Indoor Tanning

The Different Ways to Get a Tan – Different Tanning Methods

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Tanning is an important activity for millions of people. Over the years, health professionals and the cosmetics industry have created different ways for people to darken their skin. The different ways to get a tan include sunless tanning lotions, airbrushing, tanning beds and booths, mists, and tanning pills. Here is a closer look at each of these alternatives to tanning in the sun. 


When people get an airbrushed tan, they will typically use the services of a spray tanning technician who will cover their body with a dihydroxyacetone (DHA) solution. A DHA solution is a substance that is removed from sugarcane. When this substance comes into contact with a person’s skin, it reacts with the amino acids in the uppermost layer of their dermis. This, in turn, causes their skin to darken or to look tan. When a person’s skin cells start to wear away, their tan color will begin to fade. DHA tanning solutions used in airbrush applications typically do not cause cancer and usually do not burn or irritate a person’s skin.

People who decide on receiving airbrushing services are strongly encouraged to exfoliate their skin and to avoid wearing make-up, deodorant, lotions, or perfumes. These substances create a natural barrier to the tanning process. Exfoliation is important for airbrushing because it causes a person’s skin to receive the application more effectively. Individuals who receive an airbrush application usually wear bikinis, shorts, or undergarments. The airbrushing tanning solutions usually will not damage their clothes, but people should wear garments that they do not mind being damaged if staining occurs. Many people also have to airbrush tanning procedures in the nude. Many salons that offer this service will explain their procedures for nude airbrush tanning.

Most airbrush applications take between 20 and 30 minutes. A trained airbrush technician can spray a person’s body with solutions within 10 to 15 minutes. The rest of the time will be needed to allow the solution to dry. The airbrush technician will also re-coat a person’s skin if it is needed, and they will also touch up uneven or missed spots. Once the solution is dry, people can put on their clothes and leave. An airbrush tanning recipient should wait at least 8 hours before they wash their skin. Some tanning experts claim that tanners should wait until the next day before they try to wash or bathe. They must give the tanning solution plenty of time to darken their skin. Airbrush tans will typically last for about a week. Some might last longer, and this depends on the individual.

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Sunless Tanning Lotions

Sunless tanning lotions also use DHA as the main ingredient, and people apply this product directly to their skin in order to make it darker. Sunless tanning lotions work by darkening the upper layer of the skin. As with airbrushed tanning, a sunless tanning solution will darken a person’s skin by affecting the amino acids within their epidermis. Sunless tanning requires people to clean their skin thoroughly and to remain free from wearing cosmetics or health products until the tanning process is completed.

Individuals who use this form of tanning can place the lotion onto their bodies in the desired location and the desired amounts. Once they have applied the solution to their skin, it will generally take up to 3 hours before they will start to notice a change in color. Once again, people should avoid washing their skin right away and allow the solution to take effect. Sunless tanning solutions typically last for about a week before a person sheds their skin.

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Bronzers are a different type of tanning product that is only used for an extremely short amount of time. These types of tanning products are only worn for about a day and typically can be washed off.  Bronzers come in a variety of forms that including sprays, gels, sticks, and powders. The sprays are bottled tanning products that people can spray onto their skin. Spray bronzer comes in a variety of colors that are made to compliment a person’s skin.

Bronzer powders are applied directly onto a person’s skin with an applicator. They are used to coat the skin with an even powdered layer. A person typically powders their skin with this product and smooths it out to make the application even and well placed.

Bronzing gels are harder to apply and to make even. This is because the gels tend to be thick and gooey and do not always work consistently. People who use this particular type of bronzer product must have some kind of experience to make it work.

Bronzer sticks are designed like deodorant products and to darken a person’s skin once they apply the product. To achieve the best results, people who use bronzers can use them in combination or with another type of sunless tanning product.

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Tanning Beds and Booths

Tanning beds and booths are commonly used for tanning purposes. Most people like to use tanning beds and booths because they allow them to tan just about any time of the year without having to depend on the sun in order to change their skin color. Tanning beds work by using special lamps that produce UV-A and UV-B rays. These rays are responsible for tanning a person’s skin, and people can use them without absorbing harmful UV-C light.

Booths work in the same manner as beds, except people might be required to stand up. People who use this tanning form should ensure they are not overdoing the sessions. Sessions involving tanning equipment should only last for about 20 minutes, and a person should only do them once every 24 to 48 hours. Even though tanning beds and booths are quick and convenient, they still can cause a person’s skin to develop cancer or get sunburned.

