Tanning 101


Sunless Spray Tanning

Spray tanning is becoming increasingly popular as sun worshippers face both a time crunch and a fear of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Self or Spray tanning products give you color without any risk of UV exposure, and can also be applied at any time convenient to you. This means that you can "get a tan" on your lunch break or before bed without fear of developing skin cancer. This form of indoor or spray tanning is also extremely flexible, because there are a variety of sunless tanning products available. You can also choose to either apply your sunless tan yourself or to visit a tanning salon to have it sprayed on in a spray tanning booth.
Both options offer a great looking tan that lasts up to a week and allows you to keep up with your busy schedule.

Sunless or Spray tanning products use the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to color the upper layer of your skin, the epidermis. When the DHA reaches the epidermal skin cells, it attaches itself to amino acids to produce a brown pigment known as melanoidin, resulting in a nice tan. But because the epidermal cells are dead, we constantly shed them – so your sunless tan will last for a few days. There are a wide variety of sunless tanning products out there, each with its own color shade and method of application, so you will be able to find the color you want, and will also be able to pick the application method that best suits you, whether you want to "spray on" your tan or rub it in.

Applying self tanning products yourself (or with a friend) is a great way to save time. Whether the product you choose is rubbed or sprayed on, you can "do it yourself" right before bed and shower it off in the morning. Depending on the product you choose you may see results very quickly, so within an hour you could be enjoying life as a bronzed god or goddess, even in the dead of winter!

While sunless or spray tanning products generally last about a week, you can control spills, tan lines, and blotches from poor applications with hydrogen peroxide or a baking soda solution.
Many tanning salons offer a quick and easy alternative to self-application. With a spray booth application by a trained staff member you will get an even tan all over without having to contort yourself to get to hard to reach places on your body. You will have the same choices of color available with self-application, but cleanup is generally easier – DHA does stain some types of clothing or even your carpet, so why not "get messy" in a tanning salon rather than your bathroom!

Tanning salons are also subject to strict regulations in most jurisdictions, so you can be sure of getting your tan in a clean and hygienic environment.
Whichever product and application method you choose, sunless tanning is a great option for today's busy tanner.


