Sunless Tan Smarts


We believe that a little tan can make you look and feel radiant. When we feel good our self-confidence gets a well-deserved boost, and we all know that a healthy dose of confidence is great for our overall health and well-being, right?

There are a few ways you can achieve this gorgeous bronze tan color, with the healthiest option being sunless tanning products. Why expose your delicate skin to the sun’s damaging rays by sunbathing for hours when sunless tanning offers a safe way to get an “off the beach glow” in minutes without risking premature aging and skin cancer?

Dermatologists, health and fitness coaches, and celebrities are all choosing and recommending the use of sunless tanning products to achieve this brilliant look.

Sunless tanning is a lifestyle. Once you have a proper understanding of what it is, how it works and what to expect, it will become as easy as using one of your routine makeup products.

Sunless tanning products can be lotions, creams, sprays or mousse. They contain self-tanning ingredients called DHA (Dihydroxyacetone), erythrulose, or combination of both which emulate the appearance of sun-kissed skin.

What Is DHA? How sciences behind sunless tanning solution and self tanning products works?

DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) is a carbohydrate (monosaccharide sugar) compound approved by the FDA for use in externally applied sunless tanning  or self  tanning products . DHA is derived from a vegetable source like beets or sugar cane. Its properties as a skin darkener were discovered in the 1920's. Coppertone® was the first to market as such in the 1960's when they introduced Quick Tan®.  At that same time DHA was added to the FDA's list of approved cosmetic ingredients.

The compositions of sunless tanning products are a mixture of natural and skin safe cosmetic ingredients, which produce a natural brown "Tan color" to the outer layer of the skin. Active ingredient in sunless tanning solutions is dihydroxyacetone. Some products also contain is a secondary active self tanning  ingredient call   Erythrulose. Both DHA and E works on the same principle, reacting with the free amino groups of the amino acid, peptides and proteins from the upper most layer of the stratum corneum.

 The application of self tanning formulation to the skin introduces a reaction between DHA and the amino acids in the upper skin layer. Only 4 to 6 hours later a brown coloration appears that has a similar hue to that of natural sun tan. As DHA molecules are anchored to the skin surface the color is substantive and cannot be washed off. It only fades in the course of natural or mechanical exfoliation. This reaction is known as the Maillard reaction also known as "nonenzymematic browning". This is very similar to the reaction you see when you cut an apple slice and leave it exposed to the air which then turns brown.

 The total composition of the sunless tanning solution greatly influences consistency, hue, intensity and substantivity of the final tan. To optimize this reaction certain conditions need to be met while formulating the product and one’s skin condition. To see a successful tan wear result it is important to note that skin is properly exfoliated to remove loose/dead skin from the surface. The reaction is also affected by pH both on the skin and in the product itself. The development of the color takes anywhere from 4-6 hours, the intensity of the color is dependent on the formulation concentration of the Dihydroxyacetone and Erythrulose in the product and condition of the skin.

It's important to remember that sunless tanning products will not protect you from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. So, if you're planning to head outside to show off your new glow, be sure to apply sunscreen.

Everyone can benefit from an interest in sunless tanning! Whether you’re looking for products to use on yourself or looking for products to use in your salon as a professional spray tan artist, we’ve compiled a list of terms you’ll see on our website that you might have questions about or that you need clarification on. This list is made with beginners in mind, but everyone can benefit from having a quick reference tool!

Sunless Tanning: A quick definition is getting a tan without sunbathing. It is achieved from using products containing DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which is a FDA approved skin coloring agent. It will give your skin a tan color in 4 to 8 hours depending on the product you are using.

UV Free Tanning: Another way of saying sunless tanning, this means you are not getting a tan by spending time in the Sun or in the tanning bed, but you are getting a tan using products based on DHA

Air Brush Tanning: This refers to the application of a DHA based liquid (solution) to a client’s skin by professional using air brush equipment. Airbrush equipment includes anything from single and double head airbrush guns, spray guns and compressors.

