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Sunless Tanners - A Guide To Do It Yourself Tanning.

Updated on January 10, 2013

All About Self Tanners

When it comes to developing that picture perfect tan, the sun isn't always your best option. For those who live in colder climates, extreme winter temperatures mean that for several months out of the year, outdoor tanning isn't even a practical possibility! It is a well-known fact that excessive exposure to the sun can lead to premature aging and even skin cancer.

The natural human instinct is to find something that is safer and still looks great at the same time. What are the alternatives to traditional tanning? Before you decide to head to the local salon and expose yourself to dangerous ultraviolet rays, there are other solutions you can try at home. Self tanning products can give you the great color that you're after without the risk of sun damage.

What are Sunless Tanners?

"What are they?" you ask. This genie in a bottle is a topical product that you apply to the skin to create an effect similar in appearance to that of a natural sun bathed tan. They are far safer alternatives than sun bathing or tanning beds. They range in price from around $7 for drug store brands to as much as $70 or more for the higher quality ones. Almost every brand and product on the market is different. Some may not give you the radiant glow you want so you have to be selective. It is important to look for one that dries quickly and will not leave behind streaks or an orange tint.

What are the active ingredients?

Most of these products contain the active ingredient Dihydroxyacetone. This ingredient, when applied to the skin, reacts with the amino acids found in the thin layer of dead cells on the surface. While the thought may not be appealing, the process is actually similar to the browning of packaged meat. Fortunately, most skin care experts agree that the ingredient is safe and the only possible side effect is an allergic reaction to the skin if you have an allergy to something in the blend. These are quite rare although they do occur from time to time. If this were to happen, the manufacturer typically recommends that you stop using the product.

How long does it last?

Every few days, your body gradually sheds its dead cells. Unlike a traditional sun tan that can last a couple of weeks, self tanners will tend to last up to seven days due to the ongoing regeneration of cells on the surface of the skin. Unless you continue to re-apply the product every 4 to 7 days, your glow will eventually fade.

For a more natural look, try a light or medium toned product. For those of you who have never tried one of these products, remember that it can take some getting used to. Darker areas of the body or thicker areas of the skin will tend to absorb more of the product than other areas of the body. Before you begin the application process, be sure to begin with clean dry skin. Once you're ready to go, read the instructions carefully. Always wash your hands immediately after applying so you don't end up with tan palms!

What are the drawbacks?

Most if not all of self tanners do not contain any SPF. You will still need to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the UV radiation the sun produces outside. As with any cosmetic product, avoid getting it too close to your eyes because this could cause burning and irritation.

One of the biggest benefits of sunless tanners is that they are quite safe. There are some great new products on the market now and the quality has been steadily improving in recent years. Review a few products before you begin to apply them and do not be afraid to demand quality. Remember, it's your skin and you want to treat it well. Look for something with natural or organic ingredients as these generally produce the best color and have less risk of irritation.

Avoid the orange! No one wants to look like a walking carrot when they go out. In my experience, the best sunless tanner I've found is a product by Adonia Organics called Bronzing Glow. It gives a very natural, gradual tan without streaking and it is very quick and easy to apply.

Do You Use Sunless Tanners?

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