Different Types of Artificial Tanning

Here’s the thing: Despite our overwhelming research into the negative ramifications of natural tanning, we’ve not stopped pining after that bronzed, Amazonian goddess kind of glow. We’re obsessed.

And, it’s no wonder. When you see the incontrovertible beauties like Gal Gadot, Megan Markle and Megan Fox on our screens, you can be forgiven for wanting just a little bit of that body bronze.

So, what can a girl do to up her skin game? As a resident paler-than-ice-but-wishes-she-wasn’t beauty writer, I’ve got you. Tanning trends have changed throughout the last few years, which means we have a lot of ground to cover.

To Begin: A Disclaimer

Tanning is, to many, an absolute necessity before a night out. However, UV tanning is dangerous, and we cannot in good conscience recommend it. All options with UV tanning listed below will be identified with a double asterisk (**), so you can be certain you are choosing a safe and reliable tanning procedure.

Spray Tanning

We’ll start at the good stuff. Spray tans are a cut above many artificial tanning methods, and not just for the overall finish. You not only have the luxury of a technician applying your tan in all those hard-to-reach places, but it also applies smoothly, dries quickly & often tans in the most natural colour.

  • How Does it Work?
    You know how an apple will start to brown after about five minutes of being exposed to oxygen? This is due to a chemical present in its DNA called Dihydroxyacetone – or DHA. This substance simply creates a chemical reaction, turning each apple its own lovely shade of brown.
    This may seem strange, but DHA is the way our spray tans work. It is used to turn our skin a darker colour, and because it’s a reaction between your skin and the chemical, and not a pigment being added: it works to your skin colour. Meaning, spray tans will often provide a natural-looking and safe tan.
  •  How Long Does it Last?
    Typically, a spray tan will last you up to ten days. We know, not the longest amount of time. But, only marginally less than a wax or brow tinting.
  • Pros and Cons?
    Look, we won’t sugar coat it: there are pros and cons to every method of tanning. But, in some areas the pros easily outweigh the cons (and in others: vice versa).

Pro #1: Even Coverage
Reason number one for never tanning myself at home is that I know ima get streaky up in here. Streaks should be left entirely to Snapchat – which is why spray tanning is an absolute goldmine. Even coverage and you don’t have to worry about clean-up? We’re not mad at it.

Con #1: Stains
Spray tans tend to be fairly fast drying, however they still need some care. Be careful of your pre and post care, since sweating or crying could cause your tan to run in the first hours post treatment.

Pro #2: No UV
We should really have this at the top of the list, since it is the biggest positive. Spray tans are completely removed from any UV tanning methods, meaning you don’t have to damage your skin or DNA in order to get your tan on.

Con #2: Short Term Results
Spray tans can last you up to ten days, and will begin fading after five. Which isn’t the longest amount of time, however it is comparable with home tanning solutions, and often provides a much better colour!

Even with the cons, we still think spray tans are one of the best ways to get your glow on.

Solarium / SunBeds**

We know, we’re wading into dangerous territory. But, for the sake of a comprehensive list, we want to keep it on here.

Solariums or Sun Beds are an invention of the late 1970s, and were made to emit 95% UVA and only 5% UVB.
At the time, there was reason to believe these were pretty safe, since the low UVB radiation meant people were far less likely to find themselves getting burnt.

However, UVA radiation is now thought to play a significant role in some skin cancers, as well as skin aging. In fact, it is one of the fastest methods to age your skin; which is the exact opposite of our goal.

  • How Does it Work?
    Sunbeds, or solariums, work in much the same way as the sun. UV rays penetrate the skin to stimulate melanin production – pigmenting the skin a darker colour. However, sunbeds have been adapted to minimise UVB radiation, and maximise UVA radiation. This means that you won’t be burning, however your skin will darken.UVA radiation still has an impact on deteriorating the health of skin, and affecting DNA. Which is why many countries have now banned the use of solariums and sunbeds as a beauty service, because they are highly linked to the growth of cancerous cells.
  • How Long Does it Last?
    Well, this one depends on how much more sun you get, since exposure to UV after your sunbed will deepen or maintain your tan. But an original tan usually lasts up to ten days, without maintenance.
  • The Downsides?
    Look, we’re not here to mince words. UV radiation is dangerous, and cannot be taken lightly. Let’s take a look at the stats:
    Even if you’ve only had one session in a sunbed or solarium in your life,
    your risk of developing different types of skin cancer rises dramatically.
    You are 67% more likely to develop squamous skin cell cancer, 29% higher risk of developing basal cell skin cancer and at least 20% more likely to develop melanoma.
    This is too high a cost.