Spray Tanning: Refers to application of a DHA based product to the client’s skin, but can be divided in two methods:

  • DHA solution applied to the client’s skin by an automated booth
  • Tanning technician uses larger, faster equipment such as HVLP, LVLP, or Turbine to apply a DHA solution to the client’s skin

Both airbrush tanning and spray tanning uses the same DHA based solution but due to different spray patterns and speed, the end results can vary. We have seen tanning artist use both air brush and HVLP equipment when they offer special body contouring tans or special application for clients, such as body building competitions.

Self Tanners: These products contain DHA as an active tanning agent. The products can be lotions, mousses, gels or mists which can be applied on yourself in privacy of your home by using either a tanning mitt, kabuki bush or mist bottles. Spray tan professionals and salon owners can carry retail versions of these products for your clients to prolong the life of their tan. They are also sometimes called tan extenders or gradual tanners.

Bronzers: Bronzers are also called a color guide, and are products that give a temporary tanned appearance. They are popular because they give an instant gratification of color when you get your spray tan or apply self tanners. Sunless tanners are formulated with bronzers/color guides to insure an even application of color on the skin and smooth results. They are generally FD&C colors or D&C colors which are water soluble and will be rinsed off within the first or second shower. Tinted moisturizers and bronzer powders are perfect examples of bronzers.


How to Prepare for the Sunless Tanning Session

To achieve a beautiful sunless tan color, you must follow the following steps and instructions

Exfoliate: Proper exfoliation is a key to achieving flawless tan. To exfoliate properly we recommend using high quality AYU Sugar Scrubs or Body Reveal Exfoliating Lotion in an overlapping circular motion. Don’t over scrub, but pay special attention to dry skin like elbows, knees and hands and feet. Exfoliate the night before your session.

At the time of your sunless session your skin should be dry, clean and free of moisturizer, deodorant and make up.

Your Sunless Technician will ask you to apply a lotion or cream lightly on your elbows, knees, hands and feet to slow down the solution penetration on those areas. Do not apply moisturizer anywhere until talking with sunless tech. We recommend AYU’s Body Butter for this.

The next step depends on which method you are using for your sunless session. AYU Sunless Tanning Solution Regular and AYU Plus Lotion based Spray Solution works best with all the applications.

If using a spray booth follow the instruction given by salon technician.

If you choose air brush or HVLP, then a professional airbrush technician will spray. Follow her instructions on what to wear for your session during the treatment.

You can also choose to do self tanning application yourself at home. Ask us for the instruction.

 What to expect after sunless tanning session:

Once your session ends, wear loose fitting clothes, do not shower, swim or exercise for at least 6 to 8 hours.

After your first shower you will see some color washing off, don’t worry because this is only the cosmetic bronzer/color guide that gave the instant color washing off. After shower you will have beautiful sun kissed tan.

Moisturize your skin after shower with AYU Daily Moisturizer and make a habit of it using everyday after shower, it helps to lock in the moisture and keeps the skin hydrated. If your skin is very dry, AYU Body Butter works great as it is not greasy and absorbs well.

 Maintaining the Sunless Tan

Maintaining the tan is very important so that you have that fresh off the beach look everyday...

Prevent taking hot baths and pat dry skin with towel instead of rubbing hard.

Three days after your spray treatment you can use Smooth Glow Tan Extender which has 4.5% DHA to smooth out and intensify the tan. Everyone’s skin is different and skin preparation and maintenance varies, but most tan lasts up to 5 to 7 days.

Be aware that sunless tanning products do not contain SPF so apply sunscreen while in the sun. 

Different Factors affecting Final sunless tanning results

Skin Type

Preparation for treatment

Post Tan Care and maintenance

Spray equipment used for treatment

Skill level of professional spraying

Quality of the spray solution being used

Storage of the solution and maintenance of the equipment