The science behind fake tan
Why it goes green, gives you spots and if it actually protects you
Superdrug sells 3,5000 bottles of self tan every single day. It’s the safer and more convenient alternative to sunbathing and has become a regular part of most women’s beauty regimes, but do we really know much about it? How does it actually make us go brown, why does it sometimes go green and does it actually protect us from the sun?
Here’s all your fake tan questions, answered:
How does it actually make your skin change colour?
Most fake tans contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with dead skin cell’s amino acids to produce melanoidins. The skin then turns brown after wavelengths of light are absorbed by these melanoidins, this is known as a Maillard reaction. Most contain up to 15 per cent DHA, and the higher the percentage the darker the tan.
After applied to the skin, the reaction darkens for around 24 to 72 hours.
Some fake tans use erythrulose (often used in gradual tans) instead of DHA, which works in the same way but is slower to develop. Some products use both – which means the tan will last for longer.
Will it protect me from the sun?
No. Even though your skin reacts in a similar way it would to a natural tan, the effect from most self-tanners only has an SPF of around 3. Many fake tans also contain an SPF factor, but they will only last up to two hours.
The skin is also more sensitive to UV rays the day after applying self tan, so should be protected.
Why does it turn green?
Oxidation sometimes makes your fake tan turn a blue or greenish colour, which basically means it’s out of date. This happens because most self tans are made up of three colours: red, yellow and blue. The red detetiorates first as it oxidises fastest, leaving the solution with a greenish tint.
When do fake tans go off?
Most expire within six to 12 months of opening, but it should say on the back of the bottle.
Why do they make you break out?
Fake tans clog pores, which makes skin oilier and encourages bacteria to spread. It can also make spots you already have appear much worse. This is because it works by reacting with dead skin cells, which can emphasize breakouts because you have more dead skin cells around spots.
If you suffer from frequent breakouts, chose a tan that is oil free, alcohol free and non-comedogenic.
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