Categorized | Anti-Aging

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DHA and Your Skin – Everything You Need to Know About Self-Tanning

Self-tanning has long been a safe and popular alternative to UV tanning. Self-tanning products have come a long way since the days of orange glows, and nasty processing smells! Today’s premium products achieve natural, beautiful color results, nourish your skin, and smell great. The danger of UV tanning has become widely known, and more and more people are turning to self-tanning as a safe and fun way to keep a summer glow without the risks and damage to the skin from sun tanning.

We can thank Ms. Coco Chanel for our addiction to a golden glow and love of all things tweed and tan! In the 1920s she returned from a vacation in St. Tropez sporting a glowing tan, instantly making it “In-Vogue”. Naturally, her admirers followed suite, and from then on, a tan was regarded as a symbol of youth, beauty, and status. Today we still admire her sense of style- we’ve kept the pearls and tweed, but swapped the unsafe sun and UV tanning for healthier alternatives such as self-tanner and spray tans!

So what is a self-tanner and how does it work? Let us give you a brief tutorial on DHA, the main skin-coloring ingredient in self-tanners, how it works and some of the benefits.

DHA stands for Dihydroxyacetone, a sugar derivative from plant sources such as sugar beets and sugar cane. In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration permanently added DHA to their list of approved cosmetic ingredients. DHA is NON-TOXIC and approved for external application to the human body.

Through a safe and natural process, the DHA attaches itself to the amino acids in your epidermis, the top layer of the skin, and goes through a chemical change. This process is similar to the browning that occurs when you cut open an apple and leave it exposed to the air. The resulting effect is a gorgeous brown color. It is NON-TOXIC and only affects the upper layers of your skin, which is made up of dead skin cells. Since skin color is unique, tan results will vary from person to person. Our bodies naturally shed dead skin cells daily so unfortunately your tan won’t last forever! However, you can expect the beautiful color to last up to a week or two.

DHA was discover in the 1920s, when a group of German scientists first recognized it as a skin-coloring agent. They noted that when in contact with their skin, the surface would turn brown if not rinsed off! Years later, Eva Wittgenstein, a scientist at The University of Cincinnati in the 1950s, was researching the use of DHA for the treatment of children with the metabolic disease, Glycogen Storage Disease. While working with these children, she made an unanticipated discovery! She found that when her young patients accidentally spit up or spilled the DHA onto their skin, it darkened the area after a few hours. This led her to further experiment with the DHA, testing it out on her own skin by painting various parts of her body. Eva realized that the DHA created the same browning effect as UV tanning. And with that, self-tanning was born! Eva Wittgenstein is our hero!

A little science lesson about your skin…

The skin is your body’s largest organ and performs several critical functions: protection, sensation, heat regulation, storage, excretion, absorption and water resistance. Your skin is complete with three main layers: the epidermis (top), the dermis (middle), and the hypodermis / subcutaneous (bottom).

The Epidermis

The outer most layer of the skin is the epidermis, which has several different layers within it: the stratum corneum (the skin’s surface and where DHA works), the granular cell layer, the spinous cell layer and the basal cell layer (where UV tans form).

As cells move upwards and away from the basal layer in the epidermis they move further from the body’s blood supply. As they move farther from the blood supply, they flatten, die and accumulate protein in a substance called keratin. When cells finally reach the outer layer (stratum corneum) they are flat, scale-like and dead but are ready to react with the amino acids in DHA to produce a beautiful tan color.

The lowest level of the epidermis is called the basal layer and is where a UV tan originates. In this layer cells are continually dividing to produce new skin cells (millions every day!). The basal layer also contains cells called melanocytes which produce melanin pigment – the darker color associated with a tan. UV light is what stimulates melanin production. In a variety of races, melanin production is continuous regardless of exposure to UV rays, so the skin is always somewhat pigmented, although UV light will increase the pigmentation. Melanocytes actually produce two different pigments: eumelanin (brown) and phaeomelanin (yellow and red). This is why fairer skinned people don’t tan as well. Typically, they produce more pheomelanin and less eumelanin, which causes more yellow / red color than brown.

The Dermis

This inner layer of skin contains blood vessels, nerves, hair roots, sweat glands, collagen and elastin. It provides life in the form of blood and oxygen to the epidermis. Collagen and elastin is found in this layer and is what gives the skin it’s elasticity, firmness and strength.

The Hypodermis – aka Subcutaneous Layer

This is the bottom layer of the skin underneath the dermis is composed mainly of fat. The thickness of this layer varies among people and is thicker where curves are formed. The hypodermis is typically found to be thicker in woman than in men. This added thickness is what helps form women’s rounded curves!

Your skin is the most visible part of your body and it deserves your protection! You do not have to sacrifice your skin to achieve your dream tan. Self-tanners work for every skin type, including the very pale! We can all achieve the Coco Chanel perfection without the skin damage.

To learn more about self-tanners, your skin, the effects of harmful UV rays, and SMELL RIGHT technology check out

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