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All About Sunless Spray-on Tans

Spray-on or airbrush tans are certainly a convenient option if you’d like to have some color for a party or outing. However, if you’re thinking of using it as a replacement for a real tan, or even as a replacement for exposing your skin to the sun, it may not be a good idea. Before you put on your shoes and rush out the door to spray yourself down at a spray tan booth, here are a few things to consider:

Vitamin D

It’s a fact that sunlight is the best and only natural source of vitamin D. It is important to get some natural sun to maintain good Vitamin D levels in your body. This vitamin helps the body use and convert phosphorus and calcium, necessary for bone health. It helps protect against osteoporosis, some autoimmune illnesses and high blood pressure.

The human body makes 90 percent of its vitamin D from natural sunlight exposure to the skin. Are you a sheriff riding horseback, are you a farmer, or a lumberjack? I didn’t think so. As with most people today, you are not out in the sun enough to get the Vitamin D your body needs. People in the western world spend less time in the sun than at any point in time in human history. This means a lot of people may be vitamin D deficient. And you won’t get your Vitamin D from spray tanning.

sunless spray tanDHA

Your skin is your body’s largest organ; spray tans cover that organ with various chemical compounds each time you go into a spray tan booth. Also, unless your eyes, mouth and nose are properly covered, you are also breathing in those chemicals.

Most tanning mixtures contain the chemical DHA, which is a simple sugar extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets. It’s the most common cosmetic ingredient, and the only sunless tanner approved by the FDA. It is very safe, as it does not go beyond the first layer of your skin. The effects last as long as you naturally shed your outer skin – about three to ten days.

There is some concern that skin is more susceptible to sun damage in the first 24 hours after DHA is applied, from a German study (Katinka Jung) done in 2007.

Spray Tans as a UV Blocker

Keep in mind, a spray tan does not block UV rays. If you choose to spray yourself as dark as a coffee bean, you are not protected from getting a sunburn. You still must use sunblock if you are outside for greater than 15 to 20 minutes. A spray tan is just a skin dye, nothing more.

How to Prepare for a Spray Tan

sunless tanningYou must use only a mild soap so that the active ingredient (DHA) does not get affected by the pH level your soap. You will be asked to remove your makeup and deodorant prior to entering the booth. Discoloration can occur if these are left on.

If you apply lotion to your skin, you must make sure you do this well before your spray tan session, else your pores may be clogged with lotion. This will minimize the penetration of the tanning solution.

If you hair is gray, blonde, or bleached you will need to apply Vaseline on your hairline to prevent staining. Applying Vaseline to nails, palms and toe nails is also advised to avoid discoloration.

You may be asked to smear Chapstick over your eyebrows if they are light colored to protect them from staining.

Once you have a spray-on tan, expect it to last for one to two weeks. You can maximize the tanned look of your skin by moisturizing every day. Because the dye only penetrates the first layer of skin, your tan will last only until that layer is shed. A moisturizer will slow this process.

You can also purchase sunless tanning sprays and lotions to use at home. Find some here on Amazon.

Alternatives to Spray Tanning

To get the golden tan you really want, a tanning bed is a good alternative to the rays of the sun. Though tanning beds emit less ultraviolet rays than sunlight, they are highly concentrated, so you will only need a very few minutes before the effects are felt.

Start with a short period of time (6 or 7 minutes) in the tanning bed just 2 days a week. Once your skin begins to get used to the tanning rays, you can increase your tan time to 3 days a week and you may add a minute or two if your last session results were good. Your melanin production increases as your skin is exposed to the tanning rays. This means your skin is becoming darker which increases your skin’s (small) resistance to sun burns.

Once you have reached the level of tan you want, reduce your tanning sessions to once a week to maintain the tan. Tanning bed time is a good way to establish that base tan for the beach or outdoor activity. If you have a tan through bathing suit, you can wear this in the tanning salon to avoid any tan lines.

See you in the Sun! I’ll be looking for you through my rose colored glasses!

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