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Due to the correlation between skin cancer and sun exposure, sunless tanning became popular as an alternative to harmful sun tanning. Chemicals are applied to the body in order to get tanned skin which looks similar to that of a sun tan. Due to the reaction between the sunless tanning products’ chemicals and the amino acids of the dead layer of skin, the pigmentation of the skin changes, giving a tanned appearance. This pigmentation has nothing to do with melanin, and hence it lasts for a maximum of 1 week.

Sunless Tanning

Sunless tanning is performed by using sunless tanning products. There are various kinds of products available in the form of gel, lotions, creams, sprays, powders and pills. These sunless tanning products are also known as self-tanners, which when applied, can give a tanned look to that place without the exposure of the dreaded UV radiation of the sun.

  • DHA: Most of these products contain DHA, i.e., Dihydroxy Acetone, as their main ingredient. When the product is applied to the skin, DHA reacts with the outermost layer of the skin, resulting in skin darkening. As most of the cells in the outermost layer of skin are dead, this coloring fades off when these dead cells slough off.
  • Cantaxanthin: Sunless tanning pills contain a color additive known as Canthaxanthin, which can give a uniform tanning. But, it is unsafe, as prolonged usage of this pill can lead to orange colored skin, which may also develop hives. It can also develop crystals in the retina of your eye or damage the liver.

Here is how sunless tanning is performed:

Step 1: Skin Exfoliation

Take a shower and exfoliate your skin by washing it with a sponge or wash cloth so that surplus dead cells get removed. Tie your hair so that it does not touch any portion of face, neck or back. Wax or shave your legs and arms so that it becomes easy to apply the product evenly in these areas. Remember, the tan will be uniform only with an even application.

Step 2: Apply the Sunless Tanning Product

Decide whether you want to tan a part of your body or as whole. When you want to tan certain portion of your body only, then you should wear a tight snug-fitting dress that covers other portions where tanner is not going to be applied. Pat dry your skin if it is wet and then apply the sunless tanning product--either throughout or in selected parts of your body--in a light and uniform fashion. Sparingly apply the product on areas like the elbows, knees and ankles, as this skin is dry and thick. Similarly in the face and neck regions, also apply it sparingly as these regions respond well to the tanners. Apply tanner in the difficult to reach regions with the help of a sponge paint brush

Step 3: Let It Dry

Once the tanner dries, you can apply sunscreen and avoid contact with water for the first three hours. This sunless tanning application will not protect your skin from harmful UV radiation; apply sunscreen liberally if you are planning to go out.

You can also receive a sunless tan at a tanning salon, where either a professional or a machine will spray you with tanning solution. To receive this type of tan, you must still exfoliate your skin before, and allow time for the bronzer to dry after. Be sure to wear loose fitting, dark clothes to your tanning appointment.


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