We have been bottling Sunshine since the 1960s – when the initial self-tanner, Quick Tan by Coppertone, was launched. For me, the revealing smell of self-tanning yeast is as nostalgic as the sticky taste of Mod Podge or the thick, fatherly smoke – this has always been part of my olfactory memories. Growing up on the beach, I was programmed to think that a bronze tan meant health. I have tried professional tanning sprays, tanning drops, tanning mousses, sometimes tanning lotions, sometimes I apply them in a Bikini to get self-tanning lines. what so ever I use to get my summer color, I know that being coated with tanning oil outdoors is a safer Alternative. So I use them — I use them all.
She's feeling beautiful in her own skin

But how do self-tanners work? You start with a chemical called dihydroxyacetone or DHA. DHA has remained the main active mixture in self-tanners since Coppertone’s Qt, as it is responsible for the color. When DHA binds to amino acids in the skin, it causes the formation of Melanoidins. Melanoidins, not to be confused with melanin from the cells responsible for natural pigments, provide a long-lasting Bronze that is not washed off with water – in fact, the only way to get rid of self-tanning is to wait until the skin cells are lost. You can speed up the process by exfoliating, which is why I tend to eliminate acids when I add self-tanner to my Routine.

When I went to the Georgia Louise Workshop for a facial with Autumn Henry, a beautician with more than 15 years of experience behind the magnifying glass, she blamed this skipped step for the handful of clogged pores I get every time I commit to a summer glow. “Regular use of a self-tanner is usually associated with a lack of exfoliation – you don’t want to remove the tan. But,” she explained, expressing the last of my blackheads, “this combination ends up causing a discoloration of sebum and dead skin cells that clog our pores. I can always spot a dummy tan,” Autumn said, “because as soon as I turn on my magnetic lamp, I see the telltale brown buildup that smears the pores — think tiny but less sugary freckles.”The only way to get rid of it? Ideal for autumn, manual extractions from a licensed beautician. She tells a horrible story about how she has to spend an hour – pulling the stubborn “brown heads” out of a self-tanning hanger.”I’m leaving with fair skin and the desire to release the tanners for at least the next week.

But maybe the damage of sunless tanning goes even further. Dr. Francesca Fusco, assistant professor of Dermatology at peak Sinai in New York, explains that while DHA can discolor pores, the most common cause of their dark appearance is free radicals, unstable atoms in the skin associated with acne and visible signs of aging. “When free radicals interact with other molecules in the body, the reactions are called oxidation. If the pores are clogged, this can lead to darkening of the contents. She adds: “Likewise, oxidation causes the air-cut fruits to turn brown.”


But it’s even worse! Remember when I said that Self-tanning works by binding DHA to amino acids? When fused with these amino acids, DHA releases molecular mixtures called Amadori products. When you go out in the sun, UV rays stimulate these Coaxing products to produce large totals of free radicals. As this study shows, the number of free radicals produced by UV in self-tanning skin can increase by 100 to 180% after 40 minutes of exposure to the sun. In other words, if you regularly use a self-tanner, the oxidation on the surface of the skin will increase almost twice. This could mean that more blackheads on acne-prone skin and more oxidative stress cause visible signs of aging.

OK, here’s the good news: this study was carried out with a 20% solution of DHA, and most self-tanning care products contain only one to two percent of it. More concentrated formulas (up to about 15%) often require dilution in a moisturizer.

As for free radicals, you can swap those that contain antioxidants, all of which have oxidative effects. Most new self-tanning skin care products already include them, but you can also mix all the next-generation tanning drops into an antioxidant-rich moisturizer for extra support. And since the peril of oxidation can be higher, wearing a self-tanning photoprotector seems to be a reasonable precaution.


Another way to avoid “brown heads” is to use your favorite acid scrub. Tanning formulations for daily use, such as the super Glow serum by tan Luxe, are designed for this purpose: the tan builds up gradually and evenly, so that you don’t get strange uneven areas of scrub. If you apply your self-tanner in the morning, save the acid for the night – or vice versa. Or maybe consider completely tightening up the tanner and all the biased beauty standards they adhere to! For the days when the face of the body gets the best of me, I always have bronzer.

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