How does a tanning lotion work?

Before explaining how a tanning lotion works, it is best first to define for a beginner or someone seeking to understand these products better. A tanning lotion or tanner is a general name for products that enhance the process of melanin production in the skin. It aims to achieve the most profound, darkest and long-lasting tan effects.

• The main types of tanning

Outdoor; its ideal for use on exposure to the sun, thus use products that have sunscreen; from the relationship between overexposure to sun and skin cancer, sunscreen helps to block cancer-causing UV rays and prevent premature aging and sunburns.


Indoor; its intended for use with tanning lamps or beds, rarely contains sunscreen thus are meant for protection against artificial UV rays not the natural from sunlight. Hence, it will not offer protection against sunburn.

Sunless; also referred to as self-tanners, are increasingly popular nowadays due to safety concerns over cancer. These products ensure that one obtains the desired skin color, most of them do not offer protection against the sunburn. They are available in a variety of forms such as lotions, sprays, gels among others.

For a more natural look, it is essential to moisturize and exfoliate before careful application of the lotion. Buy from reputable brands like st tropez tan which has been around for over a decade.

• Common terminologies

SPF (sun protection factor)-refers to the ability of a product to block or screen out burning rays of the sun.
Sunscreen- something rubbed on the skin to protect it from the sun includes lotions, creams, sprays, pills
UVA, UVB and UVC- are the rays of the sun, UVA and UVB are most harmful

• How the products work

The purpose of these products is to give the user a tanned appearance, without having to expose themselves to sun radiation. The most common ingredient in the tanning lotion is the DHA, dihydroxyacetone. It is a colorless sugar that interacts with dead cells found in the epidermis. The result of the interaction is a change of color.

Legs on the Beach

The effect lasts for about seven days due to constant production of dead cells. It is the reason why most self-tanning or sunless require reapplication about three days to maintain the look.

Other products like tanning accelerators contain amino acid tyrosine which is claimed to stimulate melanin production. There lacks enough scientific data available to support it.

A typical form is a bronzer, the powders and moisturizers are more like make-up, once applied they create a tan which is easily removable with water and soap; therefore, they stain the skin until when washed off.
Note that most of them will not protect you from harmful sun’s UVA and UVB rays unless they contain sunscreen.

• Things to consider when choosing tanners

A beginner or a novice; beginners should start with try and error, therefore select those indicated for use by everyone. For most novice tanners will choose intense lotions, therefore, may go for those labeled experienced tanners only or everyone.

Tan Spray

Personal skin tone and type; people with fair skin should choose the products carefully so that they can maintain a natural look, however, for the darker skinned have more options.Place where you are going to tan; some products are specifically for indoor tanning bed while others outside and others, sunless may not require a booth or sun to create color.

The desired level; if you need to be extremely dark or light

• Factors that determine the amount of sun exposure

Time of the day
Length of exposure
Weather conditions
Geographical location

• Most common tanning lotions in the market and what they offer

Bronzers; are products with the DHA chemical that reacts with the cells of your skin to make it dark.
After tan moisturizers; helps to replace the vital nutrients and other conditions like dryness and itchiness.

Intensifiers; they are less intense perfect for use by beginners or people with fair skin, its ingredients work naturally with your melanin.

Coolants; provide a cooling sensation and feels refreshing, they are opposite to tingles.

Facial tanners; appropriate for the face, use lotions specifically designed for it.

Tingling lotions; are a more intense type that allows the UV light of the sun to penetrate deeply. People with fair skin should avoid. Do not apply on the face.Sunless; can be used in a booth or the sun, some options provided have DHA.Tan extender; basically lengthens amount of time the skin has color.