The active ingredient in most self-tanners is DHA, a simple sugar that turns golden brown when exposed to certain proteins. When applied to your skin, which contains amino acids (proteins), an interaction takes place—the same type of reaction that turns beer brown during production, for example—that temporarily changes the color of your skin.
DHA in self-tanners is present in concentrations ranging from 2% to 5%. In general, products with higher concentrations are used to tan the body, while the lower concentrations are used in facial products. The higher the concentration of DHA, the darker the results.
Say goodbye to the unnatural orange tones of yesteryear! Today’s self-tanning products look more natural than ever. But before you start, here are a few things you need to know to ensure your faux tan turns out perfectly.
It may seem like common sense, but you should carefully read and follow the product's instructions (and warnings). That little label says a lot, and if you read conflicting advice elsewhere, be sure to stick with the instructions on your product. That being said, the rest of these tricks will help your self-tanning experience go smoothly!
1. Try before you apply. If you've ever dyed your hair without testing the shade first (and hated the results), then you know how important it is to do a patch test first! To test your self-tanner, apply it to an inconspicuous part of your body (such as your belly) and wait a complete day or two to see how it looks. A single application of self-tanner will last for a few days, applying the wrong shade everywhere could leave you hiding under long sleeves and pants in the summer heat.
2. Plan ahead. Self-tanners work the best on smooth, well-moisturized skin. They often look too dark and artificial on dry skin (especially knees and elbows), so those areas must be softened and smoothed before you start. Prepare your skin to go faux by moisturizing several times a day, especially after bathing or showering. Exfoliate with a gentle scrub all over your body, a few days prior and immediately before applying the self-tanner. Waiting at least 20 minutes after bathing or showing to allow your skin to dry completely. Applying self-tanner on damp or wet skin can result in unevenly-colored areas.
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