Everyone likes to look tanned, but for some people a natural tan just isn’t possible, and with scare stories about skin cancer due to sun exposure or sun beds, the lure of the fake bake sunless tan is appealing. One session of airbrush tanning is said to be equivalent, colour wise, to about six sun bed sessions, and also prevents the potential damage caused by the sun or tanning.
What is Spray Tanning and How Does it Work?
The active ingredient in a spray on tan (sometimes called an airbrush tan or sunless tan) is a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA.) This chemical reacts with the amino acids on the outer layer of skin which changes its colour. The DHA starts to work within about two hours of the tan application and carries on for twelve hours.
Depending on your skin type, an airbrush tan can last for anything up to ten days. It can be maintained for as long as you need it, with top up applications of tanning solution.
The colour you get from a spray tan won’t tan wash off; but it will start to fade as the upper layers of your epidermis wear away naturally. If you aren’t pleased with the results, you can always try to speed things up by gently scrubbing with a wash cloth but as a rule it will still take around a week for the spray tan to disappear totally.
What Should I Do Before a Spray Tanning Session?
- Shower and exfoliate your skin well before you go for a sunless tanning session. You won’t be able to shower for around twelve hours after the session, if you want the spray tan to be effective.
- Shave or wax the day before your treatment.
- Don’t wear any perfumes, lotions or deodorants which might stop the tanning solution from working by creating a barrier on your skin.
- Take off any watches and other jewellery.
- Wear dark underwear to the tanning booth, and loose dark clothing to the salon, to avoid the tanning solution rubbing off on your clothes.
Is a Spray Tan Safe?
There’s no reason to think otherwise. DHA has been used in cosmetics for almost 30 years and has been declared safe and suitable for use in cosmetics used to colour the skin. The chemical is a natural sugar that’s also found in walnuts and rape seed oil plants, often used as a sweetener. It’s not absorbed into the body and isn’t toxic. Having said that, it’s not advisable to go for spray tanning if you are pregnant, just to be on the safe side.
It shouldn’t cause you any harm if you accidentally breathe in any of the spray tanning mist while having a treatment, and even if it gets into your eyes it won’t do any damage, although you’re advised to keep them closed anyway.
If you haven’t had a spray tan before, you should have a patch test before tanning. Some people are allergic to DHA, and so they will have a reaction if they try tanning with any sunless tanning solutions. Although the allergy is rare, it’s definitely worth having the test done before you set foot in the tanning booth!