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Spray vs. Airbrush Tanning | Sunless Tanning




As it relates to our love affair with the suntan, UVA and UVB radiation have been shown to be the way to that dark tan. Now we know that we need sun time for necessary vitamin D. Now choices must be made in protecting yourself while still getting the vitamin D producing suntan you want. In the past we have used sunscreens to block the UV rays while we bake in the sun to try and achieve that perfect tan. Spray on tanning is another choice and has so far been shown to not be a skin cancer risk. On the flip side it does not create the vitamin D needed to insure your good health.


The ability of DHA to cause a browning of the skin was discovered by accident in the 1920’s in a laboratory in Germany. It has been used in cosmetics for 30+ years with FDA approval. The restriction mandated by the FDA is that it be applied externally only and not used on mucous membranes; eyes, mouth, inside nostrils and genitals. Therefore inhalation and ingestion are not advised and you may want to wear goggles and a nose plug as a precaution when using a booth or spraying in an enclosed area.


Find a spray tanning salon staffed by trained technicians for the best and safest experience. Nothing wrong with feeling a little pampered. The tanning salon may have a choice of two methods of application. The first is the automatic tanning booth which many consider the best way to get an even, streak free spray tan. For those who like an all over tan but are modest may find the booth to be the preferred method. The other method is airbrush tanning; application of spray tanning products by use of a compressor gun controlled by a trained technician. This will take about 25 minute, 12-15 minutes for application and 10 minutes drying time. Both spray booth tanning and spray airbrush tanning use products whose primary ingredient is DHA. You may also find an independent spray on technician in your area that will come to your home.


The primary ingredient in the spray booth tanning products and airbrush tanning products is DHA (dihydroxyacetone) which is made from a natural sugar, glycerin. So far, so good. It interacts with the amino acids in the dead skin cells turning them brown. Sounds creepy but not as creepy as skin cancer. Because we are constantly shedding dead skin cells the tan does not last much longer than 5-7 days. While DHA is definitely not toxic and is not absorbed through the skin into the body, some products may contain more harmful chemicals to improve on the DHA base so label reading is recommended. The products without additional coloring additives go on clear and you will begin to see a change within an hour. Full color should appear within a period from eight to twenty-four hours. If the solution contains a bronzer the color will be fairly dark from the beginning. Even without bronzer you will be tanning darker over a 12 hour period. Bronzers last through the first shower but by the time it rinses off the spray tan will have come up.


Spray tanning products are not effective sunscreens having only an SPF of 2-3 but you can use a higher SPF sunscreen over them when outside for extended periods. Be aware a sunless tan is not a real suntan and does not provide protection against the sun. For those with fairer skin this is probably the safest way for you to achieve a tan without the fear of burning or freckling. Spray on tanning for those of African ancestry will even out color imperfections and give the skin a golden glow.


A large part of the success of this method is the preparation which begins one or two days before you enter the salon.


•Shave your legs one or two days before your appointment. Shaving the day of your appointment can cause your legs to look spotty.


•The tan will last longer if you exfoliate beforehand to get rid of the layers of dead skin cells. It is best to use the exfoliants made for the industry in order to achieve best results.


•No deodorant, cosmetics or perfumes as they may interfere with the effectiveness of the solution and have been known to turn colors in reaction to the solution. How about green armpits? You can safely apply them afterwards.


•Loose clothing and shoes are best to wear because even though spray on tanning solution is fairly quick to dry, it does take an hour or so to set.



The industry has improved the safety of the equipment with the staff and owners trained through one of several organizations like; ATI, American Tanning Institute, International SmartTan Network or NTTI, the National Tanning Training Institute.



So make sure to put on the recommended sunscreen, we like organic brands, when you will be in the sun any length of time and use spray tanning inside for the ‘tan of your dreams’. If you want to discuss this topic with others sign on to our Suntan Forum. And email us if you have anything to add to spray tanning to our Suntan Crew.



-Miss Suntan



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