Professional Tips & Advice

What is fake tan made of?

2 Min Read Wednesday 7th September 2011

Fake tan ingredients.

Constituents of sunless tanning sprays.

Achieving a sun kissed look is easy with modern fake tan products but how do they work? For everyone who’s wanted to know a little more about the science behind fake tanning here’s a simple fact sheet.

– The main ingredient in fake tan is a chemical called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). It was discovered in the late 1920s by German scientists who were using it during X-ray sessions. Researchers found that if the DHA spilled onto the body by accident it turned the surface of the skin brown – a discovery that would change the face of modern cosmetics forever.

– During the 1950s it was established that DHA was non-toxic and only coloured the outermost layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum. The clever substance would react with the amino acids on the surface of the skin and produce different tones of colour or pigments known as melanoids.

– DHA was added to the Food and Drug Administration’s list of approved cosmetic ingredients in the 1970s, which resulted in the creation of many sunless tanning products that promised to produce natural looking tans overnight.

– The higher the concentration of DHA in a fake tanning product, the deeper the end result will be. However, users can opt for lotions with a lower concentration and add more layers of product depending on the desired colour they wish to achieve.

– The properties of DHA and the other ingredients that combine to make up fake tan treatments mean that it can take a few hours for the tan to develop. Usually the skin will become darker over the course of up to eight hours.

– Fake tan does not wash away with soap and water – it will gradually fade over seven to 10 days in line with the body’s natural exfoliation process where dead skin cells on the surface of the body gently wear away. Lightening of the skin will occur as the dead skin cells are removed and new ones created.

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