What Are the Different Types of Self-Tanning Products?

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  • Written By: Benjamin Arie
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2019
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Self-tanning products are used to bronze or darken the skin without sunlight. These types of products allow people to gain an aesthetic tan at their convenience, often in the privacy of the home. Common types of tanning products include Tyrosine lotions, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) lotions, and spray tan booths. Other types of products such as Canthaxanthin pills and temporary bronzers are also available. Synthetic tanning products allow people to avoid the harsh ultraviolet light used in traditional sun tanning, and minimize the chances of health risks such as burns and skin cancer.

Tyrosine lotion contains an amino acid that increases the amount of melanin in the skin. The melanin chemical darkens the skin over time, and creates the illusion of a suntan. This type of lotion also increases the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet light, and requires users to avoid sun overexposure when they are outdoors.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) self-tanning products are similar to Tyrosine lotions but use different chemicals. DHA creates a reaction between several amino acids located in the top layer of the skin. This chemical reaction causes dead skin cells to darken or brown. The color change caused by the application of this lotion is not permanent, and will typically fade gradually over the course of a week.


Spray tan booths apply DHA as a mist, instead of as a lotion. These professional booths usually have several nozzles that dispense the mist over all areas of the skin in a consistent pattern. The advantage of spray tan booths over normal DHA lotion is typically a more uniform tan without any dark streaks or uneven blemishes. Spray tans usually last around one week and can be safely re-applied many times.

Canthaxanthin pills are self-tanning products that are consumed as a dietary supplement instead of being directly applied to the skin. After consumption, the chemical canthaxanthin is absorbed by the layers of fat located directly under the skin. This causes the skin to appear more brown than normal. These types of tanning pills are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been reported to cause some health problems such as digestive issues and eye irritation.

Temporary bronzers often come in the form of sprays or moisturizers, and are intended to create a false tan for one day. Bronzers work like makeup, and cover the skin with a brown-colored stain. The tan created can typically be washed off in a shower or during swimming. Bronzer self-tanning products are considered a safe alternative to ultraviolet tanning, but can appear unnatural if they are over-applied.


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