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Sunless Tanning Lotions

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There are hundreds of products available to achieve the look of a glowing, bronze suntan but all these sunless tanning lotions work in just one of five ways. These five basic formulations are:

  • Products containing DHA
  • Products containing tyrosine
  • Products containing canthaxanthin
  • Products containing the hormone melanotan
  • Temporary bronzers

These five basic formulations all produce sunless tanning lotions that achieve the look of a suntan without exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays that cause permanent damage to the DNA in skin cells but they are not without their own risks.

Sunless tanning lotions containing DHA produce a chemical reaction in the dead cells on the skin’s outermost surface. The tan produced by these sunless tanning lotions lasts about a week, until the body naturally sloughs off these dead cells. Considered safe by many medical and governmental regulatory agencies, an allergic reaction may occur so be sure to spot test for 24 hours before applying these DHA-containing sunless tanning lotions to the entire body.

The amino acid tyrosine found in pills and some sunless tanning lotions is thought to accelerate the tanning process by stimulating the skin to increase melanin formation. Melanin produces the pigment that darkens the skin when tanning in the sun. No scientific data backs this claim at this time.

Products containing canthaxanthin come as sunless tanning lotions and in pill form. While safe when used as a dye for food products, the quantities used in sunless tanning lotions and pills are much higher and these products do not have approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The use of canthaxanthin for tanning purposes has led to damage of the skin and digestive tract and to diseases such as hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy.

Melanotan is a melanocyte-stimulating hormone, meaning it increases the pigment melanin in the skin, giving it the tanned look. Tested extensively in Australia, sunless tanning lotions containing melanotan have not been approved in the US for clinical trials. Actual time in the sun may be required to achieve the best results with melanotan-containing sunless tanning lotions.

Temporary bronzers are sunless tanning lotions that affect the surface of the skin only, like any other cosmetic product. They wash off easily with soap and water and can stain clothing where the fabric touches the skin “dyed” with these products.

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