Instant Tan

I mean, we feel like we barely need to explain this one. An instant tan is exactly what it sounds like: A self tanner that tans instantly. When you think of brands like St Tropez, and Bondi Sands, you’re thinking of the instant self tanner. It goes on quick, leaving skin bronzed and golden – without the fuss of the gradual build up. But, self tanners can be a dime a dozen (and no one goes into tanning with the express purpose of looking orange). So, recommendations of tried and true self tanners are key! And, if you don’t want your bedsheets to end up with half your tan, you gotta do your research.

  • How Does it Work?
    It works in the exact same way as spray tanning. Self Tanners contain a chemical called Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which basically works as a dye for your dead skin cells. These cells are browned through chemical reaction, but will wear off within a few days. This is because you naturally shed your dead skin cells, or the stratum corneum layer of your skin every 28 days.
  • How Long Does it Last?
    Self Tanning will often last up to 5 days, before beginning to fade. However, it does take time for the tan to fade away, so you could get a couple more days from a lighter tan.

 Pros and Cons?

An instant tan is exactly what we all got addicted to in highschool – that traitorously difficult to apply lotion that smelled weird and definitely got us a few shades darker than we wanted. There are some great benefits to using instant tan – and some downsides too.

Pro #1: Cheap
Look, we’re all trying to find a way to plug the holes in our pockets, and honestly instant tans can help. They’re a far sight cheaper than a spray tan.

Con #1: Self Applicator
Have you ever tried to apply anything on your back? That’s all we’re saying.

Pro #2: Can be Fast Drying, Non-Transferrable Colour
There are a lot of instant tan formulas on the market these days, and it’s for good reason. Companies have been able to work out the kinks with earlier formulas to provide fast drying colour without transfer onto bed linen or clothes. Which, let’s be honest, is one of the main reasons we stopped instant tanning in the first place.

Con #2: Potentially Linked to Contact Dermatitis
For many, fake tan is harmless. But for those prone to skin irritation, it can create contact dermatitis. However, there are some formulas on the market that aim to mitigate all skin irritation, while still providing a high quality tan.

What To Look For?

When investing in a self tanner, it’s important to look out for a few, key formulas that will ensure your application process is as stress (and streak) free as possible! We recommend a DHA based, fast drying, streak free and non-transferrable product – so your sheets stay clean and your body bronzed! And, always remember to apply with a mitt, and use gloves to protect your hands.

Gradual Tan

Whenever we combine something with moisturiser, it creates a more subtle, easy-to-use kind of product. Like BB Cream, or in this case: Gradual Tanners. It’s the Instant-Tan meets moisturiser, and glides on like an actual dream. If you’re new to tanning, or are uncertain about the depth of tan you’re after, gradual tanning could be your knight in shining armour (Or rather, your knight in a lotion bottle).

  •  How Does it Work?
    Gradual tans provide a very small amount of self tanner in your application, so you’re only applying the tiniest amount of DHA onto your skin. In this way, the tan that builds is very subtle and natural, leaving you to decide how deep a tan you want to have! Plus, the moisturiser acts to make your tan as streak free as possible – it’s really pretty foolproof!
  •  How Long Does it Last?
    Gradual tanners typically last around 3-5 days, before fading. However, since it’s basically a lotion, frequent top-ups are the ideal way to continue your tan for longer. The moisture content will help your tan to look flawless for far longer!

Pros & Cons
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of a subtle, buildable product. But, there are some cons to keep in mind.

Pro #1: Easy Application
You won’t have to worry about streaks running through your application. Lotion based tans offer a really smooth application. The hydrating and moisturising ingredients like shea butter help the tan to glide on smoothly, even over areas that you might have rushed or applied inconsistently.

Con #1: Not Instant
If you’re hoping to get your tan on tonight, a lotion based tan isn’t ideal. It will take some time to build up, since the product requires re-application and maintenance.