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Tanning Mists

Tanning mists are a lot like sprays, but they are not as thick or heavy. Since they are not designed for heavy use, people who use tanning mists typically use them for touch-up applications. Different manufacturers sell a wide variety of tanning mist products that are used for this application. 

Tanning Pills

Tanning pills work by turning a person’s skin by changing it from the inside. When a person swallows a tanning pill, it contains canthaxanthin, a chemical found in plants and animals. This substance is capable of changing a person’s skin color to a shade of orange or brown. Canthaxanthin easily dissolves within a person’s fat lair, so tanning pills are effective for changing the upper layer of the skin. Many fat cells are in the epidermis of a person’s skin.

People who use this form of tanning should be careful. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of canthaxanthin for tanning purposes. Though it is legal for companies to sell the product, for this reason, people who use tanning pills must be cautious about how much of this chemical they are taking into their system. Tanners that use pills will be required to use many of them to change their color. This form of tanning might not damage a person’s skin, but it could possibly hurt them in other ways. People typically have to take tanning pills for at least two weeks before they are able to see results. An individual might want to contact a doctor during the time they are taking the pills to ensure that they have not developed any side effects.

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Tanning Suited for each Individual

Since there are a variety of different types of tanning solutions that people can use, they should definitely select the best type for their particular situation. People who want to tan their skin for a special occasion or for a particular event should consider using a bronzer, spray, or mist. These are great for short-term use. Individuals who want to have tanned skin for at least three days might also consider using sunless tanning lotions. Airbrushing is a good form of tan for people who desire to have a golden color that lasts for about a few months. Airbrushing will require frequent applications in order to last this long. Keep in mind that airbrushing is still a safer alternative to sunbathing. Tanning pills are great for long-term use, but people must ensure that they are not experiencing any side effects and that they are taking them safely. 

Skin Type and the Tanning Process

Tanning facilities often have charts they use for skin tones, which are necessary for ensuring that people remain as safe as possible during the tanning process. Most sunless tanning products do not require a skin chart, but they can still be beneficial for people in figuring out what types of products they should use for their skin color. Darker-skinned people probably should not consider using any tanning products for light or fair-skinned individuals. Tanning manufacturers do make tanning products for darker-skinned people, but they are not as common as those for lighter or fair-skinned people. A light or fair-skinned person might want to avoid putting a dark tanning solution onto their skin. Finding a product that will tan their skin a couple of shades from their natural skin tone will work best for their particular situation.

People who use tanning equipment should follow skin tone guidelines to determine how long they should stay inside a tanning booth. On average, a fair or light-skinned individual should only stay in a tanning booth between 22 and 33 minutes. Keep in mind, as a general rule of thumb, lighter or fairer-skinned people will tan faster because they have less melanin in their skin. When it comes to sunless tanning, skin color does not matter (except when using tanning equipment or pills), but it is helpful to have a guideline for achieving the perfect tan for each individual. 

General Guidelines for Tanning Skin

Most sunless tanning methods work by following these general guidelines: Tanners should exfoliate so that tanning products will work more effectively with their skin. Always avoid using hygiene or cosmetic products before applying a sunless tanning solution. People who use sunless tanning products should apply them in sections instead of trying to cover their bodies all at once. Lotions and bronzers should be massaged within a person’s body, from their feet to the rest of their torso. They should cover each section as smoothly and evenly as possible. Tanners should also focus on their elbows, knees, and underarm areas. A person’s knees and elbows are naturally more absorbent than the rest of their skin. Lighter amounts of lotions and products should be placed on these areas of their bodies.

Another overlooked area during the tanning process is the folds and creases that naturally occur on a person’s body. People should make it a point to apply tanning products to these areas because they are easy to overlook. A person should bathe before they decide to tan their skin. They should always avoid using a sunless tanning lotion on dirt-covered skin. People must avoid bathing right away after using a tanning product because water can be the enemy of sunless tanning.

Keep in mind that people constantly shed their skin, which is why most sunless tanning solutions will not work for more than a week. Constantly washing the skin could cause a sunless tan to fade at a quicker rate. Washing should only be used to remove a tanning product such as a bronzer or spray. Tanning booths and bed requires a person to use a sunscreen lotion in order to protect a person’s skin. People can still receive a tan or burn if they are not careful when using booth or bed tanning equipment.

Certain groups of people probably should not use tanning products. People that have been diagnosed with eczema have rashes, or some type of skin condition probably should avoid sunless tanning products. Their skin might be unable to handle the chemicals in these products. While it is true that most tanning products are safe for use, this does not necessarily mean that they will not cause some type of negative effect on the dermis.

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