With more and more of us understanding the serious consequences of sun tanning, we are looking for alternatives. Remember the first self-tanners that hit the shelves many years ago – wella you became instant carrot orange.
Well, we’ve come along way babe! The new sunless tanning products are much more natural looking than past generations of sunless tanning products.
How do Sunless Tanning Products Work?
Your skin is made up of two main layers: the outer layer called the inner layer called the dermis. In both normal sun tanning and sunless sun tanning, the action occurs in the epidermis level.
The deepest layer of the epidermis is called the stratum basale and this is the layer that is affected during normal sun tanning. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis and this is the layer that is affected by most sunless-tanning products.
In today’s market, there are several different kinds of sunless-tanning products available. Since the early 1960s people have been able to get their tan on a bottle. Coppertone was the first to hit the market with its Quick Tanning Lotion.
What it is most remembered for is the wonderful carrot orange hue it produced. There have been many advancements in self-tanning since the early years. Nowadays you can purchase tanning pills, self-tanners, sunless tanners, bronzers, and a host of other similar type products. You can smooth, wipe or spray on a light bronze glow or a deep, dark tan. Most of these products take 45 to 60 minutes to work, and then another couple of hours to dry properly.
The most effective sunless or self-tanning products contain the active ingredient DHA [dihydroxyacetone]. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum of the epidermis. As the sugar interacts with the dead skin cells, the skin changes color. These changes last from 3 to 7 days, and then you’ll need to reapply.
Gels, lotions or sprays that contain DHA are said to be the most reliable. There are other very good products on the market as well, such as tan accelerators that contain the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine stimulates and increases the formation of melanin, thereby accelerating the tanning process.
Currently, there is no scientific data available to support these claims.
Tanning pills contain canthaxanthin, a color additive used in some foods. Canthaxanthin is approved by the FDA for food use, but it is not approved the use of it in tanning agents. This is because when it is used as a color additive very small amounts are needed, but when used as a tanning agent much larger quantities are needed.
After canthaxanthin is eaten, it is deposited all over your body, including in your skin, which turns an orange-brown color. These types of tanning pills have been linked to side effects such as hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy. Canthaxanthin retinopathy is a condition in which yellow deposits form in the retina of the eye.
Bronzers are also very popular. Bronzers come in the form of powders or moisturizers. They create an instant tan that can be removed with soap and water. Bronzers are really a line of make-up because they only tint the surface of your skin.
If you’re going to outdoors make certain to still use your regular sunscreen protection.
Sunless tanning agents do not protect you from the damaging rays of the sun unless they have UVA and UVB protection. Your sunless tan will only last as long as the colored skin layer remains intact on your body, so moisturize, moisturize, and moisturize some more, because this will slow down the shedding process and extend the life of your sunless tan.
Tanning Mother Natures Way
When you tan, what your melanocytes produce melanin pigment in reaction to ultraviolet light in sunlight which stimulated melanin production.
The pigment is able to absorb UV radiation in sunlight, so it is able to protect the cells from UV damage.
Melanin production is slow and takes a fair bit of time, which is why people cannot get a sun tan in one day [although there is a small percentage of the population that can]. What you need to do is expose yourself to the sun’s UV rays for a short period of time for between 4 to 7 days. By doing this your cells will build up a level of protection.
For many races melanin production is continuous, so the skin is always pigmented to some degree, so they have a constant protection from UV radiation. Very low cancer rates are seen in these races.
Melanocytes produce two different pigments: eumelanin which is brown, and phaeomelanin which is yellow and red. Red-heads produce more phaeomelanin and less eumelanin, which is why they don’t tan well.
Sunlight arrives on earth in three forms: infrared (heat), visible light and ultraviolet. Ultraviolet light is classified into three categories: UVA which causes tanning, UVB which damages the skin and causes sunburn, and UVC which is filtered out by the atmosphere and never reach Earth.
99% of the sun’s UV radiation at sea level is UVA. UVB is the one the reeks havoc on our skin causing premature aging, deep wrinkles, and in the worst cases cancer.
UV radiation is reflected by different surfaces so you can amplify your exposure depending on the reflective surface. Snow reflects up to 90% of UV light and has been known to cause snow blindness and severe sunburn from skiing on a sunny day. Sand reflects up to 20% of UVB that hits it so you get extra UV exposure at the beach.
The flip to this is that some things absorb almost all the UV radiation. Glass is a perfect example – that’s why you don’t burn in your car on a hot day. Sunscreens use chemicals that have UV-absorbing properties.
Caucasian people do not have a natural built in protection as do many races. So if you are a Caucasian with no tan then your skin is not protected from the UV rays, making you susceptible to sunburn if you spend too much time in the sun. Sunburn leaves your skin red and extremely painful, and in severe cases, blisters will appear.
Over the course of several hours, exposed skin turns bright red and becomes extremely painful when touched. Most times you can feel the heat radiating from the skin. When you get a sunburn you have killed skin cells. The outer epidermis is already dead skin cells, but just below these cells is a continuous supply of new cells being created to replenish the top layer of dead cells.
When you sit in the sun you expose yourself to ultraviolet light which kills cells. The ultraviolet light is able to reach the layer of living cells in the epidermis and begins to damage and kill them.
Your body knows that cells are being killed, so your immune system is activated to clean things up. Blood flow to the area is increased which opens up capillary walls so that white blood cells can come in and remove the damaged cells.
The increased blood flow makes your skin warm and red. The nerve endings for pain begin sending signals to your brain. The damaged cells release chemicals that activate pain receptors and this is the end result where your sunburn hurts or is very sensitive.
You can avoid sunburn by using a proper strength sunscreen or pace yourself getting a tan which then acts as a natural sunscreen created with its own special pigment cells in the epidermis. When you have a nice tan and go out in the sun you don’t get burnt unless you’re so fair you never tan in which case you need to use sunscreen all the time.
The evidence is now showing that the massive increase in skin cancer is as a result of sun exposure that occurred, in many cases, over 20 years ago. So take care of your skin by using sunscreen, it’s the only skin you’ve got for your lifetime.
We all seem to strive for the rich golden color of summer. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel better all over. Whichever method you decide to use to get that golden brown skin, use common sense to achieve your goals and always wear sunscreen when outside.
Your skin will thank you 20 or 30 years from now when you’re not all wrinkled like a prune and not undergo skin cancer treatments. Take care of your skin it’s got to last you a lifetime!