What Are Self Tanning Products All About?

The 1960s was the decade for a lot of "firsts." Men walked on the moon, the Beetles stormed America, the Post Office was renamed the United Postal Service, Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart, disposable diapers were introduced, and Coppertone introduced its first self-tanning product called "QT," which was short for quick tanning lotion.

QT users were easy to recognize. Their skin had an orange tint to it that was hard to ignore. Face tan product that are sold today produce much more realistic results, but not all of them work the same way.

There are tanning pills, self-tanning lotions and sprays, and subtle cosmetic bronzers that yield immediate results. Other self-tanning products may take 45 minutes before the skin changes color, but that golden color may not protect the skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Sunscreen should be used with most self-tanning products.

Bronzer lotions have become big business because they produce instant gratification. They are available in creams, powders, and lotions and all forms will tint the skin brown instantly. Bronzers are considered make-up by some people because they easily wash off with soap and water. The tint has to be reapplied after a bath or shower.

The most effective self-tanning lotions and sprays contain the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells in the upper layer of the skin. The sugar and the dead cells create a color change, which can last for about a week.

Tanning accelerators are also available at retail. Accelerators contain tyrosine, which is an amino acid. Tyrosine may stimulate melanin production and that produces a faster tan, but most researchers believe that large amounts of tyrosine can have a negative impact on the body. The safety of using tyrosine as a tanning agent is still questionable.