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How Products Work: Self-Tanners

Self-tanning agents work by tinting the uppermost skin layer with the active ingredient DHA, a sugar molecule that reacts with the amino acids in the upper skin layer.

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Thankfully, self-tanners have come a long way since the turn-you-orange products of the 1970s, providing a natural-looking tan to those who might otherwise be tempted to turn to the tanning bed.

According to the experts at Beautypress.com, self-tanning agents work by tinting the uppermost skin layer with the active ingredient DHA (dihydroxyacetone/glycerone), a sugar molecule that reacts with the amino acids in the upper skin layer. During this superficial chemical reaction, the cells form dark pigments, which — depending on DHA concentration — cause a more or less intense tan. The process takes about four to five hours and lasts about three to four days, as the skin cells of our uppermost layer of skin regularly dissolve.

The experts remind us: Self-tanners give the uppermost skin layer a great summer tone, but most do not contain any sunscreen. So remind clients to use UV protection or run the risk of sunburn.

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Webmaster Debbie Doerrlamm founded BeautyTech.com — a virtual forum and community for nail, hair, skin care, and tanning professionals — in 1995.
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