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How DHA works

A lasting tan from a spray tan solution would not be possible without one magic ingredient. That ingredient is called Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA for short. Dihydroxyacetone is a colorless 3-carbon sugar derived from sugar cane and sugar beets, and it actually looks, tastes, and smells just like powdered sugar before it’s used in a spray tan formula.

Throughout the years, we’ve answered thousands of questions regarding DHA. Here are some of the most frequently asked:

Is DHA Safe?

Yes, DHA has been placed on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s permanent list of acceptable cosmetic ingredients. To date, DHA is the only ingredient tested and approved as a safe alternative to sun tanning.

Another common ingredient found in many spray tan solutions, Erythrulose, has not been approved for use by the FDA–which is why we refuse to put it into our solutions!

How does DHA tan my skin?

The way that DHA works is through a time-delayed reaction with the amino acids in the top layer of your skin that slowly darkens your skin pigment in the same way as a tan from the sun does. Unlike a sun tan, you don’t have to worry about harmful UV rays, and a DHA tan only affects the topmost layer of your skin where as the sun penetrates deeper.

It is for these reasons that DHA is regarded as a significantly safer alternative to sun tanning, and is the recommended form of tanning of the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology Association, Canadian Dermatology Association, and the American Medical Association, just to name a few.

Will DHA dry out my skin?

Yes, DHA will dry out your skin if not treated with a moisturizer. To counteract the drying effects of the DHA, some companies use oil-based moisturizing agents, but these also tend to make your skin feel tacky (like you were spray painted instead of spray tanned) and cause your tan to fade in ugly patches.

We use water-based moisturizing agents to ensure that your skin feels just the same as it did before your spray tan, if not better! More importantly, a water-based moisturizer doesn’t ruin your tan, but in fact helps it look more healthy, fade more evenly, and seem more like a natural tan from the sun.

What does DHA smell like?

As it is derived from refined sugar cane and sugar beets, DHA (unsurprisingly) smells sweet. When it is treated and prepared for use in a spray tanning formula, DHA will still keep a fresh, clean, natural smell.

DHA only smells bad if it is incorrectly formulated

Many solutions will use fragrance oils to cover up the reek of poorly formulated DHA, but a cover up can only hide so much: underneath a scent that you didn’t want to smell like anyways, there will still be a lingering french fry-like odor, the so called “Spray Tan Smell”.

A carefully formulated spray tan solution avoids this problem altogether and, if left unscented, smells like sweet water; a far sight better than french fries, that’s for sure!

Is DHA in baby food?

Nope, guess again. That DHA is Docosahexaenoic Acid (oh joy, another tongue twister!), and can be found in mother’s milk or fish oil.