Vitiligo Support International Inc. (VSI) is a patient driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering a comprehensive resource of vitiligo education, research and awareness for those whose lives have been affected by vitiligo.

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Tips on using Sunless or Self Tanners*

What formulations of DHA are available?

  • Concentrations of DHA can range from 2.5 to 10% or more (mostly 3-5%). This may coincide with product ranges that list shades as light, medium, or dark. A lower concentration (lighter shade) product may be better for new users as it is more forgiving of uneven application or rough surfaces.
  • Some formulations will also contain moisturizers. Users with dry skin will benefit from this.
  • Alcohol-based preparations will be more suitable for oily-skinned users.

How do you use DHA-containing preparations?

The final result obtained from DHA self-tanning preparations is highly dependent upon the individual's application technique. Care, skill and experience are necessary when using these products. The following are some self-application tips to achieving a smooth and even look.

  • Prepare skin by cleansing, then by exfoliation using a loofah; this will avoid uneven applications of color.
  • Moisturize the area first, being careful to include the bony parts of the ankles, heels and knees.
  • Apply less to thicker skin, as color is maintained longer in these areas.
  • To avoid uneven darkening, gently remove excess product with a soft, damp cloth on areas such as the elbows, ankles and knees.
  • Either wear gloves to apply, or wash hands immediately after application to avoid tanned palms. 
  • Don't shave, bathe, or swim for at least an hour after applying the product.

Tanning salons, spas and gyms may offer professional application of sunless tanning products.

  • Product can be applied by an experienced technician.
  • Solution can be airbrushed onto the body.
  • Step into a sunless tanning booth for a uniform full-body application.

Be careful to use nose filters and to cover eyes, lips and mucous membranes to prevent swallowing or inhaling the DHA-containing mist.

Is the tan instantaneous and how long does it last?

Products labeled with the word "Bronzer" typically contain ingredients that provide instant color. The color change from DHA is usually apparent within a few hours of application. Maximal darkening may take 8-24 hours to develop. Several applications may be required to achieve a darker tone.

An artificial tan produced by DHA will last until the dead skin cells rub off, usually 5-7 days, depending on the area of the body and the type of skin.

What precautions are there when using DHA self-tanning preparations?

Despite darkening of the skin, an individual is just as susceptible to harmful UV rays, therefore, it must be stressed that an overall sun protection program is still very necessary.

Are there any side effects from using DHA self-tanning preparations?

DHA reacts quickly in the stratum corneum minimizing systemic absorption. Contact dermatitis caused by DHA has rarely been reported. Most causes of sensitivity are due to other ingredients such as preservatives in the preparation.

*Source: The New Zealand Dermatological Society, Facts About Skin.

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