to show in as little as 40 minutes to 1 hour. The initial result is normally a golden brown tan, which usually lasts for up to 1 week. Many of the sunless tanning products and companies do recommend reapplying the lotions or gels every 3 days. Following instructions with application is useful for an even appearance.
It is important to remember that sunless tanners do not in any way protect the skin from the damaging rays of the sun. Even the best sunless tanners usually only offer an SPF 2 percent. A good sunscreen is still required.
Cosmetic bronzers offer an instant tan and last until they are washed off. But, do not get fooled by the tanned appearance, like the sunless tanning lotions and gels; most of these products only contain a minimal amount of SPF protection, therefore, it is important to apply a sunscreen before the application of the makeup.
Long Term Results of Sunless Tanning
With the repeated use of sunless tanning, an unnatural color and streaks can develop over time. Skin irritation and rashes may also occur.
Tanning pills contain an ingredient called canthaxanthin, which is a carotenoid used mostly as a color additive for food. Although canthaxanthin has been FDA-approved, the tanning pills themselves have not been FDA-approved. Some side effects of the tanning pills have resulted in crystal deposits in the eye, nausea, diarrhea, cramping and itching.
Medical studies done with pathology institutes in Rome, Italy indicated that canthaxanthin can reduce colon adenocarcinoma and SK-MEL-2 melanoma cells, and also showed that “canthaxanthin is able to induce apoptosis in tumour cells”. Apoptosis is the programmed cell death, indicating that the ingredient could inhibit (suppress) cancer cell growth with both colon adenocarcinoma and melanoma cells.
At the present time, although some of the ingredients seem to be safe, not all of the chemicals have been tested sufficiently, and there is no conclusive data to show whether all sunless tanning products are harmless to the body and mind.