This is a legacy post that was given a facelift. Here’s why: With a gift card, I recently purchased a facial sunless tanning serum that I can mix in with my normal moisturizer (yes, it is awesome, yes more is coming on that). While researching which one to purchase, I came across a few rather acrimonious reviews on one such product (not the one I purchased). The reviewers were somewhat-justifiably upset because the product claimed to be free of smells. Well, sure – the product is fragrance free. That doesn’t mean it won’t cause a smell, however.
It really blows my mind that SO MANY people, including self-described self-tan aficionados, have no idea what actually causes the telltale sunless tanner smell.
I’ve talked about sunless tanners (my favorite is Million Dollar Tan) quite a bit before. Many posts mention, but do not focus on sunless tanner smell, however; the occasionally annoying odor that follow sunless tanning product usage. It isn’t limited to lotions: spray tans and even tanning bed (boo, do not use these) products are affected.
How Do Sunless Tanners Work?
There are three kinds of sunless tanners. Some products only temporarily deposit color that is washed away in 1-3 showers. Other products are intended to develop color over time; in those, the main, active ingredient in sunless tanners is DHA (dihydroxyacetone). The third type does a bit of both.
DHA & Melanin
When applied, DHA prompts your skin to produce melanin. Melanin is what gives our skin its color; people with darker skin tones naturally have more of it regardless of sun or DHA exposure. For lighter skin tones, stimulating melanin production causes us to appear tan.