Helpful Spray or Sunless Tanning Tips

  • Do not shave your legs for several hours before applying sunless tanners. Some folks can get away with it, but if your skin is on the sensitive side, avoid it.
  • Exfoliate while you shower or bathe with a soft cotton washcloth. Nylon or loofah scrubbers can cause a streaky effect.
  • Department store exfoliators do no more than the variety you can purchase for $2.89 at your local drugstore. So save your money. Look for an exfoliator which contains polyethylene as its active ingredient.
  • Wear a snug, dark-colored outfit such as a black bathing suit while applying sunless tanners. Wearing the same thing every time will give you the best results. For that reason, I have invested in several black Speedo bikini bottoms.
  • Use a sponge paintbrush, available at any hardware store, to apply self tanner to your back. Look for one that is from two to three inches in size. Wash before use and let it air dry. The brushes with wooden handles are better, as the plastic handles can scratch skin.
  • You can also use a small sponge roller! One visitor to sunless.com thins the sunless tanning lotion with a little water and then uses a two to three inch sponge roller to apply. No thinning required if you are applying a spray or mousse this way. He warns that only the sponge roller will work; do not use the fluffy type.
  • The best for your back: Lisa in AR made her own applicator out of a super soft back scrub brush. She covered the brush part with a vinyl glove, then closed up the open end with a rubber band or a twist tie. "A perfect lotion applicator that works like a charm, is washable and costs all of about $1.25," Lisa wrote. "Be sure to get a brush that is soft enough to use on your face...if it is too hard, it will scratch you."
  • If you are new to sunless tanning products, don't use sprays. They are difficult [impossible?] to apply evenly. What helps: spray the stuff onto your sponge paintbrush and apply it that way.
  • Or try Miss Rou's tip: rinse out a baby wipe or Wet One and let dry. Holding the wipe over your bathroom sink, spray the wipe with your sunless tanning spray, then use the wipe to smooth the spray over your skin. This works well with mousses, too! Miss Rou even uses this method for sunless tanning lotions. Keep spraying the wipe whenever it starts to feel dry. When you are done, use a somewhat dry wipe to do your hands and feet. Plan on using two wipes for a full body application.
  • Wash your hands at least every five minutes while applying. Use a soapy nailbrush to scrub palms, fingers, and fingernails.
  • Or clean the palms of your hands afterwards with Baby Wipes, Wet Ones, Quickies, and similar products.
  • Or wear gloves! Get the inexpensive medical supply kind which come in a box. You should still wash your hands afterwards as a precaution as some sunless tanner may have seeped underneath.
  • Five to ten minutes after applying a sunless tanner, rub areas such as elbows and knees with a little lotion to lighten the effect.
  • Rub lotion around wrists and backs of hands to blend with arms.
  • Rub lotion around ankles and tops of feet to blend with legs.
  • Is a dark formula sunless tanner causing problems on your hands and feet no matter what you do? Take Dee's advice and use an inexpensive light sunless tanner on those areas, the dark formula everywhere else.
  • If you are applying a sunless tanner to your face and neck that is not a "for the face" type, apply a lightweight lotion to your face and neck first, letting it soak in for ten minutes. This prevents the sunless tanner from gathering in areas with fine lines.
  • What about those "special" areas? The skin on your lips and nipples is nearly unaffected by sunless tanners. Go right over them when you apply sunless tanners. Trying to avoid those areas can lead to an unattractive buildup along their borders.
  • What about the bikini area? Forget about it. Sunless tanners don't absorb well there and can look like dirt. And exfoliation is out of the question!
  • Your freckles and moles will darken along with the rest of your skin. In fact, some colorless moles may become significantly darker. This is a sad fact of sunless tanning.
  • You can apply sunless tanners to your armpits. Most people don't have tanned armpits, but avoiding the area with realistic results takes skill. You can lightly wipe the area five minutes later with a damp washcloth to lighten.
  • Scars are a bit unpredictable. Mostly, they darken very little or not at all. The more recent the scar, the less sunless tanner it will absorb. Please note that stretch marks are scars. Stretchmarks that are a few years old will be disguised by sunless tanners; new ones will not absorb the lotion and may look more prominent [if this gets you down, keep in mind that stretch marks and scars don't tan in the sun, either — and the sun will impair healing].
  • Your belly button could darken too much. Rub it with a cotton swab dipped in lotion after you apply the sunless tanning lotion. If you notice it is too dark the next day, rub it with a cotton swab dipped in liquid eye make up remover.
  • If your sunless tanner does not contain sun screen and you will need sun protection, don't kid yourself. There aren't any sunless tanners with adequate sun protection. Sun screens must be applied liberally and frequently; you can't do this with a sunless tanner. Apply sunless tanners in the evening before you go to bed and use sun screen during the day.
  • If you have a little bit left of different brands, you can mix them up in one container. This is not recommended if you have several brands with a strong scent. Sunless tanners which contain sun screen and sunless tanners which are fast drying do not mix well with others. Test a small quantity before mixing up a batch.
  • To alleviate the sunless tanner smell problem, apply a lightly scented or non-scented sunless tanner, then spray on [lightly, please!] your favorite perfume one hour later.
  • If the sunless tanning lotion has left you feeling sticky, apply baby powder or bath powder to your skin thirty minutes to an hour after applying the sunless tanner. Don't rub it in! Use a large body powder puff to apply. Many people apply the powder just a few minutes later with good results. Look for a powder that is corn starch based as it can be safely used all over.
  • After your sunless tan has developed [it will take at least three hours], hydrogen peroxide can be used to lighten dark spots on your palms if you make a mistake. Apply the hydrogen peroxide with a Q-Tip or cotton ball, and be sure to rinse the hydrogen peroxide off your skin afterwards. You have to be very careful because a drop anywhere else will leave a spot! If the "mistake" was a small one, you will be better off ignoring it. And note that it isn't foolproof — the hydrogen peroxide may have no effect whatsoever. Lesson: concentrate on preventing orange palms, because there really isn't a cure [except time].
  • Apply moisturizer to your "tan" every day.