Tanning the body to get a dark, yet attractive and glazing skin tone, is not a recent practice. Tanning was primarily done by sunbathing, which later got replaced by other methods of tanning like tanning beds and tanning lotions. Self-tanning is a method which is safer and easier than sunbathing, and is also not as expensive as the high-priced tanning beds.
Self-tanning which is also called sunless tanning, is actually a safer way to get that desired bronze look, without getting sunburns or skin cancer, which are the major side effects of suntans and tanning beds. Self-tanning is a way of tanning which involves the application of certain chemicals on skin. These chemicals evoke skin cells to bring about an effect that is similar to a sunbath. Self-tanning leads to positive effects of tanning with a reduced risk of the side effects of sunbathing and/or tanning beds.
A self-tanning lotion is one of the most effective ways to bring about sunless tanning. There are a lot of self-tanning products available in various forms like tanning sprays, mousses, tanning gels and tanning pills. Amongst these, the lotion is present in the cream form. It imparts a dark and bronze tone to your skin. It primarily contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as its active ingredient. DHA is a form of sugar which is derived from plants (like sugar beet and sugar cane) and fermented using glycerin. DHA reacts with the amino acids which are present in the skin epidermis. This reaction doesn't require sunlight and has no ill effects on the skin either.
Other than DHA, there are several other ingredients which are present in these lotions. Amongst these, Tyrosine, an amino acid, is an important ingredient. Tyrosine boosts the process of melanin formation in the skin and helps to bring about a darker skin tone. Afamelanotide is another drug which is advertised to be an effective way for sunless tanning. Afamelanotide is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring melanocyte stimulating hormones. Research and studies about its safety and effectiveness are still under progress and hence its usage is a little controversial.
The application of the lotion requires a lot of practice as well as patience. One cannot get the perfect tan after a single application. You must also remember that using this lotion regularly can disastrously lead to an 'orange tan', rather than the desired 'bronze tan'. The most important thing to do before applying the lotion is to exfoliate the skin properly. Skin exfoliation leads to removal of the dead skin layers from the skin surface.
It is also important to maintain the moisture levels of your skin. To do that, start using generous amounts of a good quality moisturizer, especially after you take a bath. Apply good amounts of moisturizer to areas like knees, elbows, and ankles. If these parts of the body remain dry, then they might soak up the self-tanning lotion and lead to patchy tanning. Applying the lotion in the bathroom, especially immediately after the bath, is certainly a bad idea. The moisture and heat which is present in the bathroom can make you sweat during the application, reducing the effect and causing drippy patches on the skin.
Always take your time to apply the lotion on the desired body part. The lotion takes time to dry and hence, do not dress up immediately after its application. Self application of these lotions is always a tricky job. For better results, use latex hand gloves. To get better results while applying the lotion on crucial areas like the back of the hands and top of the feet, always use a damp triangular makeup sponge. This sponge also works great as an applicator of the lotion for the face.
Even though these lotions are safer than the other tanning methods, they are not a recommended choice during pregnancy. As the skin gets oversensitive during pregnancy, it is best to consult an obstetrician before using the same.
Most of the self-tanning lotions are FDA approved and they also consist several skin rejuvenating vitamins and minerals. These ingredients make them safe for usage on the skin, but only when they are used in a limited quantity. As a last note of advice, choose a lotion which consists SPF (Sun Protecting Factor)15 to SPF 30.