What’s in spray tan solutions?


April 20th, 2012 by Adore

Spray tanning has become a hugely popular trend in the last few years, mainly because people have begun to realise that sun baking poses too greater health risks. Spray tanning provides a sunless alternative, helping us to have a summer glow without the harmful UV rays. However this brings us to a large question. Is spray tanning safe? What are all the ingredients in the spray tan solutions?  Like most cosmetic products, tanning solutions often contain a multitude of ingredients that you may be unfamiliar with.  To help put your mind at rest, we have compiled a glossary of some of the most common tanning ingredients and their properties.

  • Allantoin: This naturally occurring ingredient found in sugar beets and wheat sprouts is used for its skin conditioning, soothing and healing properties. It helps to encourage cellular renewal and avoid aging.
  • Aloe Vera: Extracted from the Aloe Vera plant, this natural ingredient helps to oxygenate the skin, aiding with cellular renewal. It is also used in solutions due to its soothing and moisturising properties, having a similar pH balance to the skin.
  • Antioxidants: Often included in sunless tanning solutions, antioxidants will help to protect your skin cells against free radicals, helping to prevent tissue damage. They also help to prolong shelf life, acting as a preservative in many cosmetics.
  • Copper:  This is often included in spray tan solutions, due to its facilitating effect on melanin production. It also helps to maintain moisture levels in the skin and hair.
  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): This is the active tanning ingredient in almost all spray tan solutions these days.  DHA is a simple carbohydrate derived from plant sources such as sugar cane. It is a non-toxic ingredient that reacts chemically with the keratin layer on the skin’s surface to turn it brown.  DHA has been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as a safe cosmetic ingredient.
  • Erythrulose: This is often used in tanning solutions in combination with DHA. It is a tetrose carbohydrate that also reacts with the keratin in the outer layer of the skin. The reaction involved is nontoxic and occurs to the dead skin cell layer (known as the stratum corneum).
  • Paraben: Commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics such as shampoos and cleansers, this class of chemicals should be avoided where possible. Having potential links with cancer, it is ideal to choose spray tan solutions (and other cosmetics) that are paraben-free.
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): This is an antioxidant vitamin that will help to neutralise free radicals on the skin’s surface, reduce wrinkles and increase collagen levels to give younger looking skin.
  • Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate): Another antioxidant vitamin helping to reduce the effects of free radicals, Vitamin E will also moisturise and soften the skin, helping to maintain skin elasticity.

As you have just learnt, not only can spray tan solutions give you a glorious summer glow, but many of the ingredients can also help your skin in other ways.  Sunless tanning truly is the smart choice, so start avoiding the sun’s harsh rays and get yourself familiar with spray tanning. Here is a useful list of tanning terminology to help get you started.

  • Astringent: Used to tone and firm the skin, astringents are often referred to as “toners”.  They are useful for constricting the skin’s pores and forming a protective layer of firm tissue.  Natural astringents such as Witch Hazel can also used to remove fake tan errors from small areas.
  • Accelerator: These tanning products are used to enhance the results of a sunless tan, helping your skin to produce melanin.
  • Barrier Cream: Used to protect areas such as the elbows, cuticles, ankles, hands and feet, from receiving excess spray tan during the tanning process. It can be used to slow or even stop the absorption of spray tan depending on the amount applied. This can also be called a blending cream.
  • Bronzer: This is a temporary form of sunless tanning, which can easily be removed with soap and water.  Like make up, bronzers only last until you wash your skin.  They are often included in spray tan solutions to help give an immediate glow.
  • Emollient: A substance that helps to soften the skin. Also called a moisturiser. These are often included in spray tan solutions, and should also be applied for the days before and after applying a sunless tan.
  • Exfoliator: A scrub used to remove dead skin cells from the top layer of skin. This is done to prepare the skin before applying a sunless tan, or to remove the last of a tan at the end of its life.
  • Tan extender: Moisturisers that contain ingredients used to extend the life of a sunless tan.

So there you have a comprehensive list of the ingredients that you are likely to find in spray tan solutions. With this knowledge, you now know what to avoid and what to look out for when you’re next buying your tanning products!