How does DHA in sunless tanners work?

Posted by admin on January 2, 2014


A darkening effect will start to take place once the body has a coating of spray tan solution and the tan will gradually develop over the next 24 hours. A tanning solution is made from various components which include:

  •  The tanning agent DHA or Dihydroxyacetone found within sunless tan solutions, it is a natural product that is derived from sugar beet. It is considered a safe skin colouring agent because it doesn’t damage the skin; however, as always caution needs to be taken.
  • Colouring within the solution that gives a spray tan a ‘colour guide’ so that you’re able to easily see where you are spraying.
  • Erythrulose and a scent.


Spray tanning solutions are available in different concentrations of DHA from 3% – 20%. A tanning solution with a 3% concentration of DHA gives the lightest tan while a spray tan solution with a concentration of about 20% gives the darkest tan. Choosing the base spray tan solution may be difficult for some because of the numerous brands that are available on the market today, however, here are some things you should look out for:

1. Choose a solution that has a pleasant scent both when spraying and developing. This is essential because often some solutions may smell nice when they’re being sprayed on but develop an unpleasant smell once the solution has gone stale during the developing stage. Some solutions scents that we would recommend include cherry, coconut, chocolate and vanilla fragrances among others.
2. Choose a spray tanning solution that has a colour guide.
3. Choose a tanning solution with the correct strength:

  • For fair skin – the strength should be 8% or 9%
  • Medium skin types – the strength should be 12% – 16%
  • For dark skin types – the strength should be 18% – 20%

4. Choose a solution that fades slowly and looks natural.

It is important to choose a solution that shows the correct DHA strength on the label, as this helps you to choose the most accurate and suitable tan solution for your client. The best spray tanning solutions are those that are paraben free. This is mainly because paraben which is a preservative that is found in many spray tan solutions has fungicidal and bactericidal properties and has been associated with breast cancer tumours.