Pro #2: Super Hydrating
You can skip your moisturiser, since it’s already built into your tan. And, we all know that having hydrated skin makes your tan look better and last longer. 

Con #2: Transfer Can Occur
The downside to incorporating a slippery, hydrating lotion in with your tan is the transfer factor. For the most part, as long as it dries you should be fine. But sometimes it can be tricky to tell.

Pills and Injections**

Right, so we have a lot of thoughts on using pills and injections to bolster your natural tanning capabilities. They’re not our first choice – and for many reasons. However, in the interest of keeping this article comprehensive, we’ll take you through it: what pills and injections do to help you tan.

Tanning Pills
There’s a pill for everything these days. However, some are yet to meet government approval. Tanning pills fall into this same category, and can’t be recommended as a viable way to induce a darker skin tone.

  • How Does it Work?
    Canthaxanthin is a colour additive that has been approved in many countries for its use in food, in minimal doses. This poses no health risks when consumed in such small amounts. However, Tanning pills contain up to 30milligrams of Canthaxanthin, which is a huge dose in comparison. This level of dye is distributed throughout the body, and into the skin. This dye can range from orange to deep brown in colour, and also isn’t as a result of increased melanin, but instead works exactly like a dye.
  • How Long Does it Last?
    This pill usually takes up to two weeks to show up on your skin. Two weeks of the colouring to build up in your system and begin to dye your skin. By the same token, it takes two weeks for the colour to fade from your skin, once you have stopped taking the pills.
  • The Downsides
    Truth be told, we’re not really sure why tanning pills are still an option, because the downsides aren’t just ‘side effects’, it’s also an aesthetic complication. Canthaxanthin may dye your skin, however it turns out more of an orange-y colour than desired bronze shades we’d all prefer. But, let’s take a look at the side effects.
    The most notable side effect is the prevalence of crystalised deposits in the eyes. When taking Canthaxanthin in high doses, the colour additive doesn’t just deposit colour in the skin. These crystalised deposits in the eyes have been described as canthaxanthin-induced retinopathy.
    Luckily, this condition is reversible. However, there have been cases of crystalised deposits remaining in the eyes for up to 7 years post use of Canthaxanthin tanning pills.
    Not only that, but there have been reports of nausea, cramping, diarrhea, severe itching and welts as symptoms associated with Canthaxanthin pills.
    Basically, we’re not sure any of this is worth it for an orange tan.

Tanning Injections

To begin, it’s important to note that Tanning Injections are illegal in Australia, the UK & the USA. This is because the treatment hasn’t undergone the rigorous testing required to approve the substance as safe. A Tanning injection is the insertion of Melanin into your bloodstream. The injection itself uses either Melanotan I or II, which is diluted before being injected into your body.

  •  How Does it Work?
    Melanotan I & II are synthetic recreations of the hormone: Melanin. Melanin plays a vital role in the natural shade of your skin, and Melanotan works to mimic that same reaction, by stimulating pigment cells in the skin and causing a darker tan.
  • How Long Does it Last?
    The injections are reported to stay in your system for up to 6 months. While this may seem excessive, the tan will fade throughout that period if bi-weekly maintenance injections are not kept up.
  •  The Downsides
    Look, we’re not saying that there aren’t any positives to tanning injections, we just believe the cons far outweigh the pros. Though there are quite a few side effects to the injections, a recent survey found these to be the most common side effects:
    – Nausea
    – Flushing
    – Loss of Appetite
    – Drowsiness
    These are most common. However, there are also concerns over the link between Melanotan II and abscesses, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure, and most concerningly: Melanoma.
    When the reason for artificial tanning is to avoid skin cancer, and most specifically Melanoma, it makes little sense to invest in a tanning product that is linked to cancer. There’s a lot of things we can do to artificially tan our bodies, but melanotan injections aren’t one that we would recommend.
    And, considering they’re illegal in multiple countries worldwide, they’re not recommended by government authorities either.

We love a good tan. Hell, everyone loves a good tan. Coco Chanel had no idea the phenomenon she started when she came back bronzed from her holiday. But, with all the things we have learned in the last 100 years, we know better than to subject our bodies to UV radiation for a simple tan. Spray, instant and gradual tans are all more than capable of turning us into an Amazonian goddess, wouldn’t you say?